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Segesta

SELI5665According to the tradition used in Virgil’s Aeneid, Segesta was founded jointly by the territorial king Acestes (who was son of the local river Crinisus by a Dardanian woman named Segesta or Egesta) and by those of Aeneas’ folk who wished to remain behind with Acestes to found the city of Acesta.The belief that the name of the city was originally Acesta or Egesta and changed to Segesta by the Romans to avoid its ill-omened meaning in Latin is disproved by coins showing that Segesta was indeed the earlier name. The population of Segesta was mixed Elymian and Ionian Greek, though the Elymians soon Hellenized and took on external characteristics of Greek life. Segesta was in constant conflict with Selinus (modern Selinunte), which probably tried to assure itself a port on the Tyrrhenian Sea. The first clashes were in 580-576 BC, and again in 454 BC, but later the conflict would have repercussions for all of Sicily.

SELI5706In 415 BC Segesta asked Athens for help against Selinus, leading to a disastrous Athenian expedition in Sicily (415-413 BC). Later they asked Carthage for help, leading to the total destruction of the city of Selinus by the hands of Carthage. Segesta remained an ally of Carthage, it was besieged by Dionysius of Syracuse in 397 BC, and it was destroyed by Agathocles in 307 BC, but recovered. In 276 BC the city was allied with Pyrrhus, but changed side in 260 BC when it surrendered to the Romans. The city was not punished by the Romans for its long alliance with Carthage, but owing to the mythical common origin of the Romans and the Elymians (both descendants of refugees from Troy) it was granted the state of a “free and immune” city.
In 104 BC the slave rebellion led by Athenion started in Segesta. Little is known about the city under Roman rule, but it is probable that the population gradually moved to the port city of Castellammare del Golfo due to better trading opportunities. The city was destroyed by the Vandals.

The Greek theatre, very little is known about the city plan. Aerial photography indicates a regular city plan, built in part on terraces to overcome the natural sloping terrain. The current remains might be from the reconstruction after the destruction of the city by Agathocles.

SELI5661On a hill just outside the site of the ancient city of Segesta lies an unusually well preserved Doric temple. It is thought to have been built in the 420’s BC by an Athenian architect and has six by fourteen columns on a base measuring 21 by 56 meters, on a platform three steps high. Several things suggest that the temple was never actually finished. The columns have not been fluted as they normally would have been in a Doric temple and there are still tabs present in the blocks of the base (used for lifting the blocks into place but then normally removed). It also lacks a cella and was never roofed over. The temple is also unusual for being a Hellenic temple in a city not mainly populated by Greeks. It can also be noted that this temple lacks any painted or sculptured ornamentation, altar, and deity dedication. This temple escaped destruction by the Carthaginians in the late 5th century.

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Syracuse Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi

From 1895 to 1934 Paolo Orsi directed the museum, but the increasing number of finds made a new space necessary at the current location in the garden of the villa Landolina. The new museum space, designed by the architect Franco Minissi was inaugurated in January 1988, with two floors of 9,0002. Initially only one floor and a basement of 3,000 m2 containing an auditorium were open to the public.

In 2006, a new exhibition area on the upper floor was inaugurated, dedicated to the classical period, but more space still remained unused. In 2014 a final expansion allowed the display of the Sarcophagus of Adelphia and other finds from the catacombs of Syracuse.
The museum contains artefacts from the prehistoric, Greek and Roman periods found in archaeological excavations in the city and other sites in Sicily.

SYRMUS4787Sector A is dedicated to the prehistoric (Upper Palaeolithic-Iron Age) with a display of rocks and fossils which testify to the various animals found in Sicily in the Quaternary. It is preceded by a section which displays the geological characteristics of the Mediterranean Sea and the Iblean zone.

In sector B, dedicated to the Greek colonies in Sicily from the Ionic and Doric period, it is possible to see the locations of the Greek colonies in Sicily and their respective mother cities. Also on display: a headless marble statue of a Kouros, found at Leontini from the fifth century BC. a bone kourotrophos, a headless female statue, holding two twins, which was found at Megara Hyblaea. votive statues of Demeter and Kore and a gorgon from the Doric colony at Megara Hyblaea a head of Augustus found at Centuripe.

In sector C there are finds from the colonies of Syracuse: Akrai (664 BC), Kasmenai (644 BC), Camarina (598 BC), Eloro, as well as finds from other centres of eastern Sicily, Gela ed Agrigento.

