The pilgrims looked up at the temple, full of hope.

You told them how to make sacrifice to Asclepius, son of Apollo. Later you would let them bathe in the holy waters before spending the night inside the temple where serpents moved freely, bringing augural dreams. 

Set in a wide valley in the southern alps at the junction of two rivers, Reii Appolinares was known far and wide for its healing powers. Its reputation made your town rich. But constructing and heating the opulent temple and extensive baths deforested the uplands. 

No one thought the holy waters might be the town’s undoing; yet the steady tide of alluvial silt washing off the hills lifted the level of the plain, slowly burying the temple and its prosperous surroundings. 

Your descendants built a cathedral on top of the temple, and for a while its bishops had great influence. But the tide from the hills was relentless. By the middle ages the site was abandoned. Attempts were made to rebuild the town on higher ground, but it was too late, the glory days were done. 

All that remains of your great temple today is four slender columns and Riez, a sleepy village surrounded by fields of lavender. 


Alex Harvie

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