Selinunte, Sicily Italy,

Classical Greek city rising out from the sand.

The Ancient Greek Classical city of Selinous, modern day Selinunte is on the south-west coast of Sicily in the heart of the Mediterranean.

Immigrants from the Greek settlement of Megara Hyblaea (Sicily East Coast) founded Selinous in the 7th century BCE. They named it after the wild celery that once was abundant there. Selinous prosperity and prestige grew in the next few centuries following its foundation and become exceedingly affluent and glorious from exporting wine, cereals, olive oil and ceramic artefacts. 

Admired and envied throughout the Mediterranean, Selinous was a target for invaders. On a fateful day in 409BCE, 100,000 soldiers of the Carthaginian army attacked and almost destroyed the city. Of the 25,000 inhabitants, 16,000 were butchered, and another 7000 were enslaved. Any that survived escaped to the ancient Greek city of Akragas (Agrigento). 

Finally abandoned around 250BCE, the forces of nature then buried Selinous as windblown sand and earth covered the city.

A result of Selinous being mostly buried and forgotten was that the city was frozen in time, similar to the fate of Pompeii.

Palm trees ruins and blue sea. Selinunte. Sicily. Italy.
View of palm trees and the blue waters of the Mediterranean sea from the evocative ruins of the archeological site at Selinunte. Sicily. Italy.

Modern excavations have been revealing, and it is being regarded as the most complete preservation of an Ancient Greek classical city. 

Boosting several Doric Greek temples all identified by a letter, Selinunte archaeological park is the largest in Europe and one of its most beautifully located.

Two highlights being Temple E, which is one of the most complete Greek temples in the world and the massive ruins of unfinished 6th BCE Temple G, which would have been the fourth largest temple ever built in the ancient Greek world. 

Nearby Ancient Selinous is Cave di Cusa which was the ancient quarry used to provide masonry for the Temples. The quarry includes many abandoned colossal cylindrical drum blocks still waiting for two thousand years to be transported to the ancient city. 

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All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Paestum, Italy.

Majestic Ancient Greek Temples.

Originally named Poseidonia, in honour of the Greek Sea God Poseidon, Paestum was founded in the 7th century BC by Ancient Greek colonists from the city of Sybaris which was situated in the current Gulf of Taranto in southern Italy.

Its location was chosen for its fresh water supply and rich fertile plain, ideal for agriculture. Its site also allowed for excellent land access through the Lucanian hills to the seaport. The city became wealthy enough to mint its own coins and became an important centre of Magna Graecia–Greek colonisation in Italy.

After a few hundred years, the city was occupied by the indigenous Lucanians and then by the Romans in the third century BC. Paestum succumbed to malaria after the fall of Rome and was eventually abandoned in the late 9th century.

Paestum was a must see by any traveller engaged in the famous Grand tour- 17th to early 19th-century.

For nearly 1000 years, Paestum and its grand majestic temples were overgrown by tangled vegetation and partially submerged in swampland until the mid-18th century, when the ancient site was rediscovered by road crews. 

The three ancient Greek Doric temples of Paestum (Hera, Hera II and Athena) are ranked amongst the best preserved Greek Temples in the world.

Paestum Italy.
Paestum. Campania. Italy. The cover panel mural painting from the Tomb of the Diver (Tomba del Tuffatore) from the Tempa del Prete necropolis. This panel, which was the tomb lid, shows a naked youth executing a prefect dive into a blue sea. The dive is thought to symbolize the passage from life to the death.

The museum house the extraordinary cycle of mural paintings from the 5th century BC Tomb of Diver, which are the only type of its kind in the world and are the only example of Greek wall painting with figured scenes from the Archaic, or Classical periods to survive in their entirety.

Paestum is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Segesta, Sicily Italy.

Glorious Architectural Legacy of Ancient Greece

The archaeological park of Segesta is in the commune of Calatafimi-Segesta within the western province of Trapani on the island of Sicily, southern Italy. Ancient Segesta was one of the principal cities of the Sicilian indigenous people, called Elymians. 

The Elymians according to legend (and the Greek Historian and general Thucydides) were originally Trojans who fled the destruction by the Greeks of the ancient and famous city of Troy. Having found haven in Sicily, they merged with local peoples and become one. 

From the 8th century BCE, the Ancient Greeks colonised or influenced most of Sicily and Segesta was no different. The city adopted Greek culture, including architecture and temple building. 

Standing glorious in magnificent isolation on a low hill amid verdant country side and framed by mountains is the Greek Doric Temple of Segesta. 

One of the three orders designed by the Greeks was the Doric order. The other two were the Ionic order originating from the Ionian Greek city states from Asia Minor and the Corinthian order, named for the Greek city-state of Corinth. The Romans later adopted these orders.

One of the most magnificently sited classical monuments in the world, the temple was constructed between 42 and 16 BCE.

