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.
The archaeological site of Selinunte (in Greek Selinous) lies on the south coast of western Sicily, in the province of Trapani. The town was founded around 650 BC as a colony of the greek town Megara Hyblaea, itself a greek colony on the east coast of Sicily. In the two centuries that following the foundatioon the town of Selinunte went through an economically very prosperous period. Historical sources tell us about the continuous competition between Selinunte and the neighbouring town of Segesta in the territory of the Elymians, and about the wars between the Greek city states and the city of Carthage on the north-African coast when Selinunte found itself on the frontierline. In 409 BC the wars with Carthage led to the destruction of Selinunte as a Greek colony. After this date Selinunte became part of the punic territories until Sicily was conquered by the Romans. Selinunte, with her grand temples, among the largest in the Greek world, would slowly fall into oblivion until it was rediscovered in the sixteenth century. Since then until the day of today excavations have brought to light every time new facts about this marvellous town.
On entering the archaeological area of Selinunte from the east one sees immediately the three grand temples on the firsthill. The temples were ruined through warfare and earthquakes and only one temple has been restored. This is the first temple, called temple E, which was built in 460-450 BC and dedicated to Hera. The temple has a lenght of 70,18 meters and is 27,65 meters wide, the height of the columns is 10,19 meters with a diameter of 2,23. Under this temple the remains of two previous structures have been found. The plan of the temple is typically that of a Heraion, a temple dedicated to Hera. The metopes that were part of the temple and still recoverable have been moved to the museum at Palermo.
The temple F is completely in ruins but the main foundations are still visible. This temple was smaller and measured 65,76 meters by 27,4 meters with columns that were 9,11 meters high and had a diameter of 1,82 meters. The columns are doric which makes the temple datable to 550-530 BC. The temple would have been dedicated to Athena but some experts believe it could well have been dedicated to Dionysos. Parts of the metopes can be admired in the museum at Palermo.
Temple G is completely in ruins. It was probably one of the biggest temples of the Greek world. It could have been dedicated to Zeus and measured 110,36 meters long by 50,10 meters wide and had columns reaching as high as 16,27 meters with a diameter of 3,41 at the base. The construction of the temple started as early as 530 BC but was not yet completed when in 409 BC the town was conquered by the Punics. The cella of the temple is divided by two rows of columns. The groundplan reminds us of the temples of Samos, Ephesos and Milete where the inner part of the cella was open to the air. In 1892 one of the columns was restored and since then it has been nicknamed the “fuso della vecchia”.
From the area of the three temples it is a short walk to the acropolis of the town. The road passes in front of the impressive townwalls. These were built some time after the foundation of the town, in fact excavations showed that pre-existing houses had been demolished to make place for the new walls. Some archaeologists believe that the walls were built much later, during the punic phase of occupation of the town.
The acropolis itself has only been excavated in part, where the main public buildings including four other temples have been uncovered. On the foundations of two of these temples, temple A and O, a Byzantine fortress had been built, with the use of the building materials of the former temples. Another temple, temple C, has been restored in part, and work was ongoing at the time of our visit. This temple measured 63,7 meters by 24 meters and had columns of 8,62 meters high with a diameter of 1,54 at the base. This temple was probably dedicated to Apollo.
The main cadinal road leads north to the impressive defensive walls and a gate that gave access to the northern living and industrial quarters of the town. The walls and bridge are probably of a later date like the rest of the defence system of the acropolis. In the northern quarters the town extended further, here the economic life and activities took place. The urban living quarters have only been excavated for a small part and every year new excavations take place, the latest in 2011 where large parts of an industrial quarter have been discovered.
The sanctuary of the Malophoros
To the west of the acropolis of Selinunte lies a particular sanctuary, that of Demeter Malophoros. The sanctuary lies at a short distance walk on the other side of the river Modione, near what was once one of the ports of the town. It is a unique sanctuary for the Greek world which has led archaeologists to believe it is the result of a fusion of Greek and local sicilian religious traditions. The area is closed by a wall, the temenos, and in the sanctuary several altars and the remains of a temple dedicated to Demeter Malophoros can be seen, as well as a propylaeum and an aqueduct that brought water to the sanctuary.
Just north of the sanctuary are the structures of another sanctuary, a temple dedicated to Zeus Meilichios and to the south there is another temple structure in archaic style. This last temple was reused and adapted by the Punics after they conquered the town of Selinunte.
Address: Marinella di Selinunte, Castelvetrano
Tel: 0924 46540
Openingtimes: every day 09:00 - 19:00
Prices: Euro 6,00 (Euro 3,00 reduced) also valid for the Cave di Cusa
Website: Beniculturali della Regione Sicilia
The information has been updated for 2016 but prices and opening hours may vary.