In antiquity in western Sicily there were two towns that were in direct competition with each other, Segesta and Selinunte (Selinous). The first, also called Egesta in the sources, lies in the north and was the capital of the Elymians. The other was a Greek colony and lies in the south on the coast. The competition between the two towns would eventually result in an outright war. While the Greek colony was supported by the Greek world in Sicily, the Elymians sought support from the north-African town of Carthage. It meant the end of Selinunte as a Greek town because the Carthagians invaded the town and it came under Punic influence.
Another important town in the territory of the Elymians was built around a world famous sanctuary, Eryx. The sanctuary was dedicated to the goddess that the Punics gave the name Astarte and the Romans called Venus Erycina, and it was located on a mountain top that dominates the entire western point of Sicily. The itinerary described here touches on these three antique towns of Erice, Segesta and Selinunte passing through a territory where various cultures have left their marks in the past centuries.
The itinerary starts in the town of Erice on the top of the mountain. In the town there are several sites that are worth visiting like the castle of Venus, the castle of Balio with the small tower of Pepoli, the Chiesa Madre, the punic walls with the towngate and ofcourse the historical town center with the paved alleys. At several points there is a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside, in particular towards the west with Trapani and the Egadian islands.
The next leg goes from Erice to the archaeological site of Segesta. Segesta is fairly easy to reach as it is next to the highway that runs from Trapani to Palermo. The archeological area is divided in two, on the lower hill stands the Greek temple while the remains of the ancient town itself are located on the top of the mount, the Greek theatre, the Normannic castle and the agorà. There is a bus service to the top for those that do not want to make the entire climb by foot, but it is worth the effort to walk back and see the town walls and town gate. Near the entrance there is a bar where you can rest under the shadow of the trees.
The next leg goes from Segesta in the north to Selinunte in the south, Selinunte lies on the coast near Marinella. From Segesta to Castelvetrano there is the highway, after that the ss115 and ss115dir to Marinella. The archaeological site of Selinunte is extensive with three major area's; the area of the temples in the east, the acropolis in the middle and the sanctuary of Demeter Malophoros in the west. A visit to the site may take some time up to see all but it is worth the walk.
The last leg of this itinerary is to the quarry where the columns for the great temples were prepared, the Cave di Cusa. The quarry lies just south of Campobello di Mazara. Here the drums can be seen, partly finished or still to be cut away from the rock, as if the quarry was abandoned yesterday in a hurry. Probably work was interrupted at some time when Selinunte was taken by the Punics. In the quarry it is a pleasant one hour walk to see the highlights.
Circumstances in reality can be different due to specific situations or changes on the roads. See also the disclaimer
Eryx is located on the top of a solitary mountain that dominates the west side of Sicily. It is the ancient site of the sanctuary of Astarte and one of the towns of the Elimians. The Phoenicians payed honour to the goddess whenever their ships touched Sicily. Later the Romans brought the cult of the goddess, which they called Venus, to Rome as the Venus Ericina.
Segesta was the capital of the Elymians. They built a great temple to compete with nearby Selinus, but the temple was never finished. They also built a magnificent greek theatre. The Elymians had good relations with the phoenicians and punics.
Campobello di Mazara (TP)
The Cave di Cusa are the quarries near Selinunte (Selinus) where the stones for the great temples of this Greek city came from. Unfinished drums of columns, half cut out of the rock, as if the work in progress was abandoned never to be taken up again.
Selinus (Selinunte) was founded by Greek colonists in the seventh century BC. The city was caught in the middle of the wars between Greeks and Punics and at some time in history it was conquered by Carthage. Selinus and Segesta were eternal rivals in West-Sicily.