Home > 2011 Posts > Parsing Poseidonia

Parsing Poseidonia

There’s a famous ancient painting of a man diving into the water off a high platform. On one of our earlier visits to Italy, a copy was faux-frescoed onto the bedroom wall above our headboard in an Ionian seaside villa. 

The original was found decorating a tomb in the ruins of Paestum, south of Salerno. The town was a thriving Greek colony, called Poseidonia, for many centuries before the rise of Rome, and a malarial swamp after Rome’s fall, when the complex drainage works were not maintained as they had been for over a thousand years.

Today, reassembled ruins of massive temples to the goddesses Hera and Athena dominate a site bounded by the mostly intact remnants of great city walls. Though the Romans conquered the city, renaming it Paestum, around 300 BC, the most important surviving structures are almost all Greek and among the most imposing from the ancient Greek world. For archaeo-geeks like us, it was a priceless opportunity. Another lovely day spent strolling through a 2,600 year old city.

This was our second try at visiting Paestum. The first was an ill-advised attempt to drive from Positano on the Amalfi Coast as a day trip. Not only was our progress agonizingly slow—too slow to have much (any?) time at Paestum before it closed that day—but a little east of Amalfi itself, my bride informed me that any more hairpin turns and her breakfast would be decorating the interior of our car.

Change of plans. Ravello, here we come! I’ll praise the delights of Ravello in a later post, including the spectacular views and history.

The second, and successful try was to drive west across the low mountains from Policoro. The last 40 miles was on Highway 166 through the Parco Nazionale del Cilento. Now that is a country road. Pleasant scenery, but definitely country.

Paestum is lovely and a treat for anyone looking south of Naples for a wonderful Italian (and Ancient Greek) experience.

  1. July 28, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Thanks for that !!

  1. October 23, 2011 at 7:05 am

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