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Majestic Temple of Hera at Paestum ( Nido Huebl/ Abobe Stock)

Greek Goddesses’ Temples Grace Paestum On The Italian Tyrrhenian Sea

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The ancient Greek city of Poseidonia, now Paestum, lies on the Italian coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Paestum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is famed for its well-preserved ruins.  In fact, posterity owes a debt of gratitude to its swampy marshlands for helping preserve some of the earliest examples of Doric architecture in the Greek world. It was due to the wetlands that malaria would emerge making the area inhospitable to human life, thus all but abandoned for roughly 1,000 years, from the fall of the ancient world in the fourth century AD through the Middle Ages. During a time when Greek temples were systematically dismantled and quarried for their stone, the Doric temples of Paestum were largely forgotten and left alone.

View of the magnificent ruins of the ancient city of Paestum, showing part of the wall and the three temples by Isidro González Velázquez (1837) (Public Domain)

View of the magnificent ruins of the ancient city of Paestum, showing part of the wall and the three temples by Isidro González Velázquez (1837) (Public Domain)

Paestum was originally called Poseidonia, in honor of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and founded in 600 BC by settlers from Sybaris, a prosperous Greek colony on the Ionian side of Calabria in southern Italy. The Sybarites themselves hailed from Achaea and Troezen— two northernmost cities in the Peloponnese region. But long before Poseidonia was a gleam in the eye of the colonizing Sybarites the area was inhabited by an indigenous population who, according to the Greek geographer, Strabo, took refuge further inland once the intrepid Greeks took center stage. Yet the candle was brief.  The displaced indigenous Italic tribes, who referred to themselves as Lucanians, reconquered their former land in 400 BC and ruled until it became a Roman colony in 273 BC, at which time the name changed to Paestum, a Latin adulteration of Poseidonia.

Ruins of Paestum, with the temple in the background ( lamio / Adobe Stock)

Ruins of Paestum, with the temple in the background ( lamio / Adobe Stock)

Beginning with its roots deeply buried in Palaeolithic soil, Paestum has endured multiple incarnations throughout its long and involved history, but what helped put the Greek colony on the map is its three Doric-order temples. 

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Mary Naples’ master’s thesis: “Demeter’s Daughter’s: How the Myth of the Captured Bride Helped Spur Feminine Consciousness in Ancient Greece,” examines how female participants found empowerment in a feminine fertility festival . She is the author of The Cult of the Captured Bride, Visit her site at www.femminaclassica.com

Top Image: Majestic Temple of Hera at Paestum ( Nido Huebl/ Abobe Stock)

By: Mary Naples

 

Mary

With an emphasis in Women’s Studies, Mary Naples earned an M.A. in Humanities from Dominican University of California in 2013. Her master’s thesis: “Demeter’s Daughter’s: How the Myth of the Captured Bride Helped Spur Feminine Consciousness in Ancient Greece,” examines... Read More

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