is derived from the Greek name for the sweet-smelling herb they
called Selinon: wild celery (heleioselinon – Apium graveolens)
as well as mountain parsley (Oreoselinon – Petroselinum from
which the English term is corrupted). Funnily enough, this herb
that the ancients held in such high esteem was dedicated to Persephone,
it was widely used to crown victors at the Isthmian games and to
make wreaths for adorning the tombs of the dead. It grew in profusion
in this part of Sicily and appears on the first coins minted by
the town. The colony was founded by settlers from Megara Hyblaea
during the 7C BC.
Selinus enjoyed a short but intensive period of prosperity (almost
two centuries of splendour), perhaps thanks to prudent government
practised by the continuous line of successive tyrants. Evidence
of the town’s flowering is to be found in the extensive area
allocated to sacred ritual and public use, concentrated in three
a long time, Selinunte allied itself to Carthage, in the hope of
securing support in the fight with its rival, Segesta. Although,
in the end, it was destroyed in 409 BC by the Carthaginian Hannibal
who used ferociously cruel methods in winning supremacy: this resulted
in the death of 16,000 Selinuntini and the capture of a further
5000 as prisoners (according to the account given by Diodorus Siculus).
When the survivors begged him for their freedom and for the temples
of the city to be spared in return for a substantial payment, Hannibal
consented; once he had the cash in hand, he sacked the temples and
pulled down the walls. Selinus invested every last effort in repairing
the damage and, against the odds to struggle to survive until the
Second Punic War, when it was razed to the ground.
ruins are scattered over an almost deserted area having been completely
abandoned since its downfall: the ruined temples continue to point
their impressive great columns to the sky, while other buildings,
reduced to heaps of rubble, probably by an earthquake, inspire a
tragic air of utter desolation. The fine metopes which once adorned
several of the temple friezes are displayed in the archeological
museum in Palermo.
are three main areas: the first, spread across the hill on the eastern
side, contains three large temples; one having been re-erected in
1957. The second, on the hill to the west and surrounded by walls,
comprises the acropolis, south of the actual town. The third, lying
west of the acropolis, beyond the River Modione, also consisted
of a sacred precinct complete with temples and sanctuaries. In the
absence of any sure knowledge as to which gods the temples were
dedicated, scholars have identified them with letters of the alphabet.
complete the picture, it is well worth visiting the quarries from
where the stone was brought (see Cave di CUSA).
orientali – The first of the eastern temples to come into
view is Temple E, which, re-erected in 1957, was dedicated to Hera.
It dates from the 5C BC and has a complex ground plan. The entrance
to the pronaos was from the east-facing side, up several steps and
through the colonnade. Only the capitals remain, lying on the ground,
from the two free standing columns that marked the doorway. Beyond
lay the cella off which opened a small secret chamber (the adytum)
where the statue of the deity was kept. Behind this, opened the
opisthodomus which was identical to the pronaos.
the right, lie the ruins of Temple F, on a smaller scale than Temple
E and probably dedicated to Athena.
Temple G – the second largest Greek temple in Sicily, after
the Temple of Olympian Zeus at Agrigento – would have been
the most impressive. Conceived on simply gigantic proportions: 17
columns long and 8 wide, each with a diameter of almost 3.5m and
a height of more than 16m. It was probably dedicated to Apollo.
Today, it is reduced to a mass of fragments scattered over the ground.
The cylindrical blocks with which the columns were built, each weighing
several tons, retain distinctive grooves that suggest to scholars
that the temple was never completed.
– Drive from the eastern temples car park to the next one.
The acropolis stretched across a hill on the far side of the dip
called Gorgo di Cottone, through which the River Cottone flowed
down to the sea where the towns harbour (now overgrown) was situated.
The site was enclosed within defensive walls built in the 6C-5C
BC. The streets were laid out according to the Classical town plan
proposed by Hippadamus of Miletus, with three main arteries bisected
at right angles by a grid of smaller streets. This area contained
the town’s public and religious buildings, together with a
few houses for the highest ranking members of society. The path
skirts a section of the powerful graduated walls surrounding the
eastern side of the acropolis.
– The first to be made out as the track climbs uphill is the
ruin of Temple A. Within the wall with the doorway into the naos
are two spiral staircases, the most ancient examples known to date.
This precinct, however, is dominated by 14 of the 17 columns of
Temple C, which were re-erected in 1925. This, the earliest surviving
temple at Selinus (initiated early 6C BC), was probably dedicated
to Apollo or Heracles. It is hard to imagine the full impact of
the pediment (ornamented with a clay Gorgon’s head in shallow
relief) as it lies broken on the ground. It is from this temple
that the finest metopes, now in the archeological museum in Palermo
come; there is also a re-construction of the pediment there. It
is interesting to follow the evolution in building techniques implemented
during the temples construction: the columns on the south side are
monolithic, whereas the others are composed of cylindrical segments,
being far easier to transport. Traces of three further temples have
been configured in the acropolis.
– At the far end of the decumanus maximus, rises the curtain
wall which once surrounded the acropolis. What may now be seen consists
in fact of the fortifications built after the site was destroyed
in 409 BC using recycled building stone (the columns split lengthways
come from an unidentified temple from an unknown site). Beyond the
north gate, the Porta Nord, stands an impressive three-storey structure
comprising two superimposed galleries surmounted by a series of
arches which allowed for soldiers and equipment to move quickly
through them. The residential part of the town was situated on the
hill of Manuzza: from the 4C BC, this area was gradually abandoned
and used for burials as a necropolis.
della Malophoros – The sanctuary may be reached by following
the track that extends from the first cardo to the left of the decumanus
maximus (from the acropolis): allow 20min there and back. The sanctuary
is in honour of Demeter Malophoros (she who bears the pomegranate),
the goddess of plants and thereby the protector of farmers and growers.
It was built inside a sacred precinct (temenos) on the opposite
side of the River Modione, where a harbour and towns trading emporium
were located. Beyond the propylaeum (identifiable by the remains
of columns) stands a large sacrificial altar. A channel bearing
water from the Gaggera mountain spring separates it from the temple.
The latter, without columns or foundations, comprised a pronaos,
a cella and an adytum containing a statue of the deity.
Campobello Di Mazara
Castellammare Del Golfo
Mazara Del Vallo
San Vito Lo Capo
Saline Dello Stagnone
Isola Di Formica
Cave Di Cusa
Scivoletto e Michelin Italia. Le foto sono di proprietà
dei rispettivi autori. Ogni riproduzione non autorizzata verrà
perseguita a norma di legge.
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Guide of Sicily
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