On a soft little hill the ruins of Selinunte extend, rightly considered one of the most important archaeological areas in the Mediterranean and indeed in all Europe. Founded in the course of the seventh century by settlers from Megara Hyblaea, it was the westernmost outpost of the Greek territories in Sicily. Hence it was here that for about three centuries there was the encounter and clash between the Greek and Phoenician-Punic civilizations which long marked the life of the peoples of the lands around the Mediterranean. Selinunte had developed over the centuries, until it became the most grandiose city of Hellenistic Sicily, especially on account of its colossal temples, the only ones in Sicily that were decorated with sculp-tures. Its inhabitants, proud of so much power, felt invincible, and when in 409 B.C. the people of Segesta, with whom there had been constant quarrels, called on the Carthaginians to help them, they were not very worried. But they were wrong. An army of 100,000 men landed in Sicily and laid siege to Selinunte. Despite a strenuous defence, the town succumbed and the enemy seized it. Historians tell us of a true massacre; 16,000 people were killed, 5,000 taken away as slaves. Every building was sacked and destroyed, including the magnificent temples, desecrated by warriors thirsty for booty. Selinunte never recovered, despite the generous efforts of a Syracuse man, Hermocrates, who, in the ensuing two years, tried to get its walls rebuilt. There exist no traces of subsequent settlements, until the Byzantine domination. In the latter period, among the ruins hermits and religious communities settled, and, later, during the Arab domination, Muslim tribes. In the course of time, ancient Selinunte was wholly forgotten, and it was only in the sixteenth century that the historian T. Fazello identified its site. In the nineteenth century began a systematic digging campaign. The archaeological area divides into two main zones; that of the eastern temples and the acropolis.
Temple E, according to an inscription, was dedicated to Hera. Built in the fifth century, it is one of the best examples of a Doric temple. Four metopes from it are now at the archaeological museum in Palermo.
Temple F, in the archaic style, was built in the sixth century. It is the one which was most despoiled, yet here too some metopes were found which represent Athena and Dionysius fighting with the giants.
Temple G is one of the biggest temples of classical antiquity. It seems it was dedicated to Apollo, the god who guarded the people of Selinunte. They began to build it in 580 B.C. but one hundred years later it was still unfinished. The temple has a surface area of about 6.000 square metres, and around it there is a peristyle of 46 columns 16,27 m. high, with a circumference of 10,7 m.
From the enormous mass of its ruins there emerges the solitary shaft of a column, restored in 1832, which can give an idea of what a grandiose building it was.
In the irregular area of the acropolis, which is girded by walls 2 - 3 metres thick, gates and towers have been recognised. In this area there were six big temples in addition to smaller religious buildings. These temples too are referred to with various letters of the alphabet. Of particular importance is Temple C, the biggest in the acropolis, built in the middle of the sixth century at the highest point in the terrace. The two pediments - inside which there was a terracotta Gorgon mask now at the archaeological museum in Palermo together with the metopes from the same temple – were covered with slabs of terracotta decorated with flower motifs. We will also mention the so called “small metopes” temple which has yielded six metopes, the oldest sculptures coming from Selinunte, since they date from the start of the sixth century B.C. At the northern extremity of the acropolis you can see the main gate, defended by imposing fortifications, dating partly from the ancient city and partly from the reconstruction by Hermocrates.