The Valley of the Temples in Sicily, Facts, History & Pictures

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The Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Italy

The Valley of the Temples is an archaeological site in Agrigento (ancient Greek Akragas), Sicily. 

The Valley of the Temples is one of the most notable examples of Greater Greece art and architecture, characterized by the extraordinary state of preservation and important Doric temples. Since 1997 the whole area has been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The archaeological and landscape park of the Valley of the Temples, with its 1300 hectares, is one of the largest archaeological sites in the Mediterranean.

sicily

History

Akragas (Ἀκράγας) was founded by colonists from Gela, Crete, and Rhodes in 580 BC after the river of the same name. It was an important urban center of the ancient world and it grew from a small settlement to a large city-state with a population of over 200,000 inhabitants. 

Under the reign of the tyrant Theron (488-473 BC), Akragas expanded militarily with the victory over the Carthaginians. A period of rivalry with Syracuse followed. The temples date back to the city’s heyday in the 5th century. After the sacking of the Carthaginians in 406 BC, the city entered a phase of decline. Under the Roman domain, it returned to be an important economic center. From the seventh century A.D., the city began to depopulate and impoverish.

In the Valley of the Temples, there are 11 temples, all in Doric style., hydraulic works, some necropolis (Roman and early Christian), fortifications, the remains of a Roman quarter, two Agora, a council hall. 

Temple of Hera Lacinia (Juno)

The Temple of Hera Lacinia, or Juno Lacinia is located at the easternmost point of the Valley of the Temples. It was built about the year 450 BC and in style belongs to the Archaic Doric period. Its attribution to Hera Lacinia derives from an erroneous interpretation of the Roman writer Pliny the Elder.

Temple of Concordia

The Temple of Concordia, built c. 440–430 BC., is the largest and best-preserved Doric temple in Sicily and one of the best-preserved Greek temples in general. The temple owes its traditional name to a Latin inscription dating to the mid-first century BC. The temple was converted into a Christian church in the 6th century AD. The blocks between the columns were removed in the 18th century.

Temple of Asclepius

The small temple was built around the late 5th century BC and is located in the middle of the San Gregorio plain. The temple originally was probably devoted to Apollo the Healer. 

Temple of Asclepius

Temple of Heracles

The temple of Heracles is of archaic Doric style and is located on the hill of the Temples. The temple is the most archaic of the Agrigento temples, dating back to the last years of the 6th century BC. 

Olympeion field (Temple of the Olympian Zeus)

The temple, the largest in all of the ancient West, was built after the Battle of Himera on the Carthaginians (480-479 BC) to honor Zeus. It was characterized by telamons, immense sculptures seven and a half meters high, depictions of Atlas supporting the celestial vault.

Temple of the Dioscuri (Sanctuary of the Chthonic Deities and Temple of Castor and Pollux) 

The temple is also called the temple of Castor and Pollux, sons of Zeus and the queen of Sparta. There are only four columns left, due to earthquakes and fires, which have become the symbol of Agrigento.

Temple of Hephaestus, Temple of Vulcan

The temple is Doric in style, dates back to the 5th century BC. and is of considerable size and in (43 x 20.85 m). It is located on the hill west of the Kolymbetra Garden, which separates the Hill of Temples and the Sanctuary of the Chtonian Deities. The traditional name of the Temple of Vulcan is purely conventional and supported neither by archaeological finds nor documents. 

Paleo-Christian Necropolis

The Paleo-Christian Necropolis dates to the third to sixth century AD. Grotta Fragapane is a large catacomb composed of corridors and burial chambers (cubicles and rotundas) carved from the existing Greek cisterns. The walls of the burial chambers feature niches and arcosolia (tombs) while other graves have been excavated into the floor. 

Necropoli Giambertoni

The Necropoli Giambertoni dates from the second century BC to the third century AD, also houses the Tomb of Theron. It is formed of limestone chest tombs. Several sarcophagi have been discovered, such as a child’s sarcophagus now on display at the Pietro Griffo Regional Museum of Archaeology.

Theron’s Tomb

Theron’s Tomb is a funeral tower dating to the late Hellenistic period. The temple was constructed in the Doric order around 430 BC. As is often the case in Agrigento, the traditional name is conventional and it was attributed to the tomb by travelers on the Grand Tour. 

Gates

Akragas was surrounded by an outer wall stretching for around 12 km. Nine gateways have been classified along the fortifications, numbered by archaeologists from east to west. Gate V was one of the main entrances to the city and led to the Sanctuary of the Chthonic Deities. 

Gymnasium

The gymnasium dates to the Augustan age and was built a few hundred metres north of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The remains of a portico used for indoor sports have been found. An exedra, a large bath, and a large ritualistic altar used for rites associated with athletic training are still visible.

Theatre

The theatre was discovered in June 2016. The eastern side was built against the rock while the northern and western sections were erected on substructures composed of a system of trapezoidal chambers arranged at different heights and packed with earth to recreate the slope on which the rows of steps were arranged.

The Ekklesiasterion and the Oratory of Phalaris 

The Ekklesiasterion was a public space where the citizens’ assembly would have met and was built between the fourth and third centuries BC. In the first century BC the ekklesiasterion formed the foundations for the construction of the Oratory of Phalaris. Again, the attribution is incorrect. 

Bouleuterion

The Bouleuterion was the chamber of the public house of representatives (Boulè in Greek) and was built between the fourth century and the third century BC.

Hellenistic-Roman Sanctuary

The Hellenistic-Roman Sanctuary is a small temple surrounded by a square with a portico. The complex was built in two separate stages and was finished under Tiberius. 

Roman Hellenistic Quarter

The Roman Hellenistic Quarter was a residential quarter. The area extends for around 10,000 square meters and includes twenty-seven houses (domus) in three insulae (apartment buildings). Alongside the domus were warehouses, workshops, and shops.

Roman Hellenistic Quarter

Temple of Demeter (Church of Saint Blaise)

The Temple of Demeter was built about 470 BC. Today the ruins of the building have been included in the Church of Saint Blaise dating to the Norman period (twelfth century).

Topics: Valley of the Temples history, Valley of the Temples facts, Valley of the Temples map
Featured image: Temple of Concordia (author: trolvag)
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