PAESTUM was a major ancient Greek city on the coast of the Tyrrhenian
Magna Graecia (southern Italy). The ruins of
Paestum are famous
for their three ancient Greek temples in the
Doric order , dating from
about 600 to 450 BC, which are in a very good state of preservation.
The city walls and amphitheatre are largely intact, and the bottom of
the walls of many other structures remain, as well as paved roads. The
site is open to the public, and there is a modern national museum
within it, which also contains the finds from the associated Greek
Foce del Sele .
After its foundation by Greek colonists under the name of POSEIDONIA
Ancient Greek : Ποσειδωνία) it was eventually conquered by
the local Lucanians and later the Romans . The Lucanians renamed it to
PAISTOS and the Romans gave the city its current name. As PESTO or
Paestum, the town became a bishopric (now only titular ), but it was
abandoned in the Early Middle Ages, and left undisturbed and largely
forgotten until the eighteenth century.
Today the remains of the city are found in the modern frazione of
Paestum , which is part of the comune of
Capaccio in the Province of
Italy . The modern settlement, directly to the
south of the archaeological site, is a popular seaside resort, with
long sandy beaches.
* 1 Ancient remains
* 1.1 The three Greek Temples
* 1.2 Other archaeological features
* 1.3 Painted tombs
* 1.4 Sele complex
* 1.5 Art from
* 1.6 National Archaeological Museum at
* 2 History
* 2.1 Foundation
* 2.2 Greek period
* 2.3 Lucanian period
* 2.4 Roman period and abandonment
* 3 Rediscovery
* 3.1 Second World War
* 4 Coins
* 5 In fiction
* 6 See also
* 7 References
* 8 Sources
* 9 Further reading
* 10 External links
Aerial view of Paestum, looking northwest; two
Hera Temples in
Athena Temple in background, a modern museum on right
Much the most celebrated features of the site today are the three
large temples in the Archaic version of the Greek
Doric order , dating
from about 550 to 450 BC. All are typical of the period, with massive
colonnades having a very pronounced entasis (widening as they go
down), and very wide capitals resembling upturned mushrooms. Above the
columns, only the second Temple of
Hera retains most of its
entablature , the other two having only the architrave in place.
These were dedicated to
Athena , and
Poseidon (Juno , Minerva
Neptune to the Romans), although previously they often have been
identified otherwise, for example, as a basilica and a temple of Ceres
Demeter ), after eighteenth-century arguments. The two temples
Hera are right next to each other, while the Temple of
Athena is on
the other side of the town center. There were other temples, both
Greek and Roman, which are far less well-preserved.
Paestum is far
from any sources of good marble. The three main temples had few stone
reliefs, perhaps using painting instead. Painted terracotta was for
some detailed parts of the structure. The large pieces of terracotta
that have survived are in the museum.
The whole ancient city of
Paestum covers an area of approximately 120
hectares. It is only the 25 hectares that contain the three main
temples and the other main buildings that have been excavated. The
other 95 hectares remain on private land and have not been excavated.
The city is surrounded by defensive walls that still stand. The walls
are approximately 4750 m long, 5 – 7 m thick and 15 m high.
Positioned along the wall are 24 square and round towers. There may
have been as many as 28, but some of them were destroyed during the
construction of a highway during the eighteenth century that
effectively cut the site in two.
The central area is completely clear of modern buildings and always
has been largely so, since the Middle Ages. Although much stone has
been stripped from the site, large numbers of buildings remain
detectable by their footings or the lower parts of their walls, and
the main roads remain paved. A low-built heroon or shrine memorial to
an unknown local hero survived intact; the contents are in the museum.
Numerous tombs have been excavated outside the walls.
THE THREE GREEK TEMPLES
First temple of Hera, c. 550 BC Second temple of Hera, c.
460–450 BC Temple of
Hera II at night -
The first Temple of
Hera , built around 550 BC by the Greek
colonists, is the oldest surviving temple in Paestum.
Eighteenth-century archaeologists named it "The Basilica" because some
mistakenly believed it to be a Roman building. (The original Roman
basilica was essentially a civic form of building, before the basilica
plan was adopted by the Early Christians for churches.)
Inscriptions and terracotta statuettes revealed that the goddess
worshiped here was
Hera . Later, an altar was unearthed in front of
the temple, in the open-air site usual for a Greek altar. The faithful
could attend rites and sacrifices without entering the cella .
