Archaeological Park of Selinunte and Cave di Cusa

Selinunte Archaeological Park

The Park includes 2 areas, the first corresponding to Selinunte Park, the other that of Cave of Cusa about ten kilometers west of Selinunte

Selinunte

Selinunte was an ancient Greek city founded in 651 BC by colonists from Megara Nisea, who settled in Megara Hyblaea on the site previously populated by Sicans, Elymians and Phoenicians. It soon became an imposing city full of temples and with a population presumed to have been 100.000. Selinunte allies herself with Carthage but after the Battle of Himera (480 BC) she made a pact with Syracuse that removed her from the protection of Carthage. In 409 BC it was destroyed by the Carthaginians no longer allied. In 405 the Carthaginians allowed the return of the population, following the Syracusan Ermocrate, but by now Selinunte was destined to be only a small town in the third century it was practically abandoned, except for a sporadic presence in the Byzantine and early Middle Ages. Starting from the eighteenth century it began to become of interest to travelers and scholars, including Houel who made it famous with his drawings. Excavation work began in the XNUMXth century and slowly brought to light the remains of what was once one of the largest Greek cities in western Sicily.

Houel

The remains of ancient Selinunte are found on the territory of the municipality of Castelvetrano, in the southern part of the province of Trapani. All the land involved today forms one of the largest archaeological parks in the world (260 hectares). The archaeological site is rich in monumental ruins that testify to the ancient splendor of Selinunte. The temples of Selinunte are indicated by letters of the alphabet, as the attribution of the individual temples to the various deities is uncertain.

The ancient city of Selinunte is divided into the following main areas:

  •  The Gàggera hill (to the west, with the sanctuary of Malophòros and temple M)
  • THEacropolis (in the center, with temples A, B, C, D and some fortifications)
  • The Manuzza hill (to the north, with the ancient town)
  • The eastern hill (to the east, with other temples: E, F, G)

There are two entrances to the park. One from the east side from the hamlet of Marinella di Selinunte (eastern hill), and one from the west side from the hamlet of Triscina of Selinunte (sanctuary of the Malophòros).

Below is a brief description of the various areas, referring to the details of each individual monument to the Interactive map of the park.

Acropolis

The acropolis is located on a slightly raised esplanade on the surrounding plain. It was defended by ramparts and defense towers, in some cases still visible.

Temple D (Athena or Aphrodite)

Temple D, built around 540 BC, is dedicated to Athena, according to some to Aphrodite.

Temple C (Apollo?)

Temple C (Apollo?)

In the temple were found: from the decoration of the frame some fragments of polychrome terracotta (red, brown, purple); from the decoration of the pediment a gigantic clay gorgoneion (h. 2,50 m); from the facade three metopes representing: Perseus, in the presence of Athena, in the act of decapitating Gorgon who holds Pegasus to himself; Heracles, having captured the Cèrcopi (goblins-thieves), carries them away suspended from a pole upside down; the quadriga of Apollo seen from the front (the god was flanked by the figures of Helios and Selene: incomplete), which are all in the Archaeological Museum of Palermo.

Perseus killing the Medusa

Perseus killing the Medusa

From Youtube

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Temple B

Built in the third century. BC, is the only religious building that attests to the modest rebirth of the city after its destruction in 409 BC

Reconstruction of Hittorf (1824)

Reconstruction of Hittorf (1824)

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Temple A (Dioscuri or Apollo?)

Built between 490 and 460 BC The pronaos of Temple A has a mosaic floor where the symbolic figure of the Phoenician goddess Tanit, a caduceus, the sun, a crown and a bovine head are represented: it testifies to the reuse of the environment in Punic era as a religious place or as a home.

Temple A (Dioscuri or Apollo?)

Temple O (Poseidon or Athena)

Built between 490 and 460 BC

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Tower of Pollux

Erected in 500 and incorporates one of the towers of the ancient city

Eastern Hill 

Eastern Hill

Temple G (Apollo?)

Temple G It is the largest temple in Selinunte. with columns 16,5 meters high. It is supposed to be dedicated to Apollo.

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Temple F (Athena or Dionysus?)

