Thursday, March 14, 2013


"In this vicinity an Englishman and his wife, Mr and Mrs Hunt, had been shot and robbed a few years before, and this did not fail to be recalled to my recollection.  However, I went boldly up and inquired if they could point out any path across the marsh to Paestum, where I wished to rest for the night. . . . I kept along the path for some distance, when I reached the ruins of the Temples of Paestum . . .

The daylight had now for some time left me, but the moon shone bright.  Everything around was as silent as the grave.  The wind had died away, and I heard no longer even the ripple of the waves.  I had no occasion to hurry to the locanda to secure a bed, as it was not likely that any other weary traveller would be there.  I turned therefore, into the ruins of the temples - into that one dignified with the title of the Temple of Neptune - and seated myself on what is supposed to have been its ancient altar.  The massive pillars threw a deep shade across the ruins, and formed a beautiful contrast with the parts illuminated by the pale light of the moon.  There was a perfect silence, yet I was in the centre of what had once been a populous town  Its inhabitants must have been rich and highly civilised, else they could never have raised to their gods such a magnificent edifice.  It still remained a monument of their power, while their names and deeds of glory had long passed into oblivion.  It is curious that these temples should not be alluded to by ancient writers, and were even unknown to travellers till the middle of the last century . . .

At daybreak I was roused by a scarecrow of a boy suffering from dropsy, and I found that this was a very prevalent disease in the vicinity, arising from the stagnant water which they are obliged to drink.  All the peasants whom I met on my former visit had a pale, unhealthy appearance, which is caused by the misamata, or marsh."

- Craufurd Tait Ramage from Ramage In South Italy, originally published as The Nooks And By-Ways Of Italy

When Craufurd Ramage, tutor to the sons of the British Consul in Naples, visited Paestum in 1826 on his walk from Naples to Calabria he found a deserted, dangerous and lonely site haunted by the memories of a glorious past.

Paestum, located along the Gulf of Salerno, south of Naples,was founded by Greek colonists in the 7th century BC and called Poseidonia.  This was part of the larger migration of Greeks to Southern Italy and Sicily in the 8th and 7th centuries BC, a migration so large that Southern Italy became known as Magna Graecia ("Great Greece").  Three large temples were built in Paestum during the 6th, 5th and 4th centuries BC and these remain the best-preserved Greek temples on the Italian mainland.  Paestum was conquered by the Romans in 273BC and remained loyal during Hannibal's campaign in the region sixty years later, a loyalty richly rewarded by Rome and the city continued to be very prosperous. 

As Rome declined, so did Paestum and by the 7th century AD it was abandoned and forgotten for the next thousand years.  The area became known as a marshy, malarial and lawless region with few inhabitants.

When we visited it, 184 years after Ramage, we found it very pleasant, peaceful and with relatively few other tourists. 

Walking through the ruins of the city:

The temples:

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