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Agrigento (Greek: Akragas, Latin: Agrigentum) was a Greek-founded city-state located on the south coast of Sicily near the river Akragas (now S. At its peak, the city may have had as many as 300,000 inhabitants, and it was enclosed by over 12 km of fortification walls which included nine gates. The prosperity of Agrigento is attested by the magnificent 5th-century BCE architecture which survives today and which makes it one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the Mediterranean. Agrigento is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
In mythology, Agrigento was founded by Daedalus and his son Icarus following their flight from Crete, but in the historical record, the city-state or polis was founded c. 580 BCE by settlers from Rhodes and Crete who had a century earlier founded the nearby city of Gela. The most notable early ruler was the tyrant Phalaris (c. 570-549 BCE) who expanded the city's influence in the surrounding territory and built the impressive fortification walls. The tyrant became famous in legend because of his innovative approach to executions. The condemned were put inside a huge bronze bull which was then heated over a fire. Phalaris was tickled by the screams coming from inside the bull which made it seem like the animal was bellowing with rage.
A similar period of local dominance was enjoyed during the reign of another tyrant Theron (c. 489-473 BCE) who was noted as a just ruler and patron of the arts. Siding with Syracuse against Carthage, the city prospered following the battle of Himera in 480 BCE, although there was a significant battle with Hieron, the tyrant of Syracuse, in c. 472 BCE. From this period the city became known for its architectural splendour, especially its large Doric temples built using sandstone. So much so, that Pindar, in writing an ode to an Olympic victor, wrote: "Akragas, the most beautiful city the mortals had ever built." Diodorus described the city as one of the richest in the Greek world and the noted philosopher and medical expert Empedocles (c. 492-432 BCE), who came from Agrigento, famously said of the city's inhabitants and their easy living: "...they party as if they will die tomorrow, and build as if they will live for ever."
Agrigentans 'party as if they will die tomorrow, and build as if they will live forever.' Empedocles
Agrigento was neutral in the war between Athens and Syracuse in 413 BCE but was attacked, besieged for seven months, and then destroyed by the Carthaginians in 406 BCE - emphatic revenge for their defeat at Himera in 480 BCE. The town did eventually recover and became an important Hellenistic settlement, but Agrigento was again sacked in 262 BCE and 210 BCE, this time by the Romans. However, the new masters did ensure a new period of prosperity for Agrigento. The Hellenistic-Roman area of the city survives in part today and was laid out in a regular grid pattern with six principal roads dividing the town into bands. Villas with surviving frescoes and mosaics attest to the wealth enjoyed by some of the city's residents. The town continued to prosper into the Byzantine period and the distinctive semicircular tombs carved into the sandstone rocks can still be seen by the modern visitor.
The Temple of Concord
Constructed between 450 and 430 BCE, it is one of the best-preserved Greek temples anywhere and is often described as the Parthenon of Magna Graecia. Measuring 40 x 17 metres, the Doric temple was probably dedicated to Castor and Pollux. The interior consists of a pronaos, cella, and opistodomos, where treasure, offerings, and public records were kept. There are six columns on each façade and 13 along the longer sides; each consists of four fluted drums. The frieze has alternating triglyphs and plain metopes. The temple is in such good condition largely because it was converted into a Christian basilica in 597 CE when the interior was converted into arcades with three naves.
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The Temple of the Dioscuri (Castor & Pollux)
The name is a convention and the remains today were reconstructed in the 19th century CE. Originally, the 5th-century BCE temple measured around 34 x 16 metres and had a 6 x 13 arrangement of external columns. It was destroyed in the siege of 406 BCE. In front of the temple is a circular altar, once used to sacrifice animals and pour libations in religious ceremonies and an important part of the sanctuary to Demeter and Persephone.
The Temple of Hercules
The oldest temple at the site was built c. 510 BCE in honour of the Greek hero Hercules who was particularly revered at Agrigento. The temple base measures 73.9 x 27.7 metres and the full height would have been around 16 metres. Originally, there were 6 columns on each façade and 15 along the sides, but today only nine are still standing, re-erected in 1922 CE. Each column was composed of four fluted drums and the pediment would have carried decorative sculpture. A bronze statue once stood in the interior.
The Temple of Juno (Hera Lacinia)
Constructed between 450 and 430 BCE, the Doric temple measured around 41 x 20 metres and 15.3 m in height. Originally, there were six columns on each façade and 13 along the long sides. Each column consists of four drums and 30 are still standing today. Interestingly, one can still see here and there the black stains of fire damage caused by the Carthaginian attack in 406 BCE. Within the temple stood a statue of the goddess, Hera (Roman name: Juno), revered for her role as protectress of marriages and wedding ceremonies, and rites would have once taken place outside the temple; the ruins of the massive altar can still be seen today.
