Despite being initially dedicated to Jupiter, the temple came to also include spaces for the worship of Goddesses Juno and Minerva. Together, the three deities were known as the Capitoline Triad—a divine group important to the Roman state religion (seen above).
The temple was more than just a religious building. From early on in its phases, the temple also stored objects of political, cultural, and ritual significance.
The temple also had various public functions. It served as the place of celebration for triumphs in war, a place to meet for the senate, a location for combined religious and political displays or ceremonies, an archive for public records, and a physical symbol of Rome’s divine agency as well as supremacy.
Historians theorize that the temple was quite similar in plan to the late archaic Etruscan temples. These temples contained a high podium with a single frontal staircase leading to a three-column deep porch fronted by a hexastyle arrangement of columns (seen above).
One of the defining features of the temple was its three part interior with adjacent cellae (rooms) for the three major deities honored within the temple Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.
The earliest phases of the temple featured terracotta aspects, including acroteria (sculptures on the roofline) and a large terracotta statue of Jupiter driving a quadriga (four-horse chariot).
One of the best depictions of the Temple of Jupiter can be seen on a sacrifice panel from a presently lost arch of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (seen above).
The emperor Marcus Aurelius is depicted as the Pontifex Maximus (chief priest) offering a sacrifice to the almighty Jupiter amongst a dense crowd of attendants. The temple, historians presume to be the Temple of Jupiter, is portrayed in the background along with its defining sculptures along the roof line, columns, and three towering doors.
Due to neglect, and reuse of its stone in other constructions, very little of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus remains today.
Remains of the temple include portions of the tuff foundation, a type of volcanic rock, the podium, as well as some marble and terracotta architectural elements.
Based on the surviving archaic foundations of the site, historians estimate that the podium of the temple measured out to approximately 50 x 60 meters (seen above).
During the Republican and Imperial periods of Rome the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus was destroyed and rebuilt several times.
In 83 B.C.E the temple was destroyed for the first time during the civil wars of Sulla, soon after the temple was rededicated as well as rebuilt during the 60s B.C.E. Augustus claimed to have restored the temple as part of his substantial building project that began when he first rose to power in Rome during the first century B.C.E. Again the temple was destroyed 69 C.E., but Vespasian quickly rebuilt it in the 70s C.E. Then once again the temple was destroyed in a massive fire in 80 C.E. Lastly, Domitian led the final large scale reconstruction of the temple between 81 and 96 C.E. The fact that the temple's state was never neglected for a long period of time signifies its importance to Roman culture.
Following the first century C.E., the temple appeared to have retained its structural unity before emperor Theodosius restricted its public funding in order to preserve the more modern pagan temples in 392 C.E. The materials of the temple were reused various times in the later Antique and Medieval eras and eventually a residence by the name of Palazzo Caffareli was built on site the of the temple in 16th century C.E.