Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Greek Temples at Paestum

The Sunday Skip: Known during ancient times for its abundant roses, the magnificent ruins at Paestum lie one and a half hours south of Naples.

Rivaling the Acropolis in Athens, the city dates back to 600 B.C. when it was part of Magna Graecia and the Greeks called it Poseidonia (god of the sea).

In 273 B.C. the city became a Roman colony and was renamed Paestum. At that time, the city had some prominence since it sat on a major trade route leading to Rome. But people abandoned it during medieval times, leaving the ruins of the city untouched.

Today, you can visit three well-preserved temples. The oldest, called "The Basilica", was built about 550 B.C. for Hera (the goddess of fertility and motherhood):

The Temple of Poseidon (the Roman name Neptune) was built in 450 B.C. around the same time as the Parthenon in Athens:

The Temple of Ceres was built in 500 B.C and lies at the far end of the ruins. Archeologists believe this temple was misnamed, actually dedicated to Athena (the Roman Minerva), goddess of wisdom and arts:

Along with the temples, Paestum is several cities layered one on top of the other. The amphitheater, for example is of Roman origin (1st century A.D.) and was used for gladiator fights:

The gymnasium was built during the 2nd century B.C., replete with a mammoth swimming pool:

The Museum holds many stunning artefacts, including the 'Metope with Dancing Girls' (6th century B.C.) and the 'Weeping women' fresco from the Lucan tomb:

Getting There: An easy day-trip from Naples, drive along the A3 freeway, take the Battipaglia exit (if you're coming from the North) or the Eboli exit (if you're coming from the South). Follow the 18 highway and take the Paestum exit. You can also follow these Mapquest instructions from the Naples area.

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