The Temple of Zeus
The massive temple of Zeus (or Olympieion) was built in the 480s BCE to commemorate the victory over Carthage at the battle of Himera. One of the largest temples built in antiquity, measuring around 113 x 56 metres and standing on a five-step base, it was 33 metres high and the size of a modern football stadium. It was also unusual in that instead of the typical external free-standing columns, the unusually thick columns (7 on the façades x 14 on the long sides) were engaged in a half-wall, and the upper interspaces between the columns were filled with huge atlantide figures (the male version of the caryatid, also known as telemones) seemingly holding up the roof with their bent arms. These 38 god-like figures were 7.6 metres tall, but their exact positioning is still debated by scholars. The height of the temple columns alone was 16.88 metres, and their width at the base 4.22 metres. According to Diodorus, the pediments had sculptures representing a gigantomachy and scenes from the Trojan War.
The temple is also an early and rare example in Greek architecture of the use of iron within the stone blocks. Slots were cut into the stones of the architrave into which were placed iron bars (31 x 10 cm) which provided structural support while the stones were assembled into position. They had no beneficial effect once the blocks were in place but provided tensile strength whilst construction was ongoing for the large architrave blocks which spanned the unusually large gap between columns. The temple was actually not quite finished when it was destroyed by the Carthaginians in 406 BCE.
Tradition ascribed this monument to Theron, considering it his tomb, but, in fact, the structure is a 1st-century BCE Roman monument probably commemorating the siege of 262 BCE. A combination of Doric and Ionic architectural elements, the monument is 9.3 m high and 5.2 m wide. A slender pyramid, now lost, once stood atop the structure.
Other Structures & Artefacts
Other structures of note are the temple of Hephaistos, built c. 430 BCE, of which only two columns and a part of the base survive. There is also the temple of Asclepius, the centrepiece of a 10,000 square metre sanctuary to the god of healing constructed between 400 and 390 BCE. Finally, there is also a well-preserved 4th-century BCE Ekklesiasterion, once used for public assemblies.
Unsurprisingly for such an important settlement, the site is also a rich source of artefacts dating back to the Neolithic period. Star pieces include some of the huge atlantides from the temple of Zeus, a fine marble kouros, an expressive marble warrior torso, finely carved Roman sarcophagi, and an excellent selection of Greek red and black-figure pottery. These are all housed in the Archaeological Museum of Agrigento.
Agrigento is a city on the southern coast of Sicily in Italy, famous for its Valley of Greek temples. The city, surrounded by greenery and perched on the hill, is magnificent, and one of the most important tourist destinations in Sicily. Modern Agrigento is a vibrant and pulsating city that caters to every need of the tourists that visit here. The valley of the Greek temples was first put on the map in the 18 th century by Goethe and since then has been the most visited place in the city. The city itself, along with its inhabitants and its culture, has a Greek flavor.
Sight seeing attractions of Agrigento
Valley of Temples
The valley of temples is the most important site in the city to explore these temples are divided into two zones, eastern and western zones. The Temple of Hercules is the oldest among all the temples it was built around the end of the 6 th century BC. The Temple of Concord is quite impressive in size and is still standing almost complete after all these centuries. The Temple of Juno stands above on a little cliff and is partially ruined the location offers good views of the other temples as well as the ridge. Apart from these, there are two more temples and an old tomb at the site. Guided tours are available at the location.
Temple of Concord in Agrigento
The Archeological museum and the Roman quarters
The archaeological museum is quite an interesting museum since it has a huge collection of the pieces found at the site of the Valley of Temples. It has a lot of information on the subject and there is a huge telamon which was reconstructed from pieces. Across the street from the museum is the ancient Roman quarter which has quite a lot of good mosaics that are noteworthy.
The cathedral is located on Via Duomo in the old part of the city. The cathedral was first built in 1000 AD and has been restored and repaired several times since then. The architecture of the cathedral is quite marvelous and it offers amazing views of the valley beneath.
Cathedral in Agrigento
Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Greci
This is an old Norman church which was built before approximately 1000 years. It is quite an interesting church since it is built on the site of an ancient Greek temple and the architecture is quite unique in its own way.
Via Atena is a lively street in the Old center of the city. The street is filled with tiny shops on both sides selling all types of trinkets and locally made products. The street comes alive with locals doing their daily shopping, and in the evenings it is a great place to experience the local lifestyle.
Almond Blossom Festival
The almond blossom festival or as it is known, Festa Del Mandorlo is held every year towards the end of February and is a great time to visit Agrigento. The city is very lively at this time of the year with several events and festivities held during the festival, quite an enjoyable way to witness the culture of the city.
