Selinunte was one of the most important of the ancient Greek colonies in Sicily. It was founded, according to the historian Thucydides, by a colony from the Sicilian city of Megara Hyblaea, in the 7th century BCE. At its peak before 409 BC the city may have contained up to 30,000 people, excluding slaves.

In 409 BCE Carthaginian Hannibal crushed and plundered Selinunte, saving only women and children. Thus this is the end of one of the most glorious Greek colonies in the west Sicily. Selinunte was rebuilt by the Carthaginians, but only in the area of the acropolis. They settled elements of Punic civilization, spread new cults, and the old city center of Manuzza becomes necropolis.

During the First Punic War, Selinunte tried to break free from the yoke of Carthage with the help of the Romans. But the Carthaginians preferred to move their resources to Lilibeo and left Selinunte at the mercy of the Romans. Selinunte was never rebuilt and inhabited again.

Archaeological remains

The archaeological site contains five temples centered on an acropolis. Of the five temples, only the Temple of Hera, also known as 'Temple E', has been re-erected.

The acropolis is a chalk massif with a cliff face falling into the sea in the south, while the north end narrows to 140 metres wide. The settlement in the form of a massive trapezoid, extended to the north with a large retaining wall in terraces (about eleven metres high) and was surrounded by a wall (repeatedly restored and modified) with an exterior of squared stone blocks and an interior of rough stone (emplecton). It had five towers and four gates. To the north, the acropolis was fortified by a counter wall and towers from the beginning of the fourth century BC. At the entrance to the acropolis is the so-called Tower of Pollux, constructed in the sixteenth century to deter the Barbary pirates, atop the remains of an ancient tower or lighthouse.

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Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.