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Hera Temple in Segesta

Segesta was an ancient city ​​in northwestern Sicily . It was located on the 410 m high Monte Barbaro near today's Calatafimi Segesta between Alcamo and Gibellina in the Trapani Free Community Consortium .

The city was one of three political centers of the Elymians , one of three indigenous peoples of the island distinguished in ancient sources. The other two centers of the Elymians were Eryx and Entella .


The ruins of Segesta are on the slopes of Monte Barbaro, about 305 meters above sea level. Steep slopes on several sides and a city wall on the flatter side near the temple protected the city. In this location Segesta controlled the main roads between the coast and the hinterland, and the Gulf of Castellammare can be seen from the hill . There is also visual contact with the other two Elymian centers, Eryx and Entella , so that signals could be sent between these three cities.

Little is known of the city's layout. Aerial photographs suggest regular development in terraces , which seems to have taken the natural terrain into account. The ruins visible today probably date from the time of the reconstruction by Agathocles . During excavations on the hill a fortress from the Norman era (12th century) was uncovered, in which even earlier remains of a mosque can be found. A cemetery with a church from the 15th century was also found.


Segesta Temple

According to the tradition conveyed by Virgil in his Aeneid , Segesta as Acesta was a joint foundation of King Acestes and a group of Aeneas ' entourage.

The part of the tradition which says that the name of the city was originally Acesta (= unchaste woman) or Egesta (= bitter poverty) and was changed by the Romans to Segesta in order to avoid a negative meaning of the name in the Latin language , was refuted by coin finds.

The population of Segestas consisted of Ionian Greeks and Elymers who quickly adapted to the Greek way of life. The city fought an ongoing conflict with Selinunte , who sought to have a port on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea .

The first clashes occurred between 580 and 576 BC. BC, then again in 454 BC. The conflict later affected all of Sicily: 415 BC. BC Segesta asked Athens for help against Selinunt, which led to the devastating Athenian expedition in Sicily . A later request for help to Carthage led to the complete destruction of Selinunt by the Punians. Segesta remained a Carthaginian ally, was taken over by Dionysius I of Syracuse in 397 BC. Besieged by Agathocles of Syracuse in 307 BC. Destroyed, but rebuilt.

276 BC The city was allied with Pyrrhus of Epirus , but changed sides when it met in 260 BC. BC Rome subjugated. It was not punished by the new masters for its long association with Carthage, but - in memory of their common mythical origins - named a “free and secure” city.

104 BC Segesta was the starting point of the slave war led by Athenion .

Segesta is also mentioned in the " Speeches against Verres " (Orationes in Verrem): Gaius Verres is accused by Cicero of having a "bronze image of Diana" removed from Segesta against the resistance of the residents.

Segesta's history under Roman rule is largely in the dark, but it is likely that the population gradually oriented towards the port city of Castellammare del Golfo due to the better trade connections . The city was eventually destroyed by the vandals .



Doric frieze with triglyphs and metopes
Stone noses on the step blocks of the temple

The unfinished temple of Segesta was probably built by the Elymians around 430/420 BC. Built on a hill just outside the city, in a dominant position over the surrounding area. It is built in the Doric style , which is unusual for the Elymers.

It is one of the best preserved Doric temples. This is due, on the one hand, to its isolated location - there was no attempt to use it as a quarry - and, on the other hand, to the fact that it could not be desecrated because it had not been completed and was not consecrated. The fact that the building is unfinished can be seen particularly clearly from the pillars, which still have a protective layer several centimeters thick. This was supposed to protect the pillars during transport and would normally have been knocked off when the temple was completed, which would also have shaped the fluting . Furthermore, the steps of the base still show the stone noses, which were used to fasten ropes for the transport of the stone blocks and were later cut off.

The temple has a peripteral plan with 6 by 14 columns and a base area of ​​21 m × 56 m. The structure of the temple is intact, the cornice and tympanum are in place, the devices for lifting the blocks to cover the pillars are still in place on the ground. There are no traces of a cella or a roof.

The purpose of the temple is unclear as temples of this type are otherwise unknown to the Elymers. It is believed that Segesta had asked the allied Athens for builders who were supposed to build a representative building comparable to the temples of neighboring Selinunte . According to another hypothesis, the monumental temple building was intended to convince an Athenian embassy of the power of Segesta and thus win Athens as a partner for an alliance against Selinunte, which led to the Athens expedition to Sicily .


Segesta Theater

The Greek style theater was built in the 3rd or 2nd century BC. Built on the north side of Monte Barbaro and was east of the temple. It was made around 100 BC. Rebuilt by the Romans and expanded upwards. The semicircular cavea was carved into the rock. It had a diameter of 63 m. The 20 rows of seats were divided into seven blocks by stairs.

The rows of seats in the theater have been preserved, only the foundation walls of the stage building remain and provide a view of Castellammare del Golfo .

The theater has since been restored and open-air performances take place there in summer.


  • Brigit Carnabuci: Sicily. Greek temples, Roman villas, Norman cathedrals and baroque cities in the center of the Mediterranean (=  DuMont art travel guide ). 6th, updated edition. DuMont Reiseverlag, Ostfildern 2011, ISBN 978-3-7701-4385-6 .
  • Eva Gründel, Heinz Tomek: Sicily . DuMont Buchverlag, Cologne, 5th edition 2001, ISBN 3-7701-3476-1
  • Eugen Gottlob Winkler: Remembrance of Trinakria (in: Walter Jens (Hrsg.): Eugen Gottlob Winkler. From the writings of an early completed man. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, 1960; = Fischer Bücherei, 351) - according to Peter Sloterdijk “the best Description of a Greek Temple ”.
  • Dieter Mertens: "The Temple of Segesta" and the Doric temple architecture of the Greek West in classical times. Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Darmstadt 1984, ISBN 3-8053-0515-X .

Web links

Commons : Segesta  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Virgil, Aeneis 5,718: “urbem appellabunt permisso nomine Acestam”.

Coordinates: 37 ° 56 ′ 29 ″  N , 12 ° 49 ′ 56 ″  E