Getting to Agrigento
There are frequent trains that connect Agrigento to other cities in the region like Palermo and the other smaller towns however, getting to the city from the eastern coast can be a little difficult by train since the journey takes long hours. Buses run frequently from Agrigento to the other cities and towns in Sicily these buses are quite reliable and inexpensive. Agrigento has a port from where boats and ferries leave at regular intervals to the nearby islands and coastal cities the port is 3 Km from the city and buses to the port are available.
Moving Around the City
The public buses are the best way to travel within the city these buses cover most parts of the city and are quite frequent. Tickets need to be bought before boarding the bus from the stations. Visitors can also move around the city on foot, since the streets here are quite pedestrian friendly and pleasant to walk around and explore on foot.
San Lorenzo Church in Agrigento
Stay and accommodation
Since Agrigento is a major tourist hub and quite a large city the options for accommodation in the city are quite good. If you are looking for budget hotels, there are quite a lot of hotels around the train station some of the options are Villa Nicoletta, Belvedere and Oceano and Mare. There are also a few mid range hotels in the city like Camere a sud, Hotel Baglio della luna, Agrigento Hotel Villa holiday and many more. The high end hotels would be Hotel Costa Azzura, Hotel Dioscuri Bay Palace and Hotel Villa Athena. The high end hotels are all quite luxurious with international standards of services.
There are plenty of restaurants, cafes, bistros and bars in the city all serving local as well as international cuisines. The restaurants run by the high end hotels in the city are all quite posh and elegant and offer gourmet food with a local twist. If you visit the old quarter of the city you would find plenty of small family run restaurants that serve regional dishes in a cozy informal environment. Agrigento has a long history of Greek civilization and it shows in its culture as well its people and its food. The local dishes in Agrigento all have a touch of Greek flavors and make use of traditional Greek food items like eggplants and olive oil based dishes. One of the best ways to get a taste of the local food is to visit one of the many family run smaller restaurants and ask for local dishes with Greek influences, these restaurants are quite inexpensive and serve up dishes made from fresh local produce.
Shopping in Agrigento
Agrigento has several shopping complexes that sell branded merchandise. The old quarter of the city has several streets that sell locally made products, handicrafts and various interesting souvenirs that are unique to this region.
Agrigento is located in a province along with two very important towns known as Licata and Naro. Naro still contains well-preserved catacombs (also known as caves for burial) where the earliest Christians hid to worship.
The poor village near Agrigento called the Contrada (defined as Chaos), is where Luigi Pirandello was born. He was probably the most famous Italian dramatist. He was also a novelist, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934.
History and culture
The history of Agrigento begins in 581 b.C. , when it was founded under the name of Akragas by a group of Greek colonists. The city reached the height of its splendor in the 5th century B.C. under the tyrant Tenore, who extended his dominion out to the northern coasts of Sicily. During this period, art and culture were intensely pursued in the city. It was in this period that the temple of Olympian Zeus was constructed, as well most of the other temples, rendering Agrigento, according to the Greek poet Pindaro, "The most beautiful among the dwellings of mortals."
The year 406 was a tragic one in the history of Agrigento: the city was defeated by Hannibal and the Carthaginians, who completed destroyed the city. Agrigento was refounded in the 4th century by the statesman and general Timoleon. During this period, the new Hellenic quarter was constructed, signaling the grand rebirth of Hellenistic art and culture in Agrigento, until 210 B.C., when the city came under Roman rule.
After the fall of Imperial Rome, the city did not return to its former splendor until after the Arab and Norman occupations. In the 9th century, the Arabs built a new city, which still stands today as both medieval and modern Agrigento. In 1087, they were succeeded by the Norman occupation. With the construction of numerous churches, the Normans gave new life to the Christian arts and culture. The fortifications they built defended Agrigento from the incursions of Saracen pirates.
The 18th century marked another cardinal moment for the history of the city: the flowering of the baroque period in Agrigento, evident today in nearly all the churches in the city. In the following years, the city suffered under the ill-governing of the Bourbons, as did all of Sicily, until 1860, when Sicily officially linked itself with the Kingdom of Italy. The 20th century marked the advent of chaotic construction development in the city, which has threatened the very integrity of the archeological zone.
