O Sicilia. Of Selinunte, hounds, and a leopard

Approaching the ruined city of Selinunte

We were alone.

The ruined city lay naked before the sun.

A feral dog followed us up the road.

Wild Sicilian dogs are a breed with ancient roots leading back to Egypt and the dog god Anubis, jackal-like, with pointed ears, and associated with the afterlife (though later supplanted by Osiris).

The one who followed us did not seem endowed with divine powers but was merely hungry and wandered away once it realized that we had nothing for it to hound us for.

We climbed up the stairway. Atop the ancient fortress wall, temples were being reconstructed out of the materials scattered across the landscape.

One story we read about the city’s destruction said that an earthquake leveled it. Another story claimed that the Romans ripped it down as revenge for its citizens taking the side of Carthage in the wars that led to Roman domination of the Mediterranean.

Other Greek cities flourished on the western shore of Sicily—Segesta, Agrigento, among smaller ones—and we would visit them all, but Selinunte is the one that haunts the memory. Wild and alone.

Garibaldi’s liberation force—called The Thousand and, more famously, The Redshirts—landed not far from here at Marsala, and moved on to lay siege to Palermo.

Not far from here is the region immortalized by Giuseppe di Lampedusa in his novel The Leopard, which was the basis for the Luchino Visconti epic film of Sicily during the Risorgimento. Was Burt Lancaster looking over our shoulder? It seemed like it at the time.

All photos in this series were taken by either R or DC Young. We only had one camera at the time and didn’t keep track of who took which photo.

1 Comment

  1. Was very fortunate to see this without scaffolding nearly twenty years ago when my students were taken to Sicily for a Classics trip.

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