Originally named Poseidonia, in honour of the Greek Sea God Poseidon, Paestum was founded in the 7th century BC by Ancient Greek colonists from the city of Sybaris which was situated in the current Gulf of Taranto in southern Italy.
Its location was chosen for its water supply and very fertile plain, ideal for agriculture. Its site also allowed for excellent land access through the Lucanian hills to the sea port.
The city became wealthy enough to mint its own coins and became an important centre of Magna Graecia – Greek colonisation in Italy.
After a few hundred years, the city was occupied by the indigenous Lucanians and then by the Romans in the third century BC. Paestum succumbed to malaria after the fall of Rome and was eventually abandoned in the late 9th century.
For nearly 1000 years, Paestum and its grand majestic temples were overgrown by tangled vegetation and partially submerged in swampland until the mid-18th century when the ancient site was rediscovered by road crews.
Paestum was a must see by any traveller engaged in the famous Grand tour.
The three ancient Greek Doric temples of Paestum (Hera, Hera II and Athena) are ranked amongst the best preserved Greek Temples in the world.
The museum house the extraordinary cycle of mural paintings from the 5th century BC Tomb of Diver, which are the only type of its kind in the world and are the only example of Greek wall painting with figured scenes from the Archaic, or Classical periods to survive in their entirety.
Paestum is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.