The columns have a very strong entasis or curvature down their
length, an indication of an early date of construction. The temple is
wider than most Greek temples, probably because there are two doors
and a row of seven columns running centrally inside the cella or inner
sanctuary, an unusual feature. This may reflect a dual dedication of
the temple. Having an odd number of columns, here nine, across the
shorter sides also is very unusual; there are eighteen columns along
the longer sides. This was possible, or necessary, because of the two
doors, so that neither has a view blocked by a column.
The second Temple of
Hera was built around 460–450 BC, just north
of the first
Hera Temple. It was once mistakenly thought to be
Poseidon . The columns do not have the typical 20 flutes
on each column, but have 24 flutes. The Temple of
Hera II also has a
wider column size and smaller intervals between columns. The temple
was also used to worship Zeus and another deity, whose identity is
unknown. There are visible on the east side the remains of two altars,
one large and one smaller. The smaller one is a Roman addition, built
when a road leading to a Roman forum was cut through the larger one.
It also is possible that the temple originally was dedicated to both
Hera and Poseidon; some offertory statues found around the larger
altar are thought to demonstrate this identification. Temple of
Athena, c. 500 BC
On the highest point of the town, some way from the
Hera Temples and
north of the center of the ancient settlement, is the Temple of Athena
. It was built around 500 BC, and was for some time incorrectly
thought to have been dedicated to Ceres. The architecture is
transitional, being partly in the Ionic style and partly early Doric.
Christian tombs in the floor show that the temple was
at one time used as a
All three Greek temples have undergone some renovation and repair in
Ancient Greek Temples at Paestum,
OTHER ARCHAEOLOGICAL FEATURES
In the central part of the complex is the Roman Forum , thought to
have been built on the site of the preceding Greek agora . On the
north side of the forum is a small Roman temple, dated to 200 BC. It
was dedicated to the
Capitoline Triad , Juno , Jupiter , and
To the north-east of the forum is the amphitheater . This is of
normal Roman pattern, although much smaller than later examples. Only
the western half is visible; in 1930 AD, a road was built across the
site, burying the eastern half. It is said by local inhabitants that
the civil engineer responsible was tried, convicted and received a
prison sentence for what was described as wanton destruction of a
historic site. There is also a small circular council hall
(bouleuterion ) or assembly space (ekklesiasterion ), with seats in
tiers. It was probably never roofed, but had a wall around it, perhaps
with a small arcade round the inside. This ceased to have a role in
Roman times and was filled over. Detail of one of the bronze
vessels from the Heroon, in the museum showing a sheep and a woman
The heroon , close to the forum and the Temple of Athena, probably
celebrated the founder of the city, though constructed around a
century after the death of this unnamed figure. It was a low tumulus
with a walled rectangular enclosure faced with large stones around it.
When it was excavated in 1954 a low stone chamber with a pitched roof
was discovered at the centre, half below the surrounding ground leval
and half above. This contained several large, rare, and splendid
bronze vessels, perhaps not locally-made, and a large Athenian pottery
black-figure amphora of about 520–500 BC. The bronze vessels had
traces of honey inside. These are all now in the museum.
Just south of the city walls, at a site still called Santa Venera, a
series of small terracotta offertory molded statuettes of a standing
nude woman wearing the polos headdress of Anatolian and Syrian
goddesses, which were dated to the first half of the sixth century BC,
were found in the sanctuary. Other similar ones have been excavated at
Paestum sanctuaries during excavations in the 1980s. The figure
is highly unusual in the Western Mediterranean. The open-air temenos
was established at the start of Greek occupation: a temple on the site
was not built until the early fifth century BC. A nude goddess is a
figure alien to Greek culture before the famous
Cnidian Aphrodite by
Praxiteles in the fourth century: iconographic analogies must be
sought in Phoenician
Astarte and the Cypriote Aphrodite. "In places
where the Greeks and Phoenicians came in contact with one another,
there is often an overlapping in the persona of the two deities,"
Rebecca Miller Ammerman has explained (Ammerman 1991), in identifying
the cult at the site as that of Phoenician
Astarte or Cypriot
Inscriptions make clear that during Roman times, the cult was
reserved to Venus .