AGRIGENTO (Girgenti), town in Sicily. The Jewish community of Agrigento dates to classical antiquity, as attested by a tombstone found there, perhaps of the fifth century. In 598, during the pontificate of *Gregory the Great, a number of Jews were converted to Christianity. The community continued to exist throughout the period of Muslim domination and Girgenti is mentioned in a letter from the Cairo *Genizah c. 1060. The Jewish community is recorded in 1254 when the revenues from the Jews were taxed in favor of the church. ⫺raj da Agrigento was one of the most active translators employed by Charles of Anjou in Naples. In 1397 the Jews of Agrigento had to equip a force of 200 foot soldiers for one of King Martin I of Aragon's military expeditions. In 1426 the citizens of Agrigento petitioned unsuccessfully for royal permission to enforce anti-Jewish measures. In 1476 King John II ordered that the money bequeathed by Solomon Anello to promote Hebrew learning in Agrigento be given instead to Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada (alias Flavius Mithridates), a Sicilian Jewish convert to Christianity. Among the reasons cited was the accusation that Jewish schools in the city taught calumnies against the Christian faith, alluding to the spread of a certain Hebrew book among Sicilian Jews. This book is thought to have been Toledot Yeshu ("The Life of Jesus"), a medieval pseudo-history of the life of Jesus. Anello's heirs contested the decision but in the end the school was closed down and the revenues were assigned to Moncada. In 1477 a compromise was reached and the Jews of Agrigento were ordered to provide Moncada a house in Palermo instead of the school building in their city. That same year the heirs of Solomon Anello finally succeeded in repossessing some of the books and estate. At the time of the expulsion of the Jews from territory under Spanish rule in 1492 the municipal treasurer was imprisoned for speculation at Jewish expense.
G. Di Giovanni, L⟫raismo della Sicilia (1748), 289 B. and G. Lagumina, Codice diplomatico dei giudei di Sicilia, 1 (1884), 6, 21, 182, 388 2 (1895), 184 3 (1909), 116 Roth, Italy, index Milano, Ital, index C. Roth, in: JQR, 47 (1956/57), 329 (= idem, Gleanings (1967), 74). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Simonsohn, "Some Well-Known Jewish Converts during the Renaissance," REJ, 148 (1989), 17 idem, The Jews in Sicily, 6 vols. (1997) H. Bresc, Arabes de langue, juifs de religion. L'évolution du judaïsme sicilien dans lɾnvironment latin, XII e –XV e siຌles (2001).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.
Agrigento and Its Ruins in Sicily
Agrigento is a city located in southwest Sicily, Italy. Agrigento is the capital city of the Agrigento Province. It is located near the top of Mediterranean Sea. The city is famous for the ancient museums, Roman ruins and several other archaeological structures. The city is a major tourist attraction and an agricultural market. Altough, in Italy, Agrigento's per capita is the lowest. Agrigento is also called Acragas (Greek) and Kerkent (Arabic). Agrigento means “Valley of the temples”.
One of the main features of Agrigento is its agriculture. The people have adapted different styles in cultivation here. The world’s best strawberries are available here. Apart from its agriculture, the major attraction of Agrigento lies in its ruins.
Valley of the Temples: Includes 7 ancient building remains. The 7 buildings include: Temple of Juno, Temple of Concordia, Temple of Heracles, Temple of Zeus Olympic, Temple of Castor and Pollux, Temple of Vulcan, and Temple of Asclepius
Castle of Poggio Diana: this castle was built in the 13th century and is home to thirty separate tombs.
Roman Temple of Olympian Zeus: this temple was never fully constructed, but remained in ruins. This temple is one of the most significant Greek temples.
The fallen Atlas: the fallen Atlas is a part the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The Atlas fell during the time of its construction. Over the years, many people thought of restoring the Atlas, but because of its poor condition, it was left as “fallen”.
Agrigento was founded around 580 BC. The city was first called Akragas (which means unclear) by the Greek people. The Romans and Carthaginians ruled Agrigento during the 3rd century. The Romans ruled during the period 262 BC and Carthaginians in the period 255 BC. Agrigento was prosperous during the Roman rule. After the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, the people there were granted Roman citizenship. During World War II, Agrigento was severely damaged, including some extensive damages done to the historical buildings and ruins located there.
Traveling to Agrigento
Traveling to Agrigento is very easy because the city is connected to other cities by all major means of transportation.
By bus: there are several buses from the nearby towns and villages.
By train: from the Piazza station its about five minutes walk.
By air: there are several flights from Palermo and Catania airports.
Any trip to the ruins located here would be very culturally and historically enlightening.
Agrigento: between history and myth
The province of Agrigento is located in the southwest of Sicily. According to the legend, it was founded by Deadalus, protagonist of Greek mythology and inventor of the Knossos labyrinth and of the hollow cow for Minos‘ wife, Pasiphaë. We have already concerned with Bull of Phalaris, now let’s describe these other two inventions in outline. The former, the labyrinth, was built by Minos, king of Crete, in Knossos (Greece), to keep the so-called Minotaur confined in it. The Minotaur was the fruit of Pasiphaë’s infidelity with a divine bull and, consequently, he was a mythical creature with the head and the tail of a bull and the body of a man. The latter, the hollow cow, was designed for Pasiphaë’s will, in order to live her secret passion for the divine bull.
