“I’m Silvia, official tourist guide of Paestum. This is the archeological area of Paestum, city of the Magna Grecia founded by the Greeks around 600 BC. The Greeks called the city Poseidonia in honor of Poseidon, god of the sea.
The city was, and partly still is, surrounded by fortified walls which stretch for about 3 miles around the city area. It’s thanks to these walls that we can presume the size of the city.
Only 3 temples survived in 2.500 years. All the other remains date back to the Roman age, after Paestum became a Roman city in 273 BC.
The first temple dates back to around 550 BC. It is an archaic Doric temple dedicated to Hera, goddess of fertility, life and birth, guardian of marriage and family.
The colonnade around the temple is 9×18. The columns are very big in order to support the sloped wooden roof, of which nothing remains today. We should imagine temples like closed structures, with an outer colonnade and walls made of limestone blocks on all four sides. Inside the temple there are two rows of columns and a closed room called ‘cella’ which used to take up almost the entire temple.
The inside of the temple was seen by the Greeks as a sacred place because it was considered home of the deity, therefore only the priests could go inside. People stayed in the area facing the entrance of the temple, right where the altar was located.
The Temple of Hera II, also called Temple of Neptune, dates back to about 450 BC. Its colonnade is 6×14 and it is internally divided into three sections by two rows of columns. Some of the limestone blocks that were part of the walls are still intact. Despite their uniform off-white color, temples used to be colorfully painted using four basic colors: red, white, black, and blue.
The center of the city consists mostly of Roman remains: the square of the city market, the public administration buildings, the shops, and the entertainment buildings such as baths, saunas, theaters and amphitheaters. The two main roads crossed in the center of the city. One of these two streets led merchants from the trading port to the very heart of the city with its market and shops.
From the city’s remains we can guess the typical structure of a Roman house: a big entrance and a wide open space called ‘atrium’ covered on all sides by a sloped roof. In the center of the open space there was a marble basin called ‘impluvium’ which was used to collect rain water. The bedrooms were located on both sides of the atrium, while the dining room or sitting room was situated behind it. All Roman houses had an interior garden called ‘peristilium’, an open area which was more or less wide, surrounded by an open colonnade. Many areas of the house were painted or decorated with paintings and mosaics”.