Today, the remains of one of the most important Greek cities of Sicily are my destination. After a morning (second) visit of Segesta, I head south, and easily find the parking lot of Selinunte, once a rival city of Segesta - named after wild celery that grew in abundance here, is called selinon in Greek, and was used on their coins. It turns out I need to make an online reservation, but this is easily done on the spot, and I enter the ruins of the ancient city at the worst possible time of the day. Even though it is already September, the sun is still burning on my head and squeezing sweat out of my pores. Within a few minutes, I arrive at an impressive Doric temple: Temple E, or the Temple of Hera. Of all the temples of Selinunte, this is the only restored one. Good thing is, that you are allowed to enter, so you can walk up the stairs, and walk around the inside, getting a better idea of the interior - unlike, for example, the temple of Segesta, which I could only see from the outside.
When I walk to the next temple, I find nothing but rubble. In fact, much of Selinunte was destroyed not just by enemies (the Carthaginians), but also earthquakes, and the effect is clearly visible. Temples F and G lie completely destroyed, drums of columns and bases strewn around everywhere. I clamber over the hodgepodge of ancient relics to get a better feel of the extension of the damage. After seeing the impressive temple of Segesta, and also the Temple of Hera, this is a wholly different sight. I am somehow deeply touched by the damage. Once upon a time, these were enormous temples, making anyone feel humble, convinced they would be eternal. Now, they lie helplessly on the ground, columns upside down, stripped of their decorative colours, in a heap of stone rubble. Fortunately, there are signboards with drawings of what the temples once looked like - wonderful, colossal (Temple G supposedly was the largest of the Greek world), brightly painted. All gone.
From the three temples in the east part of Selinunte, I walk through the fields to the western part of the ancient city. I am aware that below my feet, most likely more ruins must lie. After all, this city, started halfway the 7th century BCE, grew to around 30.000 inhabitants. Once on the other side, I walk around the massif on which the acropolis is built, and continue further west. The beach is just below, and I walk one of the main streets of the acropolis to the agora, meander through empty and ruined paved streets. I see foundations of houses and shops, and explore the four temples A, B, C, and D which are next to each other. Temple C is the only one with a row of columns standing: here, too, earthquakes have done their destructive work. Actually, stones from the temples were later used for housing. It is probable that the temples really collapsed in the Middle Ages. After seeing all those many pieces of stone, I drive to the Cave di Cusa, a short drive west of Selinunte, which was the source of the building materials of Selinunte. Some drums were in the process of being transported or hewn out when work abruptly stopped, probably because of the advance of Hannibal. I try to imagine how these massive drums were transported all the way to Selinunte, some 13 kilometres to the east.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Selinunte (Italy). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Selinunte. Read more about this site.