Valley of the Temples, a wonder to discover

19/03/2021 By News Comments Off

There is a place in Sicily where it is possible to admire one of the most representative and best-preserved archaeological sites of the entire classical Greek civilization, which was included in 1998 in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. We are talking about the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. 

The site is located on a rocky ridge where the ancient city of Akragas once stood, where is possible to admire the remains of numerous Doric temples dedicated to the Hellenic gods.

The imposing Concordia’s Temple stands out above all, and it is also one of the existing ancient Greek temples best-preserved and, unlike many others, it remained almost intact since its construction, in 430 BC. Along the sixth century, it was transformed into a Christian Basilica and its structure was reinforced to have a better chance to survive earthquakes. In 1748, however, it was returned to its original form and renamed with its current name. The excellent state of conservation is because, under the rock, on which the temple stands, there is a layer of soft clay that acts as a natural shock absorber, protecting the building from earthquakes. Many modern researchers believe that the Greeks were aware of the particularity of the terrain when the Temple was designed.

Second in order of importance is undoubtedly the Temple of Juno, also known as the Temple of Hera. It was built in the 5th century BC and the Middle Ages was partially destroyed by an earthquake; however, the colonnade has remained almost intact, as well as the long altar, originally used for sacrifices, that still bears some reddish marks: these are probably traces of the fire started in 406 AD during the Carthaginian invasion.

The Temple of Hercules, the last in the eastern area, is the oldest, as it dates back to the end of the sixth century BC. Eight of its 38 columns have been put back on their feet so you can walk among the remains of the others.

The Tomb of Terone is, on the contrary, a small temple placed on a high base, erected in 75 BC, about 500 years after the death of Terone, the Greek tyrant of Agrigento.

The main attraction of the western area is the remains of the Temple of Jupiter. The building, which measures 112 meters long and 56 meters wide, that features high columns, would have been the largest Doric temple of antiquity if its construction wasn’t interrupted with the sack of Akragas by the Carthaginians. Later, the unfinished temple was destroyed by an earthquake.

Among the ruins lies an 8 meters high telamon in a supine position, is a male statue with raised arms that originally supported the weight of the temple. However, it is a copy; the original is exhibited at the Archaeological Museum

Valley of the Temples

The Temple of the Dioscuri consists of four columns and is known also as the Temple of Castor and Pollux. Built towards the end of the 5th century BC, after being destroyed by the Carthaginians it was later restored in Hellenistic style only to be destroyed again by an earthquake. What you see today dates back to 1832, the year in which the building was rebuilt using material recovered from other temples.

Immediately behind the Temple of the Dioscuri, there are few altars and small buildings which are supposed to be part of the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore. Known as the Sanctuary of the Chthonic Divinities, it dates back to the beginning of the 6th century BC.