However, according to history, Agrigento was founded in 580 BC by Rhodian and Cretan colonists, Aristinoo and Pistillo, as a colony of Gela. Several tyrants governed the town, such us: the known Phalaris (580 – 554 BC) and Theron (488 – 472 BC), who made the town a notable cultural and military centre. Agrigento was conquered by different peoples over the centuries: by the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs (they really improved the local trade, industry and called the town “Girgenti“) and, ultimately, the Normans. The Normans arrived in Agrigento in 1087 and, after a painful resistance, the town surrended. The current “Agrigento” dates back only to 1927.
the fascinating Agrigento (Sicily) – Wikipedia, public domain
Di Giovanni, G., 1998, Agrigento: The head of the Valley and the City of Temples, Edizioni Di Giovanni, Agrigento
This is the archaeological area of Agrigento that rises below the modern city, with its monuments overlooking the entire valley below. Because of the high temperatures in Sicily, which especially in summer reach 40 ° C, and given the absence of shady areas, the best time to visit the Valley of the Temples is definitely the one from February to June, while in the summer months you can take advantage of the opening night.
To see absolutely the Temple of Juno, the Temple of Concord, the Temple of Jupiter Olympus and the Tomb of Teron.
Agrigento - History
Agrigento is one of the oldest cities in Sicily and has risen several times on its ancient remains. The Valley of the Temples tells us one of its most fascinating faces, linked to the classical world, along with the extraordinary finds kept in the Regional Archaeological Museum. The city, founded in 581 B.C. by Greek settlers Rodio-Cretan and became Akràgas in the following century, has represented in the past one of the most shining Centers of the Mediterranean. This is why UNESCO inscribed the Archaeological Area of Agrigento on the World Heritage Site in 1997.
Of Agrigentum, we have only the remains of the elegant noble villas and the regular streets of the Hellenistic-Roman Quarter.
Click on the Agrigento Tourist Map to download
10 things not to miss in Agrigento:
1 – A walk along via Atenea
The old town extends on the hill of Girgenti and its main arteries are the Via Atenea and the nearby panoramic Viale della Vittoria, from which dominates the Valley and the sea. During the walk among the shops, boutiques and cafes, we enjoy the pecorino ice cream.
Incredible, right? It’s a delicate ice cream made of sheep’s ricotta.A typical and unique taste, a real product of the little known Agrigentino. Now let us enter the labyrinth of small streets that, according to the Arab scheme, connects the oldest monuments.
2 – The Cathedral of San Gerlando
The Cathedral of San Gerlando was founded towards the end of the eleventh century by Bishop Gerlando. The temple is of Norman-Gothic style and is accessed through a wide and soft staircase, flanked by the magnificent and unfinished bell tower of the fifteenth century. The building houses the precious Treasure of the Cathedral, particularly rich in works of art. We climb the bell tower and admire the roofs of Girgenti from above.
The Cathedral of San Gerlando
3 – Chiesa Santa Maria dei Greci and Abbazia di Santo Spirito
Through the street of Santa Maria dei Greci we access the church of the same name, in the oldest district of the medieval city. Built in the twelfth century, it rests its foundations on the base of a Doric temple of the fifth century B.C. which some believe to be that of Athena, on the acropolis of Akragas. The Church, preceded by a small and elegant courtyard, has a facade with a thirteenth-century Arab-Norman portal and beautiful single lancet windows. The interior has three naves with a wooden ceiling and is enriched by some traces of fourteenth-century frescoes, a wooden statue of the 500 and a sarcophagus that houses the remains of a noble Palermo. From the left aisle we access the north base of the Doric temple, of which some columns drums are visible
Abbey of Santo Spirito.
Built in 1260, the complex consists of the church and the adjacent Cistercian monastery. The church has, on the outside, a magnificent portal of Chiaramonte style surmounted by a rich rose window, in a more recent Baroque context. Inside, eighteenth-century, numerous Serpottian stuccoes that decorate imaginatively the walls of the church, a holy water stoup of the , a Madonna del Gagini (or school gaginesca) and a wooden ceiling coffered in 1758, in which is painted the coat of arms of the Chiaramonte family: it was in fact the wife of Federico Chiaramonte, Marchisia Prefoglio, who allowed, with a donation, the foundation of the complex. The adjacent monastery or Badia Grande, dating back to 1290, is embellished by the magnificent cloister, in which Gothic portals stand out: the imposing pointed-sixth one, flanked by mullioned windows, at the entrance to the Chapter Hall. Inside the monastery are preserved some frescoes of the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. The nuns of the monastery prepare delicious almond and pistachio cakes, according to a centuries-old recipe… Let’s not miss tasting them!
