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A city on the E coast of Sicily, 20 km N of Syracuse. It was founded by the Megarians ca. 750 B.C. to judge from recent discoveries. Literary tradition dates it to 728 (Thuc. 6.4). A century later it was the metropolis of Selinuntia (Thuc. ibid.). It was destroyed in 483 B.C. by Gelon (Herod. 7.156). With the exception of a fortification built by the Syracusans at the time of the Athenian expedition (Thuc. 6.49 and 94), the site remained unoccupied until the foundation of a new colony under Timoleon ca. 340 B.C. This new city was in turn destroyed by the Romans during the second Punic war ca. 313 B.C. (Livy 24.35). A rural settlement, founded among the ruins, existed until the 6th c. A.D. when the site was abandoned.

The first systematic explorations began at the end of the 19th c., in a necropolis. At the beginning of this century part of the wall and the remains of a large sanctuary were uncovered. (The latter is now again buried.)

The superposition of three settlements (greatest height preserved under the ground 2.5 m) makes the interpretation of the remains difficult. The aerial photographs show the topography clearly: two plateaus standing above the sea and separated by a depression. There is no acropolis or natural defense. The area excavated is confined to a part of the N plateau. The archaic wall constructed at the end of the 6th c. encompasses both plateaus, but the fortification erected around 215 B.C., prior to the Roman attack, defended only the E portion of the N plateau. The last settlement did not extend much beyond the area of this Hellenistic fortification.

Although the most ancient necropoleis are not known, three great necropoleis of the 6th and 7th c. in the N, W, and S have been explored. From the N necropolis comes the great kourotrophe (second quarter of the 6th c.) and from the necropolis to the S comes the mid 6th c. kouros, both of which are today in the museum at Syracuse. The necropoleis from the Hellenistic town are more dispersed and more fragmentary.

From a historical point of view, the three phases of settlement are not of equal importance. For the last period (after 214 B.C.) may be noted some houses (numerous remains of agricultural activity). The main buildings of the preceding period (340-214 B.C.) are situated next to the agora. On its N side are the foundations of a great portico from the time of Timoleon (second half of the 4th c. B.C.) with the remains of a Doric temple in antis behind it. Elements of Ionic decoration were added to this Doric temple, which was probably dedicated to Aphrodite. To the S of the agora is a bath house from the end of the 3d c. B.C., with a round room, installations for water heating, and mosaics. To the SE are the remains of a small, square, 3d c. sanctuary with small basins for votive purposes. The most impressive structure from this period remains the powerful fortifications erected in haste to ward off the Roman menace and containing many blocks taken from buildings of the archaic period. Noteworthy are the rectangular towers and the gates, particularly the great gate on the S side with its tenaille.

The most important phase of habitation is the archaic period, as is indicated by the size of the agora (80 x 60 m), more than twice that of the Hellenistic agora. This agora and the buildings surrounding it date from the second half of the 7th c. It is enclosed on three sides and bordered on the fourth by a great street running N-S. The principal buildings, none of which is preserved above the level of the foundations, include: on the N side, a stoa (42 x 5.8 m) with an opening (three columns) in the back wall allowing the passage of a N-S street towards the agora; on the E, the remains of another, very fragmentary stoa; to the S, two temples, one (2.5 x 7.5 m) in antis with an axial colonnade, the other (16 x 6.5 m) very ruined. All these buildings date from the second half of the 7th c. The fourth side of the agora consisted of an ensemble of structures on the far side of the street which bordered it. There were numerous remodelings here throughout the archaic period. A “heroon” from the second half of the 7th c. (13 x 9.8 m) is composed of two cellae opening on the agora, with basins for offerings, and a frontal stylobate with cupulae for libations. Farther S, the prytaneum (14 x 11 m) dates from the end of the 6th c. It consists of three rooms and a big courtyard, and was built on the site of an older building.

