(Selinunte) Trapani, Sicily.
ancient city on the S coast of Sicily, ca. 12 km S of
Castelvetrano and approximately 40 km W of Sciacca.
The river Modione (Selino) forms its W border, the
river Cottone (Calici) its E border. The city had for the
S part of Sicily the same function that Himera had for
the N: it was an outpost of Greek civilization against W
Sicily which was inhabited by Phoenicians and Elymi. It
was founded by the Megarians who had arrived a century earlier from Megara Nysaia in Greece, and had
founded Megara Hyblaia in the vicinity of modern Augusta. The location was selected for its strategic position: a hill jutting into the sea between two rivers, both of which were ideal for debarkation and provided excellent
penetration routes toward the interior.
The colonists from Megara Hyblain were led by the
oikistes Pammylos, who came expressly for this assignment from the mother city in Greece (Thuc. 1.24.2
). Disagreement in the sources on the foundation date (Thuc. 628-627 B.C.; Diod. 651 B.C.) has
been settled by recent studies and excavations which
specify that Selinus was founded 651-650 B.C. The colonists almost certainly found the territory occupied by
small settlements of indigenous populations, perhaps of
Sikan origin; recent finds indicate the presence of such
settlements at least as early as the beginning of the Bronze Age.
On the strength of its position, Selinus rapidly became
a large and powerful city and the major protagonist in
the history of W Sicily, from the 6th c. until its destruction in 409 B.C. It soon promoted a movement of expansion to the N, which caused inevitable conflict with the Elymi of Segesta and the Phoenicians of Motya. This
expansion, perhaps during a later phase, pointed also
toward the E, where the colony of Herakleia Minoa was
founded (Her. 5.46). Despite its frequent struggles with
the Elymi and the Phoenicians in Sicily, Selinus almost
always managed to stay on good terms with Carthage.
This permitted long periods of peace and the attainment
of extraordinary prosperity, such as it must have enjoyed
after Pentathlos' expedition (580 B.C.) and until the first
battle of Himera (480 B.C.). Building activity in this
period outstripped that in every other Greek city in
Sicily, and at Olympia the city erected a treasury containing a chryselephantine statue of Dionysos (Paus. 6.19.6
Selinus maintained good relationships with Carthage
even after the first battle of Himera when the Carthaginians were defeated by Syracuse and Akragas. It even
housed Giskon, whose father Hamilcar had died at Himera (Diod. 13.43.5
). However, this friendship with Carthage did not prevent Selinus from espousing the Greek cause on occasion (Diod. 11.68.1
) for although the aristocratic party promoted the alliance with Carthage, the
democratic party favored alliance with the Greeks. These
two parties, alternating in political power presumably
account for the city's shifts in international policy.
In 409 B.C. Selinus was destroyed by Carthage (Diod.
) in a battle that marked the end of the city's
power. The Syracusan general Hermokrates tried to recapture it soon afterwards, and for this purpose hastily
rebuilt the city walls (Diod. 13.63.3
), but he failed.
From then on Selinus lived poorly under Carthaginian
political control until, during the first Punic war, in the
middle of the 3d c. B.C., it was again destroyed and
definitely abandoned. Small groups of people settled
there both in Christian-Byzantine times and in the Arab
period; afterwards the name itself was lost, and the site
came to be known as Casale degli Idoli or Terra di
Pulci. The site was identified by Fazello (De Rebus
[Palermo 1558] 146ff).
The archaeological investigation of Selinus began during the early 1800's when the three famous metopes were
found in the area of Temple C. Since that time investigation has continued but no excavation has been carried
out in the area of the ancient city. The city as a whole
comprises the following zones: A) the acropolis; B) the
ancient city; C) Temples on the E hill; D) Malophoros
Sanctuary; E) the necropoleis.
A) The acropolis. The Megarian colonists leveled the
hill before building the first structures and surrounding
them with a circuit wall of which traces have been found.
Later on (perhaps late 6th-early 5th c. B.C.), building
on the acropolis was augmented and surrounded by the
fortifications that are still visible today, including the
sloping stretch near the modern entrance to the ruins.
After the defeat in 409 B.C., the surviving inhabitants
retreated within the acropolis. To this last phase (4th-3d c. B.C.) belong the houses visible today as well as the
urban system, which probably utilized some of the earlier
streets or repeated the alignment of some earlier buildings, but the city plan at present evident on the acropolis
should, as a whole, be attributed to the Carthaginian
phase of the city. The structures belonging to this period
present all the characteristics of Punic settlements at that
time: ladder masonry, sacred areas of the Punic type in
every block, symbols of Tanit on the house floors, coins
and movable objects found on the dirt-paved streets and
in the houses; an earlier building was perhaps dismantled
and its material re-employed in the new constructions.
