Sunday, November 23, 2008

Paestum - the Doric city

This post contains pictures from our wonderful day trip south of Naples to the ruins of Paestum. The city of Paestum is one of the best manifestations of Greek culture in Southern Italy. To get there, we took the scenic Costiera Amalfitana, the road which winds along the Amalfi coast to Salerno. The scenery is gorgeous, even if you don't want to look down the cliff you're driving along. We had a clear, sunny day which offered us glimpses of the coastline such as this one.

These houses don't even look real, they look like something made out of Legos.

We stopped in a ceramics shop to look around for a time. The merchandise was all lovely, but no pictures were allowed, so I only grabbed a shot of the outside of the showroom.

Not a bad place to have a house, wouldn't you say?

The city of Salerno, scene of the Allied invasion during WWII.

The cliff sides are heavily terraced, which allows the farmers to grow grapes, olives, and citrus trees.

Ahh, here we are at Paestum. The city of Paestum was originally founded as Poseidonia by Greek colonists in the 7th century BC. It sided with Pyrrus during his war against Rome, suffered the reprisals that come with choosing the side that ends up defeated, and vowed never again to go against the might of Rome. Eventually as Rome gained control of the Italian peninsula the Greek colony of Poseidonia was completely amalgamated into a Roman town, renamed Paestum. When Hannibal invaded Southern Italy, the inhabitants chose the winning side (Rome), and were rewarded with many privileges after the war. The city fell into decline as the Roman Empire fell, and eventually disease rendered it abandoned and uninhabited. It was heavily plundered as an archaeological site by everyone from wandering Romans to conquering Barbarians, but, perhaps out of fear for the deities to whom the temples of the city were dedicated, the temples were not destroyed. Today they remain the best examples of Doric architecture in the world.

This is the Temple of Athena, constructed at the end of the 6th century BC. It is an excellent example of Doric Architecture, with 6 fluted columns across the width and 13 along the sides, resting upon a pavement of stone. Keep in mind that all the temples you are about to see pictures of were constructed without mortar or cement.

Andrew whistling among the ruins.

Me near a column.

Another shot of the Temple of Athena from the back.

We then walked along a road to the Temple of Hera, which you can see here in the distance.

If only stones could speak. How many Greeks and later Romans walked along this same street to the temples? As you can see, although the houses and shops on the sides are no more, the stones which make up the street are in perfect order. An interesting development is the addition of a sidewalk, an improvement added by the Romans.

Mom hanging out on a pedestal in a patch of alyssium.

A Latin inscription on a fallen piece of a monument.

Andrew and Augustin admiring the ruins with the Temple of Athena in the background.

A section of one of the wealthier houses from the Greek era, complete with Greek mosaic work on the floor.

A glimpse of the Temple of Hera as we approached.

Time for a family shot!

The three younger kids had fun jumping off the steps.

Alex standing in front of this masterpiece.

Mom and dad standing in the central nave with the altar behind them, and the mountains in the background.

If this picture doesn't scream Greek, I don't know what does.

The last one of the three major temples was also dedicated to Hera. It is missing the roof, but is still impressive. It is also the largest of the three, and was constructed in the 5th century BC.

A detail of the capitals. Again, notice that there is no mortar or cement used.

Looking inside the temple down the central nave to where the altar would have stood, facing East. (Interesting orientation...)

This is all that remains of the Comitium, where local citizens gathered to elect magistrates and other officials. It also fulfilled the functions of a modern city hall.

The vault.

All that remains of the small Temple of Peace.

Alex musing in the ruins of the theater.

Last shot of the day, the sun setting behind the Temple of Hera. Goodbye Paestum!!!


Jim said...

Truly beautiful -- the place, the pictures and the commentary.

Anonymous said...

Veramente Paestum è una bellissima città. Le vostre foto sono venute bene sopratutto quella di tutta la famiglia!

DelGrosso said...

Awesome pictures! Very interesting place with the Greek history. Love the picture of the coastline.

Aggie said...

Those cliffs make California Big Sur look mild. Lovely shot of Kathy and Jim. Neat action shot of the kids jumping. Andrew and Philly are getting tall.... Nice family picture. What a place...