Velia acropolis theatre.

Ancient helmets and temple ruins uncovered in southern Italy

By Region Culture News Southern Italy

The finds discovered at the acropolis at Velia date to the sixth-century BC Battle of Alalia. It was then that the Greeks defeated the Etruscans and Carthaginians at sea.

Two ancient warrior helmets, metal fragments believed to have come from weapons, and the remains of a temple have been discovered at Velia. The area of the now Archaeological Park of Paestum-Velia in southern Italy was once a powerful Greek colony.

Battle of Alalia

The helmets are in good condition and may have inscriptions inside them, something quite common in ancient armour. Any inscriptions could help reconstruct with precision their history and perhaps the identity of the warriors who wore them.

Experts believe the helmets and metal fragments date to the sixth-century BC Battle of Alalia.  It was 540 BC when, off the coast of Corsica, the first great naval battle of history took place. Herodotus described the epic struggle which saw the powerful Phoecians, Greek colonists who had settled in the Corsican city of Alalia, come under the joint attack of Etruscans and Carthaginians. Herodotus also maintained the Greeks won the day.

However, the remaining ships were not fit for further battles. They took on board families, abandoned Alalia and set sail for southern Italy. There they founded Hyele, later known as Velia.

Velia formed part of Magna Graecia, which referred to the southern Italian coastal areas colonised by the Greeks. It is also the birthplace of the Greek philosopher, Parmenides.

Excavations “shed fresh light”

The excavations at Velia also yielded the remains of walls of a temple and vases with the Greek inscription “sacred”. The relics were discovered on what would have been the acropolis, or upper part, of the ancient Greek city.

Massimo Osanna, the director general of Italian museums, said the discoveries “shed fresh light on the history of the powerful Greek colony”. Culture Minister Dario Franceschini also hailed the find. He stressed the importance of “continuing to invest with conviction in archaeological research that keeps yielding major pieces of the history of the Mediterranean”.

Franceschini last week named Tiziana D’Angelo the new director of Paestum and Velia archaeological park. D’Angelo is among the youngest directors of a leading Italian cultural site. She takes over the role from Gabriel Zuchtriegel, who now manages Pompeii.

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