ENGLISH VERSION | Trophies from battle of Alalia found on the Acropolis of Velia

Some trophies, including two helmets, a Chalcidian one and one of the Negau type, both in great state of conservation, have been found at the Acropolis of Elea-Velia.

The archaeological investigation

On top of the ancient city, the excavations have brought to light the remains of a rectangular structure of remarkable size (18 x 7 meters of length). This building, which is made of mud bricks, is located under the temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena and it is what remains of the most ancient archaic religious place devoted to the deity. The results of the archaeological investigation, as the archaeologist Francesco Ullano Scalza states, have allowed to clarify the topography, the architecture, the intended use and the chronology of the various stages of the Acropolis.

“The structure of the most ancient temple dates back to 540-530 B.C., which is right after the years of the Battle of Alalia – notes Massimo Osanna, General Manager of the Museums and Avocant Director of the Archaeological Park of Paestum and Velia – while the most recent temple, which was thought to be of Hellenistic age, dates back at first glance to 480-450 B.C., and then it underwent a restructuring during the 4th century B.C. Therefore, it’s possible that the Phocaens on the run from Alalia might have erected it shortly after their arrival, as they were used to, after having acquired the necessary land from the locals in order to settle and resume the prosperous trades for which they were known. And to the relics that they offered to their goddess to propitiate her benevolence, they added the weapons they had taken from their enemies during that epic battle which had, in fact, changed the balance of power in the Mediterranean Sea.

velia acropoli
Stratigraphic Sequence
The Trophies

Several trophies, such as painted ceramics marked by the IRE engraving, which means “holy”, and various weapon fragments, have been found inside the temple: among these, we have the pieces of a big, decorated shield and two beautiful helmets, an Etruscan one of the “cap” type, also known as Negau (from the Slovenian area where it was found for the first time), and a Chalcidian one. These two helmets are now being studied in a laboratory, and inscriptions are sought within them that may help reconstruct their history.

“The archaeological findings at the acropolis of Elea-Velia suggest a religious use of the structure. Likely, in this place there were kept the relics that were offered to the goddess Athena after the battle of Alalia, the naval battle that was fought between the Greek refugees of Phocaea and an alliance of Carthaginians and Etruscans, around 541 and 535 B.C. just off the Tyrrhenian Sea, between Corse and Sardinia. Cleared from the earth just a few days ago, the two helmets have yet to be cleaned and studied in a laboratory. Inside them, there might be some inscriptions, which are quite frequent in ancient armors, and these could help us to accurately reconstruct their history, perhaps even the identity of the warriors that wore them. Of course, these are just initial considerations, but they clarify many unknown details of that Eleatic history which happened more than 2500 years ago” – declares Osanna.

velia acropoli
Negau-type helmet

Greek name of the ancient Velia, Elea was one of the richest Poleis of the Magna Graecia. It was an ally of Rome during the Punic Wars, and it became a Roman municipality in 88 B.C. Its decline started from this moment: Rome cut it out of the trade routes, forcing the city (known as Velia) to reduce itself until it became a small fishermen village. During the 9th century, Velia was definitively abandoned in order to avoid malaria and the raids of Saracen pirates, except for the acropolis where the population took refuge and built a strong fortification. This small, fortified town took the name of Castellammare della Bruca and survived until the end of 1600. The first to realize the cultural and historical importance of the place was the archaeologist François Lenormant: the existence of an archaic structure which was antecedent to the main temple of the Acropolis was speculated since the 1920s. Unfortunately, due to the excavations that started during the last century, the surviving settlement of medieval age has almost been destroyed.




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