Built on a cliff on the south coast of Sicily,
Agrigento is an ancient Greek city, which also
carries the names of Agrigentum, Acragas or
Akragas. Being surrounded by two rivers
called the Hypsas and Akragas made it
easier to defend the city in war time.
Today, the town is located 230 miles above sea
level on a hill which runs parallel to the Ionian
coast. The remains of the old city still has a
medieval structure with steep narrow winding
streets, an extraordinary place to see!
A Brief History
Agrigento was founded with the name of Akragas
by the inhabitants of Gela in the 6th century BC.
The city then became a very important centre
in Magna Grecia. The spectacular and massive
remains are still visible near the town.
In 406 BC, the town was destroyed by Carthage,
but rose again. Approximately two centuries
later, the city was under the rule of Rome.
After the fall of the Empire, Agrigento was
taken over by the Goths and then the Byzantines
in the 6th century. Under the rule of the
Byzantines, the city declined.
In 829, the Arabs took over, destroyed the city,
and rebuilt it on higher ground.
Several ancient remains of the city date back to
the 5th century BC, including the temple of
Concordia (Roman goddess of harmony), the
temple of Zeus (leader of the gods and god
of the sky and thunder in Greek mythology),
the temple of Heracles (a.k.a. Hercules in
Roman mythology). The temple of Concordia
is one of the finest structures symbolizing
Greek Classicism. The temples were strategically
built on the peak of several hills around the
city, which dominate the valley famed as
“Valle dei Templi”. In the spring, this
valley is known for a pleasant scent of
orange flowers which are called “zagare”
Agrigento is located in a province along with
two very important towns known as Licata
and Naro. Naro still contains well-preserved
catacombs (also known as caves for burial)
where the earliest Christians hid to worship.
The poor village near Agrigento called the
Contrada (defined as Chaos), is where Luigi
Pirandello was born. He was probably the
most famous Italian dramatist. He was also
a novelist, and won the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 1934.
Interesting Places to See
The Doric Temples in the Valle dei Templi,
which date back to the 6th and 5th centuries
BC, are ancient monuments dedicated to Hercules,
Olympian Jupiter, Juno, Castor, Pollux and
Demeter. These monuments have been amazingly
preserved and are worth touring. The Tomb
or Terone, the Oratory of Phalaris, the church
of S. Nicola from the 13th century and also the
14th century Duomo are also spectacular sites.
Economy of Agrigento
A traditional agriculture of olives, almonds and
sheep is the basis of economy for this city, whose
population is around 55,000. Tourism is a great
contributor to the city due to its significant
archeological heritage and the coast nearby.
For someone who’s interested in learning about
Greek history and mythology, Agrigento is a
great place to visit. History is preserved for
all to see.
Written by Candice Pardue