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Exploring The Archaeological Garden

The archaeological grounds are designated into three distinct zones: The East Hill and temples, the Acropolis and ancient city, and the Sanctuary of Demeter Malophorus. The Doric temples, faithfully rebuilt as best they could be and still the subject of study as to which deity they were dedicated to, are simply denoted by letters of the alphabet. You'll occasionally see fragments of the stucco finish on them, which was painted on to make the columns look like marble, just like the originals in the motherland. The stones used to build Selinunte came from the nearby quarry of Cave Di Cusa. You will most likely start your visit from the East Hill, adjacent to the main entrance.

East Hill: This was the sacred district of the city, surrounded by an enclosure. Here you will find three temples, beginning with impressive Temple E, which was with all probability dedicated to Hera (Juno), according to a votive stele, or upright stone bearing a monumental inscription, found in the temple. Built between 490 and 480 B.C and measuring 67.7m by 25.3m (212.5 ft. x 83 ft.), it has a staggering 68 columns (consider that the temple in Segesta, in comparison, has half as many) and still contains remains of the inner temple. Reconstructed in 1958 after being toppled by an earthquake, the precious Metopes, the reliefs between two triglyphs of the entablatures, are now housed at the archaeological museum in Palermo. Next is Temple F. Not much is known about this temple except that it was the oldest of the three (560-540 B.C.); it's believed to be dedicated to Aphrodite, Athena, or Dionysius. In its original state it had a double row of 6 columns at the eastern entrance and 14 columns on either side, with the lower part of the peristyle enclosed by a wall. The last temple, Temple G, a heap of rubble except for a lone standing column restored in 1832, was destined to be of colossal proportions had it been completed in 480 B.C., as the size of its base attests: 110.36m (362 ft.) by 50.1m (164 ft.), it had 8 columns on either entrance and 17 on either side, matching the Parthenon. Dedicated to Zeus, it is second largest temple in Sicily.

After viewing Temples E, F, and G, all near the parking lot at the entrance, you can get in your car and drive along the Strada dei Templi west to the Acropolis or walk there (20 min). This site that included the western temples, was enclosed within defensive walls and built from the 6th century to the 5th century B.C. The streets of the Acropolis were laid out along classical lines, with a trio of principal arteries bisected at right angles by a grid of less important streets. The Acropolis was the site of the most important public and religious buildings, and it was also the residence of the town's aristocrats.

At the highest point of the hill is Temple C. In 1925, 14 of the 17 columns of Temple C were re-erected. This is the earliest surviving temple of ancient Selinus, built in the 6th century B.C. and probably dedicated to Hercules or Apollo. In order to accommodate the huge sacrificial altar within, the temenos, or sacred enclosure, was modified and steps were added to the original internal structure. Temple C towers over the other ruins and gives you a better impression of what all the temples might have looked like at one time. Artifacts such as a cross were found around the area, a testament to the Orthodox settlement in Selinunte. Nearby once stood the small Temple B. Temple D, also built in the mid-6th century, is the second oldest temple and once supported 34 columns. Just beyond the temple is the so-called Temple of Small Metopes, which are now housed at the archaeological museum in Palermo.

At the tip of the cliff overlooking the sea, near the custodian's house, lie the twin temples, Temple A and Temple O, built in the 5th century B.C. and which, like the others, remain in scattered ruins.

Sanctuary of Demeter Malophorous: As you follow the road leading west of the Acropolis, you cross the Modione River, arriving at the most ancient part of the area, believed to predate the actual Megaran settlement. Within a large enclosure are the ruins of several shrines where worshipers placed stone figurines to honor or appease the gods; 5,000 such figurines have been unearthed in the surrounding area. Many stele carved with male and female heads have also been recovered, and a few are displayed in Palermo. Next to this is the Sanctuary of Zeus. Excavations of the nearby Manicalunga necropolis, extending down to the shore, have resulted in heaps of bones amassed for all to see.

The park is open from 9am to one hour before sunset daily. Admission is 9€ for adults, 4€ for adults 18 to 25, and free for children 17 and under and adults 65 and over from the EU, Australia, and Canada. The ticket is valid for 3 days and is also good for entrance to Segesta. Given the enormity of the area, allow yourself at least 3 hours to visit, preferably in the early morning. Bring or buy drinks before starting your visit, as you can get rather thirsty under the sun.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.