Temple of Segesta – Calatafimi, Italy - Atlas Obscura
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Calatafimi, Italy

Temple of Segesta

This amazingly preserved Doric temple was abandoned before it was ever completed. 

At the top of a hill overlooking the Gulf of Castellammare, just outside the ruins of the ancient city of Segesta, is a wonderfully well preserved Doric temple. The old structure is thought to have been built around 420 BC by an architect from Athens and is regularly deemed the best surviving example of Doric architecture in Europe.

The Doric order was one of the three orders of Greek and Roman architecture (the other two are Ionic and the Corinthian). This temple, which fortunately survived the destruction that ensued during the Carthaginian sacking of Segesta, is a fantastic relic from that architectural era.

But strangely, as fine as the structure is, it has several components that suggest that the temple was never actually finished. The columns have not been fluted like they typically would would have been in a finished Doric temple. Also, the tabs that were used to lift the blocks of the base into place were never removed.

The temple is also without a naos (inner chamber), and it’s believed that the building was never given a roof. Even more, it appears that the temple was never given any painted or sculpted ornamentation, an altar, or any dedication to a particular deity.

Another notable feature of this clearly Greek temple is the fact that the city it served wasn’t even Greek, as this part of Sicily was inhabited by the Elymian people. Segesta was founded long before the city began appearing in Greek records, despite the fact that Greek historians claimed colonists from Troy created it.

Know Before You Go

The temple can just be glimpsed from the freeway from Palermo to Trapani, but it is well-worth a detour for a proper look. The steep walk up to the temple from the parking lot may be a a bit much for some people, but fortunately there is a shuttle bus.