Looking through an arch in the Temple of Apollo to a Market Street
I can’t describe what it’s like to stand here.
These massive pillars and huge hewn stones, erected in the 6th century BCE, stand in the centre of the road from the bridge which joins Ortigia to the rest of Siracusa.
As with many ancient monuments, it’s on a much lower level than that of the square around it and, with just rails surrounding the ruins, I can hang over and look down or wearily plop down on one of the many handy street seats and stare at the whole site.
Sixth century BCE!
The concept of old is very different in Australia where the European settlement is about 230 years “old”.
Photo of an arch in the Temple of Apollo taken while sitting on a seat in the street.
As always, the Siracusans go about their daily business without a second glance at the temple ruins. If they even give a glance in the first place.
The people looking at it are obviously tourists, distinguished by bright shirts, small backpacks, big gym shoes and expensive looking cameras.
I’ve sat, staring at the stones, watching groups of tourists fly by, stopping for some minutes, then marching off to the next photogenic opportunity.
For me, the wonder of this spot is not just the ancient temple but the daily life going on around it.
People walk by in deep conversation with each other, conversations which always seem dramatic by the expansive gestures and the rising volume of certain phrases. Single pedestrians, dressed for the office, declaim with gusto into their phones, seagulls cry and squabble somewhere noisily behind me and the shouts from the market merchants are clear and sharp.
Seniors rest on the seats, just as I do, greeting each other and remarking on the weather.
It would have been just like this in the 6th century BCE too. Apart from the mobile phones.
Photo taken leaning over the safety rails around the temple of Apollo
It’s a miracle that I can admire Apollo’s temple, the oldest Doric temple of the Magna Graecia still available for any of us to admire.
The temple became the site of a Byzantine church sometime in the 6th century of our era, later converted into a mosque in the 9th, a church once again when the Normans came in the 11th, only to be turned into a barracks during the 15th century when Sicily was under the vicious boot of Spain.
It wasn’t until 1860 that the original holy place of Apollo began to be excavated.
And here I sit, a tiny shoot of an Irish branch, arriving here by way of Australia, a continent unknown to the ancient Greeks or to any of the following invaders, and dream of the temple in its former glory.