Down on the south west coast of Sicily, not far from Marsala (where I will shortly be sipping the sweet dessert wine), is Selinunte.
The glory of ancient Selinus lasted for about two centuries when it was one of the most progressive Greek cities in Sicily, famous throughout Magna Graecia. The city was founded in the seventh century BCE and effectively destroyed in 409 BCE.
The Terrible story of Selinunte
It was commerce and the resulting wealth that permitted the residents to develop Selinus and erect the splendid temples. Her trade, riches and elegant buildings soon made it famous as one of the most important cities of Greek Italy, second in importance only to Siracusa. However, Selinunte’s success soon earned it the envy of the Carthaginians and this eventually led to the city’s demise.
The citizens of Selinus remained neutral in the war of 480 BCE, not siding with their fellow Greeks when Agrigento and Siracusa decisively defeated the Carthaginians at Himera. Such neutrality on the part of Selinus hardly earned the city any Greek friends and, while this policy was intended to appease the nearby Carthaginians, that turned out to be a big mistake.
The Carthaginians used the pretext of some minor border skirmishes to march upon Selinunte with an army estimated by some at 100,000 men.
Following a siege that lasted just nine days, the Carthaginians breached the walls of Selinunte and easily overwhelmed the defenders. What followed was an orgy of destruction, torture, rape, murder and looting that was considered abhorrent even by the standards of those days.
This brutal massacre marked the end of Selinunte’s glory and freedom and, although the city was repopulated somewhat by the Carthiginians, it never achieved its former beauty, power or prestige.
Then – during the first Punic War with Rome in 250 BCE, the Carthaginian forces, fleeing the Roman advance towards Panormus (Palermo), deprived the Romans of a prize by destroying Selinunte.
The Huge Archaeological Site
The site contains five temples centered on an acropolis but of the five temples, only the Temple of Hera has been re-erected.
But in July of 2012, another temple was discovered – a temple to Demeter
Just by the way, as if the history isn’t enthralling enough, the surrounding area has long sandy beaches, a thriving olive oil industry and a busy fishing port.