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PAESTUM (Pesto) Campania, Italy.

On the E coast 96 km S of Naples, the site stands in the center of the Sele plain between the sea and the W ridges of the Monte Alburno. Discoveries of handmade tools indicate that the site was inhabited in Palaeolithic and Neolithic times. Fragments of Protocorinthian pottery make it possible to date the founding of the Greek city to the middle of the 7th c. B.C. According to Strabo (5.4.13) the city was established by colonists from Sybaris, who built a fortified town by the sea, forcing the settlers already inhabiting the area to move inland; the Sybarite city was called Poseidonia. The fertility of the plain surrounding it, as well as its advantageous position for trade enabled it to become extremely prosperous. Around 400 B.C. this prosperity was shattered when the Lucanians, who had lived in the hills behind, captured the city, renaming it Paiston or Paistos. It enjoyed a brief period of freedom from 332 to 326 B.C. when Alexander the Molossian united the Greek peoples of S Italy against the Lucanians. In 273 B.C., the Romans established a colony on the site, renaming it Paestum. During the Roman period the city prospered, but in the 1st c. A.D. the silting up of the river Sele (Salso) caused the area to become infested with malaria. At the beginning of the Middle Ages the site consisted simply of a small community centered around the northernmost of the temples, which had been turned into a church. In the 9th c. A.D. the site was finally abandoned and subsequently hidden by forest and swamp, not to be rediscovered again until the middle of the 18th c. when a road was built through the area.

The entire Greek city was surrounded by a fortification wall, some 4750 m in length with an average thickness of 5 m. The present walls date to the Lucanian and Roman periods; the W section is the best preserved. The entire circuit was surrounded by a moat crossed by bridges at the points of the four major gates: the Porta della Sirena to the E, the Porta Aurea to the N, the Porta della Giustizia to the S, and to the W the Porta Marina, which consists of round and square towers forming a vestibule with guard rooms.

The major part of the modern excavations have been conducted in the central part of the city. Two major precincts flank a central agora. To the N is the area sacred to Athena, and to the S that dedicated to Hera. The S sanctuary includes two major temples, the southernmost of which is the older dating to the middle of the 6th c. B.C. Because of its resemblance to a civic building, it has been called the Basilica, but it is actually a Temple to Hera. It is of the Doric order, facing E (enneastyle x 18; 24.5 x 54.3 m on its stylobate). The columns have a pronounced entasis, tapering at the top. The capitals have very flat echini, the bases of which are decorated with carved leaf designs (anthemion). Nothing remains above the architrave except part of the antithema of the frieze course. The temple probably did not contain sculptural decoration. The pronaos is tristyle in antis; the cella is divided into two aisles by a single row of eight columns down the center, three of which are still standing, their capitals carved with anthemion designs, and there probably was an adyton at the back. The interior columns are of the same height as those of the pronaos, but the level of the floor of the cella was higher than that of the pteron and was paved with limestone slabs, some still visible on the S side. In front of the temple stands a rectangular limestone altar with a bothros near its S side. To the S of the temple are the foundations of what was probably a small treasury distyle in antis (15.25 x 7.15 m). To the N of the altar are the remains of another treasury, of the Doric order, distyle in antis, and dating to ca. 450 B.C. Two smaller archaic altars in this area have also been found.

To the N of the Basilica stands the second temple of the S sanctuary, formerly called a temple of Poseidon (Neptune); but because of the votive offerings found, it is now considered a temple dedicated to Hera. This excellently preserved Doric temple faces E (hexastyle x 14; 24.3 x 59.9 m on its stylobate). It is variously dated to 460 B.C. and to 440 B.C. The columns of the peristyle have a slight entasis and are unusual in that they contain 24 flutes. The entablature is well-preserved, but nothing remains of the timber roof. This temple exhibits a number of refinements: all horizontal lines have a curvature of 0.02 m, the corner columns are elliptical in shape instead of round, and the columns of the E and W sides are wider in diameter than those of the flanks. The principle of double contraction has also been used. The pronaos is distyle in antis. The door of the cella is flanked by two smaller doors. The one to the N leads to a stone stairway which originally went to the wooden roof for repairs and for storage; the one to the S simply leads to a small closet. The cella itself is divided into three aisles by two rows of columns (7 on each side), which support a second tier of smaller columns, containing only 16 flutes each. These interior columns simply supported the wooden roof since there is no evidence for a gallery. At its W end, the temple contains an opisthodomos also distyle in antis. Much of the limestone paving of the pteron and cella still exists, and remains of stucco are visible on the walls. Neither the inetopes nor the pediments contained sculptural decoration. Two altars belonged to this temple. The original one of the 5th c. B.C. stood in line with that of the Basilica. It was cut through in Roman times by a road to the forum and replaced by a smaller one to the W, nearer the temple, the podium of which still survives.

Several small sacred buildings have been located between the later Temple of Hera and the Roman forum. Near the NE end of the temple are the remains of a small temple distyle in antis with altar, both dating to the end of the 5th c. or the beginning of the 4th c. B.C. Six other small temples have been found in this area, one of which is an amphiprostyle temple dating to the 4th c. B.C. and standing on a podium (30 x 8 m). The temple contained four columns at each end and one at the sides. All these buildings were dedicated to Hera Argiva, the goddess of fertility. In the very NE corner of the S sanctuary dedicated to Hera are the remains of a four-sided portico, probably a palaestra.

