Agrigento, the Valley of the Temples, Sicily • Italy

Discover the ancient history of Agrigento's Valley of the Temples in Italy with our virtual guided tour of under 8 minutes. Immerse yourself in the magic of this UNESCO World Heritage site and transport yourself back in time. Watch our video now for an unforgettable experience!
00:00 • intro | 00:49 • the temple of Hera Lacinia (or of Juno) | 02:19 • the city walls | 03:31 • The temple of Concord | 05:00 • the temple of Heracles ( or of Hercules) | 06:02 • the temple of Zeus

made with photos and videos taken during the trip Italy: Seductive Sicily 2022

Agrigento 

 

The city of Agrigento is built on a site that was already occupied since prehistoric times, but the origin of the city dates back to the foundation of Akragas in 582 BC. Akragas, original name of Agrigento by Greek settlers at a time when overpopulation was already a problem in Greece. More than 300,000 people are said to have emigrated from the mother country to Sicily, which explains the extraordinary wealth of this island in Greek remains. 

 

History of Agrigento 

 

At the time of its splendour, around the 5th century BC, Agrigento had more temples than the Acropolis of Athens. 

Like many towns in the region at that time, Agrigento did not escape successive wars despite the imposing wall nearly 12 kilometers long that surrounded it. 

The first invaders were the Carthaginians in 406 BCE, who destroyed some of the city's temples and massacred some of its inhabitants. Some 70 years later the Carthaginians were driven out and the temples rebuilt. The period of peace lasted only a few decades, until the Punic wars led by Rome against Carthage and Agrigento, after a tumultuous period became definitively Roman around 200 BC. 

But Rome not being eternal, the Vandals, a Gothic tribe, took possession of Agrigento in 468 AD before passing into the hands of the Ostrogoths at the end of the 5th century. Later, the Byzantines, in other words the Eastern Roman Empire, attached Agrigento to Italy. 

Then it was the turn of the Arabs to seize the city for about a century between 800 and 900, before the arrival of the Normans in 1091. The city will slowly recover from these turbulent years and will become part of the Kingdom of Sicily, created by King Norman Roger II. 

With the reunification of Italy in the 19th century, Agrigento became a city of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. 

 

The Valley of the Temples 

 

Strange name for this succession of Greek temples, since they are located on a hill overlooking the city... This is where most of the city's temples were located, all oriented towards Greece, the motherland of the city founders. 

The Temple of Concord 

The Temple of Concord, in Doric style, is the best preserved on the site. This extraordinary state of conservation is mainly due to the fact that it was transformed into a Christian basilica, which allowed it to escape looters and other stone hunters. The Temple of Concordia was built around 440 BC, at the height of the power of Akragas, the ancient city that preceded Agrigento. It was dedicated to the Greek goddess Hera, but was converted into a Christian church in the 6th century, which helped its preservation. 

The temple is built of marble and has a rectangular base of 39.44 meters by 16.92 meters, with a colonnade of 34 Doric columns on the longer sides and 14 columns on the shorter sides. The columns stand over 7 meters high and are evenly spaced to create a sense of symmetry and harmony. 

The cella, or central hall, of the Temple of Concord has been preserved in its entirety, although the roof has been destroyed. Today, visitors can see features such as the carved column capitals, decorative friezes and pediment carvings that once adorned the temple. 

The Temple of Concordia is an outstanding example of classical Greek architecture and art, and bears witness to the influence of Greek culture on ancient Sicily. It is also one of the most important witnesses to the history of Christianity in Sicily, where many ancient temples were converted into churches over time. 

The Temple of Hera 

The Temple of Hera (or Juno) dates from around the same time and is also of the Doric type. This temple was destroyed and burned by Carthage in -406 before being rebuilt by the Romans. Less well preserved than that of Concorde, the temple of Hera was partially restored in the 20th century, by straightening a few columns. 

The Temple of Hera, also known as the Temple of Hera Lacinia, is an ancient Greek temple located in the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily, Italy. It is dedicated to the goddess Hera, the wife of Zeus in Greek mythology. 

The Temple of Hera was built around 450 BC, at the same time as the Temple of Concord. It was built in the Doric style and is considered one of the oldest temples in the Valley of the Temples. 

The Temple of Hera has a rectangular base of 26.4 meters by 63.9 meters, with a colonnade of 34 Doric columns on the longer sides and 15 columns on the shorter sides. The columns stand over 15 meters high and are evenly spaced to create a sense of symmetry and harmony. 

The temple has been damaged over the centuries and has been restaured several times. The remains of the cella, or central hall, are still visible, but not many original carvings or decorations remain. 