Sector D, located on the upper floor and inaugurated in 2006, contains finds from the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It contains two of the most celebrated pieces in the museum, the Sarcophagus of Adelphia and the Venus Anadiomene, also called Venus Landolina after the location of its discovery, found in Syracuse in 1804 and described by Bernabò Brea as “for the excellence of its sculpting, an exquisite treatment of the naked form, of incredibly liveliness and softness”. Moreover, a selection of coins from the numismatic cabinet of the piazza Duomo is on display.

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Syracuse

Syracuse and its surrounding area have been inhabited since ancient times, as shown by the findings in the villages of Stentinello, Ognina, Plemmirio, Matrensa, Cozzo Pantano and Thapsos, which already had a relationship with Mycenaean Greece.

SYRCITY4861Syracuse was founded in 734 or 733 BC by Greek settlers from Corinth and Tenea, led by the oecist (colonizer) Archias. There are many attested variants of the name of the city including Συράκουσαι Syrakousai, Συράκοσαι Syrakosai and Συρακώ Syrako. A possible origin of the city’s name was given by Vibius Sequester citing first Stephanus Byzantius in that there was a Syracusian marsh (λίμνη) called Syrako and secondly Marcian’s Periegesis wherein Archias gave the city the name of a nearby marsh; hence one gets Syrako (and thereby Syrakousai and other variants) for the name of Syracuse, a name also attested by Epicharmus. The nucleus of the ancient city was the small island of Ortygia. The settlers found the land fertile and the native tribes to be reasonably well-disposed to their presence. The city grew and prospered, and for some time stood as the most powerful Greek city anywhere in the Mediterranean. Colonies were founded at Akrai (664 BC), Kasmenai (643 BC), Akrillai (7th century BC), Helorus (7th century BC) and Kamarina (598 BC).

The descendants of the first colonists, called Gamoroi, held power until they were expelled by the Killichiroi, the lower class of the city. The former, however, returned to power in 485 BC, thanks to the help of Gelo, ruler of Gela. Gelo himself became the despot of the city, and moved many inhabitants of Gela, Kamarina and Megera to Syracuse, building the new quarters of Tyche and Neapolis outside the walls. His program of new constructions included a new theatre, designed by Damocopos, which gave the city a flourishing cultural life: this in turn attracted personalities as Aeschylus, Ario of Metimma, Eumelos of Corinth and Sappho, who had been exiled here from Mytilene. The enlarged power of Syracuse made unavoidable the clash against the Carthaginians, who ruled western Sicily. In the Battle of Himera, Gelo, who had allied with Theron of Agrigento, decisively defeated the African force led by Hamilcar. A temple dedicated to Athena (on the site of today’s Cathedral), was erected in the city to commemorate the event

Syracuse grew considerably during this time. Its walls encircled 120 hectares (300 acres) in the fifth century, but as early as the 470’s BC the inhabitants started building outside the walls. The complete population of its territory approximately numbered 250,000 in 415 BC and the population size of the city itself was probably similar to Athens.

SYRTHE4727Gelo was succeeded by his brother Hiero, who fought against the Etruscans at Cumae in 474 BC. His rule was eulogized by poets like Simonides of Ceos, Bacchylides and Pindar, who visited his court. A democratic regime was introduced by Thrasybulos (467 BC). The city continued to expand in Sicily, fighting against the rebellious Siculi, and on the Tyrrhenian Sea, making expeditions up to Corsica and Elba. In the late 5th century BC, Syracuse found itself at war with Athens, which sought more resources to fight the Peloponnesian War. The Syracusans enlisted the aid of a general from Sparta, Athens’ foe in the war, to defeat the Athenians, destroy their ships, and leave them to starve on the island (see Sicilian Expedition). In 401 BC, Syracuse contributed a force of 3,000 hoplites and a general to Cyrus the Younger’s Army of the Ten Thousand.

