Segeste – Greece Travel

The temple of Segeste was never finished; the ground around it was never even leveled; the space only being smoothed on which the peristyle was to stand. For, in several places, the steps are from nine to ten feet in the ground, and there is no hill near, from which the stone or mold could have fallen. Besides, the stones lie in their natural position, and no ruins are found near them.

The columns are all standing; two which had fallen, have very recently been raised again. How far the columns rested on a socle is hard to say; and without an engraving it is difficult to give an idea of their present state. At some points it would seem as if the pillars rested on the fourth step. In that case to enter the temple you would have to go down a step. In other places, however, the uppermost step is cut through, and then it looks as if the columns had rested on bases; and then again these spaces have been filled up, and so we have once more the first case. An architect is necessary to determine this point.

The sides have twelve columns, not reckoning the corner ones; the back and front six, including them. The rollers on which the stones were moved along, still lie around you on the steps. They have been left in order to indicate that the temple was unfinished. But the strongest evidence of this fact is the floor. In some spots (along the sides) the pavement is laid down; in the middle, however, the red limestone rock still projects higher than the level of the floor as partially laid; the flooring, therefore, can not ever have been finished. There is also no trace of an inner temple. Still less can the temple have ever been overlaid with stucco; but that it was intended to do so, we may infer from the fact that the abaci of the capitals have projecting points probably for the purpose of holding the plaster. The whole is built of a limestone, very similar to the travertine; only it is now much fretted. The restoration which was carried on in 1781, has done much good to the building. The cutting of the stone, with which the parts have been reconnected, is simple, but beautiful.

The site of the temple is singular; at the highest end of a broad and long valley, it stands on an isolated hill. Surrounded, however, on all sides by cliffs, it commands a very distant and extensive view of the land, but takes in only just a corner of the sea. The district reposes in a sort of melancholy fertility—every where well cultivated, but scarce a dwelling to be seen. Flowering thistles were swarming with countless butterflies, wild fennel stood here from eight to nine feet high, dry and withered of the last year’s growth, but so rich and in such seeming order that one might almost take it to be an old nursery-ground. A shrill wind whistled through the columns as if through a wood, and screaming birds of prey hovered around the pediments.