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Segesta

SEGESTA (Gr. "E7*<7Ta),an ancient city of Sicily, 8 m. W.S.W. of the modern Alcamo and about 15 m. E.S.E. of Eryx. It was a city of the Elymi, but, though the Elymi were regarded as barbari, Segesta, in its relations with its neighbours, was almost like a Greek city. Disputes with Selinus over questions of boundary seem to have been frequent from 580 B.C. onwards. In 454 B.C. we hear of dealings possibly even an alliance with Athens (the authority is a fragmentary inscription, see E. A. Freeman, History of Sicily, ii. 554), and in 426 an alliance was concluded by Laches. One of the ostensible objects of the Athenian expedition to Sicily in 415 was to aid Segesta against Selinus in a dispute, not only as to questions of boundary, but as to rights of marriage. After the Athenian debacle, the Segestans turned to Carthage; but when Hannibal in 409 B.C. firmly established the Carthaginian power in western Sicily, Segesta sank to the position of a dependent ally, and was indeed besieged by Dionysius in 397, being at last relieved by Himilco. In 307 Agathocles marched on the city, massacred 10,000 men, sold the rest of the inhabitants into slavery and changed its name to Dicaeopolis; but it soon recovered its old name and returned to the Carthaginians. Early in the First Punic War, however, the inhabitants, having massacred the Carthaginian garrison and allied themselves with Rome, had to stand a severe siege from the Carthaginians. Segesta was treated with favour by the Romans, retaining its freedom and immunity from tithe; indeed it seems probable that the municipal constitution of Eryx was suppressed and its territory assigned to Segesta. It received Latin rights before Caesar's concession of them to the rest of Sicily.

The site is now absolutely deserted. The town lay upon the Monte Varvaro (1345 ft.); considerable remains of its external walls, of houses and of a temple of Demcter are to be seen. The theatre is well preserved: its diameter is 205 ft. It is partly hewn in the rock, the rest (especially the back wall of the stage) being of very roughly hewn, long, thin blocks of hard limestone, approximately rectangular, with smaller pieces filling up the interstices. To the W.N.W_., 350 ft. below the theatre, is a temple, 2coj ft. lone and 86} wide, including the steps: it is a hexastyle peripteros, and has 36 columns, 29 ft. in height, 6J ft. in lower diameter. The building was, however, not completed; the cella was never built, and the columns, not having been fluted, have a heavy appearance. It is, however, extremely well preserved. Its style places the date of its construction between 430 and 420, so that the interruption of the work must be due to the events of 416 or of 409 B.C. The Thermae Segestanae were situated about 5 m. to the north on the road to Castellammare: the hot springs are still in use. (T. As.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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