IFA Excavations at Selinunte


Temple C was the first in a succession of great temples built in Archaic Selinus. A Doric, hexastyle building, its ground plan has much in common with the Temple of Apollo at Syracuse, with the same articulation of the cella into adyton, cella proper, and pronaos. Temple C was approached by a large staircase which took up the whole width of the façade. The façade columns are doubled, and seventeen columns lined its flanks. The cella of Temple C is raised above the peristyle, emphasizing that it was thought of as a distinct building within the colonnade. The builders began the peristyle with monolithic columns, but soon changed to columns made of drums; the majority of the columns have sixteen flutes, but a few have twenty. Although the columns are slightly tapered, they show no signs of entasis. The columns and capitals were surmounted by a plain architrave, and by a Doric frieze consisting of trigylphs and metopes. The frieze was crowned by a heavy geison, which has two courses on the flanks. On the lower course there are the mutules, and some of the guttae are not fully carved. The relationship between the geison and roof has been debated for some time; however the majority of scholars tend to agree that the upper course supported the rafters and tiles. The top of Temple C was protected by a system of architectural terracottas which included a raking sima, a raking geison revetment, a horizontal gable sima, a horizontal gable geison revetment, a lateral geison revetment, and an anthemion frieze.

A huge gorgoneion occupied the center of the east tympanum. It was found in fragments that had been reused in the construction of the buildings in the area surrounding the temple. Only a few features survive: some hair and some parts of the upper eyelid, nose, and cheeks. The mouth was open in a grimace, showing teeth, tusks, and a protruding tongue.

The front of the temple was also given special emphasis by the famous metopes carved in relief. These show gods, such as Apollo in the company of Artemis and Leto, and vividly narrated mythological episodes, such as Perseus beheading Medusa in the presence of Athena, Heracles carrying off the Kerkopes, and Orestes murdering his mother Clytemnestra.

Most scholars now tend to believe that Temple C was dedicated to Apollo; while there is no evidence from the temple itself, as there is from Temple E, which is dedicated to Hera, an inscription found north of the temple contains a dedication to Apollo Paian and Athena.