When we initially thought about developing Ethica Heritage, we imagined a location with archeological sites representing the quintessential qualities of the Western World: archaeology, migration, architecture, and art. Along with these factors, we also considered great food—another boundless asset of Cilento. Paestum was undoubtedly the site to explore and is an archeological gem of Campania’s region and is an important UNESCO World Heritage site (since 1998). This region of Cilento and has a vibrant cultural landscape.
Once Poseidonia (sacred to Poseidon) was founded in c.600 BCE by earlier exiled Greek colonists from Sybaris (Calabria), the area was more than likely occupied by another human settlement when they arrived. The migration of Greeks into Cilento was part of a wave of Greek colonization referred to as Magna Graecia. Later the Romans renamed Poseidonia in c.273 BCE. The Romans razed the city but did not destroy the temples. The area continued to prosper until, according to Strabo, the mouth of the river Silararus started to be buried with sand and silt, and the whole place turned into a malarial swamp. The swamp also encroached on the urban settlement, and Paestum inhabitants abandoned the site after Muslim raiders sacked the city in c. AD 871. Visitors feel this influence of 3000 years when walking through the Via Sacra and the city’s three surviving temples dedicated to Zeus’ wife, Hera, and one to Athena.
In the mid-eighteenth century, Paestum was also part of the excitement of the age of discoveries of nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum. However, Paestum was always known to the local population. Winckelmann studied these important temples and posited that Roman architecture developed from the Greek foundational style of the Doric order.
During a walk through the archaeological site of Paestum, visitors will perceive a spiritual and emotional calmness and sense of belonging to this area which is embedded in our emotional capacities to experience historical sites and art.