4 – The Regional Archaeological Museum of Agrigento
It is located just outside the city center, in the district of S. Nicola, with panoramic views of the Hill of the Temples. It illustrates the history of ancient Agrigento and its territory, from prehistory to the stage of Hellenization. In its rich collection of archaeological finds stands the Telamon over 7 meters high, the Ephebe of Agrigento. Next to the museum, the medieval Church of St Nicholas houses the Sarcophagus of Phaedra, one of the highest expressions of Roman sculpture in Sicily. Its lush garden is waiting for us for a cool break.
Learn more about the Archaeological Museum on audio tour izi.TRAVEL
The Regional Archaeological Museum of Agrigento
5 – The long beaches of Agrigento
They extend for miles to the east and west, from Marina di Licata, a town of ancient origins, passing through Punta Bianca, with an alternation of beaches almost deserted, up to the most fashionable San Leone, the nerve center of summer Agrigento. There is something for every taste and they are all made of fine white sand.
A view of Sciacca beach – ph STR Agrigento
6 – The House of Pirandello
It is a country house of the late eighteenth century in the district Chaos, a plateau overlooking the sea between olive trees and oaks. The rooms overlooking the countryside host a large collection of photographs, reviews and awards, first editions of books with autograph dedications, paintings dedicated to Luigi Pirandello, poster of his most famous works represented in Theaters around the world. The House often hosts temporary exhibitions dedicated to the Master. Since 1987 the birthplace has been a single institute with the Biblioteca Luigi Pirandello. In the garden, until a few years ago, there was still the centenary pine where the writer stopped to reflect and compose. In this corner, rich in charisma, the author wanted his ashes to be buried.
7 – The Almond Blossom Festival
The Almond Blossom Festival was born in 1934 from the idea of Count Alfonso Gaetani of Naro, eager to promote the typical products of Agrigento.. The festival in the early days was an exhibition of floats and island folk groups, but over the years it has evolved to attract the participation of companies from the rest of Europe and overseas. From this initiative was born the “International Festival of Folklore” which is renewed every year, between February and March. In this period the Valley of the Temples lives a week of celebration and meeting between peoples. The highlight is the evocative lighting of the tripod of friendship in front of the Temple of Concord.
Agrigento Valley of the Temples – ph. Paolo Barone
8 – The Garden of the Kolymbetra
In the Kolymbetra Garden you can breathe the scent of the Mediterranean maquis. About 2500 years ago, the tyrant Theron had a system of tunnels and hypogea designed to feed this small valley with water. The large swimming pool that emerged became a meeting place for the inhabitants of the city and cheer the rich Akragantini. A century later it was buried and gave rise to a very fertile garden comparable to Eden.
This area, within the Valley of the Temples and not far from the temple of the Dioscuri, since 1999 has been entrusted to the FAI Fondo Ambiente Italiano. It is a precious example of Mediterranean maquis rich in citrus plants, pistachios, carob trees, nuts, mulberries, pomegranates that still grow thanks to the ancient water supply. Not infrequently this magical place becomes the setting of events, concerts and exhibitions.
9 – La Scala dei Turchi (The Ladder of the Turks)
La Scala dei Turchi is a magical place located along the stretch of sea between Realmonte and Porto Empedocle. Its rock is made of tender, calcareous, clayey marl and a blinding white. Nature, as a great artist, has worked this material over time, making it softly sinuous with the help of the sea and the salty breeze, forming terraces and smoothing every corner.
Scala dei Turchi (Ladder of the Turks) – Realmonte, Agrigento – ph. Paolo Barone
10 – Farm Cultural Park in Favara
Favara with its Farm Cultural Park, half an hour from the Valley of the Temples, is the sixth city in the world among the ten must-see destinations for those who love contemporary art, according to the ranking of the English blog “Purple Travel”. This small town of Agrigento, from an abandoned village, turned into a creative laboratory and a modern art site where artists from all over the world leave their mark.
Seven courtyards, connected to each other. Seven white courtyards, Arabic style and decided. A cultural park, an art gallery, photography, music, food and good wine.
Farm Cultural Park – Favara (Agrigento) – ph. Paolo Barone
In the surroundings of Agrigento:
About an hour from Favara we reach Sciacca: a beautiful sea and many works of art. On the eastern side it is possible to admire the imposing mass of Mount Kronio, near which we find the cave-chapel of the saint hermit San Calogero, and beside the natural stoves full of steam.
Let’s take on a 5 senses tour through the guided tours offered by the Eco-Museum of the 5 senses and, a few kilometers away, we also visit the Enchanted Castle.
Sciacca (Agrigento) – ph. Paolo Barone
Towards the hinterland we make a stop in Burgio, an ancient village rich in history, famous for its artistic ceramics and bronze bells.
