It all started when…
Legend has it that the area was first colonized by sailors of Aeneas escaping the sack of Troy. Palinuro, the name of the headland further down the coast, was the name of Odysseus’ best friend and helmsman who threw himself out of the boat to sacrifice himself in order to let the others pass. Or does the long strip of land that juts out to sea simply resemble a helm of an ancient Greek ship?
By the 3rd century BC, Velia and Paestum were important cities in Magna Grecia. While Paestum was primarily a commercial city trading up and down the coast, Velia was the more intellectual credited with important Greek philosophers and the eleatic school of thought. Velia may not compare with the impressive and extensive ruins of Paestum but the beautiful Porta Rosa is a worth a visit.
Tomb of the Diver
Paestum is a magnificent archaeological site with the wonderfully preserved temples of Athena and Hera (also known as the temple of Poseidon and the Basilica), the forum, amphitheatre and a small recently renovated museum. Check out our calendar and also their website as they have activities, talks and special exhibitions.
In the museum look out for the simple and evocative fresco known as the Tomb of the Diver. This enigmatic scene was painted on the covering slab of a tomb and depicts a graceful young man diving into a stream of water.
A bit of history…
Paestum was founded around the end of the 7th century BC by colonists from the Greek city of Sybaris, and originally known as Poseidonia. Surrounded by defensive walls that still stand, the Greek city was taken over by the Lucani (local tribes from inland) and then by the Romans. The decline and eventual desertion of the city during the middle ages was probably due to silting up of the bay, leading to swampy malarial conditions. This is difficult to imagine now under the scorching summer sun and the site is left to lizards and a few tourists.