SALERNO, Italy – The discovery of a monumental building and priceless ceramics imported from Greece in excavations at Poseidonia shows for the first time how rich its Greek founders were when establishing the city in Italy in the 6th century B.C.E., Haaretz reports.
The founders hailed from Sybaris, near the gulf of Taranto. The quantity of Attic red-figure pottery and other luxuries attest to fabulous wealth the city’s Greek inhabitants made, apparently from pilgrims coming to worship at its temples.
Paestum (Poseidonia), Italy. Photo: Parco Archeologico di Paestum
The block-built structure, which could be a palace or simply a very rich house, seems to date to the same decades in which the temples and the famous “Tomb of the Diver” were built in the town, excavation leader Dr. Gabriel Zuchtrigel told Haaretz.
Indeed, Poseidonia, also called Paestum, is perhaps best known for its splendid, well-preserved Doric-style temples seen in the classic 1963 Ray Harryhausen movie “Jason and the Argonauts,” where the Greek hero, played by Todd Armstrong, liberates the blind soothsayer Phineas from the tormenting Harpies.
Back then, 2,500 years ago, Poseidonia was one of the most important sanctuaries in Magna Graecia (today’s southern Italy).
The Temple of Athena, dating to the 6th century B.C.E. and the Temple of Poseidon, dating to 460 B.C.E., were major attractions for pilgrims and an important source of employment for the city’s inhabitants.
The town gradually grew between these two sanctuaries, but until recently visitors could for the most part only observe the Roman town that started to spring up in the mid 3rd century B.C.E.
Now the archaeologists are opening up a window into the life of the city at the time when the magnificent temples were built, somewhere around the 6th century B.C.E.
“The aim of the excavations is to gain new data on the inhabitants’ every-day life, living environment, and the economy of the city at the time when the Greeks built the Doric temples,” Zuchtrigel explains to Haaretz, adding, “The quantity and quality of data on the pre-Roman houses, from the same period as the temples, is unexpected.”
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: Norbert Nagel License: CC-BY-SA