The South Coast: Selinunte and Agrigento
the west coast of Sicily we traveled to the south to spend a week there. Our
first place was in Agrigento.
It was a very nice apartment in the heart of the old city, with a large rooftop terrace overlooking one
of the city's main streets--that was closed to traffic in the afternoons. We spent three nights there.
Along the drive
from Balestrate to Agrigento, we stopped in Selinunte, another Greek colony
established on Sicily.
These settlements--Selinunte, Segesta, Lilybaeum, and Agrigento--were rivals in commerce and often at war with each other.
In 409 BCE Selinunte was captured by the Carthaginians (Phoenicians from North Africa), who destroyed the city. It was never rebuilt.
The temple below, probably dedicated to the Greek goddess Hera, was reassembled in the 1960s.
A second temple, built around 500 BCE like the first, still lies in ruins.
It was interesting to see the huge toppled columns, still lying where they fell.
These temples--plus a third--formed a sort of sacred precinct. The main part of Selinunte was on another hill, some distance away.
The main part of the town was surrounded by a wall, parts of which remain.
There are ruins of five further temples in this part of the site--a testament to the city's wealth as well as its religious devotion.
We wandered through the ruins of streets and buildings.
Agrigento has a very nice archeological museum.
But the true
glory of Agrigento is the Valle dei Templi ("Valley of the Temples"),
its ancient remains.
Agrigento was also founded by Greeks in the sixth century BCE.
A long pedestrian boulevard takes you from one temple to another, with the modern city skyline in the distance.
At the far eastern end is the Temple of Hera, from the fifth century BCE.
Next are remains
of the ancient ctiy walls. In the late Roman/early Christian period,
these were used as a necropolis and niches dug out of the walls to hold sarcophagi of the dead.
Toward the middle
of the site is the Temple of Concordia ("Concord"), also from the
fifth century BCE.
In the Middle Ages it became a church, so it was kept up and is more intact today.
A modern sculpture
of Icarus lies in front of it. He was the son of Daedalus in ancient Greek legend
who built himself a pair of wings
to escape his prison, but flew too close to the sun: the wax that held the feathers to the wings melted and he plummeted to earth.
Along the way was a pen with some Sicilian goats: the breed faces extinction but efforts are being made to keep it alive.
More early Christian tombs (below left) and the ruts of an ancient street (right).
Only a line of columns stand from the Temple of Hercules, from the sixth century BCE.
most evocative of the ruins was of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, built in the
fourth century BCE and, in its day, the largest Greek temple anywhere.
Above the massive columns were a series of male figures that looked as if they were holding up the roof. One lies in fragments on the ground.
Here's a model from the archeological museum in Agrigento that replicates what might have been the original appearance of the temple:
The westernmost temple was dedicated to Castor and Pollux, built in the fifth century BCE, with only four standing columns.
It really was a remarkable site--well deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage designation.
Another of Agrigento's famous destinations are the Scala dei Turchi ("Turkish Steps"), a natural formation where white rock contrasts beautifully with the turquoise water.
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