Map of the Roman Empire - Paestum

Paestum
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Ancient Paestum A city of ancient Greece with remarkable doric temples still in existence today.

Paestum called Posidonia (??se?d???a) by the Greeks. A city in Lucania, situated four or five miles south of the Silarus, and near the bay, which derived its name from the town (Paestanus Sinus: Gulf of Salerno). It was colonized by the Sybarites about B.C. 524, and soon became a powerful and flourishing city. It was captured by the Lucanians about B.C. 430 and gradually lost its Greek characteristics. Under the Romans it gradually sank in importance, and in the time of Augustus it is mentioned only on account of the beautiful roses grown in its neighbourhood. The ruins of Ruined Temple at Paestum. Two Doric temples at Paestum are among the most remarkable remains of antiquity. - Harry Thurston Peck. Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York. Harper and Brothers. 1898.

Paestum is the classical Roman name of a major Graeco-Roman city in the Campania region of Italy. It is located in the north of Cilento, near the coast about 85 km SE of Naples in the province of Salerno, and belongs to the commune of Capaccio, officially also named Capaccio-Paestum. Founded around the end of the 7th century BC[1] by colonists from the Greek city of Sybaris, and originally known as Poseidonia. Outside of archaeological evidence very little is known about Paestum during its first centuries. Archaeological evidence indicates that the city was expanding with the building of roads, temples and other features of a growing city. Coinage, architecture and molded votive figurines all attest to close relations maintained with Metaponto in the sixth and fifth centuries. It is not until the end of the fifth century BC that the city is mentioned, when according to Strabo the city was conquered by the Lucani. From the archaeological evidence it appears that the two cultures, Greek and Oscan, were able to get together and thrive. What is known is it later became the Roman city of Paestum in 273 BC after the Graeco-Italian Poseidonians sided with the loser, Pyrrhus, in war against Rome during the first quarter of the third century BC. During the invasion of Italy by Hannibal the city remained faithful to Rome and afterwards was granted special favours such as the minting of its coinage. The city continued to prosper during the Roman imperial period, but started to go into decline between the 4th and 7th centuries. - Wikipedia

 

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Paestum
PAESTUM
PAESTUM (?a?st??, Ptol.; ?a?st??, Strab.: Eth. ?a?sta???, Paestanus: Ruins at Pesto), a city of Lucania, on the Tyrrhenian sea, about 5 miles S. of the mouth of the Silarus. It was originally a Greek colony, named POSIDONIA (??se?d???a: Eth. ??se?d????t??), and was founded by a colony from Sybaris, on the opposite coast of Lucania. (Strab. v. p.251; Scymn. Ch. 245; Scyl. p. 3.12.) The date of its foundation is uncertain, but it may probably be referred to the period of the chief prosperity of Sybaris, when that city ruled over the whole of Lucania, from one sea to the other, or from 650 to 510 B.C. [SYBARIS] It may be observed, also, that Solinus calls Posidonia a Dorio colony; and though his authority is worth little in itself, it is confirmed by the occurrence of Doric forms on coins of the city: hence it seems probable that the Doric settlers from Troezen, who formed part of the original colony of Sybaris, but were subsequently expelled by the Achaeans (Arist. Pol. 5.3), may have mainly contributed to the establishment of the new colony. According to Strabo it was originally founded close to the sea, but was subsequently removed further inland (Strab. l.c.); the change, however, was not considerable, as the still existing ruins of the ancient city are little more than half a mile from the coast.

We know scarcely anything of the early history of Posidonia. It is incidentally mentioned by Herodotus (1.167) in a manner that proves it to have been already in existence, and apparently as a considerable town, at the period of the foundation of the neighbouring Velia, about B.C. 540. But this is the only notice of Posidonia until after the fall of its parent city of Sybaris, B.C. 510. It has been supposed by some modern writers that it received a great accession to its population at that period; but Herodotus, who notices the Sybarites as settling on that occasion at Laiis and Scidrus, does not allude to Posidonia. (Hdt. 6.21.) There are, indeed, few among the cities of Magna Graecia of which we hear less in history; and the only evidence of the flourishing condition and prosperity of Posidonia, is to be found in the numbers of its coins and in the splendid architectural remains, so well known as the temples of Paestum. From its northerly position, it must have been one of the first cities that suffered from the advancing power of the Lucanians, as it was certainly one of the first Greek colonies that fell into the hands of that people. (Strab. v. p.251.) The date of this event is very uncertain; buit it is probable that it must have taken place before B.C. 390, when the city of Las was besieged by the Lucanians, and had apparently become the bulwark of Magna Graecia on that side. [MAGNA GRAECIA] We learn from a curious passage of Aristoxenus (ap. Athen. 14.632) that the Greek inhabitants were not expelled, but compelled to submit to the authority of the Lucanians, and receive a barbarian colony within their walls. They still retained many of their customs, and for ages afterwards continued to assemble at a certain festival every year with the express purpose of bewailing their captivity, and reviving the traditions of their prosperity. It would appear [2.513] from Livy (8.17), though the passage is not quite distinct, that it was recovered by Alexander, king of Epirus, as late as B.C. 330; but if so, it certainly soon fell again into the hands of the barbarians.