The Once Magnificent Temples in the Valley
Temple of Concordia dating back to 420 BC was named after a Roman god but was most likely originally dedicated to a Greek god. It is regarded as one of the greatest surviving temples in the Doric style. Situated on a set of steps, it has many well-preserved fluted columns that are 20 feet high (6.6m). The temple is now roofless but is in otherwise great condition and is one of the finest examples of a Doric style temple.
The Temple of Concordia, Valley of the Temples ( crocicascino/ Adobe Stock)
The Temple of Juno, named after a Roman god, but perhaps originally dedicated to the Greek Goddess Hera, is 20 feet high (6.6m) and includes a portico lined with 6 columns on one side and 13 on the other, although some are badly damaged. The central shrine area can be seen as well as stairs.
Temple of Heracles (or Hercules) was once one of the most popular temples in ancient Magna Graecia . It was situated in the Agora, the main public space in the city. It is thought that it was the Carthaginians who destroyed the temple, but the floor plan and stairs have survived, as well as the front colonnade of the temple with its six impressive columns.
Three temples of which little has survived are the once enormous temple of Olympian Zeus which was intended to mark a great victory over the Carthaginians, the Temple of Castor and Pollux, and The Temple of Hephaestus (or Vulcan). Pillars, and rubble, floor plans, and an entablature are now the only remaining artifacts.
The Temple of Juno, Valley of the Temples ( Leonid Andronov /Adobe Stock)
Apart from some broken columns, very little remains of the temple of Asclepius, but it is still possible to see the plan of the sanctuary where the pilgrims would gather in the hope of being cured by the God of healing.
The Tomb of Theron, which was a monument to Roman soldiers killed in the First Punic War is on display, along with the remains of gates dating back to the 4 th century B.C. A Roman and a Byzantine necropolis can be found on this large site as well as medieval remains, and a remarkable 500 years old olive tree .
Agrigento - History
Archaeologists resume the search for the home of drama in a majestic Greek sanctuary
Going to the theater was an essential part of ancient Greek civic and religious life. Plays such as the tragedies of Aeschylus and Euripides, the comedies of Aristophanes and Menander, and likely numerous other works that have not survived, were regularly staged at religious festivals. Masked actors and a chorus whose role was to comment on the play’s action in song, dance, and verse entertained festivalgoers and paid honor to the gods. “Since the very beginning of Greek civilization, a theater was always a religious building housed in a sanctuary,” says archaeologist Luigi Maria Caliò of the University of Catania. “In the Greek world, everything was related to holiness, and theaters were built in sacred areas.”
At first, theaters were likely just open areas or hillsides with no cavea, or tiered seating area. From about the sixth to the fourth centuries B.C., says Caliò, Greek theaters were built of wood. Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus and Electra, for example, were performed in wooden theaters. Beginning in the fourth century B.C., theaters were often built in stone. “When theaters were monumentalized, they became a crucial part of cities around the Greek world,” Caliò says. Though nearly all traces of the wooden structures have been lost, remains of ancient Greek stone theaters—almost 150 have been discovered to date—still stand from Italy to the Black Sea, at sites such as Epidaurus in the Greek Peloponnese, the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, and Taormina in Sicily. As one of the most important cities in the ancient Mediterranean during the classical era and home to one of its grandest sanctuaries, Akragas (now Agrigento), on Sicily’s southern coast, must have had a theater as well. But no ancient sources mention one there and, until recently, no archaeological evidence of such a structure had ever been found.
The city-state of Akragas was founded in 582 B.C. by Greeks from Gela, a flourishing Sicilian colony some 40 miles away that had been established a century earlier. Akragas reached its zenith under the tyrant Theron, who ruled from about 489 to 472 B.C. In 480 B.C., Theron and his ally and brother-in-law Gelon, ruler of the powerful colony of Syracuse, were part of a coalition that defeated the Carthaginians at the Battle of Himera, ending, temporarily at least, the Carthaginians’ threat to take over Sicily. To celebrate their victories, Akragas’ rulers launched a series of monumental building projects, including construction of the immense temple dedicated to Olympian Zeus, which, at 340 by 160 feet, was the largest Doric temple in the Greek world. Akragas was razed by the Carthaginians in 406 B.C. and then left largely abandoned until 338 B.C., when the Carthaginians were defeated and the city was rebuilt.
A century later, Akragas was the site of the first pitched land battle of the Punic War, which pitted the resurgent Carthaginians against the newly expanding power of Rome. The Roman victory in 262 B.C. signified the beginning of Roman influence in Sicily. Later, Akragas became Roman Agrigentum. Throughout its history, when the city thrived, building projects and religion did, too. Temples were regularly constructed and dedicated to gods and demigods including Hercules, Zeus, Hera, Athena, Concordia, Hephaestus, Castor and Pollux, Demeter and Persephone, and Isis.