Since the acropolis is still largely unexcavated, it is difficult to distinguish clearly between what predated and
what followed the Carthaginian occupation. Starting from
the S, the first identifiable structure is Temple O, of which
only the foundations remain. It is quite similar, even in
dimensions, to Temple A a short distance to the N; it is
hexastyle with pronaos and opisthodomos in antis. Temple A is peripteral, with 6 by 14 columns; its stylobate
measures 40.23 by 16.23 m. It can be dated, together
with Temple O, between 490 and 480 B.C. On the E side
the altar connected with the temple has recently been
uncovered; both temples were utilized as a fortress during the mediaeval period; to this purpose they were
joined, and could provide a well-fortified tower projecting on the S side.
On the axis of Temple A, 34 m to the E, lies a T-shaped structure fronted by a porch (13.1 x 5.6 m); it is a propylon leading into the sacred area of Temples A and O and dates after 480 B.C.
Crossing the road that runs E-W, one enters an area
containing the ruins of perhaps the earliest sacred buildings on the acropolis, with the exception of the small
Temple B, perhaps dedicated to Empedokles, the Akragan philosopher and scientist who, according to Diogenes
Laertius (8.70), had drained the Selinuntine marshes. It
is a small building (8.4 x 4.6 m) of the Hellenistic period (perhaps as early as the 4th c.), a tetrastyle prostyle aedicula with pronaos and cella located on a natural rise of the terrain and accessible on the E by means of
nine steps. Its entablature carried traces of color.
Temple C, built on the highest point of the acropolis
during the first half of the 6th c. B.C., 15 hexastyle peripteral with 17 columns on the sides; 14 columns of the N
side were re-erected in 1925-26 together with portions of
the entablature. The early date of this building is attested
not only by its very elongated plan, but also by the fact
that monolithic columns were at first employed on the
S and E sides; moreover the columns taper from bottom
to top. The stylobate measures 63.7 x 24 m; the cella
building comprised an adyton, a long and narrow cella,
and a pronaos. The triglyph frieze carried carved metopes and was surmounted by a cornice revetted with
polychrome terracotta slabs; two gorgoneia, also of
painted terracotta, decorated both pediments of the
temple, one of which has been reconstructed at full scale
in the Palermo Museum. On the temple roof, the ridge
pole was covered by the kalypteres also of polychrome
terracotta. Of the two large altars the earlier lies to the
SE; the later is in front of the temple to the E. The area
in front of Temple C must have been the Hellenistic
agora. Just to the N is Temple D, built around the middle
of the 6th c. B.C. It is hexastyle peripteral, with 13 columns on the sides and a stylobate of 56 by 24 m. Its plan includes a prostyle porch, pronaos, cella, and adyton. Near the SE corner are the remains of a sacrificial
altar, diagonal to the temple axis. Not far from the NE
corner of Temple D are the foundations of a rectangular
structure whose early archaic date can be inferred from
its very elongated plan.
The whole acropolis is surrounded by walls that represent the largest fortification complex in the whole of
Greek Sicily, second only to the Euryalos castle in Syracuse. Since the walls of Selinus have never been studied
in their entirety, the following description is based on
superficial observation. Various repairs can easily be recognized, and the most important are the work of Hermokrates; to his rebuilding also should be attributed the two round towers on the N and W, which reused materials from earlier temples. Blocks from the same buildings were, however, reused in several other places and in greatest number within the small N chambers. This demonstrates that at least some temples had collapsed after
the battle in 409, a fact hinted at by Diodoros' description of the battle itself (13.54-59). Only two gates survive, the one to the W and the more important one on the N side, which connected the acropolis with the city.
There are many postern gates, both on the E and W
sides, several of them blocked. Several square towers dot
the circuit of the walls on all sides; one of them has
recently yielded two archaic metopes probably reused by
B) Ancient city. To the N of the acropolis, on the hill
called Manuzza, stood the city proper, also surrounded
by walls of which only traces remain; its street pattern
has recently been identified through aerial photography.
There have been no excavations.
C) Temples on the E Hill. At a certain moment in the
city's history, for reasons as yet unknown, the Selinuntines built three temples on the hill to the W of the city
and acropolis, beyond the river Cottone. These must
have been built about the middle of the 6th c. B.C. since
this is the date given to the earliest of the three temples,
Temple F. This building, the smallest of the three, has
a stylobate measuring 61.83 by 24.43 m and lies between
the other two. It was hexastyle with 14 columns on the
sides; its plan includes a pronaos, cella, and adyton, but
no opisthodomos. Its metopes, like all the others, are
now in the Palermo Museum.
To the S lies Temple E; it belongs to the best phase
of Doric construction, the phase that is usually called
developed Doric and is generally dated 480-460 B.C. It
is hexastyle peripteral with 15 columns to the side and
was probably set within a temenos, as suggested by a
recently discovered wall. Its plan comprises pronaos,
cella, adyton, and opisthodomos in antis, its stylobate
measures 67.82 by 25.33 m; in the adyton stands the
base for the cult statue of the patron deity, probably
Hera. The pronaos frieze carried sculpted metopes, four
of which are in the Palermo Museum. The building has
been recently restored.
