Agrigento: The Valley of the Temples

Located in Sicily, on a hilltop just outside the city of Agrigento, The Valley of Temples is one of Italy’s finest historical attractions.

Containing 8 temples and a variety of other ancient ruins, this wonderful snapshot of a time gone by is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. There’s a lot to see at the Valley of Temples. To help you get the most out of your trip, here’s our guide.

The History

Thousands of years ago, the city of Agrigento was known as Akgragas, a Greek colony founded in 582 BCE. This city quickly became prosperous and between 510 BCE and 430 BCE, a number of temples were built.

But as the city grew, it became the target of successive invasions first from Hannibal and the Carthaginians in 406 BCE, and then from the Romans in 210 BCE. By this point, the city had fallen into disrepair and the Romans rebuilt and renamed the place as, Agrigentum.

The Temples

But throughout this tumultuous period of time, the 8 temples to the south of the city survived. And it is the Valley of Temples that remains the core of the archaeological worth of the city to this day.

When exploring the area, pay particular attention to The Temple of Zeus (or Jove the Olympian) one of the largest temples built in Greek antiquity. Look out for the Temple of Hercules, which is the oldest temple at Agrigento, and then explore the Concordia. This is the best preserved of the 8 temples and it’s perhaps the finest example of Greek Doric architecture outside of Athen’s Parthenon.

Then there’s the Temple to Hera Lacinia, built around the same time as the Concordia. Unfortunately a fire damaged this temple in the 5th Century BCE so it isn’t as well preserved as the Concordia. There are other temples to explore too, from the Temple of Hephaestus, located next to a large pool fed by an aqueduct, to the Temple of Isis dating back to the late Augustan-Tiberion era. This eclectic collection of temples lets you catch a glimpse of the scale and scope of religious expression in times of antiquity. It’s truly wonderful to behold.

Other Sights

The Valley of the Temples at Agrigento is rich in history; it’s a meeting place of several different cultures. The ancient ruins reflect this melting pot and there’s plenty to see here besides the stunning collection of temples.

There’s the Greeco-Roman agora, and there’s an ancient Gymnasium too. There are aqueducts, mosaic floors, and Hellenic and Roman villas. This corner of Sicily, under the beating hot Italian sun, contains more than its fair share of ancient ruins and archaeological curios.

For anyone looking to get more of an idea of the history of the place, it’s highly recommended that you visit the archaeological museum. If you have time, it’s also worth exploring the modern city of Agrigento too.

This part of Sicily is steeped in history, rich in beautiful architecture, and full of culture and stories. Make sure you plan your route, or book a tour guide, as there’s so much to see, you wouldn’t want to miss out!

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