Parco Archeologico di Paestum - Ravenna Festival

At the end of the 7th century BC, the citizens of the Magna Graecia city of Sibari (in present-day Calabria) wanted to own a stronghold on the Tyrrhenian Sea, as well as on the Ionian Sea, to trade with the Etruscans. They travelled from one sea to the other: hence the possible origin of the name of the city they founded, Poseidonia, dedicated to the sea-god Poseidone. The city acquired the appearance it still has today – with the wide agora, the main square, in the middle, and the two main sanctuaries at the sides – between the 6th and 5th century BC. The fortune, wealth and influence of the Greek culture did not abate even when, around the end of the 5th century BC, the city’s rulers changed: the Lucanian people, who lived in the wild mountains of the outback, took over several places in Campania, including Poseidonia. And its name was changed to Paistom. The Romans seized the city in 273 BC., changed its name to Paestum and settled colonists under Latin law, to best control the whole area. Very close relations were established between Rome and the Campanian city: the Pestani, the inhabitants of Paestum, became socii navales, i.e. allies who provided ships to the urbs in case of need, and showed their allegiance several times during the first two Punic wars. After guaranteeing to the Romans a sufficient provision of wheat to withstand Hannibal’s attack in Taras, Paestum was rewarded by being allowed to mint its own money. In brief, Paestum was reconfirmed as a rich and vital city.

In the Renaissance, Paestum was but a vague memory, mentioned by few writers who described what they saw of the ancient city. It wasn’t truly rediscovered until the mid-18th century thanks – it is said – to some drawings made by count Felice Gazola that reached Paris and were promptly published. In Paestum, travellers on the Grand Tour were able to admire Hellenism without actually going to Greece, and it was thus that a new era of classical studies was built on its temples. While visiting the area in 1758, Winkelmann drew up his theory on Greek art. Twenty years later, Giovanni Battista Piranesi depicted it in magnificent plates; in 1787, Johann Wolfgang Goethe believed he could recognise the perfection of classical art in the Doric temples. Since then, Paestum has become a great cultural and archaelogical tourist destination. 

Getting here

Via Magna Grecia, 919
84047 Capaccio Paestum (SA)