When we talk about ruins and temples in Italy, one immediately thinks of Romans and of Roman Empire.
However, in the past, different cultures and civilizations have lived in Italy, like Etruscans, Celtics, and so on.
In particular, during the 8th century BC also Greeks came to Italy. They colonized some parts of Southern Italy, bringing with them the Hellenic culture and civilization. The area that was colonized by Greeks is known as Magna Grecia.
So, it’s no surprise that today in some Southern Italian regions you can still find some Greek ruins.
In this article, I’m going to talk about three stunning Greek temples you can visit in Italy: Paestum temples.
Paestum was a very important Greek city in Magna Grecia. Actually, when it was founded it was named Poseidonia by Greeks. However, after some time it was conquered by Lucanians and then by Romans, who changed its name into Paestum.
Nowadays, Paestum is located in the Campania region and it still has both its original defensive walls and three stunning Greek temples, dating from 550 to 450 BC: two temples dedicated to Hera, and one temple dedicated to Athena.
PAESTUM TEMPLES: TEMPLES OF HERA
The first temple of Hera is one of the oldest Greek temples in Paestum – built around 550 BC. It has big columns and wide capitals. The entablature, unfortunately, went lost over the years.
When the archeologists found this temple, during 1700, they thought it was a Roman construction, specifically a Basilica.
However, after some time they found some statuettes and inscriptions that made it clear that the building was in reality an ancient Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Hera.
Outside the temple, right in front of it, there’s also an altar. This was the place where people came to carry out rites and sacrifices.
The second temple of Hera is near the first one and was built around 450 BC. When it was discovered, the archeologists thought initially that the temple was dedicated to Poseidon. However, after some findings it was clear to them that the temple was, instead, dedicated to Hera.
In this temple there are also two altars. However, only the largest is from Greek origins. The smallest one, instead, is of Roman origins and was built after Romans had conquered Paestum.
PAESTUM TEMPLES: TEMPLE OF ATHENA
The temple of Athena was built around 500 BC. When the archeologists found this temple, even this time, they believed it was dedicated to another god: Ceres. However, also in this case, thanks to some findings they managed to understand that the temple was in reality dedicated to the goddess Athena.
This temple was built with a mixture of two Greek styles: Ionic and Doric.
In the temple there are also some traces of the passage of Romans. Indeed, in it archeologists also found three Christian tombs, sign this that the temple was used by Romans as a church.
In Paestum you can also see other important archeological findings such as the Greek agora, the Roman forum, a Roman temple, a small Roman amphitheater, ancient painted tombs from both the Lucanian and the Greek period, etc.
If you visit Paestum, don’t forget to pay a visit also to the archeological museum which displays many archeological findings from both the Greek, the Lucanian and the Roman period such as, statues, pottery, paintings, etc.
What about you? Did you know there were Greek temples in Italy? Have you already visited Paestum temples? Did you like them?
Original photo by Berthold Werner, CC BY-SA 3.0