It was built to impress the ambassadors from Athens whom the Segestans were eager to win over to help protect them from their hostile Greek rival Selinous (modern day Selinunte). 

Ancient Greek Theatre. Segesta Sicily Italy.
Segesta. Sicily. Italy. View from the rear of the Greek Theatre, which stands on the highest part of the ancient city at about 400 metres on the cliffs of Mount Barbaro.

Believed to be the work of a great Athenian architect, the Doric order peripteral temple authentically follows the existing models of classical architecture of Greek cities in Sicily and comprises 36 limestone columns, arranged by 6 columns on the facade and 14 on the sides. 

The temple was abandoned before completion, possibly due to war and conflict. Incompletion is assumed because the columns are unfluted, the lifting bosses (knobs) have been left inserted in the structure and there is no evidence of a cella and roof being built. 

Nearby is the well preserved ancient Greek Theatre, which stands on the highest part of the ancient city at about 400 metres on the cliffs of Mount Barbaro. Dating from the second half of the 2nd century BCE, the theatre originally accommodated 4000 people and has a stunning backdrop overlooking the beautiful panorama of the Segesta territory which is dominated by Mount Inici. 

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All content, images and text are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Aegina, Greece.

Ancient Island Powerhouse

A stone’s throw south of Athens lays Aegina, an unspoiled and historic Greek island endowed with splendid archaeological remains, beautiful beaches and charming harbour towns. 

Located between the Attica and the Peloponnese, the island of Aegina (Aigina) is part of the archipelago known as the Saronic Gulf Islands which are regarded by Athenians as their own a little secret paradise to escape to from the hustle and bustle of the capital. (Salamis, Poros, Hydra and Spetses are the other Saronic Gulf Islands)

In the 7th and 6th centuries BC, Aegina was a mighty maritime state that rivalled Athens in power and prestige. 

Aegina minted the first ancient Greek coins (marked with a tortoise) and traded and established colonies throughout the Mediterranean. However, the imperial ambitions of Athens eventually eclipsed and then conquered Aegina in the 5th century BC. 

Between 1826 and 1828, Aegina town became the first capital of the new Greek state after winning independence and the new government of Greece was set-up there. 

Aegina Town is a picturesque harbour town, overflowing with colourful fishing and coastal boats and a lively waterfront lined with neoclassical buildings, taverns, churches and many stands selling Aegina’s famous pistachios, considered the tastiest in the world. 

Aegina. Greece.
View of the East and North sides of the Temple of Aphaia or Afea, Aegina Greece.

On eastern side of the island, set atop a pine crested hill, stands the impressive 5th century BC Temple of Aphaia, which is one of the best-preserved ancient temples from the ancient Greek world. Dedicated to Aphaia, a local goddess, the perfectly proportioned Doric Temple has twenty-five of the original 32 monolithic limestone columns still standing. 

The Temple of Aphaia, together with the Parthenon in Athens and Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, form a perfect isosceles triangle which continues to mystify scholars today.

Aegina is easily reachable from the port of Piraeus, with many ferries available throughout the day ranging from approximately 40 minutes to 75 minutes in travel time.

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All Images, Text and Content are Copyright Steven Sklifas

Ancient Olympia Greece

The birthplace and spiritual home of the Olympic Games, Ancient Olympia continues to captivate as it did for a thousand years from 776 BC, when Greeks assembled in war and peace to celebrate the games and life.

Ancient Olympia is magically set in a lush valley between two rivers in the western Peloponnese prefecture of Elia, southern Greece. Dedicated to the Ancient Greek God Zeus, the games which according to one legend were established by Ancient Greek Hero Herakles to honor the achievement of his 12 labours.

The games were held here every fours year’s from 776 BC onwards for over a thousand years and remarkably the champion’s name of each event is recorded.

Amidst its shady groves of pine, olive and blooming Judas trees, Olympia’s evocative ruins of its celebrated past are on show, including the remains of the Palaestra where the athletes trained, the stadium where the foot races were held and the hippodrome where the horse events took place. 

The renowned 2nd century AD Greek traveller, geographer and historian Pausanias declared that although there are many wonderful things in Greece, there is a ’unique divinity’ about the mysteries of Ancient Olympia.

At its centre, in the sacred sanctuary, the glorious 5th century Temple of Zeus lays in ruins. Its colossal Doric columns lay toppled in the ground unmoved since being destroyed by tremendous earthquakes in the 6th century. Comparable in size to the Athenian Parthenon, The Temple of Zeus housed the long-lost 12-metre high golden statue of Zeus, created by the Greek sculptor Pheidias (Phidias) and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Finally, its marvellous museum is full of world-class exhibits and masterpieces of antiquity, including 5th century BC statue of the winged Nike by the sculptor Paeonius (or Paionios) of Mende and the Praxiteles’ marble statue of Hermes, possibly the finest figurative sculpture ever made.

Ancient Olympia is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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All images, text and content are Copyright Steven Sklifas.