Subterranean building and enclosure, looking N; "Temple of Ceres"...

Overview of sanctuary and enclosure, looking NW from SE corner, Poseidonia...

View of subterranean building, looking SE, Poseidonia, Underground Shrine,...

Overview of sanctuary from its SE corner, looking NW, Poseidonia, Undergro...

Overview of sanctuary looking W from its E wall, Poseidonia, Underground S...

Overview of sanctuary and street to its W, looking S, Poseidonia, Undergro...

Context: Poseidonia
Type: Shrine
Summary: Rectangular building with gabled roof, submerged below ground level and originally covered with a tumulus; located between the Temple of Athena and the later Roman forum.
Date: ca. 510 BC
Region: Campania
Period: Archaic


The building is rectangular in plan, with a gabled roof. It has neither doors nor windows, and was originally concealed beneath a tumulus-like mound. Surrounding the structure is a temenos wall built at a later date.

Date Description:

The objects found within the shrine provide evidence for its date: a black-figure amphora, dating to the late sixth century B.C., with the apotheosis of Herakles and a Dionysiac scene, and six bronze hydriae of sixth century date.


The building was built towards the end of the sixth century B.C., and served as the site of some cult activity, possibly for a mythical founder of the city, or for a recently deceased important political leader. The objects found within the structure provide a terminus post quem for the closing of the shrine of ca. 510-500 B.C. No activity within the shrine is attested after this date, although the temenos wall which surrounds the structure was built later, perhaps in the late fourth century B.C., and attests to the continued sanctity of the shrine at this later date.

Other Notes:

The interpretation of the building is disputed. The objects found within it suggest that cult activity of some type took place here: six bronze hydriae were found, containing a molasses-like substance ("honey"). Two of the hydriae were decorated with female heads at the base of the vertical handle, and are Laconian in origin. One hydria has a lion as a vertical handle. Five iron spits laid on travertine blocks were also found, with fragments of leather and textiles nearby. A black-figure amphora found inside the room had been repaired in antiquity, perhaps indicating that its scene of apotheosis had particular significance for the function of the building. There have been a number of theories put forth for the interpretation of the building: (1) a place of worship for a chthonic deity, perhaps Hera/Kore; (2) A building dedicated to the nymphs, or as a site of ritual for young women, based on the discovery nearby of a vase with the graffito "I am sacred to the nymphs"; (3) a cenotaph for a mythical ktistes (founder) of Sybaris, erected by the Troizenians (some of the founders of Sybaris) after they fled Sybaris and founded Poseidonia (Paestum); (4) a heroon built within the city (and near the agora, the political center) for a previously-living person of importance in Poseidonia, in other words not a cenotaph for a mythical figure of the distant past, but a shrine for a political leader.

Other Bibliography:

Sestieri 1955a, 149-158; Pedley 1990, 36-39, figs. 11-13.