AGRIGENTO THE VALLEY OF THE TEMPLES
Agrigento is situated on Sicily’s southern coast, and the town’s Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the greatest legacies of ancient Greece. This parade of well-preserved Doric temples, just outside town, dates back to the fifth and sixth centuries BC and is what remains of the Greek city of Akragas. The eastern half of the Valley of the Temples contains the most complete and impressive temple ruins. The temples at Agrigento have traditional names, based on the interpretations of historians over the last couple of centures: these are nearly all likely to be inaccurate, though, so the modern custom is to refer to them by letter.
The closest temple to the road is Temple A, also called the Temple of Herakles. This is the most ancient of the remaining temples at Agrigento, dating to the sixth century BC, not long after the city was founded. From the temple there are views over the countryside to various other dotted ruins, including the so-called Tomba di Theron, a tower structure thought for years to have been the grave of a famous ruler of Greek Akragas, but now identified as a Roman funerary monument. The next temple along the ridge is the most complete, with its monumental structure largely intact due to its early conversion into a Christian church. This is the Temple of Concord, or Temple F, one of the best-preserved temples of the ancient world. The Agrigento temples are in the Doric style.
The bare rocks of the Temple ridge served as part of Akragas’s city defences, and they were built up with blocks of stone where necessary, joining onto the city wall. At the far end of the hill is Temple D, generally called the Temple of Hera or Juno. There are some standing columns, the remains of a huge stone sacrificial altar alongside, and steps where the masonry still shows traces of the fires of 406 BC, when Akragas was conquered and sacked by the Carthaginians. On the western side of the road is the remains of one of the biggest temples of antiquity, the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The gigantic ruins cover a huge area, and unfortunately it is almost impossible to build up an image of this temple from the scattered, massive heaps of stone which we can see today. The most striking thing about the Temple of Zeus would have been its vast scale – it was over 110 metres long- and the second most striking the giant statues, called telamons, incorporated into the edifice, probably placed on an upper level and supporting part of the structure’s weight. A copy of one of these statues, which were made from several blocks of stone, lies on the ground alongside the ruins. A telamon is reconstructed in its original upright position inside the archaeological museum.
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