The roof of the heroon chamber, after the tumulus was removed
The ekklesiasterion or council chamber
A ruined tower on the city wall
The Via Sacra, main street of the Roman city
The ceiling of the
Tomb of the Diver
Tomb of the Diver , c. 470 BC Main article:
Tomb of the Diver
Tomb of the Diver
Paestum also is renowned for its painted tombs, mainly belonging to
the period of Lucanian rule, while only one of them dates to the Greek
period. However, this is the
Tomb of the Diver
Tomb of the Diver (Italian: Tomba del
tuffatore), which is the most famous. It is named after the enigmatic
scene, depicted on the underside of the covering slab, of a young man
diving into a stream of water. It dates to the first half of the fifth
century BC (about 470 BC), the Golden Age of the Greek town. It was
found, on 3 June 1968, in a small necropolis some 1.5 km south of the
ancient walls. The paintings have now been transferred to the museum.
The tomb is painted with the true fresco technique and its importance
lies in being "the only example of Greek painting with figured scenes
dating from the
Orientalizing , Archaic , or Classical periods to
survive in its entirety. Among the thousands of Greek tombs known from
this time (roughly 700–400 BC), this is the only one found to have
been decorated with frescoes of human subjects." The symposium
on the north wall
The remaining four walls of the tomb are occupied by symposium
-related scenes, an iconography far more familiar from Greek pottery
than the diving scene. All the five frescoes are displayed in the
museum, together with other cycles from Lucanian painted tombs. In
contrast to earlier Greek tomb paintings, these later scenes have many
figures and a high proportion of scenes including horses and
equestrian sports .
The Sele metopes as displayed in the
Paestum museum Sele
metope, two women running Main article:
Foce del Sele
A few kilometres from
Paestum there was a temple complex at the mouth
of the Sele river (
Foce del Sele in Italian) dedicated to Hera. The
temple is now all but destroyed, and little remains of several other
buildings. About 70 of the sixth-century BC Archaic metope relief
panels on the temple and another building at the site were recovered,
however. These fall into two groups, the earlier of which shows the
story of the life of
Heracles in 38 surviving reliefs; the later
group, of about 510 BC, shows pairs of running women. The earlier
cycle forms the centrepiece of the
Paestum museum, set in place around
walls of the original height. At the site there is a museo narrante
with video displays, but no original artefacts.
ART FROM PAESTUM
Paestum archaeological museum holds the largest collection, but
there are many significant pieces that were removed from the site
before modern controls, and they are in a number of collections around
the world. The
National Archaeological Museum of Spain in Madrid has
especially rich holdings, with two important Imperial Roman statues
and many, very fine vases (see below). Other pieces, mostly painted
pottery, are in the
Louvre , the
Antikensammlung Berlin , and other
museums in Europe and America.
In the case of painted pottery , a number of individual artists,
especially from the fourth century BC, have been identified and given
notnames whose work has been found in tombs around the city and the
region, and sometimes further afield. It has been presumed that these
artists were based in the city.
Tiberius , c. 30 AD, now in the National
Archaeological Museum of
Odysseus and the Sirens on a
Paestum vase in Berlin
Krater of about 360 BC, now
Getty Villa , California
"Bell-krater with an Elderly Satyr Followed by Young Dionysos", by
the "Python" painter,
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM AT PAESTUM
The highlights of the national museum at
Paestum are mentioned above:
the Sele metopes, the Tomb of the Diver, and the contents of the
Heroon. The displays also show a number of large painted terracotta
architectural fragments from the temples and other buildings, many
Greek terracotta figurines
Greek terracotta figurines , and incomplete larger terracotta statues,
and pottery including painted vases.
Sele metope with
Heracles killing the giant
Head of a lioness, Temple of
Painted terracotta from the Temple of
Greek terracotta figurines
Greek terracotta figurines
Overview of Paestum, 1769
Strabo the city was founded as POSEIDONIA (named after
the Greek deity of the sea) by Greek Achaeans from
Sybaris . The
colonists had built fortifications close to the sea, but then decided
to found the city farther inland at a higher elevation. The
fortifications might have been built to the south of Poseidonia on the
Agropoli is now. According to the historical
tradition the sanctuary to
Poseidon was located there, after which the
city would have been named. The date of Poseidonia's founding is not
given by ancient sources, but the archaeological evidence gives a date
of approximately 600 BC.
Alternatively in fact, the Sybarites may have been Troezenians .
