Segesta - History and Facts | History Hit


Calatafimi Segesta, Sicily, Italy

Segesta contains the famous fifth century BC incomplete, but very well-preserved, Temple of Segesta.

Peta Stamper

17 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Segesta

Most famous for the incredible Temple of Segesta, Segesta is an archaeological site in north-western Sicily. This 5th century BC temple was started by the Elymian people between 426 BC and 416 BC but was never completed.

Nevertheless, with over 30 intact Doric columns and a clear structure, the unfinished Temple of Segesta is so well-preserved that it is considered to be one of Sicily’s most important historic sites: only the roof and interior are missing.

Segesta history

The origins of Segesta are tied up with those of Troy, and the city is believed to have been founded by Aeneas. The site was important for the Elimi people, later strongly influenced by Greek culture who came into conflict with Selinus (another Greek city in Sicily) in the 6th century BC.

As for the builders of the great Doric temple, the Elymians were thought by some to have been former Trojans who fled and settled in Sicily. Built between 430 and 420 BC, the reason the Temple of Segesta is incomplete is often attributed to a possible war between the Elymians and neighbouring cities.

Segesta’s unsuccessful friendship with Athens led them to ally with Carthage, although Carthage later fell to Selinus. Syracus later worried about the influence of Carthage within Sicily and so organised several campaigns to destroy the city and deport the population. Segesta thereafter allied with the Romans and treated with distinction by the Romans for defecting from Carthage.

Finally, with the attacks of the Saracens in 900 AD, Segesta was finally abandoned.

Segesta today

Open from 9am to 7.30pm between July and October, most of Segesta remains largely unexcavated except for the impressive theatre and the Temple of Segesta – one of Sicily’s most valuable historic sites. Completely removed from modern surroundings, the white columns of the Temple of Segesta continue to stand proudly atop Mount Barbaro.

Today, the modern town of Castellammare del Golfo sits on where the ancient port of Segesta was, 10 kilometres away, and is seen from the top of the hill where the temple sits. The nearby 3rd century BC ancient Greek amphitheatre can be reached by bus from Segesta.

Getting to Segesta

Located just a 29 minute drive via the A29 from Trapani on the coast, Segesta is easily reached by car and a short walk up-hill to the larger sites. From the nearby town Castellammare del Golfo, Segesta is a 20 minute drive.

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