In archaic Doric style built between 560 and 540 BC From the facade we have two late archaic metopes (dated to 500 BC) found during excavations in 1823, representing Athena and Dionysus in the act of beating two Giants to death, now preserved in the Museum Regional Archaeological of Palermo

Gicantomachia from Temple F (Athena striking a giant)

Gicantomachia from Temple F (Athena striking a giant)

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Temple E (Hera)

Temple of Hera

Erected between 460-450 it is believed to be dedicated to Hera (the Roman Juno). The 4 metopes from this temple: Artemis and Atteone, Athena and Enceladus, Zeus and Hera and Heracles, are now kept at the Regional Archaeological Museum of Palermo

Actaeon mauled by dogs and ArtemisActaeon mauled by dogs and Artemis

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Manuzza Hill 

To the north of the acropolis, on the hill of Manuzza, is the ancient settlement originally surrounded by defensive walls. The place was inhabited since the foundation of Selinunte (VII century BC). After the destruction of Selinunte, this area of ​​the city was never re-inhabited. The refugees who returned in the retinue of Hermocrates, who were allowed to return to the city by the Carthaginians, settled only on the acropolis.

Galera Bagliazzo Necropolis

To the north-east of the Manuzza Hill, older than the Manicalunga Necropolis, it is located outside the perimeter of the park. In the Galera Bagliazzo necropolis the bronze statue known as
"Efebo di Selinunte", purchased by the municipality of Castelvetrano, stolen in 1962 and later rediscovered, currently preserved in the Civic Museum of Castelvetrano

Ephebe of Selinunte (Castelvetrano Museum)

Ephebe of Selinunte (Castelvetrano Museum)

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Temple Y

Built in 570 BC, the metopes found (h. 84 cm), datable to 570 BC, represent: a squatting profile sphinx, the Delphic triad (Latona, Artemis, Apollo) in a rigid frontal pattern, the rape of Europa at the above the sea; two other metopes dating to ca. 560 BC, reused in the hermocratic fortifications, show the quadriga of Demeter and Kore (or Helios and Selene? Apollo?), and an Eleusinian ceremony with Demeter, Kore and Hecate with the ear of corn (the Moire?), are all preserved at the Archaeological Museum of Palermo.

Demeter and Kore on a quadriga

Demeter and Kore on a quadriga

Europe on the bull

Europe on the bull

Gaggera Hill

Sanctuary of the Malophoros (Demeter Malophoros)

Sanctuary of the Malophoros (Demeter Malophoros)

Plan of the Sanctuary of the Malophoros (from Koldewey, 1899)

Built in the XNUMXth century. BC Dedicated to Demeter Malophoros, it is supposed to have been used as a resting place for the funeral processions that continued to the necropolis of Manicalunga.

Temple M  

Temple M

Immediately after the current Antiquarium della Gaggera and a few meters away where the source of the Gaggera which fed the Sanctuary of Demetra Malophoros was, there are the remains of Temple M built in the XNUMXth century BC of which only the foundation blocks remain.

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Antiquarium of the Gaggera

The antiquarium of the Gaggera collects finds related to the excavations in the various sacred areas of the area. Clay statuettes, venerated at the time in sanctuaries, vases and objects of all kinds offered as ex voto by the faithful constitute the documentary corpus that is placed under the eyes of the visitor.

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Necropolis of Manicalunga and Timpone Nero

It is the largest in Selinunte, discovered in 1871 by the archaeologist FS Cavallaro. Numerous rectangular tombs have been found in it, about 2 meters deep and closed by tuff slabs.

Cave of Cusa 

The large area of ​​the Cave di Cusa rises about 13 km north-west of Selinunte, in the territory of Campobello di Mazara, on a plateau near the coast. From these stone quarries the building material destined for the Temples of Selinunte was extracted. The place, even if more than 10 kilometers away from Selinunte, was chosen for the presence of a very compact and massive calcarenite bank, characteristics that allowed to detach elements of such large dimensions as those of the temple C. The pieces, after being almost entirely made, they were detached from their matrix thanks to the jack effect produced by wooden wedges expanded by the effect of water. The quarries were abruptly abandoned with the almost instantaneous interruption of the extraction, processing and transport of the column drums, following the invasion of the Carthaginian army in 409 BC. The pieces were left where they were, some just roughly hewn. Of the drums already extracted, some were ready to be transported away; others, already on their way to Selinunte, were abandoned and can be recognized along the road. In addition to drums of columns, in the quarries it is also possible to recognize some capitals, as well as rectangular engravings to obtain squared blocks, all destined for the temples of Selinunte. The place was visited by Houel as it recalls one of his drawings

Houel: Cave of Cusa

The phases of construction of a column.

  1. cleaning and subdivision of the portion of rock planned for extraction
  2. excavation around the rock
  3. detachment from the rock
  4. demolition of the drum and placing blocks on sledges or wooden wheels for transport to the construction site

By Davide Mauro - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55361454

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