Paestum, Day 58

November 11, 2007

By Emily Huang and Allia Benner

 

After experiencing yet a couple more inefficiencies of the Italian public transportation system, we arrived at the Paestum archaeological park at 11:30 this morning.  Previously the Greek city of Poseidonia, Paestum was involved in agriculture and trade and specialized in the production and sale of rose perfume.  The soil was fertile, due to its volcanic makeup, and the area had access to rivers and the sea, making it a very desirable location.  In the cityÕs architecture, we found Roman and Greek influence.  Three large Doric temples dominated the countryside and created an inviting contrast to the many gas stations and bars of the Neapolitan area.  Two of these were temples of Hera, while the other was a temple of Athena.  They featured interesting refinements in the buildingsÕ architectural style and adornment, such as an enthemion scheme below the Doric pillow capitals, and bead and reel decoration, a typically Ionic characteristic.  The columns shafts were also intriguing in the variation of thickness and number of flutes; the corner columns, especially those of the 460 BC Temple of Hera, had the greatest diameters.  The oldest temple, built for Hera in the 6th century BC, included a central row of columns within the cella to support the roof, a structural type that the FSP students had not seen before today.

When we were finished with the temples, we made our way back to the forum in the center of the site.  In contrast with the Greek temples, the forum was in the Roman layout: a large rectangular space surrounded by a basilica, a curia, a comitium, and other buildings.  Our greatest concern about the forum was the chronology of the comitiumÕs construction.  There are outer walls that cut off parts of the circular seating area, and our mission was to determine what was installed first: the walls or the seats.

By this time, our group embraced the presence of one more companion: a stray dog who became our loyal guide and protector as we journeyed through Paestum.  The mutt, whom we named Helen, had been following us from the train station that morning, but it wasnÕt until we were all sitting on the comitium steps that we really started to connect with her.  Helen followed us around for the rest of the day, led us to the museum, and met up with us again at the train station that evening as we awaited our ride back to Pompeii.  She was the best dog ever, even though she scared us all by running onto the tracks when a train was passing through.

            Once weÕd finished analyzing the comitium and stopped for a gelato break, we made our way to the museum where we learned about Lucanian tomb paintings.  These indigenous peoples would decorate the inside walls of their sarcophagi with martial and funerary images.  We then moved onto the Roman coin room before we ran to catch the 4:30 train.  Our speed-walking ended up being pointless, however, since the train didnÕt show up for another hour and a half.  But, being the creative students that we are, we made the platform into a fitness area and spent that time working out and dancing.