6 days in Sicily-09/24 - 09/29/2017

Day 5-Valley of the temples, Agrigento, 09/28/2017

Temple of Juno-Necropolis Temple of Concordia Temple of Hercule/Garden Garden part 2/ Temple of Vulcan

Today we are planning a whole day in Agrigento which is located on the south-west of Sicily.  The drive from Catania is about 3 hours and the distance is about 100 miles.

Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi) is an archaeological site in Agrigento. The archaeological park and landscape of the Valley of the Temples is the largest archaeological site in the world with 3,213 acres.

Almost 2,000 years ago, before the rise of the Roman Empire, Greeks ruled Sicily and left their mark with a series of important cities and sites.

Where Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples are found today was the huge site of Ancient Akragas, a wealthy city of as many as 500,000 people and was once the fourth largest city in the world.

The city was founded in around 580 BC and prospered until it was conquered and destroyed by the Carthaginians. Over the centuries, the area was under Roman, Arab and Norman control, largely due to its strategic position overlooking Porto Empedocle and the Strait of Sicily. All left their mark in Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples shows evidence of all these civilizations.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that the area was rediscovered by archaeologist Domenico Antonio Lo Faso Pietrasanta and restoration work began.

Along with the amphitheaters in Taormina and Syracusa, the Valley of the Temples are some of the most impressive Greek ruins in Sicily, if not the world. The park was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997.

Temple of Juno – Tempio di Giunone

Situated about 3km below the modern city of Agrigento, the Unesco-listed Valley of the Temples is one of the most mesmerizing sites in the Mediterranean, boasting the best preserved Doric temples outside of Greece.  Come along with me and you will see all the temples during our visit here.

This is right at the entrance.  In the back ground you can see part of the temple of Juno.

The Temple of Juno also is called the Temple of Hera, after the wife of Zeus, the Goddess of fertility. In mythology, when Hera breast-fed Hercules, he bit Hera’s breast and her milk splattered around, creating the Milky Way. While weddings were held at this temple, it also served women who had trouble in marriage, relationships, or getting pregnant. Built about the 5th century B.C., the temples’ columns were painted white, because marble was scarce in Sicily.

The 5th-century-BC Temple of Hera is also known as the Tempio di Giunone (Temple of Juno). Though partly destroyed by an earthquake in the Middle Ages, much of the colonnade remains intact, as does a long altar, originally used for sacrifices. 

 

The temple rests on a base of four steps and has six columns on the short sides (left) and thirteen on the long sides (right).

Some of its columns were reconstructed in 1789. In front of the temple you can see the best preserved sacrificial altar of Agrigento.

 

Erected on the south-east corner of the Valley of the Temples at a height of 393 feet above sea level and is the highest temple.  You can see it easily when you start approaching the Valley no matter which direction you are coming from.

Before the Roman domination there was a marble floor that was subsequently replaced.

Most of it is tumbled down, but eight, 33-foot-high columns have been re-erected.

The columns consist of four tamburi or drums with 20 sharp-edged flutes and have a height of 20 foot and a base diameter of 5.5 foot.

 

The temple once had six columns on each facade and 13 along the long sides.  Today, 30 columns are standing but only sixteen with their capitals.

 

The temple occupies a particularly high position on the ridge at the southeast corner of the ancient city. It is further elevated by the use of four steps instead of the usual three on the temple platform. The northern colonnade is completely preserved, while the colonnades on the other three sides are only partly surviving, with four columns missing and nine severely damaged.

Close look at the colonnades.

 

Centuries old olive tree very close to temple of Juno.

More ruins...

 

Agrigento was founded on a plateau overlooking the sea and this is the view you get standing there.

 

Gorgeous view of the city of Agrigento from the Valley of the temples.

 

Ruins against the modern city of Agrigento.

 

To visit the site you will have to walk on the long straight pedestrian road/promenade around 2 mile long.  

The path was recently added and it is really well made to blend in well with the surroundings.  They did an amazing job as you would think that this path was part of the ancient city.

We were lucky that it was such a beautiful day to visit Agrigento.

 

Greek fortifications-the southern city wall

During the Greek period this cliff functioned as a natural defensive wall, when it was transformed into a barrier that hid the plain from view.

The fortifications encircling the Greek city of Akragas has a total length of about 7.5 mile.

This view is when we are looking back behind us with the Temple Juno in background.

During the earliest phase (2nd half of the 6th century) the fortifications were composed party of suitably worked bedrock and partly of standing walls, one and a half meters thick and made from stone blocks.

 

Remain of the fortifications.

 

You can see numerous cavities with curved upper surfaces cut into the rock face.

These are tombs known as Arcosolia and do not belong to the original defensive structure, but were constructed between the 4th and 7th centuries AD.

  

 

 

 

 

Beautiful olive tree...

 

These burials of late Roman and early Byzantine Agrigentum, which include sub divo (open-air) necropolises, hypogea (underground chambers) and small catacombs, are important witnesses of early Christianity.

 

In the late Roman times (4th -8th Century AD) the urban layout of the Hill of the temples was greatly modified.  The church of Saints Peter and Paul (6th century) was constructed and many surrounding areas were converted into cemeteries.

 

This area were by then the outskirts of the inhabited settlement and the southern fornication wall has lost its function and so an Early Christian Cemetery developed between the 4th and 7th Centuries AD.

 

On our way to the next temple.  Ahead of us is the temple of Concordia.

 

Again gorgeous view of the city of Agrigento up on a hill.

 

 

 

Next...Temple of Concordia

 

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