Discovering the Temple of Segesta
In addition to important works on an artistic level and breathtaking beaches, Trapani is an ideal destination for archeology enthusiasts. In fact, near the Sicilian city there is the Temple of Segesta, a building dating back to the Greek era and located in the archaeological area of Calafimi Segesta (municipality in the province of Trapani). A temple of extraordinary beauty, which refers to the ancient origins of the Trapani area and therefore deserves to be visited.
The history of the Temple
According to what is handed down, the ancient city of Segesta (founded by the Elimi, a population who fled from Troy) is where the present-day town of Trapani is located. A city that, considering the origin of its founders, was closely linked to Greek culture.
Over the years it became one of the most important centers in the Mediterranean and established a conflictual relationship with Selinunte, another city of Greek origin which also arose where the province of Trapani is today. In this clash Segesta also manages to involve Athens and Carthage, succeeding in 408 BC. to destroy Selinunte thanks above all to the support of the Carthaginians.
We are in a period of great economic and cultural splendor for Segesta, which ends when it passes under the control of the tyrant of Syracuse Agatocle. Segesta experiences a new flourishing phase on the occasion of the First Punic War, when it decides to ally itself with Rome. The Sicilian city is exempted from paying taxes by the Romans for the common Trojan origin.
In the best phases of Segesta’s history – to be precise, in the last thirty years of the fifth century BC – various buildings were built including the aforementioned temple, which still resides in the Trapani area which is one of the most interesting elements.
The “Great Temple” of Segesta
Also known as the “Great Temple”, the Temple of Segesta stands on top of a hill located to the west of the city (outside its walls). Structurally, it is a hexastyle peripteral temple, that is, surrounded by a portico of columns and with 6 of which on the shorter side of the building. On the long side there are instead 14, for a total of 36 and all 10 meters high. It has many architectural elements that clearly date back to the classical period of Greek architecture, while there are conflicting opinions on others.
First of all, the high degree of Hellenization of the building is a source of great debate, given that it is located in a city founded by a population (the Elymians) of Anatolian origin. According to many historians, this was possible due to the numerous commercial exchanges put in place by the city of Segesta, which thus arrived in the fifth century BC. to a degree of “Hellenization” such as to be able to faithfully reproduce a key element of Greek architecture such as the Doric peripteral temple.
Another element that has generated many discussions is dictated by the absence of the cell (the internal part of a Greek or Roman temple) within the colonnade. This lack has generated two hypotheses: the first is that it was a hypetro temple (i.e. a sacred place without a roof and cell), while the second is that this part was made of wood and therefore had been lost over the years.
This last idea is supported by the fact that, during some excavations in the 1980s, traces of the construction of the cell were found underground and inside the temple. In addition, traces of previous constructions have been found (a discovery that suggests that the temple was built on the foundations of an even older sacred place).
Finally, a widespread feeling among many scholars is that this temple was never completed. The cause of this is attributed to the beginning of a series of wars in which the city of Segesta was involved. This belief is due to the lack of grooves in the columns and the presence of bosses, or protrusions intended to protect the structure during its construction and then be eliminated when the construction of the temple is completed. However, there are scholars who reject the hypothesis of the temple never completed, considering these characteristics as an integral part of the original culture – and therefore not Greek – of the Elimi population.
Regardless of the real origin of the Temple of Segesta, it is certainly a spectacular temple. An ancient building that seethes with history and acquires even more charm due to these multiple stories about its past (concerning both its origins and the reasons that prompted the Elimi to build it).
How to get to the Temple of Segesta
The archaeological park of Segesta, where the famous temple is located, can be reached both by car and by bus. Being in Trapani, it is possible to reach Segesta by taking the A29 motorway towards Palermo and taking the exit for Segesta. In the absence of a car or if you want to opt for other solutions, thanks to the Tarantola Bus transport company there is the possibility to arrive by bus at the archaeological park of Segesta and admire it in all its architectural beauties