The temple of Segesta, solemnly placed on a hill at the foot of Mount Barbaro, is certainly among the most exciting examples of Greek architecture. Completely isolated from the urban world, its white columns stand out among the green of the landscape,.
Its construction dates back to the late fifth century BC, during the alliance with Athens. There are a total of 36 columns, not partly scalanated to avoid possible optical illusions (a technique also used in the Parthenon in Athens).
There was much debate about the function of the temple: the prevailing view is that the building was deliberately unburied, in order to let know of a pre-existing local place of worship, where the celebration took place outdoors.
Dug on the walls of Mount Barbaro, scenically place to the north, with a beautiful view of the sea, surrounded by green fields, the greek theater of Segesta is a further example of the importance that the city claimed in its past. Probably changed during the Roman period, the theater now has about 4,000 seats, divided over 20 orders of rows.
The landmark, preserved only in part, was equipped with underground passages that allowed the actors to suddenly appear during the scenes. The acoustic resonance is still well maintained, so the theater can still be used for various comedies and tragedies.
The origins of Segesta are ancient enough to merge with the myth of Troy; Legend has it that the foundation of Segesta was the work of Aeneas.
What we do know, is that the center was of primary importance to the population of the Elimi, whose ancestry comes from the east and later merged with the local population.
Strongly influenced by Greek culture, it soon came into conflict with Selinus, marking in fact its own destiny: after the first clashes came in the sixth century BC, Segesta became the scale tipper for the fate of western Sicily.
Unsuccessfully allied with Athens, Segesta then took friendship with Carthage, which finally was defeated thanks to Selinunte. The glory was short-lived, however. Syracuse, worried about a Carthaginian expansion in Sicily, organized grandiose campaigns against Segesta: first Diodorus in 397 BC and then Agathocles in 307, inflicting heavy defeats, they deported the population and destroyed the city.
The center found new life during the Roman period, when it passed without hesitation into the dominion of Rome, turning its back to its old ally of Carthage. Thanks to the legendary common origin, Segesta was relieved of taxes heavily imposed by Rome in the other provinces, and favored in trade relations.
After the fall of the Empire, there were several plunders by the Saracens and the Vandals, that marked its destiny forever. The last settlement dates back to Norman times, as evidenced by the remains of a castle and a church.
Previously, Segesta had also had a period of recovery under the Arab domination, as evidenced by the remains of the first mosque discovered in Sicily.