Temple G is one of the largest temples of antiquity:
its stylobate measures 110.36 by 50.10 m and its columns
are 16.27 m high with a diameter of 3.41 m. The building was never completed, probably because it was still
unfinished at the time of the city's destruction in 409 B.C.;
it must have been started at the beginning of that century.
Either because the length of the period it was under
construction allowed for various changes and modernizations or because its proportions favored the expression
of the architects' imagination, this temple presents peculiarities not found in other Doric temples. It was hypaethral since the central nave was left unroofed; the vast cella had three doors corresponding to the three
inner naves formed by two rows of ten monolithic columns in two tiers. The stone to build this temple came
from the quarries of Cusa, which are ca. 9 km NW of
Selinus as the crow flies. These quarries are still in the
condition in which they were when the work was suspended and one finds there some partly cut column drums that correspond in dimensions to the columns of Temple G; the stone, moreover, is the same.
D) Sanctuary of the Malophoros. Scarcely more than
a km separates the acropolis and the city from this structure, which lies to the W beyond the river Modione
(Selinos). The dedication of the sanctuary is indicated
by various inscriptions and by several thousand terracotta statuettes depicting a goddess with a pomegranate.
The sanctuary is quadrangular (50 x 60 m) with a precinct wall encompassing several interior structures. The
main building is shaped like a megaron and is dedicated
to the major divinity, the Malophoros, perhaps to be
equated with Demeter; in front of it lies a large rectangular altar. Within the peribolos is a smaller shrine dedicated to Zeus Meilichios where the famous twin stelai depicting a god and a goddess were uncovered; they
belong to the Punic phase. There is also a Hekataion.
This is obviously a sanctuary dedicated to the chthonian
deities. The temenos was entered through the propylaia,
which seem to have been remodeled during the Punic
period; at that time the sanctuary was still in use, and
even later, during the Byzantine phase, when the main
megaron was adapted to a new function. The earliest
evidence from this site goes back to the middle of the
7th c. B.C., and is thus contemporary with the earliest
finds from the acropolis at Selinus, but here the aspect
both of the buildings and of the divinities worshiped
suggest that this sanctuary served not only for Greek
Selinus but also for other neighboring centers inhabited
by peoples of different origins.
Near the sanctuary a spring, which is still flowing, may
have been the reason for the erection of the temenos
in this area.
E) Necropoleis. The cemeteries attributed to Selinus
lie E and W of the river Modione. Those to the E are the
necropoleis of Galera-Bagliazzo and Buffa; those to the
W, Manicalunga-Timpone Nero, Bresciana, and Pipio.
There are several tens of thousands of graves, both
cremation and inhumation: built graves, tile graves (a
), earth cists. The cemeteries E of the Modione may be dated as early as the mid 7th c. B.C.; those
to the W, no earlier than the 6th. The latter extend as
far as 5 km from the city, with the added obstacle of the
river crossing and therefore may belong to another settlement not yet found.
This was the only Greek city of Sicily to have decorated its temples with sculptures (Palermo Museum).
They belong to at least four periods, extending from the
end of the 7th to the middle of the 5th c. B.C. Although
they are all Classical Greek sculptures, certain aspects
are obviously local and prevent exact classification within
any of the known categories. A clear example of what
might be called Sicilian, is the bronze statue of the so-called Ephebe, which dates to the beginning of the 5th c. B.C.
It has been hazarded that the temples were dedicated
to the following divinities: Shrine of the small metopes
to Apollo, Leto, and Artemis. For the three temples replacing this small temple—Temple C to Apollo, Temple
A to Leto, and Temple O to Artemis; Temple G is attributed to Zeus; Temple F to Athena; Temple E to Hera, and Temple D to Aphrodite.
Selinus had its own mint and some coins carry the
device of the wild celery, which gave the city its name.
M. Santangelo, Selinunte
(1961) (J. M.
Bovio) with previous bibliographyMPI
; E. Gabrici, “Studi archeologici selinuntini,”
; G. Vallet & F. Villard, “La date
de fondation de Selinonte: les données archéologiques,”
; A. Di Vita, “Le stele puniche del
recinto di Zeus Meilichios a Selinunte,” Atti del Convegno di Studi Annibalici
(1964) 238ff; id., “Per l'architettura e la urbanistica di età greca arcaica: la stoà del temenos del tempio C e lo sviluppo programmato di Selinunte,” Palladio
; C. Kerényi, “Le divinità
e i templi di Selinunte,” Kokalos
12 (1966) 3ff; V. Tusa,
“Aree sacrificali a Selinunte e a Solunto,” Mozia
; id., “Le divinità e i templi di Selinunte,” Kokalos
13 (1967) 186ff; id., “Due nuove metope arcaiche da Selinunte,” ArchCl
21 (1969) 153ffI
; id., “Tombe della necropoli di Selinunte,” Sicilia Archeologica
11 (1970) 11ffI
; id. “Le necropoli di Selinunte,” Odéon
; D. White, “The post-classical cult of Malophoros at Selinus,” AJA
71 (1967) 335ffI