Segesta began life as an Elymian city before the fifth century BC.  The site was abandoned during the sixth century, but is thought to have been finally destroyed by the Saracens around 900 AD.  It was later repopulated around 1100 when it became known as Calatabarbaro - the fortress of the Berbers.  It was finally destroyed around 1220 when the Muslim population was expelled to the mainland after a series of revolts beginning in 1189.  It was presumed by the 1990s excavators of the site, after uncovering the totally buried castle, that this fortress dated from the early thirteenth century, although the church below it was definitely earlier.  Therefore whether the fortress was originally Saracen or Christian is a moot point.  Certainly it was still regarded as a castle in 1293 (castrum Calatabarberi).

The castle consists of an inner rectangular block of 2 storeys surrounding by an outer curtain with many internal buildings.  In the inner ward was a square courtyard surrounded by 5 rectangular buildings whose outer walls made up the enceinte to north, south and west.  To the east lay another suite of 3 rooms and then a thick curtain wall.  In the southeast corner lay an irregular rectangular garderobe projecting only to the south.  This stood next to the stairs to the destroyed upper floor.  To the south were 2 paved and plastered rooms which were probably accommodation, while to the west was another cellar and a kitchen with the main entrance to the site between.  To the north was a cellar in which several amphorae were found - which may indicate that the site was older than is claimed.  In some ways it is similar to the fortress on top of Cefalu mountain.  Certainly the masonry style seems earlier than the thirteenth century as do the occasionally large stones making up the foundations.

Surrounding the inner ward was a polygonal outer ward which butted against an earlier long hall structure to the north.  To the west, next to the inner ward north wall, was another hole in the wall gateway of which only the lower half remains.  Another similar gateway lay roughly centrally in the south curtain.  To the northwest lay the apsed early church which probably dates to a similar era as the castle.  Excavation suggests that it was a twelfth century basilica rebuilt by the citizens of Calatafimi in 1442.

To the southwest are a series of linear classical defences blocking the ravine entrance to the hill top where stood 2 acropolis separated by a valley.  This was naturally defended to east and west by rock faces.  To the west stands the great Doric temple dates to 430-420 BC and to the north the theatre.

Why not join me here and at other Sicilian castles?  Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly Sojourns.


Copyright©2019 Paul Martin Remfry