We’ve been liars and frauds toward our fellow man for a long time. In this case, folks were conning other humans into detonating their neighbors over 2500 years ago. So don’t feel too bad when you can’t get along with your next door neighbor’s shed color. You’re part of a long human tradition of awfulness.
When we started this blog, it was our desire to write about every aspect of the human experience. We’ve covered culture, news, lunacy, war & politics, belligerence, history, alien-viciousness, sports, and the zoo. Now we’ll add travel because it pleases us. Please don’t object. Your cooperation is appreciated.
And not our usual travel posts, as in work travel, which encompasses 98% of my travel now. And which involves traveling from one cubicle in order to work inside another cubicle. Back in the day, when I didn’t have two jobs, I actually had the opportunity to have fun.
Why cover some of my travels now on a blog? Well, what else is blogging but nonsense narcissism? But also to share these neat moments with others in the hopes that they’ll visit too someday. And have a good time like I did.
First up, Segesta was probably the first place I felt I was on “travel” or “traveling”. As in, you have one of those deep moments that breaks your brain in a good way and you don’t forget it. I’d travelled before, but this one was different. Probably because you have to journey for a while before you develop the perspective to truly appreciate it.
Approaching the temple, I always off-road when possible
The Doric temple of Segesta, northwest corner of Sicily holds a unique and special place in history. Here is a brief summary for the uninitiated:
– 415 BC, Segesta needs an ally to bash neighbor city state Selinus
– Segesta cons Athens into an alliance to attack Selinus with promises of cash
– Athens uses alliance as an excuse to invade all of Sicily
– Segesta doesn’t actually have any cash
– Athenian forces are annihilated by Syracuse
– Blow is fatal to Athenian power, ultimately leads to destruction of Athenian Empire by Sparta
Thucydides provides most of the history on this one. I’d just read The Peloponnesian War prior to arriving in Sicily. So when I got to Segesta, and realized where I was within the story, I kind of lost my mind.
Almost all of Sicily’s available land is used to farm or is now concrete
City states tended to keep some or all the state treasury within the temple, back behind the main statue area. But you see, the Segestians were so short on cash they never actually finished the temple. So you better believe they didn’t have the riches to pay for an invasion fleet. I kind of think the conversation went like this:
Athenian captain: We’re here to honor our grand alliance!
Segesta envoy: Welcome brother, we thank thee.
AC: We’ll take our fee now.
SE: We’re so happy to see you brother, would you care for some wine?
AC: You promised us 60 talents of silver. The fleet arrives in three days. Pay up.
SE: Brother! Our honored victory awaits. You shall find many women in Selinus! [shifty eyes]
Athenian captain barges past envoy, stomps into core of temple. Instead of silver pile, he finds a half-constructed shell of temple, tumbleweed, and old toothless man on floor, hammering away at stone piece, likely the same stone piece for years.
Old man: Mornin’, brother! [shrieking giggling]
AC: Oh, shhhiiittt!
And then later that Athenian captain was a bleached skeleton outside Syracuse. And Segesta just shrugged, ran a new alliance with Carthage, and sacked Selinus anyways. Oh man, history’s a heartless bitch, friends.
This is still considered unfinished? It’s been here for 2500 years.
Yeah, Athens would have probably invaded Sicily regardless, but it was still one hell of a con. And there I was, standing in the middle of the temple ruins. Alone. Where 2500 years before it had all occurred. Just as I had read it a few weeks prior. It was quite the out of body experience.
This best guess is since the Doric columns were not fluted and there is no evidence of a roof, that’s why we know it was never completed.
Like all of Sicily, Segesta’s been a doorstop of conquest. The Romans, Vandals, Muslims, Normans, and on and on and on. They’ve all been there. Yet, all these empires are gone. And this half-finished temple is still there. Whereas none of those great empires are. The old man in the temple is still laughing at them all.
It helps to time travel through history when you’re alone. Segesta is very isolated. Go in a small group, or alone, early in the morning before any crowds arrive, and stand inside the temple hearing nothing but the wind, the birds, and history.
About 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up, dead center, that’s the place to stand and experience the pile of silver that never was. The birds circle above, spirits watching as you learn about their days of high drama and insanity.