Aristotle wrote that a group of Troezenians was expelled from Sybaris
by the Achaeans after their joint founding of that city. Gaius Julius
Paestum a Dorian colony and
Strabo mentions that
Troezen once was called Poseidonia. As a consequence it has been
Paestum was founded by the Troezenians referred to by
Aristotle. Another hypothesis is that the Sybarites were aided by
Dorians in their founding of Poseidonia.
Rape of Europa from a krater , 350–340 BC
Archaeological evidence from Paestum's first centuries indicates the
building of roads, temples, and other features of a growing city.
Coinage, architecture, and molded votive figurines all attest to close
relations maintained with
Metaponto in the sixth and fifth centuries.
It is presumed that Poseidonia harbored refugees from its mother
city, Sybaris, when that city was conquered by Croton in 510 BC. In
the early fifth century, Poseidonia's coins adopted the Achaean weight
standard and the bull seen on Sybarite coins. A. J. Graham thinks it
was plausible that the number of refugees was large enough for some
kind of synoecism to have occurred between the Poseidonians and the
Sybarites, possibly in the form of a sympolity .
Poseidonia might have had a major share in a new foundation of
Sybaris, which lasted from 452/1 BC until 446/5 BC. This is suggested
by the great resemblance of the coins of
Sybaris to those of
Poseidonia during this period. Possibly a treaty of friendship between
Sybaris, its allies, and the Serdaioi (an unknown people) dates to
this new foundation, because Poseidonia was the guarantor of this
Fresco of chariot race and the winning post, third century BC,
in the museum
It is not until the end of the fifth century BC that the city is
mentioned, when according to Strabo, the city was conquered by the
Lucanians. From the archaeological evidence it appears that the two
cultures, Greek and Oscan, were able to thrive alongside one another.
ROMAN PERIOD AND ABANDONMENT
What is known is it later became the Roman city of
Paestum in 273 BC
after the Graeco-Italian Poseidonians sided king
Pyrrhus of Epirus ,
who lost in his war against republican
Rome during the first quarter
of the third century BC.
During the Carthaginian invasion of
Hannibal , the city
remained faithful to
Rome and afterward, was granted special favours
such as the minting of its own coinage. The city continued to prosper
during the Roman imperial period and became a bishopric as the Roman
Catholic Diocese of Pesto around 400 AD.
It started to go into decline between the fourth and seventh
centuries AD, and was abandoned during the
Middle Ages . The bishopric
was suppressed in 1100. Like
Naples and most of the surrounding
region, the inhabitants presumably spoke a Greek dialect throughout
its history. The decline and desertion were probably due to changes in
local land drainage patterns, leading to swampy malarial conditions.
Raids by "
Saracen " pirates and slavers also may have been a deciding
factor. The remaining population seems to have moved to the more
easily defended cliff-top settlement at
Agropoli (i.e. "acropolis " or
"citadel" in Greek), a few kilometres away, although this settlement
became a base for Muslim raiders for a period. The
Paestum site became
overgrown and largely forgotten, although some stone spolia were
collected and used in
Salerno Cathedral by
Robert Guiscard (d. 1085).
Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Giovanni Battista Piranesi 's etchings , 1778 Part
of the wall and the three temples, 1837
Despite stray mentions such as that in the history of Pietro Summonte
in 1524, who correctly identified the three Doric temples as such, its
ruins only came to wide notice again in the eighteenth century,
following the rediscovery of the Roman cities of
Herculaneum , and during the construction of a new coastal road south
Naples . The modern settlement had begun to revive by at least
the sixteenth century, to the side of the ancient ruins. After a
complicated start, the rediscovery of the three relatively easily
accessible, and early, Greek temples created huge interest throughout
Europe. Prints of artworks by
Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1778) and
others were widely circulated. The complete and relatively simple
form of the temples became influential in early Greek Revival
In 1740 a proposal was made, but not executed, to remove columns for
Palace of Capodimonte in Naples. Initially, eighteenth-century
savants doubted that the structures had been temples, and it was
suggested variously, that they included a gymnasium , a public
basilica or hall, or a "portico ". There also was controversy and
misunderstanding of their cultural background. Alessio Simmaco
Mazzocchi, a clergyman and antiquarian , "the founder of the modern
Magna Graecia " (the ancient Greeks in Italy), thought they
were Etruscan , in line with his theories that Greek colonists merely
had joined existing cultures in Italy, founded by peoples from farther
east. He derived the etymology of "Poseidonia" from an invented
Phoenician sea deity.
