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Ancient Greek Helmet, Inscription Found in Italy’s Magna Graecia

ancient Greek helmet
An ancient Greek helmet and inscription were just found at the Acropolis of Velia in Italy, in what was then Magna Graecia. Credit: Italian Ministry of Culture

An ancient Greek helmet and inscription were recently unearthed as part of the archaeological excavations at the acropolis of Elea-Velia, in what was once part of Greater Greece, or Magna Graecia.

Massimo Osanna, the Director of the Museum of Velia and the archaeological park of Paestum and Velia, one of the great centers of Greek culture in what is now Italy, states that the structure unearthed atop the Acropolis of Velia was a place of sacrifice to the goddess Athena after the Battle of Alalia, a naval confrontation between the Greeks, Etruscans and the Carthaginians.

The battle, which took place between 541 and 535 BC in the Tyrrhenian Sea between Corsica and Sardinia, was won by the Greeks.

Ancient Greek helmet, inscription help reconstruct history of Magna Graecia

In addition, the archaeologists found the remains of a painted brick wall at the site, which may have been an early form of a temple dedicated to Athena — the ancient Greek goddess of both war and wisdom.

Polygonal blocks — a feature of ancient Greek architecture found at Delphi and other sites — were uncovered by the archeologists working the Velia dig, while the ancient Greek inscription for the word “sacred” was found on pieces of ceramic vases.

Warrior helmet Velia
The excavated ancient Greek warrior’s helmet found at the acropolis of Velia in Italy. Credit: Italian Ministry of Culture

Velia, whose ancient name was Elea, is located just 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Paestum, the site of the best-preserved temples of ancient Greece, as well as the famous “Tomb of the Diver,” with the only ancient Greek fresco surviving from those times.

State Museums Director Massimo Osanna had in the past directed excavations at Pompeii, one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world, which preserved a Roman city in ashes in the year 79 AD, when the Mt. Vesuvius volcano erupted.

Acropolis Velia
An overhead view of the Acropolis of Velia, in what was Magna Graecia. This was once the site of worship of the goddess Athena, archaeologists believe. Credit: Italian Ministry of Culture

Velia was also the base for a school of philosophy, founded by the ancient Greek philosophers Parmenides and Zeno.

The Culture Minister told the press that the discoveries found at Velia, including the ancient Greek helmet and inscription, underscored the importance of investing in archaeological research to reveal “important pieces of the history of the Mediterranean.”

stratigraphy acropolis of Velia
The stratigraphic layers showing the years of habitation at the acropolis of the ancient Greek colony of Velia, including a polygonal wall. The settlement there dates back to the Bronze Age. Credit: Italian Ministry of Culture

The earliest parts of the structure, the researchers say, originate from 540-530 BC, and there are traces of Hellenistic-era remains from 480-450 BC, with the topography and architecture showing the chronology of the various phases of the Acropolis, from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period.

The results of this most recent excavation, the archaeologists say, will make possible a reconstruction of the entire area of the Acropolis to allow for a fuller reconstruction of the history of Magna Graecia.

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