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Agrigento

8Founded by Greek colonists coming from Gela and Rhodes in 580 b.C. with the name of Acragas, Agrigento in very little time had a big urban development and became a very rich city (its richness was proverbial in the Antiquity)

 

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above all under the rule of the two tyrants Phalaris (first half of the VI cent. b.C.), whose cruelty was legendary, and Theron (in the beginning of the V cent. b.C.), who extended enormously city’s territory, after his win on the Carthaginians at Himera, in 480 b.C. In this period, Agrigento developed economically and the big temples we now admire were built (in the same period, here lived the great philosopher Empedocles). In the second half of the V cent. b.C., a democratic government was installed, but, in 406, the city was conquered and destroyed by the Carthaginians. Timoleon refounded the city in 340, after defeating the Carthaginians, but Agrigento had anyway to come to terms with Carthage, because of its proximity to Punic colonies in Sicily, and made many treaties with them. 


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Agrigento was then conquered by Rome, first in 262 and, permanently, in 210. In that period, commerce and agriculture developed, and the city was rich and prosperous until the Late Roman Empire; from then on, and in the Byzantine period too, a period of decay and depopulation began. But the recovery came with Muslims’ conquest, in 828. Particularly the Berbers made Agrigento their capital (and they were very often in contrast with the Arabs from Palermo). The city, through the Arab language, took the name of Girgenti and kept it until 1927. The city centre (on the hill of Girgenti, where the inhabitants of the ancient decaying city had transferred, in the byzantine period) was reorganized according to Islamic city-planning (and still today we have traces of it in its courtyards and narrow streets). Under Norman rule, Agrigento kept its importance, because of its economic relations with North Africa; in addition to that, here the last Sicilian Muslims were gathered, before their expulsion from the island by the Emperor Frederick II (in the middle of the XIII cent.). In the XIV cent., in Agrigento like in the rest of Sicily, the dominance of the big Sicilian feudal families began (here, in particular, the Montaperto and the Chiaramonte). Between the XV and XVII cent., Agrigento suffers decadence and depopulation. The city recovered in the XVIII cent. and, more, in 1817, when it became provincial capital. It was anyway deeply struck by emigration, in the first half of the XX cent.


Valley of Temples

Temple of Olympic Jupiter

 

5Enormous for its dimensions, the third in the entire Greek world, it was the first temple in the Doric style. Built after victory on Carthaginians, in 480 b.C., was realized by Punic prisoners. It was never ended. It is 113 metres long, and 57 metres wide; its columns were 17 metres high. Typical of this temple are the Telamons, enormous human figures about 8 metres high, which had a decorative function, but also static; some of them have been rebuilt (one lies, erected, in the Regional Archaeological Museum of Agrigento).

Temple of the Dioscuri

 

Dating back to the V cent. b.C., only the reconstruction of the four columns in north-western corner, realized 6in the XIX cent., is preserved. It was 39 metres long and about 17 metres wide. It was damaged, when the Carthaginians destroyed the city, in the end of the V cent. b.C. , and it was restored in the Hellenistic period.

Temple of Hercules

 

It is totaly ruined, but we can still admire 8 columns, raised again in 1924. It was about 68 metres long and a little more than 25 metres wide, with 38 columns in total. Probably, it’s the most ancient temple of Agrigento, and dates back to the VI cent. b.C. It was famous in the Antiquity, because it preserved, inside, a wonderful bronze statue of Hercules. 

Temple of Concord

 

7 It’s the most important temple, because it’s very well preserved (also in the entire Greek world); it’s surely also among the most perfect, as far as Doric architecture is concerned. Called Temple of Concord, it was in fact probably devoted to Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux. It has 13 columns on long sides and 6 on short ones. It’s long about 40 metres and wide about 17.  

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In the façade, going towards the sides of the temple, the width among columns tightens: that was made to research that optical perfection the ancient Greeks desired. The temple was built in the middle of the V cent. b.C. and, like almost all Greek temples, was covered with stucco, with very bright colours. Its survival was due to its conversion into a Christian church.

Temple of Juno Lacinia


 

So called for a mistake, it was confused with the Temple of Juno, near the Lacinio Cape of Crotone. It’s littler than the Temple of Concord; it has 13 columns on long sides and 6 on short ones. It’s about 40 metres long and about 17 metres wide. Also in this temple, there are variations in the width among columns. Probably, it’s older than the Temple of Concord. In 406 A.D., it was damaged by a fire and, in the Middle Ages, suffered a collapse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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