Then in the early 4th century BC, the tyrant Dionysius the Elder was again at war against Carthage and, although losing Gela and Camarina, kept that power from capturing the whole of Sicily. After the end of the conflict Dionysius built a massive fortress on Ortygia and 22 km-long walls around all of Syracuse. Another period of expansion saw the destruction of Naxos, Catania and Lentini; then Syracuse entered again in war against Carthage (397 BC). After various changes of fortune, the Carthaginians managed to besiege Syracuse itself, but were eventually pushed back by a pestilence. A treaty in 392 BC allowed Syracuse to enlarge further its possessions, founding the cities of Adranon, Tyndarion and Tauromenos, and conquering Rhegion on the continent. In the Adriatic, to facilitate trade, Dionysius the Elder founded Ancona, Adria and Issa. Apart from his battle deeds, Dionysius was famous as a patron of art, and Plato himself visited Syracuse several times.

SYRMUS0370His successor was Dionysius the Younger, who was however expelled by Dion in 356 BC. But the latter’s despotic rule led in turn to his expulsion, and Dionysius reclaimed his throne in 347 BC. Dionysius was besieged in Syracuse by the Syracusan general Hicetas in 344 BC. The following year the Corinthian Timoleon installed a democratic regime in the city after he exiled Dionysius and defeated Hicetas. The long series of internal struggles had weakened Syracuse’s power on the island, and Timoleon tried to remedy this, defeating the Carthaginians in the Battle of the Crimissus (339 BC).

After Timoleon’s death the struggle among the city’s parties restarted and ended with the rise of another tyrant, Agathocles, who seized power with a coup in 317 BC. He resumed the war against Carthage, with alternate fortunes. He was besieged in Syracuse by the Carthaginians in 311 BC, but he escaped from the city with a small fleet. He scored a moral success, bringing the war to the Carthaginians’ native African soil, inflicting heavy losses to the enemy. The defenders of Syracuse destroyed the Carthaginian army which besieged them. However, Agathocles was eventually defeated in Africa as well. The war ended with another treaty of peace which did not prevent the Carthaginians from interfering in the politics of Syracuse after the death of Agathocles (289 BC). They laid siege to Syracuse for the fourth and last time in 278 BC. They retreated at the arrival of king Pyrrhus of Epirus, whom Syracuse had asked for help. After a brief period under the rule of Epirus, Hiero II seized power in 275 BC.

SYRAMF4772Hiero inaugurated a period of 50 years of peace and prosperity, in which Syracuse became one of the most renowned capitals of Antiquity. He issued the so-called Lex Hieronica, which was later adopted by the Romans for their administration of Sicily; he also had the theatre enlarged and a new immense altar, the “Hiero’s Ara”, built. Under his rule lived the most famous Syracusan, the mathematician and natural philosopher Archimedes. Among his many inventions were various military engines including the claw of Archimedes, later used to resist the Roman siege of 214 BC–212 BC. Literary figures included Theocritus and others.

SYRCITY0414Hiero’s successor, the young Hieronymus (ruled from 215 BC), broke the alliance with the Romans after their defeat at the Battle of Cannae and accepted Carthage’s support. The Romans, led by consul Marcus Claudius Marcellus, besieged the city in 214 BC. The city held out for three years, but fell in 212 BC. The successes of the Syracusians in repelling the Roman siege had made them overconfident. In 212 BC, the Romans received information that the city’s inhabitants were to participate in the annual festival to their goddess Artemis. A small party of Roman soldiers approached the city under the cover of night and managed to scale the walls to get into the outer city and with reinforcements soon took control, killing Archimedes in the process, but the main fortress remained firm. After an eight-month siege and with parleys in progress, an Iberian captain named Moeriscus is believed to have let the Romans in near the Fountains of Arethusa. On the agreed signal, during a diversionary attack, he opened the gate. After setting guards on the houses of the pro-Roman faction, Marcellus gave Syracuse to plunder.
Though declining slowly through the years, Syracuse maintained the status of capital of the Roman government of Sicily and seat of the praetor. It remained an important port for trade between the Eastern and the Western parts of the Empire. After a period of Vandal rule, Syracuse and the island was recovered by Belisarius for the Byzantine Empire (31 December 535). From 663 to 668 Syracuse was the seat of Emperor Constans II, as well as metropolis of the whole Sicilian Church.

