Visiting a city with a sad ancient history – Selinunte temples and ruins

The sanctuary of Demeter Malaphoros, ©Alun Salt/Flickr

The sanctuary of Demeter Malaphoros, ©Alun Salt/Flickr

Around 409 BC for a period of time the city of Selinunte was involved in war with the Carthaginians. After a nine day long siege the defenders could not hold the fort any longer and Selinunte was defeated. Torture, murder, rape and destruction came and completely broke down the city. Some of the inhabitants were killed while others were taken for slavery.

Only a few could escape the slaughter and manage to reach Agrigento. The glory and heyday has come to an end. Selinunte was populated by Carthaginians who never achieved the beauty and prestige Selinunte once had. When the Romans came to occupy the city the Carthaginians destroyed the town and left only ruins behind. Fortunately this was not the end of Selinunte!

A time of solitude

After all this distress and misery Selinunte became completely abandoned for many centuries. During the Roman period and the first half of the Medieval Era the ruins of Selinunte stood in solitude. Around the 7th century however life started to grow again. A small village of Byzantine Greek origin began to evolve around the ruins of ancient Selinunte but an earthquake ended this sprout as well.

The Acropolis, Selinous, ©Alun Salt/Flickr

The Acropolis, Selinous, ©Alun Salt/Flickr

Temples and letters

During the heydays of Selinunte several temples were constructed and today their ruins can be visited. The temples do not have names like in other settlements they are identified in an unusual way, by letters. There is Temple E for example which had stone carved panels which depicted stories from Greek mythology. Today they are exhibited in an archeological museum in Palermo.

Temples E and F, ©Alun Salt/Flickr

Temples E and F, ©Alun Salt/Flickr

Next to Temple E you will find Temple F which was constructed approximately in 550 BC. It is said that this temple was built for Dionysos, the god of wine. The largest of them all is called Temple G which was probably built in 530 BC. This temple is considered the fourth biggest Greek temple in the world of which only a single column is standing today in the middle of a huge pile of ruins.

Selinus reborn

The original settlement of Selinus is located towards the west from the eastern temples. The city is built upon high ground and overlooks the sea. The walls surrounding Selinus have been reconstructed in 1927 by archeologists. Inside the acropolis there are five temple foundations to be found.

The sanctuary of Demeter Malaphoros, ©Alun Salt/Flickr

The sanctuary of Demeter Malaphoros, ©Alun Salt/Flickr

As you walk towards the western direction you will get to the Sanctuary of Demeter built in the 6th century BC where you can visit the ruins of shrines and some stone figurines. Not far from these ruins you will also find the Sanctuary of Zeus.

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