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  • Valley of the Temples

    By Anthony Parente

    The Valley of the Temples is one of the most important archeological sites in the world and in 1997 it was named a UNESCO World heritage site. The temples are located in Agrigento, which is in the region of Sicily. The city was initially founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century BC and it quickly became a major cultural center. The doric style temples in the valley were all constructed within a century. Each of the temples face east, which was a standard criteria for both Greek and Roman temples. This was done so that the statue of the god housed in each temple would be illuminated by the rising sun. One can only imagine how beautiful this area was when it was a thriving city and the temples were almost all complete. I am sure it would have been a site to behold.

    Temple of Concorde
    Temple of Concorde
    Of all of the temples in the valley this is the only one to remain relatively intact and it is considered one of the best preserved Doric style temples. It is believed that this temple was constructed around 430 BC, but it is unclear as to which god this temple was erected for. The temple got its name from a Latin inscription found near the temple. The reason the temple remained intact is due in part to it being converted to a Christian church in the 6th century.

    Temple of Castor and Pollux
    Temple of Castor and Pollux (Dioscuri)
    This temple was built in the 5th century and it was dedicated to Leda and Zeus's twins. Of the 34 columns used to make this temple only four remain standing. It is these four columns that just so happen to be the most photographed of all the temples and it has become the symbol of Agrigento.

    Temple of Zeus (Jupiter)
    This was built to thank Zeus for their victory against the Carthaginians at Himera in 480 BC. The temple was one of the largest of all doric style buildings, but it was never completed due in part to the Carthaginian raid in 406 BC. If it had been completed it would have been the largest temple in the Greek and Roman world. One of the features of this temple was the telamons, which are giant human figures, used between each column to support the building. Not much is left of the temple because the blocks were taken to help construct other buildings.

    Temple of Hera Lacinia (Juno)
    Built around the 5th century BC this temple was dedicated to the goddess of marriage and childbirth. It was erected on the highest point in the valley, which is located in the southeast corner. In 406 BC the Carthaginians came along and ransacked the city. Before all was said and done they set the temple on fire. It was initially constructed with 34 columns of which 30 still remain standing.

    Temple of Herakles (Hercules)
    Temple of Heracles (Hercules)
    This was the first temple built in the valley at Agrigento. The construction of this temple was completed during the later part of the 6th century BC. It was originally built with 38 columns, but today only 8 remain standing. The temple was dedicated to the legendary Hercules, who is the national hero of Sicily and in particular the city of Agrigento.

    Temple of Asclepius (Esculapius)
    Dedicated to the Greek god of medicine, who was son to Apollo. Many people visited this temple because it was believed that Asclepius had the power to heal all those who were sick. It was constructed during the 5th century BC and what is left of the temple can be found in the middle of the countryside.

    Temple of Hephaistos (Vulcan)
    Very little is left of this temple dedicated to the god of fire. According to legend this god had a forge located underneath Mount Etna.

    Temple of Demeter
    Built in 480 BC this temple was dedicated to the goddess of the grain and harvest. The little Medieval Church of San Biagio now incorporates what remains of the temple.

    Tomb of Theron
    Initially this was believed to be the the tomb of the tyrant Theron, but studies seem to suggest that this was in fact built to honor those who courageously fought and lost their lives during the Second Punic War.

    If you are in Sicily and happen to be in the vicinity of Agrigento make sure to take some time and visit this amazing site. It is best viewed during the morning when the sun rises and illuminates the area.

    Additional Resources:
    Sicily Regional Guide
    Sicily Clothing & Novelties
    Valley of the Temples Photo Gallery

    Photos copyright © Mary Wilson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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