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SELINUS (Σελινοῦς), an ancient city on the S. coast of Sicily, 27 m. S.E. direct from Lilybaeum (the modern Marsala) and 7 m. S.E. of Castel Vetrano, which is 74 m. S.S.W. of Palermo by rail. It was founded, according to Thucydides, in 628 B.C. by colonists from Megara Hyblaea, and from the parent city of Megara (see Sicily: History). The name, which belonged both to the city and to the river on the W. of it, was derived from the wild celery[1] which grows there abundantly, and which appears on some of its coins (see Numismatics, Greek, § “Sicily”). We hear of boundary disputes with Segesta as early as 580 B.C. Selinus soon grew in importance, and extended its borders from the Mazarus to the Halycus. Its wealth is shown by the fact that several of its temples belong to the first half of the 6th century B.C. Its government was at first oligarchical, but about 510 B.C. a short-lived despotism was maintained by Peithagoras and, after him, Euryleon (Herod. v. 43, 46). In 480 B.C. Selinus took the Carthaginian side. After this it seems to have enjoyed prosperity: Thucydides (vi. 20) speaks of its wealth and of the treasures in its temples, and the city had a treasury of its own at Olympia.,

A dispute between Selinus and Segesta (probably the revival of a similar quarrel about 454, when an Athenian force appears to have taken part[2]) was one of the causes of the Athenian expedition of 415 B.C. At its close the former seemed to have the latter at its mercy, but an appeal to Carthage was responded to, and an overwhelming force (the Siceliot cities delaying too much in coming to the rescue) under Hannibal took and destroyed the city in 409 B.C.; the walls were razed to the ground; 6000 inhabitants were killed, 5000 taken prisoners, and only 2600 escaped to Agrigentum (Acragas).[3] In 408 Hermocrates, returning from exile, occupied Selinus and rebuilt the walls; and it is to him that the fine fort on the neck of the acropolis must be attributed. Hence he attacked Motya and Panormus and the rest of Punic Sicily. He fell, however, in 407 in an attempt to enter Syracuse, and, as a result of the treaty of 405 B.C., Selinus became absolutely subject to Carthage, and remained so until its destruction at the close of the first Punic War, when its inhabitants were transferred to Lilybaeum. It was never afterwards rebuilt, and Strabo (vi. p. 272) mentions it as one of the extinct cities of Sicily.

The ancient city occupied a sand-hill running N. and S.; the S. portion, overlooking the sea, which was the acropolis, is surrounded by fine walls of masonry of rectangular blocks of stone, which show traces of the reconstruction of 408 B.C. It is traversed by two main streets, running N. and S. and E. and W., from which others diverged at right angles. There are, however, some traces of earlier buildings at a different orientation. Only the S.E. portion of the acropolis, which contains several temples, has been excavated: in the rest private houses seem to predominate. The deities to whom the temples were dedicated not being certainly known, they are as a rule indicated by letters. In all the large temples the cella is divided into two parts, the smaller and inner of which (the adytum) was intended for the cult image. The opisthodomus is sometimes omitted. All of them lie in a state of ruin, and, from the disposition of the drums of the columns, it is impossible to suppose that their fall was due to any other cause than an earthquake. Temple C is the earliest of those on the acropolis. It had six columns at each end (a double row in the front) and seventeen on each long, side. From it came the three archaic metopes now in the museum at Palermo, which are of great importance in the history of the development of art, showing Greek sculpture in its infancy. Portions of the coloured terra-cotta slabs which decorated the cornice and other architectural members have also been discovered. Next to it on the N. lies temple D, both having been included in one temenos, with other buildings of less importance: to the E. of D is a large altar. B is a small temple of comparatively late date; while A and O lie on the S. side of the main street from E. to W. in another peribolos.

A. B. C. O. D. E. F. G.
 Length excluding steps 132  311/2 2091/4 1833/4 2221/2 203 362
 Breadth excluding steps 531/4 181/2 781/2 771/2 83 801/4 641/3
 Length of Cella 944 1362 129 1631/3 (?) 2261/2 (?)
 Breadth of cella 281/2 341/2 323/4 462/3 301/4 69
 Height of columns with capitals 231/2 (?) 283/4 271/4 331/4
 Diameter of column sat bottom 41/3 . . 61/3 . . 6 62/3 53/4 82/3 (111/2
 Number of columns in peristasis 36 4 42 36 (?) 34 38 36 46
 Class Peripteros-
.. Peripteros-
 Approximate date 480 B.C. After 240
581 B.C. 480 B.C. 570–554 B.C. Soon after
480 B.C.
570–554 B.C.

At the N. end of the acropolis are extensive remains of the fortifications of Hermocrates across the narrow neck connecting it with the rest of the hill. In front of the wall lies a deep trench, into which several passages descend, as at the nearly contemporary fort of Euryelus above Syracuse (q.v.). Outside this again lies a projecting semicircular bastion, which commands the entrance from the exterior of the city on the E., a winding trench approached by a pair of double gateways, which are not vaulted but covered by the gradual projection of the upper courses. Capitals and triglyphs from earlier buildings have been used in the construction of these fortifications: from their small size they may be mostly attributed to private houses. Away across the curving trench leads to an open space, where the Agora may have been situated: beyond it lay the town, the remains of which are scanty, though the line of the walls can be traced.

Outside the ancient city, on the W. of the river Selinus, lie the ruins of a temple of Demeter, with a propylon leading to the sacred enclosure: the temple itself has a cella with a narrow door and without columns. A large number of votive terra-cotta figures, vases and lamps were found in the course of the excavations. The earliest temple must have been erected soon after the foundation of the city, while the later building which superseded it dates from shortly after 600 B.C. The propylon, on the other hand, may date from after 409 B.C.

On the hill E. of Selinus, separated from it by a small flat valley, lies a group of three huge temples. No other remains have been found round them, though it seems improbable that they stood quite alone and unprotected. It is likely that they were outside the town, but stood in a sacred enclosure. All of them have fallen, undoubtedly owing to an earthquake. The oldest of the three is F. A peculiarity of the construction of this temple is that all the intercolumniations were closed by stone screens. In it were found the lower parts of two metopes. Next in date comes the huge temple G, which, as an inscription proves, was dedicated to Apollo; though it was never entirely completed (many of the columns still remain unfluted), it was in use. The columns vary somewhat in diameter (more than even the difference caused by fluting would warrant) and three different types of capital are noticeable. The plan is a curious one: despite the comparative narrowness of the cella, it had two rows of ten columns in it, in line with the front angles of the inner shrine. The third temple, E, has been proved by the discovery of an inscription to have been dedicated to Hera. It is famous for its fine metopes now in the museum at Palermo, belonging to the beginning of the 5th century B.C.

See R. Koldewey and O. Puchstein, Die griechischen Tempel in Unteritalien und Sicilien (Berlin, 1899), 77-131. (T. As.) 

  1. The plant was formerly thought to be wild parsley. It is now generally agreed that it is celery.
  2. Cf. Timaeus, fr. 99, with Diod. xi. 86 and I.G. xiv p. 45, No. 268.
  3. The figures are those of Diodorus (xiii. 58), but seem strangely small.