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>> Segesta
segesta il tempio
During the whole three millenia of its existence, Segesta becomes part of the ancient Sicily's history, with a role of great importance. Segesta (or Egesta) was the most important city of the "Elimi", an unknown people whose geopolitical area extended in all the north-western area of Sicily. In addition to Segesta, the "Elimi" had also founded Erice (the sacred city), Entella and other smaller centers. We know very little about this people. It did not originally belong, for sure, to none of the three greater ancient civilizations of the Island
the sican one, the phoenician one and the greek one. It seems it was a population, which was the result of the fusion of native Sicans and of immigrants coming from Focea or Anatolia (regions of the Minor Asia) which were joined, in successive periods, by other coming groups from Greece. According to some ancient historians some trojan fugitives landed to the coasts of Trapani during the long search of a new native land. Here they settled, having found the ideal place where to make live again their civilization, melting with the local populations. Segesta assimilated the Greek culture soon.
The finds of crockery with typically Greek decorations, the rests of sure doric infuence, which have been found in the inside of the sanctuary of Mango, the registrations in elym language but with Greek characters on crockeries and segestan coins are the proof of the deep hellenization of the city. Anyway Segesta has been the great enemy of Selinunte, perhaps the greatest and most important greek city of Sicily, which tried to conquer a place on the Tyrrhenian sea in the area of the gulf of Castellammare.
The war between the two cities began around 580 b.C. with several trespassings of Selinunte's people in the enemy territory. During the years, all Sicily was involved in the war and when, in 416 b.C., Selinunte formed an alliance with Siracusa, the people of Segesta asked for the aid of Athens which, hoping to extend its dominion on the Mediterranean sea, took part in the conflict sending its fleet and army. Siracusa, was besieged by the Athenian army, resisted for two years and won, thanks to the participation of Sparta which came to its assistance, in 413 b.C. Afterwards, Segesta searched for the aid of Carthage which took its part because it feared that the expansion of Selinunte could deteriorate the political-military equilibrium in this part of Sicily. In 409 b.C., the people of Carthage, together with the army of Segesta, destroyed Selinunte, then Gela, Imera and Camarina and, finally, in 406, even Agrigent.
But the victory of Carthage marked the beginning of Segesta's decline, which lost its political independence. The next centuries are characterized by events which testify the progressive political and military decline of Segesta. In 397 b.C. during the conquest of western Sicily, the city was besieged by Dionysius from Syracuse. In 339, after the famous battle of Crimiso (the present "Fiume Freddo"), during which the people of Syracuse guided by Timoleonte won against Asdrubale and Amilcare at the head of the people of Carthage, Segesta formed an alliance with Agatocle of Syracuse.
But, in order to take his revenge for the insufficient contribution given in the war against Carthage, after having killed the inhabitants through atrocious tortures, he destroyed it in a single day changing its name in Diceopoli (city of justice) and transforming it in the city of the deserters and deporting the young people and women who were sold as slaves to the Bruzzi. Later on, having allied again with Carthage, it was besieged by it and deprived of the assets in order to punish the people of Segesta who had helped Phyrrus in 269 b.C. During the first punic war Segesta is a faithful allied of Rome. Thanks to its port of call, the city had became an important strategic base for Rome which, in name of the legendary trojan origin that the two cities had in common, granted to the people of Segesta a special consideration: it elected Segesta as "civitas libera et immunis" freeing it from the payment of fees. In 104 b.C. the slaves revolts in Sicily, the so-called servile wars, which were suppressed in blood in 99 b.C., began just from Segesta under the guide of Atenione.
Exact information do not exist but it seems that the city has been definitively destroyed by the Vandals in the V century. Later on a small settlement persisted and after the expulsion of the Arabs, the Normans built up a great castle - afterwards widened during the swabian age - that constituted the center of a medieval village. Successively, we don't hear anything about this place until when, in 1574, the dominican historian Thomas Fazello, who identified the 80 % of the ancient cities of Sicily , localized the site.
Through the archaeological searches, they still have not completely rebuilt the city which extended on the slopes of the Barbaro mount and was surrounded by two different walls going back to different ages. The temple, built up on a hill outside the city walls at the end of the V century b.C., is one of the most important examples of doric style we know. According to many scholars, it hasn't been completed: in fact there are no flutes in the columns and there isn't any trace of the cell inside it. Others, instead, assert that the building is complete, that it was in the past just as it is today and that it was a cult place in which, according to the habits of oriental people from whom the "Elimi" descended, they celebrated rituals in the open air on a temporary altar. The temple's style elegance expresses the advanced degree of civilisation. The style is near the greek doric manner. Its 36 columns forming the peristyle are on a stylobat having the following size: m 61.15 x 26.25. They are m. 9.36 high (including the capitals), and have a diameter at the base of m 1.95 and, in the higher part, of m 1.56; the distance between them is m. 2.40 and still holds the trabeation, which is m 3.58 high and the frontons of the two facades. The temple has to be contemplated through the imposing harmony of its proportions.
This harmony can already be caught when it appears from far away in the middle of the landscape, and when, arrived under its columns, you enter in it, catching the indescribable feeling of uniqueness of the place.
Walking through the path that leads to the theatre, crossing the ancient city, you can observe, on the right, the rests of a great quadrangular tower which flanked one of the ancient doors; further, on the left, the rests of another tower from which it is possible to follow the rests of the more ancient walls. Farther on, you'll meet the rests of the second town-walls (in which materials taken away from preexisting constructions are employed), which encircled the city, already small after the destruction of it, because of Agatocle (307 b.C.).
Along the sides of the road, a careful eye will notice all along the way numerous traces of buildings, some of which have their big importance. There are, moreover, the rests of a paved road in a zone that had to be the center of Segesta's social life of and an interesting house of the Roman period, which has been almost entirely brought to light. Finally, on one of the two acropolis, where the location of the Agorà has been identified, you can see the rests of a little church of the XV century having one apse and which has been dedicated to St. Leone and the rests of the normann castle. The construction of the theatre goes back to the second half of the III century b.C. It is situated inside the walls of the city, just on the top of mount Barbaro. From there, it is possible to enjoy the wonderful sight of the below landscape. The "cavea" is contained in a semicircle of 63 meters and is composed by seven quoins with the inferior tiers completely dug in the rock. The stage, of which only some traces remain, had to be richly decorated with columns and pillars. During the roman times, it was rehashed and embellished keeping the original structure of the "orchestra" wich allowed the actors to suddenly appear on the stage through an underground passage.
During the excavations of 1927, the rests of a building have been discovered under the stage and under the "cavea"; it was perhaps a religious buiding, which can be dated around the X-IX century b.C. and the entrance of a cove where abundant material belonging to the prehistoric times and of successive ages has been found. At the feet of mount Barbaro, in "contrada Mango" the excavations of 1967 have brought to light the rests of a "sanctuary" of archaic age encircled by a great rectangular wall of squared rocks. In its inside they have discovered the rests of one or more doric buildings, whose construction was realised between the VI and the V century b.C.. Even if the excavation operations are bringing to light rests of great importance, for many aspects, Segesta is still an unknown city. Mount Barbaro keeps since several centuries the secrets of a civilization that so much importance has had in Sicily's history and in all the area of the Mediterranean sea. These secrets, once revealed, will be able to make light on this mysterious people, the "Elimi".

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