Thursday, 8 September 2011

Selinunte, Segesta and Erice

The ruins of the magnificent Greek city Selinunte are one of the most important archaeological sites in the Mediterranean. The temple ruins, remains of fortifications,, the necropolis and the urban layout show us a 5thC city. It fell to Carthage and Hannibal’s army in 409 BC. The city was destroyed and a cruel massacre of 16,000 followed, with an additional 5,000 inhabitants captured.

The Romans never reinvigorated the city and in Byzantine times a catastrophic earthquake dealt a death blow to what was left. It’s such a shame because its deteriorating more and more. It must have been a marvel.

Segesta was founded by the Elymians (refugee Trojans) who were in perpetual conflict with the city of Selinunte. It was an ally of the Carthaginians but was captured by the Syracusans in the fourth century BC. It was then taken over by Rome, maybe because of the legendary origin shared by Trojans, Elymi and Romans. It is thought that the Trojans escaping the ruin of Troy (in northern Turkey) settled in Erice and Segestra. It was then abandoned by them and destroyed by the Vandals. Once again, the Doric style of architecture is in strong evidence. And the ruins certainly encourage one to take photos.

Our last excursion in Sicily was to Erice, a delightful old town with a rich history. Here at last I saw civic pride in evidence. Flowers bloomed in unlikely places, homes had courtyards and gardens. The streets were very clean.

In general the old stone houses were in good condition and the view of the countryside from the castle was splendid. Erice had a lovely, homey feel and was a picturesque delight. Thoroughly recommended for a visit.

There were many other places we might have visited had we not been on a guided tour, but all in all I think we visited most of the interesting places and saw most of the best sights. We were challenged by the heat and the physical exertions from time to time and we met interesting people. I enjoyed spending quality time with Jean-Claude.

In summing up I would say get out into the smaller towns and stay clear of larger cities. Take a dip in the warm Mediterranean and make sure you go home with some good quality ceramics. I went home with a piece of lava from Mount Etna and broken pieces of pottery from two of the archaeological sites. Those pieces are probably 2000 years old but are only of curiosity value.

This trip was an unexpected treat for me and it has whetted my appetite to see more of Italy.


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