Selinunte: The Glory that was Greece…in Sicily

Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte is located in southwestern Sicily, in the province of Trapani. Once one of Greece’s most important colonies, as it has for centuries, Selinunte holds vigil as it looks out to the endless horizon of the Mediterranean Sea.
 
Located in an archeological park that covers approximately 40 hectares (approximately 99 acres), Selinunte embodies the glory that was Greece…and the demise. In fact, here it all happened hundreds of years B.C.
 
 
Roots and Rivals
 
It’s name derived from selinon (Greek for wild celery, which once grew wild here), Selinunte was founded and thrived in the 7th century B.C. With its beautiful buildings and harbors, it became an important trade and artistic center, only second in importance to Siracuse. And this did not go unnoticed by its enemies, the ambitious Carthaginians.
 
Although they were able to avoid war temporarily via diplomatic efforts, constant hostilities weakened many Greek armies, leaving them in disarray. Among them were allies of Selinunte; Agrigento and Syracuse. Quick to seize an opportunity, the Carthaginians took full advantage to attack and viciously besiege and plunder Selinunte. Records indicate that, of the approximate 25,000 residents, 16,000 were brutally massacred, 7,000 taken into slavery, and a few thousand managed to escape to Agrigento.
 
During the first Punic War, in 250 B.C., Selinunte felt the final blow when, fleeing the Romans, the vindictive Carthaginians razed Selinunte to deny Rome the spoils of victory.
Ruins and Rediscovery
 
Today, aerial photographs indicate that the temples collapsed and ”fell like dominoes” as a result of an earthquake believed to have occurred in the medieval ages. It’s hard to imagine the thunderous rumble that surely must have been heard by the gods. Selinunte then remained abandoned, neglected and silent for centuries.
Since excavations began, in the early 1900’s, eight ancient temples have been revealed. Between 1956 and 1959, one of the main temples, Temple E, was partially re-erected using original materials.
 
Selinunte’s tourist center/entrance to the Archaeological Park is open daily from 9:00am - 6:00pm. Ticket prices are only € 6.00. There is a small electric shuttle or you can walk to the archeological sites. Approaching the ruins, one can’t really grasp the true size and proportions in the distance. It is really as you get much closer that its enormity and magnificence can be appreciated. What makes Selinunte even more remarkable is that the ruins are not roped off to visitors. Except where your safety might be compromised, you are free to roam, explore and even climb among them. Climbing the steep stairs and standing alongside one of the towering columns you can begin to imagine how truly dramatic and majestic Selinunte once was.
 
For All Time…
 
With its monumental temples (including the largest in antiquity reaching up to 98 feet), Acropolis, and the ancient city surrounded by towering 10 foot tall walls, Selinunte must have evoked a sense of pride by inhabitants and allies, and respect and envy from enemies.
 
And, even today, among the giant piles of tumbled stone and topsy-turvy, jumbled heap of giant columns…Selinunte remains hauntingly beautiful and impressive, worthy of our awe and respect.

Receive More Stories Like This In Your Inbox

Recommended

The contrada of Valdimontone (Valley of the Ram) parade through the streets of Siena in preparation for the Palio April 28, 2013 in Siena, Italy. — Photo by _fla

Siena the Time Machine

If you stand in the middle of Piazza de Campo in Siena early in the morning, you’ll have a strange sensation. Empty and quiet, this perfectly...

“One Day in Naples” with Photographer Flavia Loreto

“Vedi Napoli e poi muori” - "See Naples and die": an Italian saying of unknown origin and authorship perfectly represents what visiting Naples might...

The eternal enchantment of the Eternal City: little known facts about Rome (Part II)

Piazza Navona: how beautiful it is. So beautiful one may even accept to pay an excruciatingly high price for a “granita al limone” and a coffee in...

The pleasure of writing, Italian style: the history of Aurora fountain pens

In a world where the younger generations are less and less acquainted with pen and paper, and more and more in love with keyboards, talking about the...
Naples and its surrounding territory are a land of contradictions where the thirst for wonder and magic, the unknown and the curious blend with the seductive sun-religion of the pagans. Photo from "One Day in Naples" Exhibit by Flavia Loreto

Rites, magic and mysteries of Naples: the miracle of its millennial charm

Magic, mystery, a thirst for wonders and for the unknown, and a pagan sun-religion. Naples metabolizes three thousand years of culture and...

Weekly in Italian

Recent Issues