The Valley of the Temples. The main archaeological site includes the most important temples and the lower agorà of the ancient town as well as the hellenistic-roman quarter opposite the museum. In 1997 the Valley of the Temples has been declared world heritage by the UNESCO.
The ancient name of Agrigento was Akragas, founded around 581 BC by the Greeks as a colony. In the fifth century BC the town grew out to be a rich and powerful citystate that could even measure itself with the most mighty of them all, Syracuse. Most of the public buildings, the temples and the agorà, date back to this period, and are now considered among the most important archaeological sites in the world, since 1997 on the list of the World Heritage of the UNESCO. The archaeological zone is known as the valley of the temples (Valle dei Templi) and is situated at the foot of the hill where the modern town of Agrigento has been built. The archaeological site and the archeological museum Pietro Griffo are so vast that one day will not sufice to see everything.
The main archaeological area of the Valley of the Temples is divided in two parts by a public road. On the east side the three main temples can be found while on the westside lies the agorà and the remains of temples and altars.
The first temple on the east side is that of Herkles (Hercules or Ercole) with a number of columns in situ. It is one of the first temples to be built in the sixth century BC. Whether the temple was really dedicated to Herakles is not certain. The temple measures 67,45 by 25,28 meters and the columns are 10,07 meters high.
The second temple is that of the Concordia. This temple is still mostly intact after twentyfive centuries because in the sixth century AD it was transformed into a christian basilica. The cella was adapted and the spaces between the columns closed with walls. The name Concordia was found on a roman inscription but it is not certain to which deity the temple was dedicated. The monument, in Doric style, measures 16,91 by 39,44 meters and has been dated to 440-430 BC.
The third temple is that of Hera (Juno, Giunone) and stand on the highest point overlooking the valley down to the seaside. A number of columns have been restored in their original place and on the eastside the foundations of the altar are still visible. The temple was built in 470-450 BC and measures 16,90 by 38,15 meters with columns of 6,36 meters high.
The Arcosoli, Villa Hardcastle and the christian catacombs
Between the temple of Hera and the temple of the Concordia there are remains of a number of Arcosoli. These are graves from the Byzantine period cut in the rock and eroded since then. On the north side of Villa Hardcastle lies the necropolis of christian times, catacombs cut in the rock making use of ancient waterbassins. The catacombs run under the road towards Villa Hardcastle. The villa itself was built by sir Alexander Hardcastle, a british captain of the royal navy who spent his private capital in excavating the Valley of the Temples. The villa is now used for temporary exhibitions.
The agorà and the temple of Zeus
On the westside of the road the first structures are that of the gymnasium and the lower agorà. Immediately next to it are the remains visible of what undoubtedly was the largest temple of Akragas, that of Zeus Olympos. The remains of culumns and the foundations that measured 56,30 by 112,60 meters are impressive. This temple was decorated with immense statues, the Telamons, a couple of examples are put together at the center of the temple foundations. One original statue has been transferred to the archaeological museum. The statues measure 7,65 meters and would have been placed all around the temple perimeter as if they were carrying the roof. The large blocks that are in part heaped up on the side show U shaped incisions, probably used for ropes to lift the blocks in place during the construction of the temple. On the east side lie the foundations of the immens altar of the temple.
The temples of the Dioscuri and the chtonic gods
Descending the slope beyond the temple of Zeus lies the area of the sacred area of the chtonic gods, the gods of the underworld. There are several foundations of small temples and altars. Overlooking this area are the columns carrying part of a tympanum of the temple of the Dioscuri, one of the most evocative parts of the whole area. To the south of this area lies the towngate of ancient Akragas and the remains of the townwalls.
Other archaeological area's around Agrigento.
A number of temples can be found around en in Agrigento that are not part of the main archaeological area and are more or less visitable. South of the main area stands a monumental grave, although popular belief is that this is Theroon's tomb it is definitely from the roman period. Opposite the museum lies the hellenistic-roman town quarter of Akragas (Agrigentum) and near the museum the remains of the ekklesiasterion, the theater shaped structure where the assembly of the people met. The small temple that can be seen there dates back to the first or second century BC and has been transformed into an oratorium. The museum itself is partly housed in the medieval convent. Behind the museum lies the Bouleuterion, where in ancient times the council of elders met.
Consorzio Arcadia ed., 2011, La Valle dei Templi di Agrigento, Agrigento
Address: Via Panoramica Valle dei Templi
Tel: 0922/621657 (9-13.00)
Openingtimes: 8:30 - 19:00 (In the summer the area is also open some nights)
Prices: 10,00 euro (in combination with the museum 13,50), reduced tariff 5,00 euro (7,00 with museum)
Website: Parco dei Templi