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Selinunte is situated on the southern coast of western Sicily, south-east of Mazaro-de-Vallo.
More than 2500 years ago Selinus (as Selinunte was then known) was one of the most important cities in Ancient Greece. This role continued until 409 BC when Hannibal and the carthaginians arrived and pretty much destroyed the entire city.
It was never to refind its former glory, despite the partial rebuilding of the town by Hermocrates, but there are enough remnants and ruins to tempt the visitor - Selinunte is now one of the most important ancient historical sites in Sicily, perhaps Italy.
The Greeks liked their temples - and there are eight of them clearly identifiable to visit at Selinunte. Not in great condition for the large part but the sheer number of temples here ensures the importance of the site.
There are two main parts to the site, the Acropolis and the East Hill. As you enter the site the East Hill is the first part you will get to and is home to Temple E which has undergone some controvertial renovation and is now the only one with a large part still upright.
Many metopes (small statues) were found in this temple, as was a Gorgon mask. These can be viewed in the Archaeological museum in Palermo.
Also on East Hill is Temple F and G. Temple G was originally the biggest at Selinunte. It was probably never a finished temple but if it had been it would have been one of the biggest in the world at the time.
The Acropolis was a town surrounded by stone walls and towers. At one end it sits on the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea and it is near to here that the other 5 temples of Selinunte can be found - temples A,B,C,D and O.
These temples are less striking than those on the Eastern Hill but nevertheless are very interesting and convey the scale of the site.
There is also a museum at Selinunte where you can see some of the many artefacts uncovered at the site and exhibits show what the temples would have looked like originally.
As the site is so large there is a little electric train that does various circuits throughout the site. Useful if you are in a hurry or have mobility issues.
The archeological site of Selinunte occupies a lovely clifftop position. There is no direct access to the beaches below but you can reach them from the neighbouring town of Marinella-di-Selinunte. The beaches are protected and are lovely to visit after a hot morning admiring the temples.
A little history
In its heyday Selinunte was the grandest of the towns of Sicily and with its walls and temples the inhabitants felt secure despite quarells with other towns especially nearby Segesta. However in 409 BC Segesta recruited the aid of the Carthaginians and an army of 10000 men landed on Sicily and attacked Selinunte.
Selinunte fought hard but was defeated and 16000 of its inhabitants were massacred and 5000 taken away as slaves. The town and its temples were sacked and destroyed. It never recovered and because of this the site remains largely unaltered and so of great interest to us today.
Places to Visit Nearby
Mazara-del-Vallo has an interesting historical centre and a pretty seafront.
Sciacca to the east is a popular beach resort and spa town.
If you are now in the mood for more temple visits Segesta is also home to an important temple.
You can find more local travel ideas in the guide.