The Greeks always chose their towns and settlements in perfect areas. Not only did the high up location protect the settlement since invaders or attackers were visible, but also offered splendid views over the surrounding region. Segesta is one of those sites that is beautifully located overlooking the rolling hills of Sicily.
The best explored part of the ancient Agora the forum of the Roman city is the west part that has buildings on pillars with an internal cryptopoticus. Unfortunately most of the city has been destroyed.
The Castle was built in the 12th century and it stands on the peak of Mont Barbaro. The overall height of the building must have been around 8 to 10 meters. Partially the building was created from the ruins of the Greek temples and buildings around it.
The Greek Theatre originates from around the 3rd to 2nd century BC in the Hellenic period. It stands in the highest part of the ancient city at about 400 metres on the cliffs of Mount Barbaro. The auditorium is 63.60 meters in diameter and offers splendid views over the Sicilian country side.
This temple was built in 430 BC and today this Doric Temple is one of the most perfect monuments with proportions of perfect harmony. Astonishingly the 36 columns are almost perfectly intact, even though the balance of this archaeological site has been destroyed by earth quakes.
This majestic moderate-sized hexastyle Doric Temple (36 columns) stands on a tall three stepped stylobate on a small hill overlooking a deep ravine (of the Pispisa river) surrounded by gentle mountains and greenery with birds flying through. There is no cella and you can wander and climb in and all around. Unlike other Greek structures, it is located inland, a significant distance from the coast and civilization (past and present). Modernly it has been encroached upon by an elevated Autostrada and its attendant tunnels, which are beginning to have damaging effects (and noise). Amazingly what we see is most probably not a ruin! It may have been a "rush-job" as part of an elaborate "con" pulled by the Segestans on visiting Atheniains summoned to agree to attack and destroy Selinunte. It was followed by the delivery of an enormous down payment to the Athenian Navy in Messina, a ploy that left Segesta bankrupt. Without the next instalment of money the Athenians attacked Siracusa, and thereby hangs another tale well recorded in history.As support to this hypothesis there are no evidences of altars or fragments of votive materials in the vicinity.The columns are not fluted, there is no evidence of a cella, and the positioning knobs are still on the stylobate. (Maybe later money went to build the theater).
The theater is carved into the rock of Mt. Barbaro with lateral extensions of quarried free-standing wings. It is easiest reached by bus (See Transportation). The theater is quite large,with a cavea 63 m in diameter, containg 7 sections and 2 rows in two tiers (seating 3200). It may have been built after the Athenian "con-job" failed or ater the first destruction of Segesta. Some of the best seats have carved back=rests but no decor.The stage building above the foundation level is gone, allowing for a splendid view of the valley, farms, distant autostrada on concrete stilts (a nice contrast of ancient and modern stonework) . Try the acoustics. (This is a must in all Grek theaters) and record it in your camcorder. Classic Greek and Roman drama is given here in alternate summers with Siracusa (here in odd number years).
Excavations are slowly under way on the remains of Segesta. There are a Roman wall and a medieval town built on earlier ruins with a structure (12-15C?) called the "Castello". This must have been a refuge from Saracens and Normans. There are remains of a church too. These are located at the top of Mt. Barbaro around the theater area. I guess that if they are ultimately successful there will be an antiquarium or other tourist trap. You may not bother with this even if you are up here
Segesta's other main monument, the amphitheatre, stands on the slopes of Monte Barbaro (literally Mount Barbarian) at an elevation of 400 meters above sea level. The theatre has 20 tiers of steps which served as seats, divided into 7 sections by aisles that lead to the U-shaped stage area. The diameter of the semi-circular seating area is 63 meters. The seating area is known as the "cavea" and a good part of it was carved out of the solid rock of the mountain. Scholars differ as to when the it was built. Some archeologists believe it was built around the same time as the temple, or maybe some decades earlier, circa 450 BC. The amphitheatre hosts Greek tragedies (in Italian) most Summers, sometimes alternating seasons with the theatre in Taormina.
The temple of Segesta is 61 meters long (190 feet) and 26 meters wide, built upon 4 steps, with a total of 36 Doric columns supporting the stone roof-frame of the structure.
There are 14 columns on each of the long sides of the building and 6 columns across the front and back, for a total of 36 columns. The columns are of a "rough" finish because they were never "fluted."
Apparently, the temple was never completed. It also appears that the structure never had a "cella," or roof, and archeologists are still in disagreement as to whether the Temple was deliberately planned this way, or was just never finished. It is believed that the edifice was erected between 420 and 430 BC.
The ruins of a small church once dedicated to St. Leone in a multi stratified area between the Castle and the Theatre. It was a single room building measuring 13 x 6,30 meters.