Few people realize that the ancient Greeks were a seafaring people and traveled far outside the confines of their homeland. They set up trading colonies, many of which turned into thriving cities all over the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Black Sea. One such colony became the city of Paestum, off the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea in the modern-day Italian province of Salerno. Though abandoned long ago, the ruins of this remarkable city have been very well preserved, especially three ancient Greek temples. These three temples are probably the most important ancient Greek monuments that have been discovered in southern Italy.
Paestum was founded in the 6th century BCE and originally called Poseidonia, after the Greek god of the seas, Poseidon. By the 1st century BCE, Paestum became one of the more prosperous trading ports of the Roman Empire until its population began to decline due to constant outbreaks of malaria The city was abandoned altogether sometime around the 7th century and pretty much forgotten until the 1800s when the ruins of the three temples were rediscovered.
Of the three temples that have been discovered, the one dedicated to Ceres (Athena in ancient Greece) is the smallest. It is followed by the Temple of Hera, goddess of women and marriage. Built around 600 BCE, this is the oldest of the temples and can be identified by its nine doric columns in the front and 18 along its sides. The last of the three is the temple of Apollo (though initially was thought to be that of Neptune), the Greek god of the sun. Dating back to 450 BCE, this is the best preserved of all of the temples, missing only the roof and parts of the interior.
The nearby museum of Paestum contains many of the sculptures, bas-reliefs, tomb paintings and other artifacts from this site. For more information, check out the city’s official site below:
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