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Near the mouth of the Sele, which flows through the plain N of Paestum, a sanctuary of the archaic period dedicated to Argive Hera (Strab. 6.252; Plin. HN 3.70; Solin. 2.12; Plut. Vit.Pomp. 24.3). Since the sources are unanimous in attributing the foundation of the sanctuary to Jason, it has been conjectured that the Heraion may have been founded by Thessalians, as was Posidonia. However, this hypothesis fails to find confirmation in more recent archaeological evidence (Treasury I) on the basis of which rapport with Sybaris is apparent as far back as the archaic period. The Heraion was abandoned in late antiquity and became a source of limestone for mediaeval buildings.

The numerous terracotta votive objects permit a reconstruction of the type of Hera of the sanctuary. At the end of the 7th c. or at the beginning of the 6th the goddess is already represented seated, with a polos, supporting a child with her left arm, and carrying a pomegranate in her right hand.

The sanctuary flowered mainly in the archaic period, specifically during the 6th c. Treasury I was constructed between 570 and 550, and at that time the first series of metopes was made. The octastyle temple was erected toward the end of the century. Between the end of the 5th c. and the second half of the 4th the buildings were gravely damaged and the treasury was probably destroyed. The architectural elements and the metopes were reused in a stoa of the 4th c. The finding of numerous votive objects indicates that the sanctuary flourished at the end of the 4th c. and during the Hellenistic age.

Between the end of the Republican epoch and the 1st c. A.D. the sanctuary declined rapidly. An earthquake, perhaps in 63, probably destroyed the octastyle temple. The eruption of Vesuvius in 79 buried the Heraion, and every trace of life seems to have disappeared from the area by the beginning of the 4th c.

Treasury I: Few elements of the building are preserved in situ. Of the naos there remains the end wall to the W and the long walls to a maximum height of four courses. There is no trace of a pronaos nor of a wall between it and the naos. Thus reconstruction remains substantially hypothetical. Of 38 metopes belonging to the treasury, three are illegible. On the basis of material discovered within the foundation of the building, and from a stylistic examination of the reliefs, it has been possible to date the metopes to ca. 570. The erection of the treasury has been attributed to the Sybarites, and its incompleteness to the destruction of their city. Two metopes and various fragments have been ascribed to two different buildings called Treasury II and Treasury III, the foundations of which have not yet been traced.

Heraion: An octastyle temple (18.7 x 38.9 m) with 17 columns on the long sides. The stereobate is preserved to its entire height in a few places. The instability of the terrain dictated the placing of four courses under the peristasis and two under the cella in the points of greatest pressure by the superstructure. The axes of the cella walls are aligned with those of the corresponding columns of the peristasis, following the Ionic usage. The cella is composed of a pronaos, naos, and adyton. The lateral walls had columns instead of antae. The pteroma widens greatly on the E side, equaling the dimensions of three interaxials. The remains of the columns are constructed of drums of sandstone conglomerate, all with eighteen flutes, to which correspond two groups of capitals, diverse in profile. A multiple molding crowned the architrave with neither taeniae nor regulae. On both sides of the course there was a Doric cyma in place of the Ionic. The moldings of the external faces bear a plastic decoration with Lesbian leaves, egg and dart, and bead and reel. The normal Doric geison was formed above the frieze by a multiple molding bearing from top to bottom a Lesbian leaf, an Ionic leaf, and a small cyma reversa surmounted by an astragal. Above runs a cyma ornamented with lions' heads. Of the frieze there remain three fragments of triglyphs and twelve figured metopes of unequal height and tapering toward the bottom.

The temple was entered by means of a ramp abutting the crepidoma on the E front. The altar is situated at a distance of 34.1 m from the E front.

The sacred area was delineated at the N by two stoas of rectangular plan. The NW stoa seems to be, from the discovery of proto-Corinthian oinochoai under the floor level, the most ancient building of those yet explored. The NE stoa dates to the epoch succeeding the construction of the sanctuary, between the first and the fourth quarter of the 4th c. B.C. Almost contemporary with the NE stoa, and connected with it, is a third stoa to the E. This one is a more irregular structure built with reused material from Treasury I and from the octastyle temple.

In the area between Treasury I and the octastyle temple, and S of them, bases have been found for donations, for votive columns, and for a bronze lebes. To the SE of the octastyle temple area a square tower has been found, constructed in the 3d c. exclusively of reused material, including many metopes.

The most recent discovery at the mouth of the Sele is a building situated to the E of the Heraion. It was constructed a little after 400 B.C. in the center of a larger space on a ditch dug for the laying of the foundation and serving also as a dump for votive objects, datable between 575 and 425, coming from the destroyed treasury. In spite of the square plan and the opening to the S, it appears to have been a cult building, destroyed in connection with the sending out of the colony from Paestum and not intended to be used again.


P. Z. Montuoro & U. Z. Bianco, Heraion alla bce del Sele I-Il (1951-54); P. Z. Montuoro in Atti e memorie della Società Magna Grecia, NS 2 (1958) 8ff; 3 (1960) 69ff; 5 (1965) 57ff; 6-7 (1965-66) 24ff; 8 (1967) 7ff; S. Stucchi in Annuaria della Scuola archeologica italiana di Atene, NS 14-16 (1952-54) 41ff.


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