This agora is the hinge, so to speak, between two residential districts of regular but differing orientation. There are precise characteristics common to the whole of the archaic city: streets 3 m wide running parallel and equidistant from one another at 25 m, with the insulae which they create divided along their length by median walls. In addition, two nonparallel streets 5 m wide across the site from E to W. There is also a single N-S street of the same width. The entire plan (agora, streets, and dwellings) dates from the second half of the 7th c. It is the oldest example we yet know of ancient Greek town planning. It should be noted that neither of those two districts is orthogonal and their differing orientation creates another element of irregularity.

The museum contains, in addition to its presentation of the plan of the archaic city, the most important fragments of 6th c. architecture: an altar balustrade of eolic style with large volutes (first half of the 6th c.), a fragment of carved pediment (first half of the 6th c.), a metope with a carving of a two-horse chariot (around 520), and marble architectural fragments of purely Ionic style (last quarter of the 6th c.). This 6th c. presence of Ionic in Dorian colonies (cf. the Ionic temple of Syracuse) is one of the most important discoveries of recent years. Another new element provided by the recent excavations is the presence at Megara of splendid polychrome ceramics whose production flourished above all in the first half of the 6th c. The finest examples of this Megarian ceramic are displayed at the museum at Syracuse.

Another room in the museum at Megara is given over to a reconstruction of the upper part of the facade of a 4th c. temple situated to the N of the agora.


The first excavations: P. Orsi & F. Cavallari, Mon. Ant. Lincei 1 (1892) 689-950; id., Megara Hyblaea (1917-1921): “Villaggio Neolitico, Tempio greco arcaico . . . ,” Mon. Ant. Lincei 27 (1922) 109-80; NSc (1877) 225; (1880) 37-42; (1892) 124-32, 172-83, 210-14, 243-52, 278-88; (1920) 331; (1925) 313.

Historical problems: F. Villard & G. Vallet, “Les dates de fondation de Megara Hyblaea et de Syracuse,” BCH 76 (1952) 289-346; id., Bull. Inst. hist. beige de Rome (1965) 199-214; id., “I problemi dell'agora arcaica,” BdA (1967) 33-37; G. Vallet, “Le repeuplement du site de Megara à l'époque de Timoléon,” Kokalos 4 (1958) 3-9; id., “Megara Hyblaea,” Kokalos 14-15 (1968-1969) (Atti del secondo congresso int. di studi sulls Sicilia antica) 468-75; id. et al, “Expériences coloniales en Occident et urbanisme grec: les fouilles de Megara Hyblaea,” Annales (1970) 1102-13.

Publication of the excavations: Among supplements to MélRome are volumes 2 and 4—G. Vallet & F. Villard, Megara Hyblaea 2. La céramique archaïque (Suppl. 1, 1964); id., Megara Hyblaea 4. Le temple du IVe siècle (Suppl. 1, 1966). See also articles appearing in MélRome: 63 (1951) 7-52; (1952) 7-38; (1953) 9-38; (1954) 13-38; (1955) 7-34; (1958) 39-59; (1962) 61-78; (1964) 25-42; (1969) 7-35; id., “Les fouilles de Megara Hyblaea,” BdA (1960) 263-72 (for the years 1949 to 1959); G. V. Gentili, “L'arte di Megara Hyblaea nei nuovi reperti,” La Giara (Assess. P.I. Reg. Sicil., III, no. 2, 1954) 21-38.

Related problems. The tombs: S. L. Agnello, NSc 3 (1949) 193-98; G. V. Gentili, NSc 8 (1954) 80-113, 390-402; 10 (1956) 163-69. The sculpture and ceramics: P. Orsi, “Sur une très antique statue de Megara Hyblaea,” BCH 19 (1895) 307-17; id., “Sculture greche del Museo archeologico di Siracusa,” RendLinc, 5th series, 6 (1897) 301-12; id., “Piccoli bronzi et marmi inediti del Museo di Siracusa,” Ausonia 8 (1913) 44-75; P. Arias, “Ritratto romano dalle vicinanze di Megara Hyblaea,” BullComm 62 (1934) 37-39; L. Bernabò Brea, “Kouros arcaico di Megara Hyblaea,” Annuario Atene 24-26, pp. 59-66; F. Villard, “Un four de potier archaïque à Megara Hyblaea,” CRAI (1952) 120-21.


hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.4
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.49
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 35
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