Monday, July 02, 2007

May 2007 - Selinunte, Sicily - More Ruins . . . Segesta's Arch Rival

When we left Marsala, we headed southeast along the coast to the ancient city of Selinunte on Sicily's Southwest coast. This city was founded in the 7th Century BC by colonists from Megara Hyblaea (part of ancient Greece) whose culture seemingly fused with the Phoenicians who already occupied that region of western Sicily. Soon, Selinunte became a powerful city with flourishing trade and artistic activity. It was a rival to the cities of Segesta (see blog entry) to the north and Mozia (see Marsala blog entry) to the west, and while it spent most of its existence at war with those cities, it was actually destroyed by Carthage (a powerful city on the north coast of Africa) in 409 BC. Today, all that remains of Selinunte are the ruins of a series of temples built in the Doric order, the oldest of the three orders of ancient Greek architecture (the other two, later orders being Ionic and Corinthian). Given their position on three adjacent hills overlooking the sea, the ruins of Selinunte are among the most striking archaeological sites in the Mediterranean and a supreme example of the fusion of Greek and Phoenician culture.

Above is Temple of Hera (aka Juno), the first temple you see as you approach the eastern hill of the archaeological site. It dates back to 490-480 BC and is considered one of the finest examples of Doric architecture in Sicily.

Here's Casandra in front of the Temple's east side, one of its two short sides.

And here she is standing between two of its colossal Doric columns (with fluted shafts and undecorated capitals) with the sea in the background. You can get a sense of the scale of the Temple and how well preserved it is.
Now we're inside the Temple where some of the interior architecture including part of the high altar remains. That's the Mediterranean in the background on the left.

Here's the view from the Temple of the Mediterranean and the Temple dedicated to Heracles or Apollo within the Acropolis on the western hill of the archaeological site.

As we walked to the next Temple on the eastern hill, I snapped this shot of Casandra at corner of the Temple of Hera. From this perspective, you can see how well preserved the Temple is, with all of its 68 columns still standing and supporting part of the trabeation, metopes and triglyphs, on which rested the original marble pediments on the two (short) sides and the wooded roof.
Just behind and parallel to the Temple of Hera are the ruins of the Temple dedicated to Athena, dating from 560-530 BC, making it the most ancient temple on the eastern hill. I climbed to one of the highest points to check out the view.

From up there, I had a great view of the Temple of Hera and Mediterranean behind it. And behind me I could see the third of the three parallel Temples on the eastern hill, labled Temple G as its dedication has yet to be established. All three were originally surrounded by an enclosure and comprised the sacred precinct of Selinunte.

The tallest, lone (partial) column in center of the picture above is from the north (furthest) wall of columns of Temple G, which like the Temple of Athena is now completely in ruins. When it was intact, Temple G dating from 540 - 480 BC was almost 66,000 square feet and reached a height of 98 feet, making it the largest temple in this complex and one of the largest in antiquity.
Next, we headed over to the Acropolis on the western hill of the complex. As we passed the Temple of Hera (the first one we saw), I took one last picture of it.
Then, we continued down this path into the valley between the two hills and up to the Acropolis, which was the heart of ancient Selinunte, containing the public buildings and temples, all of which faced east towards the sacred precinct on the eastern hill, and completely surrounded by colossal walls and two gates.
Once we reached the Acropolis, I turned back and took this picture of the sacred precinct on the eastern hill . . .
and this one of the coastline.
The buildings and temples on the Acropolis are mostly in ruins.
The highlight are the ruins of the Temple dedicated to Heracles or Apollo, which can be seen from the eastern hill, . . .
and the garden overlooking the sea.
The view of the Mediterranean and the coastline from this garden is spectacular.
Here we are in the garden, with the ruins of the Temple of Heracles or Apollo behind us.
And here we are with the sea behind us.
There are two other zones of Selinunte's archaeological site, the Ancient City and the Malophoros Sanctuary. The Ancient City, situated on the hill north of the Acropolis, was used as a necropolis by those inhabitants who survived Carthage's siege of 409 BC. The Sanctuary, which was situated about a half-mile west of the Acropolis and might have been founded before the city itself, was a stopping point on the long funeral processions making their way to the (older) Manicalunga necropolis.

Rather than visiting these other zones, which we were told contained less interesting and recognizable ruins (and boring you), we decided to hang out in the garden for a while, enjoy the views . . .
. . . and climb on some more rocks. Take a guess which of us did what.

After we were sufficiently rested (or exhausted), we headed inland to visit two hill towns where my great grandparents were born.

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