Multimedia map with all interested sites: Segesta Archive 

Segesta (or Egesta) was the most important of the cities of the Elymians, the remains of the ancient center have been identified on Monte Barbaro about 4 km away. north-west of the municipality of Calatafimi-Segesta. Most of the remains found belong to the Greek period, although there is no lack of archaeological evidence that demonstrates an oriental influence even before the Greek colonization. Surely before the arrival of the Elimi the place was a Sicano center. Mount Barbaro is a limestone relief consisting of two peaks of about 400 m divided by a valley. Its slopes are very steep except for the northern side which slopes more gently. On the northern summit are the ancient theater, the castle, the medieval mosque and the fifteenth-century church. But the excavations have also brought to light an Islamic necropolis, a Christian cemetery connected to the three-apsed church, a village with houses built, in various building phases, between the second half-end of the twelfth century. and the first half of the thirteenth century. and other houses from the Swabian period in more secluded areas. 

 Of particular beauty are the temple, in Doric style, and the theater, partly excavated in the rock of the hilla. 

Coin Didramma (480-461 BC) Front: Standing dog to d.

Didramma Coin (480-461 BC) Back: Nymph Head Segesta


The date of its foundation is not known, but documents show that the city was inhabited in the 2th century BC The Greek historian Thucydides (History of the Peloponnesian War. Lib.VI.XNUMX) tells that the Trojan refugees, crossing the Mediterranean Sea, arrived as far as Sicily, and founded Segesta and Erice. These refugees took the name of Elimi. According to the myth, Segesta was founded by Aceste (who was its first king), son of the Trojan noble Egesta and the river god Crimiso. 

There are those who say that the origin of the Elimi was the Italian peninsula. As proof that population of Ligurian origin occupied the western areas of Sicily, Ettore Pais (History of Ancient Italy) points out the similarity of the names of Sicilian places such as Eryx (Erice) Entella and Segesta, with those of Eryx (Lerici) in the gulf of La Spezia, Segesta (Sestri), and in the nearby Entella river mentioned by the poet Dante.

Due to his conflicting relations with Selinunte he asked for help during the Peloponnesian war in Athens, providing the pretext for Sparta's rival, to undertake what later turned out to be a disastrous expedition to Sicily (415-413) for Sparta. The clashes with Selinunte ended in 409 BC, when Selinunte was besieged and destroyed by the Carthaginians, again invoked by the Segestani. In 307 BC many Segestani were terribly killed or sold as slaves by the Syracusan tyrant Agàtocle for not having provided him with the requested economic aid. Agatocles, after the ferocious repression, changed the name of the city to Diceopolis (right city). In 276 BC the city returned under Punic influence, but in the First Punic War, in 260 BC it allied itself with the Romans who had great respect for it because, according to tradition, they had common origins (both descending from fugitives from Troy). The Romans defended it from the Carthaginian attempted reconquest. It was therefore guaranteed the status of a free city, with exemption from the imposition of taxes, unlike other Sicilian cities (civitas free ac immunis).

It was in 104 BC that the slave revolts in Sicily began from Segesta, the so-called servile wars, led by Athenion. These riots were bloodied by the Romans in 99 BC

Segesta was destroyed by the Vandals in the fifth century, and never rebuilt in the size of the previous period.

Nonetheless, there remained a small fortified settlement thanks to the Roman age walls that remained intact. It seems that the place was abandoned towards the VI-VII century and repopulated by Arab population towards the XII century who built a village and a mosque there. The name of Segesta changed to “Qualat Barbari”, that is the Berber Castle, better known by the Latinized name of Calatabarbaro Castle and, after the expulsion of the Arabs, the Normans built a castle there. This, enlarged in the Swabian era, was the center of a medieval village. In the second half of the thirteenth century. a bloody event led to the gradual abandonment of the place, while the nearby Calatafimi came to be populated. In 1442 some inhabitants of Calatafimi built the small church of S. Leone, above the one from the Swabian period. The construction of the Church of S. Leone constitutes the last true testimony of life in the locality.