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Roman Amfitheatre SYRAMF4764
Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi SYRMUS0364
Ancient city of Syracuse SYRCITY4865
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Paestum temples

The first Temple of Hera, built around 600 BC by Greek colonists, is the oldest surviving temple in Paestum. Eighteenth-century archaeologists named it “The Basilica” because they mistakenly believed it to be a Roman building. A basilica in Roman times was a civil building, not a religious one. Inscriptions revealed that the goddess worshiped here was Hera. Later, an altar was unearthed in front of the temple, in the open-air site usual for a Greek altar; the faithful could attend rites and sacrifices without entering the cella.
paestum14_IMG_0966Just south of the city walls, at a site still called Santa Venera, a series of small terracotta offertory molded statuettes of a standing female nude wearing the polos headdress of Anatolian and Syrian goddesses, which were dated to the first half of the sixth century BC, were found in the sanctuary; other similar ones have been excavated at other Paestum sanctuaries during excavations in the 1980s, but the figure is highly unusual in the Western Mediterranean. The open-air temenos was established at the start of Greek occupation: a temple on the site was not built until the early fifth century. A nude goddess is a figure alien to Greek culture before Praxiteles’ famous Cnidian Aphrodite in the fourth century: iconographic analogies must be sought in Phoenician Astarte and the Cypriote Aphrodite. “In places where the Greeks and Phoenicians came in contact with one another, there is often an overlapping in the persona of the two deities,” Rebecca Miller Ammerman has explained (Ammerman 1991), in identifying the cult at the site as that of Phoenician Astarte or Cypriot Aphrodite. In Roman times, inscriptions make clear, the cult was reserved to Venus.

The second Temple of Hera was built around 460–450 BC. It has been variously thought of as a temple dedicated to Poseidon. The Temple of Hera II has nothing in common with the first temple, reason being for its symmetrical style for its columns. Also every column does not have a normal 20 flutes on each column but it has 24 flutes. The Temple of Hera II also has a wider column and a smaller spacing for the placing of the columns. The temple was also found to be used to worship more than just Hera but also Zeus and another unknown god. There’s a legend where beings would go to the temple in hope to make love with the goddess and the belief on insuring pregnancy; Hera is also the goddess of childbirth. There are visible on the east side the remains of two altars, one large and one smaller. The smaller one is a Roman addition, built when they cut through the larger one to build a road to the forum. It is also possible that the temple was originally dedicated to both Hera and Poseidon; some offertory statues found around the larger altar are thought to demonstrate this identification.

paestum14_IMG_1007In the central part of the complex is the Roman Forum, thought to have been built on the site of the preceding Greek agora. On the north side of the forum is a small Roman temple, dated to 200 BC. It was dedicated to the Capitoline Triad, Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.

To the north-east of the forum is the amphitheater. This is of normal Roman pattern, though much smaller than later examples. Only the western half is visible; in 1930 AD, a road was built across the site, burying the eastern half. It is said by local inhabitants that the civil engineer responsible was tried, convicted and received a prison sentence for what was described as wanton destruction of an historic site.

On the highest point of the town, some way from the other temples, is the Temple of Athena. It was built around 500 BC, and was for some time incorrectly thought to have been dedicated to Ceres. The architecture is transitional, being partly in the Ionic style and partly early Doric. Three medieval Christian tombs in the floor show that the temple was at one time used as a Christian church.

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Paestum 1976

My first visit to Paestum was a dream come true. Greek temples, in a sunny environment, nearly golden stone.
The visits 2012 and 2014 have delivered more and better photo’s, I am still very fond of this collection form 1976.

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Paestum Museum

PAESTUM_IMG_6471Paestum is also renowned for its painted tombs, mainly belonging to the period of the Lucanian rule, while only one of them dates to the Greek period. It was found, on 3 June 1968, in a small necropolis some 1.5 km south of the ancient walls. The burial monument was named Tomb of the Diver (Italian: Tomba del tuffatore) after the enigmatic scene, depicted on the covering slab, of a lonely young man diving into a stream of water. It was dated to the first half of the fifth century BC (about 470 BC), the Golden Age of the Greek town. The tomb is painted with the true fresco technique and its importance lies in being “the only example of Greek painting with figured scenes dating from the Orientalizing, Archaic, or Classical periods to survive in its entirety. Among the thousands of Greek tombs known from this time (roughly 700–400 BC), this is the only one to have been decorated with frescoes of human subjects.”
The remaining four walls of the tombs are occupied by symposium related scenes, an iconography far more familiar from the Greek pottery than the diving scene.
All the five frescoes are visible in the local National Museum, together with the cycle of Lucanian painted tombs.

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Stitched Panorama

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