FOCE DEL SELE
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.
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
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.
F. PARISE BADONI with P. H. SCHLÄGER-STOOPS