To Neptune in Paço de Arcos (Portugal)

Yesterday was the 23rd of July. In Ancient Rome, that was the date of Neptunalia, the religious holiday in honour of Neptune, God of waters (both fresh and salt). Little is known about the festivity, other than the date and an obscure reference to the construction of huts. But it was enough for me to take the afternoon off and roam to one of the beaches between Lisbon and Cascais to erect an altar of heaped rocks to Neptune.

The chosen location was a place called Paço de Arcos, a town outside the Portuguese capital and located just past the mouth of the river Tagus. It has several rock formations looking towards the ocean and a good abundance of stones I could use, so I packed some things and got on a train in Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré. I picked the top of a sea side boulder to erect the altar, and once the stones were well stacked I made an offering of wine to Janus – Him being the God of beginnings – followed by another to Neptune, along with plums and grapes. As I prepared things for the informal sacrifice, I had a seagull flying close-by.

To get there, you can either drive or take the train that leaves from Cais do Sodré in downtown Lisbon. Once in Paço de Arcos, the reference point is a sea fountain that pumps water a few meters high. To the right of it, there’s a yellow building, which is a nautical school. Pass next to it moving west until you reach a second beach and a maritime walk that you’ll have to follow in order to reach the altar. It has plaques on the floor marking every 100 meters and you need to find the one pointing out 2900, which is the closest to the chosen location. As a second reference point, you should see the small bridge on the photo; the altar is signaled by the red circle:

I’m not sure how secure the heap is: those rocks may be used by amateur fishers and I don’t know how high the sea gets in stormy days. I’ll keep an eye on the altar to make sure it is well preserved: if needed, I may move it to a better location.


#1: having been found almost completely destroyed, the altar was rebuilt and somewhat improved on the 25th of August 2010. The stones were better pilled and blue tridents were drawn on several of them

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