Posidonia passed with the rest of Lucania into the hands of the Romans. We find no mention of it on this occasion; but in B.C. 273, immediately after the departure of Pyrrhus from Italy, the Romans established a colony there for the security of their newly acquired territory on this side. (Liv. Epit. xiv.; Veil. Pat. 1.14; Strab. v. p.251.) It was probably at, this period that the name was changed, or corrupted, into PAESTUM though the change may have already taken place at the time when the city fell into the hands of the Lucanians. But, from the time that it became a Roman colony, the name of Paestum seems to have exclusively prevailed; and even its coins, which are inscribed with Greek characters, have the legend ???S and ???S????. (Eckhel, vol. i. p. 158.) We hear but little of Paestum as a Roman colony: it was one of the Coloniae Latinae, and distinguished itself by its unshaken fidelity throughout the Second Punic War. Thus the Paestani are mentioned as sending golden paterae as a present to the Roman senate just before the battle of Cannae (Liv. 22.36). Again in B.C. 210 they furnished ships to the squadron with which D. Quintius repaired to the siege of Tarentum ; and the following year they were among the eighteen colonies which still professed their readiness to furnish supplies and recruits to the Roman armies, notwithstanding the long-continued pressure of the war (Liv. 26.39, 27.10.) Paestumn was therefore at this period still a flourishing and considerable town, but we hear little more of it during the Roman Republic. It is incidentally mentioned by Cicero in one of his letters (Ep. ad Att. 11.17); and is noticed by all the geographers as a still subsisting municipal town. Strabo, however, observes that it was rendered unhealthy by the stagnation of a small river which flowed beneath its walls (v. p. 251); and it was probably, therefore, already a declining place. But it was still one of the eight Praefecturae of Lucania at a considerably later period ; and inscriptions attest its continued existence throughout the Roman Empire. (Strab. l.c.; Plin. iii, 5. s. 10; Ptol. 3.1.8; Lib. Colon. p. 209; Orell. Inscr. 135, 2492, 3078: Bull. d. Inst. Arch. 1836, p. 152.) In some of these it bears the title of a Colonia; but it is uncertain at what period it attained that rank: it certainly cannot refer to the original Latin colony, as that must have become merged in the municipal condition by the effect of the Lex Julia. We learn from ecclesiastical authorities that it became a bishopric at least as early as the fifth century; and it is probable that its final decay and desolation was owing to the ravages of the Saracens in the tenth century. At that time the episcopal see was removed to the neighbouring town of Capaccio, in an elevated situation a few miles inland.

Paestum was chiefly celebrated in ancient times for its roses, which possessed the peculiarity of flowering twice a year, and were considered as surpassing all others in fragrance. (Verg. G. 4.118; Ovid, Ov. Met. 15.708; Propert. 4.5. 59; Martial, 4.41. 10, 6.80. 6; Auson. Idyll. 14. 11.) The roses that still grow wild among the ruins are said to retain their ancient property, and flower regularly both in May and November.

The site of Paestum appears to have continued wholly uninhabited from the time when the episcopal see was removed till within a very recent period. It was not till the middle of the last century that attention was drawn to the ruins which are now so celebrated. Though they can hardly be said to have been then first discovered, as they must always have been a conspicuous object from the Bay of Salerno, and could not but have been known in their immediate neighbourhood, they were certainly unknown to the rest of Europe. Even the diligent Cluverius, writing in 1624, notices the fact that there were ruins which bore the name of Pesto, without any allusion to their character and importance. (Cluver. Ital. p. 1255.) They seem to have been first visited by a certain Count Gazola, in the service of Charles VII., King of Naples, before the middle of the last century, and were described by Antonini, in his work on the topography of Lucania (Naples, 1745), and noticed by Mazzocchi, who has inserted a dissertation on the history of Paestum in his work on the Heraclean Tables (pp. 499--515) published in 1754. Before the end of the century they became the subject of the special works of Magnoni and Paoli, and were visited by travellers from all parts of Europe. Among these, Swinburne in 1779, has left a very accurate description of the ruins; and their architectural details are given by Wilkins in his Magna Graecia (fol. Cambr. 1807).

