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In Campania, two archaic Greek temples reshape the history of Italy

The Italian Ministry of Culture announced the discovery of two Doric-style Greek temples in the ancient city of Poseidonia-Paestum.

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In Campania, two archaic Greek temples reshape the history of Italy

The Italian Ministry of Culture announced the discovery of two Doric-style Greek temples in the ancient city of Poseidonia-Paestum. “These sacred buildings shed new light on the origins and urban development of the polis of Magna Graecia and provide crucial data for understanding the evolution of Doric architecture in Poseidonia and Magna Graecia,” we can read on the ministry website.

Located about a hundred kilometers south of Naples, this archaeological site is an ancient Greek colony (7th century BC), conquered by the Lucanians then the Romans (3rd century BC). It therefore has the particularity of bringing together the remains of several civilizations.

The first temple, discovered in June 2019 and studied from September 2022, dates back to the first decades of the 5th century BC and measures 11.60 by 7.60 meters, with a peristasis (exterior colonnade) of four times six columns. Only part of the stylobate, the base of the columns, and of the crepidome, the tier-shaped steps on which the entire building rests, is preserved. But its history is even older, according to the ministry.

Inside the temple structure, below the peristasis, 14 fragmentary Doric capitals and other architectural materials were reused, probably for ritual purposes. Their typology is comparable to that of the capitals of the temple of Hera I, known as the "Basilica", the oldest of the three major temples of Paestum. “These latest exceptional discoveries show that it is another temple, of modest dimensions but with architectural characteristics close to those of the first great temples of Pest and dating from the 6th century BC,” explains the Italian Ministry of Culture. . For reasons still unknown, perhaps collapse, this structure was replaced by a new temple in the same area at the beginning of the following century.

The interest of these discoveries is not limited to the architecture and history of the sanctuary of which these temples were part. They also make it possible to broaden researchers' knowledge of the urban layout of the city and its Greek origin. Thus, behind the temple, the collapse of the internal face of the ancient wall was dismantled: there was discovered the route of a beaten road, parallel to the temple and oriented differently in relation to the walls. This discovery is interesting because it shows that at the end of the 6th century BC, when the oldest temple was erected, the city of Poseidonia did not yet have defensive walls. This sanctuary was therefore built in a strategic location, not far from the sea, thus protecting the urban space from potential attacks.

“The new Pestan excavations are yet another demonstration of the fact that study and research are cornerstones of cultural heritage management and fundamental tools for the protection and enhancement functions that the State is called upon to exercise (. ..),” underlined the general director of the Museums, Massimo Osanna. He specifies that this type of valorization is a way of improving access to knowledge and cultural heritage, “with the aim of making it “readable” in the eyes of a public with different abilities, but which deserves the same possibilities. access.” These are the objectives pursued by the National Museum System, “an ambitious project at the national level which aims to set minimum quality levels of valorization for all cultural sites, including the Archaeological Park of Paestum and Velia”, adds Massimo Osanna.

The Poseidonia-Paestum excavation site is complex and requires the collaboration of archaeologists, restorers, engineers, architects and geologists. The excavations will soon be completed and an access road will be created to make the sanctuary accessible to the public, according to the direction of the Paestum and Velia Archaeological Park, Tiziana D'Angelo.

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