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2021 blog

We’ll be back in time- treasures of Sicily (Valli dei Templi in Agrigento)

The Valli dei Templi sits upon a hill, not a valley. You can take a taxi to the top and walk down through the ruins. We walking in the past under the bright sunshine of a mid-September with temperatures around 30c /86f. What you find here are the best ruins of Ancient Greece, aside perhaps from the Acropolis in Athens, but here there are more of them. As for recovered art, there is none here. The Antonino Salinas Regional Archeological Museum in Palermo has a superb collection of what was similar to what was here , but from Selinunte, about which a post is to follow, while Athens has a fabulous museum at the foot of the Acropolis.

It’s reasonable to wonder why the ancients built so many large structures in a such small area. It’s just 500 meters/1600 feet or so from the entrance to the exit. Nor would one think that the local population was so large that it would require so many places of worship. I think the answer likely lies in their motivations. They were polytheists. To honor gods who performed distinct duties and were each capable of causing havoc if they were displeased with their subjects they would need a temple dedicated to each of those whom they considered a danger on the one hand and a formidable ally on the other. One would need to be careful not to sleight any of them by providing an inferior structure let alone none at all.

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Temple of Juno, water color sketch

I can imagine the crowds on special days when priests would make a sacrifice to this or that god or gods. After the ritual killing there might have been a large barbecue. Most everyone in Agrigento and environs would have turned out. It could have been quite the feast- the gods don’t actually need to eat, apparently, they just need to have their ego stroked. I seriously doubt they just discarded the dead animals. Fire up the barby, Giuseppe!

The Temple of Concordia is the best preserved, having been used as a church starting in the 6th century, 1000 years after its construction, in use until 1785, over 2000 years. Aside from the Pantheon perched on the Acropolis in Athens it is the best preserved building of ancient Greece. As with the Pantheon in Athens, this building was partially reconstructed. Like most Greek temples, it is east-west oriented.

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Temple of Concordia

Here’s a website with additional information https://www.hisour.com/temple-of-concordia-agrigento-valley-of-the-temples-55964/

The Temple of Juno dates from the 5th century BC, set afire and heavily damaged by the Carthaginians.

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Juno

The Temple of Hercules is the oldest temple. It was destroyed by an earthquake. There are eight columns left.

Temple of Hercules
Temple of Hercules

Temple of Zeus (480 BC) celebrated the city-state’s victory over Carthage. The Temple of Castor and Pollux has only four columns remaining.

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Castor and Pollux

The Temple of Hephaestus is from the 5th century BCE while the Temple of Asclepius was a special destination for those looking for cures for ailments.

The official website of the archaeological site is https://www.parcovalledeitempli.it/en/

By Gary Kirkpatrick

Artist and travel blogger.

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