Segesta (Sicilian: Seggesta) was the political center of the Elymian people, located in the northwestern part of Sicily, in what are now the province of Trapani and the comune of Calatafimi-Segesta.
According to the tradition used in Virgil's Aeneid, Segesta was founded jointly by the territorial king Acestes (who was son of the local river Crinisus by a Dardanian woman named Segesta or Egesta) and by those of Aeneas' folk who wished to remain behind with Acestes to found the city of Acesta.
The belief that the name of the city was originally Acesta or Egesta and changed to Segesta by the Romans to avoid its ill-omened meaning in Latin is disproved by coins showing that Segesta was indeed the earlier name.
Segesta (Egesta to the Greeks) was one of the major cities of the Elymian people, one of the three indigenous peoples of Sicily. The other major cities of the Elymians were Eryx and Entella.
The population of Segesta was mixed Elymian and Ionian Greek, though the Elymians soon Hellenized and took on external characteristics of Greek life.
Segesta was in eternal conflict with Selinus (modern Selinunte), which probably tried to assure itself a port on the Tyrrhenian Sea. The first clashes were in 580-576 BC, and again in 454 BC, but later the conflict would have repercussions for all of Sicily.
In 415 BC Segesta asked Athens for help against Selinus, leading to a disastrous Athenian expedition in Sicily (415-413 BC). Later they asked Carthage for help, leading to the total destruction of the city of Selinus by the hands of Carthage. Segesta remained an ally of Carthage, it was besieged by Dionysius of Syracuse in 397 BC, and it was destroyed by Agathocles in 307 BC, but recovered.
In 276 BC the city was allied with Pyrrhus, but changed side in 260 BC when it surrendered to the Romans. The city was not punished by the Romans for its long alliance with Carthage, but owing to the mythical common origin of the Romans and the Elymians (both descendants of refugees from Troy) it was granted the state of a "free and immune" city.
In 104 BC the slave rebellion led by Athenion started in Segesta.
Little is known about the city under Roman rule, but it is probable that the population gradually moved to the port city of Castellammare del Golfo due to the better trading opportunities.
The city was destroyed by the Vandals.
The ruins of the city are located on the top of Monte Bàrbaro at 305m above sea level. The city was protected by steep slopes on several sides and by walls on the more gentle slope towards the temple.
The hilltop offers a view over the valley towards the Gulf of Castellamare. The city controlled several major roads between the coast to the north and the hinterland.
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