Paestum (originally Posidonia, city of Poseidon or Neptune), an ancient city of southern Italy, situated in the N. W. extremity of Lucania, about 4 m. S. E. of the mouth of the Silarus (Selo), and on a bay of the Tyrrhenian sea, called sinus Poestanus (now the gulf of Salerno). Its site, now called Pesto, is covered with magnificent ruins, on an uninhabited plain by the seashore. The principal remains are those of two temples, which, with the exception of the temple of Corinth, are the most massive examples of Doric architecture now extant. The finer and older of the two, known as the temple of Neptune, is open to the sky, and is 180 ft. long and 80 ft. wide. The other, variously called the temple of Vesta and of Ceres, is 107 ft. long by 48 wide. The walls are built of large polyhedric masses of travertine, and form an irregular pentagon 3 m,. in circuit; they are in many places still 12 ft. high. Remains of eight towers and four gateways are traceable, and the eastern gateway with an arch 50 ft. high is almost perfect. Around and amid the whole grow profusely the famous Paestan roses, which even in their wild state flower twice a year, and are remarkable for their fragrance. - A colony of Greeks from Sybaris settled here in 524 B.C., and the city flourished and grew powerful.
Being taken by the Lucanians about 430, it gradually lost the character of a Greek city, and its inhabitants finally ceased to speak the Greek language. During the war with Pyrrhus the Romans founded there a Latin colony. About the 11th century, after the devastation of the Saracens, it fell into complete decay. Its ruin, generally attributed to foreign enemies, is by Strabo assigned to its unhealthy atmosphere. Sulphurous springs in the neighborhood still form stagnant pools, and a stream running under the walls overflows the low grounds and forms a marsh around the city.
Ruined Temples at Paestum.