The Myth of Crimiso

Crimiso is the Sicilian river god who turned into a dog and joined the Trojan Egesta (or Segesta) when she arrived in Sicily. From their union was born Aceste (or Egesto), founder of the city of Segesta, who happily welcomed Aeneas and the Trojans when they landed in Sicily. The dog is the element that is once again linked to oriental culture, and precisely in the Segestan coinage this symbol appears several times, perhaps as a reminder of the cult of Crimiso. There are different versions of the arrival in Sicily of the Trojan Segesta. One of these narrates that, due to discord between the king of Troy, Laomedonte, and his magnate, a certain Fenodamante, the king had the latter arrested and killed and all his male descendants and decided, instead of handing over the three daughters to merchants with the requirement that they be taken to distant lands. The girls, escaped from death thanks to the goddess Aphrodite, were taken to Sicily where, upon their arrival, they erected a temple to the goddess who had protected them. One of these girls was our Segesta.

Didramma of Segesta (470 BC ca). On one side it represents a sniffing dog and on the other the head of the nymph Segesta with earring, necklace and diadem

Didramma of Segesta (470 BC ca). On one side it represents a standing dog on the left. and on the other the diademed head of the nymph Segesta

The Doric Temple


Particular is the construction of the Doric temple. The prevailing hypothesis is that it was never finished, as there are no remains of the cell or the roof or the grooves of the columns: its completion would have been prevented by wars. Alternatively, it was thought of using the structure for indigenous rites or that the cell and the roof were built in wood. Traces of the cell have recently been found, buried inside the temple, along with traces of previous constructions (which would suggest that the temple was built on an even older sacred place). It is a hexastyle peripteral temple (ie with six columns on the shorter side, not fluted). On the long side it has instead fourteen columns (therefore 36 in total). The temple was built during the last thirty years of the fifth century BC, on the top of a hill west of the city, outside its walls. Due to its manufacture and its current state of conservation, it can be considered one of the most beautiful temples of antiquity.

Il Teatro


The theater, which can be dated around the middle of the third century BC, is located on the opposite hill to that of the temple, about 440 meters high. Seven wedges divide the spectator seats. The separations are made in travertine. The horizontal division of the theater (diazoma) allowed the spectators to move from one section of the theater to another. The upper area is partially destroyed, and very little remains of the scene, which according to scholars would have been decorated with columns and pillars. The theater could accommodate over 3000 people.

The Calatabarbaro Castle


Around the end of the XNUMXth and beginning of the XNUMXth century, a feudal mansion was built at the highest point of the site, as well as, in its immediate vicinity, a triapsidal church.
During the first phase of construction of the dungeon, pre-existing structures were incorporated and reused: 'late Roman' walls and rooms from the Islamic period of the town (early 1220th century). A few decades after its foundation (1250-XNUMX ca.), the building was renovated (perhaps following a fire) and enlarged with the construction of new rooms (west side). Around the middle of the XNUMXth century, first the village and then the castle were abandoned and never reoccupied.
Historical information:
1293 - castrum Calatabarberi - Acta Siculo-Aragonensia, I, 1, pp. 231-232,
1328 - i fines Calatabarbari they are cited as limits of the territory of the hamlet of Arcudaci - ASPA, Archivio Belmonte 1038, e. 15 (Bresc Bresc 1977, p. 352 and n. 13).
1442 (April 26) - three inhabitants of Calatafimi have a church built in monte vocato de Barberu… sub vocabulo Sancii Leu - ASTP, notary Milo (Bresc Bresc 1977, p. 352). ,
1558 - church of Santa Maria - Fazello, I, VII, IV, p. 346.
The dungeon (19,5 x 17,5 m in its final phase) was built according to a precise architectural project, with a careful and differentiated choice (depending on the use) of the stones, coatings and flooring. It was divided into two floors and was not to exceed ten meters in height. The ground floor was accessed from an entrance on the western side and to the upper floor via a wooden staircase on the eastern side.
The rooms on the two floors were covered with barrel vaults and were articulated around a central brick courtyard overlooked by the entrances on the ground floor and the mullioned windows on the first floor. The courtyard has a circular 'manhole' in the center from which a clay pipe departs which conveyed rainwater not outwards but certainly towards the cistern located inside the castral enclosure.
The castle, rediscovered thanks to the archaeological excavation conducted by A. Molinari of the Department of Archeology and History of the Arts of the University of Siena, was included in the tour of the Segesta park, after a gradual restoration aimed at the conservation of the monumental structures.


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