The principal ruins consist of the walls, and three temples standing within the space enclosed by them. The whole circuit of the walls can be clearly made out, and they are in many places standing to a considerable height; several of the towers also remain at the angles, and vestiges of the ancient gates, which were four in number; one of these, on the E. side of the town, is nearly perfect, and surmounted by a regularly constructed arch. The whole circuit of the walls forms an irregular polygon, about 3 miles in circumference. The two principal temples stand not far from the southern gate of the city. The finest and most ancient of these is commonly known as the temple of Neptune; but there is no authority for the name, beyond the fact that Neptune, or Poseidon, was unquestionably the tutelary deity of the city which derived from him its ancient name of Posidonia. The temple was hypaethral, or had its cella open to the sky, and is 195 feet long by 79 wide: it is remarkably perfect; not a single column is wanting, and the entablature and pediments are almost entire. The style of architecture is Doric, but its proportions are heavier, and the style altogether more massive and solid than any other extant edifice of the kind. On this account some of the earlier antiquarians disputed the fact of its Greek origin, and ascribed it to the Phoenicians or Etruscans: but there is not a shadow of foundation for this; we have no trace of any settlement on the spot before the Greek colony; and the architecture is of pure Greek style, though probably one of the most ancient specimens of the Doric order now remaining. About 100 yards from the temple of Neptune, and nearer to the south gate, is the second edifice, which on account of some peculiarities in its plan has been called a Basilica, but is unquestionably also a temple. It is of the kind called pseudo-dipteral; but differs from every other ancient building known in having nine columns at each end, while the interior is divided into two parts by a single range of columns running along the centre of the building. It was probably a temple consecrated to two different divinities, or rather, in [2.514] fact, two temples united in one. It has 18 columns in each side, and is 180 feet long by 80 in width. The third temple, which is at some distance from the other two, nearer to the N. gate of the town, and is commonly known as the Temple of Ceres or Vesta (though there is no reason for either name), is much smaller than the other two, being only 108 feet in length by 48 in breadth: it presents no remarkable architectural peculiarities, but is, as well as the so-called Basilica, of much later date than the great temple. Mr. Wilkins, indeed, would assign them both to the Roman period: but it is difficult to reconcile this with the history of the city, which never appears to have been a place of much importance under the Roman rule. (Swinburne's Travels, vol. ii. pp. 131--138; Wilkins's Magna Graecia, pp. 55--67.)

The other remains are of little importance. The vestiges of an amphitheatre exist near the centre; of the city; and not far from them are the fallen ruins of a fourth temple, of small size and clearly of Roman date. Excavations have also laid bare the foundations of many houses and other buildings, and the traces of a portico, which appear to indicate the site of the ancient forum. The remains ,of an aqueduct are. also visible outside the walls; and numerous tombs (some of which are said to be. of much interest) have been recently brought to light.

PLAN OF PAESTUM. PLAN OF PAESTUM., A. Temple of Neptune.

B. Temple, commonly called Basilica.

C. Smaller temple, of Vesta (?).

D. Amphitheatre.

E. Other ruins of Roman time.

F F. Gates of the city.

G. River Salso.

The small river which (as already noticed by Strabo), by stagnating under the walls of Paestum, rendered its situation so unhealthy, is now called the Salso: its ancient name is not mentioned. It forms extensive deposits of a calcareous stone, resembling the Roman travertin, which forms an excellent building material, with which both the walls and edifices of the city have been constructed. The malaria, which caused the site to be wholly abandoned during the middle ages, has already sensibly diminished, since the resort of travellers has again attracted a small population to the spot, and given rise to some cultivation.

About five miles from Paestum, at the mouth of the Silarus or Sele, stood, in ancient times, a celebrated temple of Juno, which, according to the tradition adopted both by Strabo and Pliny, was founded by the Argonauts under Jason (Strab, vi, p. 252.; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 10). It is probable that the worship of the Argive Hera, or Juno, was brought hither by the Troezenian colonists of Posidonia. Pliny places the temple on the N. bank of the. Silarus.; Strabo, probably more correctly, on the S.

The extensive gulf which extends from the promontory of Minerva (the Punta della Campanella) to the headland called Posidium (the Punta di Licosa), and is now known as the Gulf of Salerno. derived its ancient name from the city of Paestum, being called by the Romans PAESTANUS SINUS and by the Greeks the gulf of Posidonia (??se?d????t?? ???p??. (Strab. v. p.251; Sinus Paestanus, Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 10; Mel. 2.4.9; Cic. Att. 16.6)  - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) William Smith, LLD, Ed.

 

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