Companions In Ruin.
Supposed Temple Of Apollo.
Panorama, From The Temple Of Apollo.
Selinus, founded by the Greeks six hundred years before the birth of Christ, soon made itself a maritime city of the first importance. It was the age of Greek expansion, when thousands of Hellenic colonists came sailing westward from the mother country to found settlements in Italy and Sicily; as, twenty centuries later, Europeans crossed a greater ocean to the continent discovered by Columbus. One of the most ambitious of these colonies was Selinus. Its sheltered harbor was the nearest port in Sicily to Carthage; but far from being overawed by that renowned metropolis, the Selinites determined to surpass her in the size and splendor of their public buildings. Yet their success was not achieved without a struggle. A few miles farther inland than Selinus stood an older city, called Segesta, probably founded by some refugees from Troy. Between Segesta and Selinus reigned implacable hostility, and they were constantly at war. Whether the fault lay chiefly with the elder colony, jealous of its younger rival; or with the later comers, apprehensive of their powerful neighbor, it is hard to say. At all events,' their feuds accomplished finally their destruction. So bitter was their hatred, that both, in turn, were rash enough to call the Carthaginians to their assistance. The ultimate result, of course, was Carthaginian conquest. The fate of Selinus was appalling. In 409 B.C. the Carthaginian general, Hannibal, with an overwhelming army of one hundred thousand men, captured it by assault, despite a long and desperate resistance, massacred sixteen thousand of its citizens, sent thousands more to slavery in Africa, and razed its fortifications to the ground. Moreover, since the gods of Greece were not the gods of Carthage, he even overthrew its splendid temples, - the pride and glory of the Selinites. There are calamities which give the death-blow to a city as effectively as to a human being. This act of Carthaginian ruthlessness was a stroke which probably no metropolis could have survived. At all events it meant annihilation for Selinus. Once only did it strive to rise again, when the survivors were allowed to reconstruct a little of the town, and live as vassals of the Carthaginians. But even this was deemed, at last, too dangerous by their imperious masters; and about 250 B.C. the few remaining inhabitants were driven from the place, leaving the noble site as desolate as an extinct volcano. Filled with these memories, I slowly made my way among the relics of this ancient city. When I describe them as stupendous, I use the word deliberately. There are no ruins in Europe comparable to them in extent or grandeur. They lie upon two hills: one near the sea, the other somewhat farther inland. The first was the acropolis of the city, and was strongly fortified. On this are strewn the fragments of four temples. Upon the other elevation are the ruins of three more, one of which was unfinished when the Carthaginians smote it with destruction, as many centuries before the birth of Christ as have elapsed since the discovery of America. What most amazed me as I walked among these fallen structures was their excellent preservation. In many instances the mighty blocks still lie precisely as they fell, unharmed by man, and only lightly scarred by time. Hence, they could easily be replaced by modern appliances at the cost of a few thousand dollars. What a fine thing would be accomplished, alike for poverty-stricken Sicily and for the world at large, if some appreciative millionaire would lift into their former places these grand specimens of Grecian art! They are well worth the effort. Not only are their metopes among the first examples of Hellenic sculpture; their columns also are the oldest specimens of the Doric style of architecture in existence. Moreover, the temple thought to have been dedicated to Apollo was one of the largest of the whole Hellenic world; surpassed in size by none except the Ephesian temple of Diana, and that of Jupiter at Agrigen-tum. Its columns, with their capitals, had a height of fifty-three and a half feet; and the circular monolithic drums composing them are not only more than ten feet high, but more than thirty-three feet in circuit, so that six men, in reaching round them, finger tips to finger tips, can barely girdle their circumference.