The mystery of Segesta begins already from its uncertain origins. If there was already a human settlement here in prehistoric times, the legends taken from the writings of Thucydides and Virgil tell that Aeneas landed on this stretch of land stretching towards the sea, exiled at the end of the Trojan war, welcomed by the Elimi, a composed local people by Sicani and Greeks.
A walk in time from the Doric temple to the theater
But the mystery deepens when you reach the Doric temple, symbol of the archaeological site, which stands imposing and superb on a deep natural gorge in the midst of wild mountains from which you can see the sea.
It is among the best preserved of all antiquity but to make it exceptional is the fact of being the only one left with an open structure. After the colonnade was raised, construction was stopped. Proof of this are the drafts still existing on the steps, which instead were usually removed in the finishing phase.
Why the works were abruptly abandoned remains an enigma. Some historians assume that the cause was the continuous war with the historical rival: Selinunte. The first clashes between the two cities occurred from 580 BC. but it was in 409 BC. that Selinunte had the worst, being heavily destroyed.
One of the best descriptions of the archaeological site and of the temple is what Goethe made of it during his tour in Sicily in 1787, leaving an indelible memory of it in his Journey to Italy.
“The position of the temple is strange: at the highest end of a long and wide valley, on an isolated hill, but surrounded by rocks, it looks out over large spaces in the distance, but only a corner of the sea. The region is in a sad fertility: everything is cultivated and nowhere is there a home. Countless butterflies swarmed on the thistles in bloom. The wild fennel grew to eight or nine feet, dry, abundant from the previous year and in an apparent order that looked like a nursery plant. The wind hissed in the middle of the columns like in a forest and the birds of prey, hovering, shouted over the entablature”.
Unquestionably, the spectacular environmental context in which the temple is immersed is still an element that fascinates and at the same time amazes the visitor who can only grasp the greatness of the legendary city of Segesta, in that what remains is only a pale shadow of the glories of the past.
To get a slightly more complete idea, you have to climb the acropolis, a hundred meters higher: on Mount Barbaro there is the theater, dating back to the mid-third century BC.
The theater can be reached on foot for trekking lovers or through a private shuttle bus service at a cost of € 1.50 and which also allows access with your four-legged friend.
The cavea, with the seats cut into the stone, opens like a huge shell set in the rock on an exciting glimpse that borders on the blue sea on the horizon.
Few rows of blocks allow to reconstruct the plan of the scene, while in the Middle Ages a part of the theater was occupied by the town, as documented by the large two-storey house visible in the middle western cavea.
Scattered nearby resist the remains of a 15th century church, a mosque, a 12th century castle, ancient walls and numerous houses that testify to a history that has never ceased. And as well as in Selinunte, investigations are still ongoing in Segesta that could lead to new discoveries regarding likely road routes in the agora area and on some of the most recent homes in the history of the city dating back to the 1400s.
Archaeological park of Segesta
Case Barbaro S.R. 22 – c / da Barbaro – Segesta Calatafimi Segesta, Trapani
Info: +39 0924 952356 – firstname.lastname@example.org