Walk in the footsteps of philosophers in the Ancient Greek city of Elea Velia, now one of the Magna Graecia archaeological sites in Cilento National Park. With the beautiful Cilento Italy as a backdrop, this is one of Italy’s most interesting heritage sites for Ancient Greek architecture and archaeology.
My name is Silvia Braggio. I work as a professional guide in this region – Campania – in South Italy. We are here in the province of Salerno. This is the Cilento area.
You can see here the coastline. It’s a national park – this coastline is a protected area. We can realise here why the Greeks came here and founded Greek cities. We are in Magna Graecia – Greater Greece, where the Greeks founded Greek cities, because these were strategic places.
Here we are in the archaeological area of Elea–Velia, the Greek city founded by Greek colonies in around 540 B.C. They chose this place because it is strategically by the sea. We should imagine that the coastline is right here – the sea has retreated over the centuries.
In front of us is the original gate, called Porta Marina – the gate to the trading port. There is one large entrance and a more narrow entrance on the left for pedestrians.
The remains we have here are only a small part of the Greek city. We will cross the hills, all the way up there to the highest point to the medieval tower we see up there, where there was the first Greek settlement. Once we get up there you will realise why the Greeks chose this place for the Greek city – strategically located on the sea.
Here we can see a detail of the way of building of the Greeks in this city. We can see a wall built up of alternating blocks – big sandstone blocks with the small stones we see here, taken from the rivers that used to flank the city. It is a typical technique that we find in this Greek city.
Now we are entering the old Greek city through its original pedestrian gate that you can see here. We feel like explorers!
In this residential area of the Greek city, there are remains of mainly houses and we find a Greek road. That’s quite rare. This Greek city was never really Romanised – transformed and reconstructed by the Romans – and we still have a Greek road. They’re not easy to find! You can see the difference compared to Roman roads which always have large stones. Here we find very small stones. We can see here this Greek road that we started to follow, crossing the hill. Along the Greek road, we find a very typical Roman bath. We can see the drainage system coming out. Here’s the entrance to the Roman bath, where the Romans used to create different temperatures, tepid or hot, and relax – having a massage, a sauna, or just a hot bath.
We find here the best preserved part of this Greek road. You can see here that it’s still really perfect, still crossing the hill, and – in our imagination – the original Greek city which would have been all around the road here. Let’s imagine the remains of the city along the road here, still buried. A small part of the Greek city has been uncovered here. We imagine that this was quite an important city, occupying a huge area, surrounded by a city wall about three miles long.
Still following the Greek road, it now leads us to something very special and quite unique in Greek art and architecture. We will find it at the end of the Greek road.
Imagine the archaeologists digging here, following this Greek road, which they completely brought to light. In 1964, they found the first remains of the archaic gate – as it was called. Then, still following the Greek road, they uncovered something extraordinary – the most important discovery of this archaeological area. The round arch we see here – the only round arch we know of from the Greek age, dating back to around 350 B.C. Very probably it was part of a special defensive system in this Greek city – quite unusual for the Greek age. Once this was thought to be a gate to the city – you can see the wall up there. Then, digging on the other side of the hill, some other remains of the rest of the city were found, and this means that this arch was right in the centre of the Greek city. That’s when the archaeologists realised that this was a wall dividing the city right in the middle. From the highest point, following the slope of the hill, it divided the city into two big areas. As part of the defensive system, together with the city wall, which went all around the city. If one part of the city fell into the hands of enemies, they could still try to defend the other part of the Greek city.
From the Greek road, we can directly reach the highest point in the Greek city – where the very first Greek settlement was founded. The Greeks, arriving from the sea, found this high promontory directly next to the sea, surround by the sea – very strategic. They chose the highest point as their first settlement. Later, the city developed down there, directly on the coastline, and the highest point became their acropolis. Before reaching the very special point of view, we find here remains of a Greek theatre. It’s a very typical Greek theatre, because it’s not really built up, but made using the natural slope of the hill with the seats all around in front of a stage. The typical shape of a Greek theatre was a half circle, of which we can still see a small part that has survived here. The spectators could sit on the seats there looking directly at the sea as a background for the stage.
On the acropolis, we find a mixture of two completely different ages. There are the remains of the Greek acropolis – the Greek sanctuary – but quite evident here is this tower, which dates back to the twelfth century. That’s very much in the medieval age, when a defensive system was made along the coastline here, with these watchtowers in strategic points. This tower was built using – recycling – some materials from the original Greek sanctuary. They’re still visible on the tower – and not only the tower. In the medieval age this was still a strategic place, and it became a fortification – a small, fortified, strategic place. From the tower here and all around we should imagine a wall – of which we still have a small part – some remains of another round tower, and what remains of a Greek temple – very probably dedicated to the goddess Athena, the goddess of wisdom and military strategy, which used to directly face the sea.
Now here, at the end of this nice walk through the archaeological area and the Mediterranean vegetation, we find a very strategic point. We realise here why these Greeks, coming from the sea, chose this place. So strategic, surrounded by the sea, very easy to defend.
This has just been a little taste of what it’s possible to see here, what there is to explore in this archaeological area in south Italy. I would like to invite people from all over the world to come here and feel like explorers. Goodbye from Silvia – and Kiss From The World.