or Soluntum was one of Sicily’s three Punic towns, along with
Motya and Palermo; it enjoys a splendid position on the slopes of
the Monte Catalfano with views over the sea beyond Capo Zafferano.
It was founded by the Carthaginians in the 4th century BC, possibly
beside or among the ruins of an old Phoenician town; about a century
later, it became a Roman dominion. Its name has a double origin:
one is legendary, it having been related to the evil creature Soluntus
who was defeated by Heracles in this very area; the other links
it to the Carthaginian word Selaim, meaning ‘crag’.
urban layout conforms with the Classical principles upheld by Hippodamus
of Miletus, arranged orthogonally around a decumanus maximus and
perpendicular side streets enclosing insulae (blocks); a network
of intersecting narrow passages was here inserted to drain away
water. The precipitous site required terraces to be built, and for
additional living space to be accommodated in tall houses. Although
the upper storeys no longer survive, the flights of steps providing
access are still visible.
and visit – Starting from Bagheria, cross the level crossing
near the station and turn down the SS 113 towards Porticello. A
minor road forks left towards the hill. The way up to the ruins
passes the Antiquarium just inside the gate, which displays artefacts
recovered from the site, including a fragment of fresco with a tragic
– Via delle Terme. The thermal baths complex preserves the
under-floor brick supports which enabled hot air to circulate and
heat the rooms from below, and a small room with a mosaic floor
which served as a bath.
dell’Agorà – The decumanus maximus is partly
paved in stone and, rather unusually, in terracotta. It bisects
the town on a south-west to north-east axis, extending to the forum,
here designated with the Greek name agorà.
– This is the name commonly given to the patrician house with
an atrium and a peristyle, from which there remain three Doric columns
and part of the entablature, complete with
frieze of metopes and triglyphs and cornice. At the rear, a staircase
would have provided access to the floor above.
Ippodamo da Mileto – This is a cardo: from the bottom, a magnificent
view extends over the bay of Palermo and Monte Pellegrino.
di Leda – This large patrician house is so-called because
it contains a wall frescoed with Leda and the Swan. The house is
arranged around a peristyle (as indicated by the stump of a corner
column and cavities for the other columns) indicated with an impluvium
in which rain water was collected (surrounded by a mosaic cornice
with black and white volutes) before being piped to an oval cistern
set before and below it. One of the rooms facing out onto the peristyle
is frescoed in the fourth Pompeiian style. At the sides of this
room, probably a triclinium, steps would have lead to the first
– The square, enclosed on all sides by public buildings, was
lined with shops (at the far end). On the east side, there was a
large public tank: note the bases of the 26 columns that supported
– Little survives of the theatre; its shape, however, is still
discernible from the air. It was built with rows of seating cut
in part from the bedrock – as with the theatre at Segesta.
The original building dates from Hellenistic times, although this
was substantially altered in Roman times; note how the orchestra
is now semicircular; the Greek orchestra would have been larger
and formed almost two-thirds of a circle. The small round construction
on the eastern side may probably have constituted a small temple
used for initiation rites associated with the cult of the gods.
– The small theatre was intended for musical performances
of council meetings; the parts still in evidence include the orchestra
and a few rows of cavea seating.
Romana – This spacious two-storey house was graced with a
peristyle. The stairs indicate the way up to the first floor.
the villa, there is a beautiful view of Capo Zafferano and the little
town of Sant’Elia. On the right, at the far end of the bay,
crowning the tip of the headland stand the ruins of the medieval
castle of Solanto.