The search for Akragas’ theater began almost a century ago when archaeologist Pirro Marconi directed a large archaeological campaign funded by his English patron, Alexander Hardcastle. Hardcastle was a captain in the British Navy who became fascinated with the site while living in a home known as the Villa Aurea, located between two of Agrigento’s still-standing temples. Until the Englishman died in 1933, he sponsored Marconi’s work. The only written source available to guide Marconi in his search for the theater was De Rebus Siculis Decades Duae, the first printed book on the history of Sicily, written in the middle of the sixteenth century by Dominican monk Tommaso Fazello. Fazello had located what was left of the theater “not very far from San Nicolò church,” adding, “I barely recognize its foundations.” Marconi, however, failed to uncover significant evidence of the structure, ending the pursuit of Akragas’ theater for the next eight decades.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2015, when Maria Concetta Parello, one of the supervising archaeologists of Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples archaeological park, decided to investigate the southern boundary of the agora, the ancient city’s main market and gathering place, that the hunt was renewed. About 300 yards from San Nicolò church, experts from the University of Molise and Italy’s Institute for Applied Technology were using 3-D tomography to explore deep underground. “At the end of the workday they told us about some height differences on a steep slope,” says Parello. “Specifically, they saw some strange curved lines in a nearby limestone embankment. We asked a geologist what he made of that, and he said this type of curve definitely wasn’t natural. We thought it might be the theater and became very excited.” After a short walk to the top of the slope, Parello also noticed some stone blocks arranged in a curvilinear shape. “They were always there, but we had never really seen them before,” she says. Although it would take them several more months of work to be certain—during which time they refrained from calling the structure “the theater” for fear of jinxing their find—Parello and her team had finally located Akragas’ missing theater. Marconi, it turns out, hadn’t found the structure because he had been looking in the wrong place.
Over the past three field seasons, Parello’s team has continued to uncover what remains of Akragas’ stone theater. They have identified two phases, one dating to the fourth or third century B.C., and the other to the second century B.C., when the building’s diameter was expanded from about 213 feet to more than 300 feet by the Romans. “This makes it one of the biggest theaters in Sicily, comparable to those in Syracuse and Catania,” Caliò says. The project has been complicated by the fact that, since at least the thirteenth century, locals have been disassembling the structure stone by stone and using the blocks to build the churches and private buildings of medieval and modern Agrigento. When the team reached the level of the foundation trenches for the theater’s west side, for example, nearly all the foundation stones were gone. However, the surviving remains indicate that the foundation could have supported walls up to 30 feet tall. Thus far, the team has fully excavated the summa cavea, the highest part of the stands, where commoners sat. In the future, they hope to uncover the ima cavea, where the most coveted seats reserved for elders and high-ranking individuals were located.
In addition to the remains of the theater’s structure and seats, Parello and her team have uncovered numerous votive artifacts in and around the structure, including a deposit of objects related to a good-luck ritual. Most of these are vessels for everyday use, such as a guttus, a kind of baby bottle, and unguentaria, small terracotta vessels used to hold perfumed ointment. The team has also unearthed many fragments of high-quality fourth- to third-century B.C. black-glazed pottery, as well as three coins, one of which is well preserved. This coin, which dates from the classical period and was minted in Agrigento, depicts an eagle, the symbol of Zeus, with folded wings on the front and a crab on the back. A small statue dating to the fourth or third century B.C. depicts a musician playing the double flute, or aulos, in a style typical of Greco-Sicilian artists. Although only fragmentary, an unearthed terracotta theatrical mask still shows the original colored paint. A better-preserved fourth-century B.C. mask depicts a fearsome Gorgon.
Atop a hill not far from the stone theater, the team made a surprising find: 20 holes dug into the earth to hold wooden poles. “Our hypothesis is that this is evidence of an older, rectangular wooden theater that was replaced by the one made of stone,” says Caliò. “This confirms what we know about the architecture of Greek theaters.” Recently, archaeologists excavating at the base of the Acropolis in Athens identified holes similar to the ones found in Agrigento. “These holes seem to have belonged to the Theater of Dionysus, which collapsed in the fifth century B.C.,” Caliò explains. “We believe that theater was contemporaneous with Agrigento’s wooden theater.”
Parello’s excavations will resume in the spring of 2019, when she hopes to find the stone theater’s orchestra. “After investigating with a magnetometer, we know there are some unidentifiable structures about 12 feet below the surface,” she says. “It’s probably the orchestra. I can’t wait to see what it looks like. And it would be great if we could find the original stage.”