Its origins are still somewhat unknown, but historians agree on the fact that the first inhabitants settled down there before the 9th century B.C. Since the start, Segesta was constantly at war because of its border with neighbouring Selinute. Segesta forged an alliance with the Carthaginians, whereas Selinute received helped from their Athenian allies, generating long, bloody conflicts that destroyed many parts of the two cities.
The Doric temple
Despite the wars, the two main monuments in Segesta, the Doric temple and the theatre, are practically entirely intact, and appear before us in all their splendour. The Doric temple was also called the “Large Temple”, and was built towards the end of the 5 th century B.C.
It is a huge temple with six columns on its shorter side, and 14 on the larger side, giving a total of 36, none of which are grooved. They are 10 metres high. The building’s architecture is from the classical Greek period, and has a large prison cell, perhaps the best preserved in the world.
In the 3rd century B.C., the inhabitants of Segesta built their theatre on the highest peak of Mount Barbaro in a place where, with its back to the agora, which was then a place of worship many centuries earlier.
Facing north across a splendid gulf, the theatre of Segesta uses the view of the sea and hills that surround it as far as the eye can see as the perfect backdrop. Its auditorium of 63 metres faces towards the north for this reason, whereas the majority of Greek theatres do not.
The theatre has a capacity of around 5,000 people and, during the summer, you can attend traditional Greek tragedies that are put on there. In this archaeological area, there is still the agora and the “casa del navarca”, a magnificent building with adornments, carved into the sides in an elegant peristyle.
The Normans and more recent discoveries Recent excavations have brought our attention to the remains of monuments from Medieval Segesta. The Normans, in fact, built a castle there, on the highest point of the northern acropolis, close to the theatre. The excavations have also discovered the walls of the city, two Norman-era churches, the medieval district and a mosque.