Among the ruins of buildings of Magna Grecia which today we can still admire the vestiges in Selinunte are just magnificent. This stronghold reached a population of 100,000 when it reached its most splendorous moment. For 200 years it remained wealthy and exerted power over the towns in the region and was the most influential in the known world. Witness to its influence are the seven temples erected in the city. A must walk has to be the one on the beautiful beach underneath the temples which lord over it from the top of the cliff. On the left of the Acropolis car park is a path to get to the beach below.
The first settlers came from near Megara Hyblaea in the first half of the 7th century BC. Among the Greek colonies Selinunte was the furthest to the west. It was conveniently located on top of a headland between the current of water of the silted up Modione and the Cottone. The Cottone gave the town a convenient natural harbour. The town’s name originates from Selinon the Greek word for celery which covered the plains around their settlement.
Selinunte first was Carthage‘s ally and then was on the Syracusans’ side when Gelo defeated the Carthaginians in Himera at the end of the 5th century. Selinunte became more influential celebrated with the Syracusan protectorate. Its increasing control over the area brought about a power struggle over domination against Segesta which ended again in battles with the Carthaginians allying with Segesta against Selinunte. The town was destroyed by Hannibal and the only survivors were the ones who protected themselves in the temples. Hannibal let them live only for fear of survivors burning the temples and looting. Hermocrates of Syracuse took power over the city one year later. Its inhabitants were moved to Lilybaeum (later Marsala, the Carthaginian capital of Sicily) in 250 BC when the Romans were occupying the territory. Selinunte was extensively damaged, but what remained upright was later destroyed by an earthquake in the Middle Ages. The world forgot Selinunte until a Dominican monk discovered where it was situated. William Harris and Samuel Angel, British archaeologists, unearthed the first metopes in the first half of the 19th century.
What to See and Do
Four different areas are well defined. The acropolis, the ancient city, the temples to the east and the Sanctuary of Malophoros. The archaeological site occupies an extremely large land soared over by Manuzza, where the ancient city lay. There are two ways leading to the sites: the path to the temples and the path along the Gorgo di Cottone. There are electric carts taking visitors around and calling at each sight.
The acropolis was where social an political life developed. It lies on a plateau looking over the Gorgo di Cottone. Two roads crossing the Acropolis perpendicularly define four sections in it. Within the boundaries of the south-eastern section are temples A, B, C, D and O. Temple D, erected supposedly in honour to Venus or Neptune dates back to the late 6th century and is located furthest to the north. Temple C, the landmark building of Selinunte, dates back to the middle of the same century. The first metopes found by the British archaeologists and the Gorgon’s mask embellishing the pediment are housed in Museo Archeologico Regionale in Palermo. Its neighbouring Temple B, belonging to the Hellenistic period, supposedly in honour to the physiologist and philosopher Empedocles, had a water drainage system that prevented the city from being infected with malaria (sadly and ironically its first excavator William Harris got malaria when he started unearthing the treasures and died later). Temples A and O lie closer to the waterfront. They were erected in the same style and size at the end of the 5th century. It is likely that they were built in honour to Castor and Pollux.
The ancient city was the most populated part lying to the north of the Acropolis. It has not undergone so much excavations yet. What has been done up to now reveals that maybe the survivors used this part as a necropolis when Hannibal devastated the town in
The Sanctuary of Malophoros was located west to the Acropolis crossing over the silted up Modione (the Selinon in old times). The vestiges of the Temple of Demeter, the goddess of fertility, lie at the end of a dirt path climbing up. Two altars which are not outlined clearly are amidst the vestiges. One of them was the sacrifice altar. They show much of their social life. About 12,000 offerings to the goddess of fertility have been discovered in the area, among which is a stelae enthroned with skulls.
To the north is the breathtaking temple E, still complete in spite of earthquake and human destruction. The temple was erected in the 5th century BC and restored in 1958.
The Temple G started in the 6th century was never finished but it was one of the biggest ones in the lands taken by the Greeks. At present there is only a huge heap of stones left .
Where to Eat
Near the ruins Marinella di Selinunte has a wide variety of affordable restaurants located mainly on the waterfront.
Al Ristorante Pierrot is a well-liked restaurant serving a fantastic buffet and quality fish.
Another restaurant that deserves to be mentioned is Lido Azzurro.
How to Get to/away
BY BUS: to Castelvetrano (length: 20 minutes, services: 5 a day).
BY CAR: take the Castelvetrano exit off the A29, then the road is signposted.
From Agrigento: go along the SS115 , then the road is signposted.