PAESTUM (Gr. Iloo-etSwi'ta; mod. Pesto), an ancient Greek city in Lucania, near the sea, with a railway station 24 m. S.E. of Salerno, 5 m. S. of the river Silarus (Salso). It is said by Strabo (v. 251) to have been founded by Troezenian and Achaean colonists from the still older colony of Sybaris, on the Gulf of Tarentum; this probably happened not later than about 600 B.C. Herodotus (i. 167) speaks of it as being already a flourishing city in about 540 B.C., when the neighbouring city of Velia was founded. For many years the city maintained its independence, though surrounded by the hostile native inhabitants of Lucania. Autonomous coins were struck, of which many specimens now exist (see Numismatics). After long struggles the city fell into the hands of the Lucanians (who nevertheless did not expel the Greek colonists) and in 273 B.C. it became a Latin colony under the Roman rule, the name being changed to the Latin form Paestum. It successfully resisted the attacks of Hannibal; and it is noteworthy that it continued to strike copper coins even under Augustus and Tiberius. The neighbourhood was then healthy, highly cultivated, and celebrated for its flowers; the " twice blooming roses of Paestum " are mentioned by Virgil (Gear. iv. 118), Ovid (Met. xv. 70S), Martial (iv. 41, 10; vi. 80, 6), and other Latin poets. Its present deserted and malarious state is probably owing to the silting up of the mouth of the Silarus, which has overflowed its bed, and converted the plain into unproductive marshy ground. Herds of buffaloes, and the few peasants who watch them, are now the only occupants of this once thickly populated and garden-like region. In 871 Paestum was sacked and partly destroyed by Saracen invaders; in the 11th century it was further dismantled by Robert Guiscard, and in the 16th century was finally deserted.
The ruins of Posidonia are among the most interesting of the Hellenic world. The earliest temple in Paestum, the socalled Basilica, must in point of style be associated with the temples D and F at Selinus, and is therefore to be dated about 570-554 B.C.' It is a building of unique plan, with nine columns in the front and eighteen at the sides, 4! ft. in diameter. A hne of columns runs down the centre of the cella. The columns have marked entasis, and the flutings end in a semicircle, above which is generally a torus (always present in the so-called temple of Ceres). The capitals are remarkable, inasmuch as the necking immediately below the echinus is decorated with a band of leaves, the arrangement of which varies in different cases. The columns and the architraves upon them are well preserved, but there is nothing above the frieze existing, and the cella wall has entirely disappeared. Next in point of date comes the so-called temple of Ceres, a hexastyle peripteros, which may be dated after 540 B.C. The columns are all standing, and the west and part of the east pediment are still in situ; but of the cella, again, nothing is ' The dating adopted in the present article, which is in absolute contradiction to that given in the previous edition of this work, is that given by R. Koldewey and O. Puchstein, Die griechischen Tempel in Unteritalien und Sicilien (Berlin, 1899), 11-35.
left. The capitals are like those of the Basilica, but the details are differently worked out. In front of this temple stood a sacrificial altar as long as the temple itself.
The most famous of the temples of Paestum, the so-called temple of Neptune, comes next in point of date (about 420 B.C.). It is a hexastyle peripteros with fourteen columns on each side, and is remarkably well-preserved, both pediments and the epistyle at the sides being still in situ. No traces of the decoration of the pediments and metopes have been preserved. The cella, the outer walls of which have to a great extent disappeared, has two internal rows of seven columns 4I ft. in diameter, upon which rests a simple epistyle, supporting a row of smaller columns, so that the interior of the cella was in two storeys.
The Temple of Peace is a building of the Roman period of the 2nd century B.C., with six Doric columns on the front, eight on the sides and none at the back; it was excavated in 1S30 and is now entirely covered up. Traces of a Roman theatre and amphitheatre (?) have also been found. The circuit of the town walls, well built of squared blocks of travertine, and 16 ft. thick, of the Greek period, is almost entire; they are about 3 m. in circumference, enclosing an irregular, roughly rectangular area. There were four gates, that on the east with a single arched opening being well-preserved. Outside the north gate is a street of tombs, in some of which were found arms, vases and fine mural paintings (now in the Naples Museum).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)