Thursday, April 25, 2013


April 25

At sunrise we were at last permitted to walk down the hill, and at every step the scenery became more picturesque.  Convinced that he was only serving our best interests, the little man led us through the lush vegetation without stopping once, though we passed thousands of singular views, any one of which would have made a subject for an idyllic picture. The ground beneath our feet undulated like waves over the hidden ruins.  The shell-tufa of which these were built ensures the fertility of the soil which now covers them.  In due course we came to the eastern limit of the city where, year after year, the ruins of the Temple of Juno fall into greater and greater decay because their porous stone is eroded by wind and weather.  We only meant to make a cursory examination today, but Kniep has already chosen the points from which he will sketch tomorrow.

The temple stands on a foundation of weathered rock.  From this point the city wall ran due east along the edge of a limestone hill which falls in precipices to the shore plain.  The sea which once washed the base of these cliffs must have receded to the present shoreline in a fairly remote age.  The city walls were partly built of quarried stone and partly hewn out of the solid rock. Behind the walls rose the temple.  It is easy to imagine what a stupendous sight the rising tiers of Gigenti must have looked from the sea.

The slender architecture of the Temple of Concord, which has withstood so many centuries, already conforms more nearly to our standard of beauty and harmony than the style which preceded it – compared to Paestum, it is like the image of a god as opposed to the image of a giant.

Since the intention was so laudable, one ought not to complain, I suppose, but what has recently been done to preserve these monuments is in very poor taste.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey (1786-1788), translated by W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer, New York, Pantheon Press, 1962.

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