I brought with me a little sachet of salt, a time-honored remedy to ward off evil spirits, when visiting two Medieval borghi on La Riviera dei Fiori...
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.