The Temple of Hera is an important example of ancient Greek architecture and bears witness to the influence of Greek culture on ancient Sicily. It is also a testimony to the importance of the goddess Hera in Greek mythology and in the religious life of the time. 

 

Other temples were destroyed by earthquakes, such as that of Castor and Pollux. 

the temple of Castor and Pollux 

The temple was dedicated to the twin brothers Castor and Pollux, who were deities in Greek mythology. 

Unfortunately, the Temple of Castor and Pollux has suffered severe damage over the centuries. Columns were knocked down, stones were stolen and sculptures were destroyed. Over time, the temple was abandoned and covered with earth and vegetation. 

In the 18th century, archaeological excavations revealed the remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, but it was already too late to save most of its architectural elements. Today, only a few columns and fragments of friezes and sculptures remain, testifying to its past beauty. 

Nevertheless, the Temple of Castor and Pollux remains an important testimony to ancient Greek architecture and art. It is also an example of the impact of Sicily's tumultuous history on its cultural and archaeological heritage. 

The Temple of Zeus 

The Temple of Zeus was built from 480 BCE, but was never completed due to the Carthaginian invasion of Sicily. It was supposed to be the largest temple in the Valley of the Temples, with a height of over 20 meters. 

The Temple of Zeus was decorated with many sculptures and ornaments, including a colossal statue of Zeus himself. This statue was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World due to its size and beauty. Unfortunately, it was destroyed over the centuries and only its base remains today. 

Over time, the Temple of Zeus suffered severe damage, especially during earthquakes and looting. 

Many of its stones were used to fill the port of Agrigento. Man has not always had respect for old stones...

What's the weather like in Agrigento?

about the place, Agrigente:

Agrigento in the southwest of Sicily is a city with around 60,000 inhabitants. The city, occupying a territory inhabited since prehistoric times, was founded in the 6th century BC and is famous for its multitude of Greek temples, most of which are in an excellent state of conservation.

 

Spoken comments in the film: 

Sicily was a land of welcome for many Greeks fleeing the overpopulation of their country from the 5th century BC. Among the most important cities of the island at that time, Agrigento still testifies today to the past splendours of Greek cities. During its heyday, 2500 years ago, Agrigento saw the construction of many temples on a hill overlooking the city, known today as the Valley of the Temples.

 

This temple, built in 450 BC, was dedicated to the Greek goddess Hera (whose Roman equivalent is Juno). It was destroyed for the first time by Carthage during the invasion of -406 and rebuilt by the Romans much later, when Sicily became a Roman province.

 

At the beginning of our era the enormous ramparts around the temples of the city had lost their strategic importance. The wealthiest early Christians transformed them into a necropolis, digging niches in the thick walls to receive the bodies of their deceased.

 

These tombs extend from the temple of Juno to that of Concord built around -430. The Temple of Concordia is the largest and best preserved of the Doric temples in Sicily. This exceptional state of conservation is mainly due to the fact that it was transformed into a Christian basilica in the 6th century, which required reinforcements and protected the temple from stone hunters. It is not known to which deity it was dedicated.

 

Built in the 6th century BCE, the Temple of Heracles (or its Roman equivalent Hercules) was the largest and finest temple in ancient Akragas. The temple had 38 columns of which only 9 were raised during a restoration at the beginning of the 20th century, preventing the current visitor from realizing the dimensions of this Greek temple.

 

Zeus, the supreme god of the Greek pantheon, should have had the largest temple on the site, and that was the intention of the builders at the time. But this temple, also known as the Olympéion, was never completed, probably because of the Carthaginian invasion of the island in -406. 

This temple has lost the vast majority of its stones as these have been reused over the centuries for various constructions.

 

The temple of Zeus was adorned with telamons, statues of giants supporting a cornice. One of these telamons is kept in the museum of Agrigento and a replica has been placed in the middle of the ruins of the temple.

Conccordia temple, Agrigento, Sicily • Italy
le temple de la Concorde, Agrigente  • Italie • Sicile

le temple de la Concorde

le temple de Junon (temple d'Héra Laciana), Agrigente  • Italie • Sicile

le temple de Junon (temple d'Héra Laciana)

vestiges des remparts de la ville, Agrigente  • Italie • Sicile

vestiges des remparts de la ville

télamon (statue supportant une corniche)  du temple de Zeus conservée au musée local, Agrigente  • Italie • Sicile

télamon (statue supportant une corniche) du temple de Zeus conservée au musée local

Agrigento, Sicily • Italy

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