The first modern published account of the ruins was Les Ruines de
Paestum in 1764, by G. P. M. Dumont, who had been taken to the site in
1750, along with the architect
Jacques-Germain Soufflot , by Count
Gazzola, an engineer for the government in Naples. Gazzola had drawn
or commissioned measured drawings, to which Dumont added his own, as
well as, more artistic plates. There was an expanded edition in 1769,
the same year when a still more extensive account was published by the
Englishman Thomas Major. By 1774 there were nine different illustrated
publications on the site.
SECOND WORLD WAR
A company of soldiers set up its office between the columns
(Doric) of the Temple of
Hera II (c 1943)
On September 9, 1943,
Paestum was the location of the landing beaches
U.S. 36th Infantry Division during the Allied invasion of Italy
. German forces resisted the landings from the outset, causing heavy
fighting within and around the town. Combat persisted around the town
for nine days before the Germans withdrew to the north. The Allied
forces set up their Red Cross first aid tents in, and around, the
temples since the Temples were "off limits" to bombing by both sides.
Nomos of Poseidonia, c. 530–500 BC.
Poseidon is seen wielding
a trident with a chlamys draped over his arms.
The coins of
Paestum begin about 550 BC. These early issues were
perhaps all festival coins. They usually have
Poseidon with upraised
trident. Issues continue until the reign of
Tiberius . For unknown
Paestum alone of all the smaller Italian mints, was allowed to
continue minting bronze coins by a Senatorial decree of about 89 BC,
after this had been centralized. Later coins carry "P. S. S. C.",
standing for "Paesti Signatum Senatus Consulto" to reflect this.
Fresco from the "Tomb of the Black Rider", Lucanian period
* Gate to the Sea, a historical novel by
Bryher published in 1958,
portrays the flight of Harmonia, a Greek high priestess, from
Poseidonia (Paestum), where the Greek inhabitants have been enslaved
and culturally dominated by the
Lucani since the death of Alexander
the Great in 323 BC
* In the novel
My Antonia by
Willa Cather , the professor Gaston
Cleric contracts a fever after spending the night outdoors admiring
"the sea temples at Paestum"
* In the film
Mare Nostrum (film) by
Rex Ingram (director) , they
* In the 2007 video game Medal of Honor: Airborne , the second
mission takes place in Paestum
Jason and the Argonauts (1963 film)
* Architecture of
Roman Catholic Diocese of Pesto
List of ancient Greek temples
List of Greco-Roman roofs
List of archaeological sites sorted by country
* ^ Cancik, Hubert; Schneider, Helmuth (eds.). "Poseidonia,
Paistos, Paestum.". Brill’s New Pauly. Brill Online. Retrieved 5
* ^ Indeed, they very often are used to illustrate the style in
* ^ "The early temple of Hera, known as the ‘Basilica’"
* ^ "The temple of Athena"
* ^ "
Ancient Greek Temples at Paestum, Italy". smARThistory at Khan
Academy. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
* ^ Two possible reconstructions here
* ^ A B "The Greek town at Paestum"
* ^ Rebecca Miller Ammerman, "The Naked Standing Goddess: A Group
Terracotta Figurines from Paestum", American Journal of
Archaeology 95.2 (April 1991), pp. 203–230.
* ^ Holloway, R. Ross (2006). "The Tomb of the Diver". American
Journal of Archaeology. 110 (3): 365–388.
JSTOR 40024548 .
* ^ http://www.paestum.org.uk "The Sanctuary at the mouth of the
* ^ A B Cerchiai, Jannelli & Longo 2004 , p. 62.
Aristotle , Politics , 5.1303a.20
Gaius Julius Solinus , De mirabilibus mundi 2.10
* ^ Strabo,
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* ^ Ammerman, Rebecca Miller (2002-01-01). Il Santuario Di Santa
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* ^ Rutter, N. K. (1970). "Sybaris—Legend and Reality". Greece
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* ^ A B Ceserani, 60
* ^ Piranesi's full title was Differentes vues de quelques restes
de trois grands édifices qui subsistent encore dans le milieu de
l'ancienne ville de Pesto autrement Possidonia, et qui est située
dans la Lucanie, 1778
* ^ Ceserani, 49–66, 49 quoted
* ^ Ceserani, 52–59, 62
* ^ Ceserani, 62
* ^ Wilton-Ely, 118; Ceserani, 60–65
* ^ Photo
* ^ "Poseidonia" in Historia Numorum
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