PAESTUM

If you would like to know an ancient Greek city, do not hesitate, Paestum is an opportunity.
 
Paestum, ancient Greek city of Poseidonia or Posidonia, is the Roman name of a Greco-Roman city in the Campania region. It is located 40 km south of Salerno and 50 from Pompeii. The archaeological site of Paestum was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998.
 

It was located about 7 km south of the mouth of the Silario River. Paestum was founded by Greeks from Sybaris under the name of Posidonia at an unknown date, probably in the late 7th century BC. C. or first half of the 6th century BC. 

When the neighboring Velia was founded, in 540 a. C., Posidonia already existed and was a considerable city, but nothing is known of its history. In 510 BC C., Sybaris was destroyed, but its inhabitants did not settle in Posidonia, but in Laos and Escidros. Its prosperity is attested by the remains (known as the Temples of Paestum) and numerous coins that have been found. The face of the god Poseidon appeared on the coins minted in the city.
 
It was one of the first Greek cities to fall into the hands of the Lucanians, who changed their name to Paistom, around 390 BC. C., when Laos was besieged and was already the main Greek stronghold in the area. According to Aristoxenus, the inhabitants were not expelled, but received a contingent of Lucanians in the city.
 
In the year 335 a. C., King Alexander of Epirus, Alexander the Great’s uncle, seized the city which, just four years later, returned to the hands of the Lucanians.
 
In 273 BC C. it became the Roman colony of Latin law of Paestum, after it fought on the side of the defeated Pyrrhus of Epirus, in the war against Rome at the beginning of the 3rd century BC. c.
 
It was a prosperous city, and it is practically not mentioned during the Republic, but Cicero, Strabo and others speak of it. During the Roman Empire, it was one of the eight prefectures of Lucania. It recovered the title of colony, according to an inscription, probably in the times of Trajan or Hadrian.
 
The city remained in continuous occupation during the period of the Roman Empire, but the overflow of the Salso river, which bordered the city, together perhaps with a phenomenon of bradysism, turned a large part of Paestum into a swamp, a breeding ground for malaria. In the 5th century it was the seat of a bishopric. The signs of its slow decline are evident and irreversible in the course of the 4th and 5th centuries, when only one inhabited center remained, concentrated around the ancient Athenaion.
 

WHAT TO SEE IN PAESTUM

Its ruins, very important, are in the place called Pesto. They were investigated in the mid-eighteenth century by Felice Gazzola and Francesco Sabatini.
 
The main part is the walls and the three Doric temples dedicated to Hera, Apollo and Athena, which had traditionally been identified, respectively, as a basilica and the temples of Neptune (or Poseidon) and Ceres (or Demeter), and some other buildings. . On the banks of the Silaro (Silarus) river there was a temple of Juno, but no remains remain.
 
According to legend, it was Jason who erected the temple in honor of Hera Argiva (goddess of Argos) about 12 km. from the city.
 
In the central part of the archaeological complex there are remains of the Roman forum, which was built on the site of the preceding Greek agora. To the north of the forum, other remains of a small Roman temple, dated around 200 BC. C., dedicated to the Capitoline triad, Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
 
In the Museum of the site, the naturalistic paintings of the «Swimmer-jumper’s Tomb» stand out, the only example of Greek painting from Magna Graecia of the classical period that is interpreted as the passage from life to death, the same as the jump from the swimmer to the water.
 
Paestum formerly gave its name to the Gulf of Salerno, which was called Paestanus Sinus (in Greek Poseidoniates kolpos).

HOW TO GET TO PAESTUM?

From Naples you can go by car along the highway towards Salerno and later to Battiplagia, from where you take the exit towards Paestum. You drive about 23 km until you reach the Archaeological Park.
 
Traveling by bus is inadvisable as it takes about two hours to get there from Naples and one hour and 20 minutes from Salerno.
 
The train takes you from Napoli Centrale to Paestum and takes about an hour and a quarter.
 
A very comfortable option is to hire an organized trip that picks you up in Naples or Salerno and takes you as a guide through one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Italy.
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