To the N of the Sanctuary of Hera stands the Roman forum, a rectangular structure (57 x 150 m) occupying the site of the Greek agora. It was surrounded by a portico of reused Doric columns, probably carrying a second story.

The S side of the forum contains tabernae, a square building with an apse in the center of its S side built on the foundations of a Greek temple, and a rectangular building identified as the curia with walls decorated with engaged columns having composite capitals. On the SW side are the baths, built by M. Tullius Venneianus at his own expense. On the W side is a structure with three podia, probably serving as the lararium. On the N side are more shops and in the center stands a prominent temple, which, when it was found in 1830, was called the “temple of Peace.” It probably served as the Capitolium of the Latin colony. It was begun in 273 B.C. (14.5 x 26.5 m on its stylobate, with a N-S orientation). It stood on a high podium with a deep porch and three cellae. There were six columns on the front (S) and eight on both sides, but none at the back (N). This plan was never completed. In 80 B.C., building on the temple resumed and changes in the original plan were made: only one cella was built, and the columns in the front were reduced to four. The entablature of the temple is basically Doric but with Ionic influences. The columns have four-sided capitals resembling the old Aeolic type with female heads projecting from each face.

There is a sculptural triglyph-metope frieze, above which runs a row of dentils. Adjacent to the E side of this temple are the remains of a circular structure with tiers of seats, variously identified as the Greek bouleuterion or the Roman comitium, but probably serving as a small amphitheater for the gladiatorial games of the Lucanian period. To the E of this building is another row of tabernae and to the NE stands the large Roman amphitheater, of which only the W half has been excavated because the national highway intersects it.

The main N-S street of the Roman city, the cardo maximus, runs along the same course as the Greek sacred way, passing by the W side of the forum. At the forum it meets the main E-W street, the decumanus maximus, at a crossroads (coinpitum) which is indicated by two columns. After it goes by the forum, the cardo passes on its E side the remains of a large building, identified as the gymnasium, having in its center a large swimming pool of Greek construction. Sometime before A.D. 79 this pool was partially filled in and converted to a cistern to help with the drainage of the area. After the gymnasium, the cardo turns sharply E for a short while and then turns N again to the Porta Aurea.

To the E and W of the cardo are the remains of Roman houses of the Samnite type with deep wells. Among these houses, to the E of the cardo, is a square temenos within which stands a small rectangular underground shrine (hypogaeum) to Hera (4.4 x 3.3 m). It was built of limestone blocks and had a gabled roof with clay tiles. The top of the roof stood below the road level, so that the entire shrine could be covered with earth. The interior walls were covered by white plaster but otherwise remained undecorated. In the center of the interior was found a stone bench on which were the remains of five iron rods wrapped in cloth. Similar rods were found under the Altar of Hera at Samos. The shrine dates to the end of the 6th c. B.C.

To the N of the Roman houses is the Sanctuary of Athena in which stands the third large temple at Paestum. It was formerly called a temple to Ceres but on the basis of the clay statuettes of Athena that have been found nearby, it is now identified as belonging to Athena. It is of the Doric order (hexastyle x 13; 32.8 x 14.5 m on its stylobate). The Doric columns recall those of the Basilica, having a pronounced entasis with capitals decorated with anthemion designs. The temple has a tetrastyle prostyle porch, but no opisthodomos. The columns of this porch, however, were Ionic, with simple bases; two of the sandstone capitals also remain. The cella contains no interior columns. Above the architrave runs another Ionic feature, a sandstone egg-and-dart molding, replacing the conventional regulae and guttae. The pediment is of unusual construction: on the flanks, the horizontal cornice, instead of having the usual mutules and guttae, was decorated with a series of coffered sinkings. On the facades, there is no horizontal cornice, thus omitting the pediment floor which has been replaced by an egg-and-dart molding. The slanting cornice is also decorated with a series of coffered sinkings which join those of the flanks. To the E of the temple stands its altar, and to the S are the remains of a small temple dating back to the first half of the 6th c. B.C. To the NE of the temple stands a Doric votive column on a three-stepped base, also dating to the first half of the 6th c. B.C.

About 1.6 km N of the city at Contrada Gaudo a prehistoric necropolis has been found, yielding spherical vases, beakers, and askoi dating to between B.C. 2400 and 1900. Nearby, painted tombs of a 4th c. B.C. Lucanian necropolis have recently been discovered. The pottery from these tombs dates them to between 340 and 310 B.C. To the S of the city is a third necropolis. The most important of the tombs here is the Tomb of the Diver, discovered in 1968. The vertical sides of the tomb have been painted with symposium scenes and the underside of the cover slab has the representation of a boy diving from a tower into the sea. An attic lekythos in the tomb dates it to between 480-470 B.C. The paintings, as well as other finds from the area, are located in the museum at the site.


R. Koldeway & O. Puchstein, Die Griechischen Tempel in Unteritalien und Sicilien (1899) 11-35; F. Krauss & R. Herbig, Der Korinthisch-Dorische Tempel am Forum von Paestum (1939)PI; Krauss, Paestum (1943)PI; id., Die Tempel von Paestum 1, pt. 1, Der Athenatempel (1959)I; W. B. Dinsinoor, The Architecture of Ancient Greece (1950) 92-98, 110-11; P. C. Sestieri, Paestum (8th Eng. ed. 1967)MPI; M. Napoli, La Tomba del Tuffatori (1970).


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