Paestum was founded as a colony by the Greek city of Sybaris around 600 B.C. and was first named Posidonia. It flourished with the rest of Magna Graecia through the 6th cent. B.C. The Romans took the city in 273 B.C. and called it Paestum. The ruins, near the present Pesto, include some of the finest and best-preserved Doric temples in existence.

The three Paestum temples are all in the Archaic Doric style with heavy columns and capitals, or as Goethe termed them, ‘oppressive.’ Paestum’s now crudely exposed shell stone shafts were originally covered with lime stucco.

The southernmost of the temples, the Basilica, was built about 530 B.C., with the Temple of Poseidon dating from about 460 B.C. The third, farther north is the Temple of Ceres, from about 510 B.C.