Review: Akragas and the Valley of the Temples
Attraction - Ruins
Near Agrigento, Sicily, Italy
One of the best Greek archaeology sites in Sicily
The Valley of the Temples is deservedly a World Heritage Site and is on everyone’s list when they visit Sicily. It occupies a long ridge below the modern city of Agrigento and the silhouette of the temples dominates the rest of the landscape. They are particularly impressive when floodlit at night.
The site is split into eastern and western areas, separated by a road. The best preserved temples are in the eastern section. There are two entrances, which have a security check, and most people begin at the ticket office for the eastern zone where the main car park is. The temples are connected by an unpaved road and there is a shuttle bus service for those not wanting to walk. It can be hot, so make sure you have taken water with you.
There are information boards in Italian and English, but it was useful having a guide with us.
Over 21 temples were built between 500-450BC, each dedicated to a different god or goddess. The Temple of Concordia is one of the best preserved Doric temples outside Greece. It was used as a Christian Basillica from the C6th to the C18th when it was restored to its original form. It is one of the most impressive Greek temples anywhere in the world. Unfortunately visitors are restricted to viewing from the outside.
The other two main temples as far as visitors are concerned are the Temple of Juno and the Temple of Hercules where the pillars have been restored and visitors can access both.
The rest of the temples are just piles of stones. The Temple of Zeus would have been one of the largest temples in Greek Antiquity, but it was never completed. It was destroyed by an earthquake in the C15th and in the C18th it was used as a source of building stone It is now a rubble of stones although the remains of the huge statues (telemons) which would have decorated the main facade can still be seen lying broken on the ground.
The temples were built from massive sandstone blocks which were covered with white marble stucco to protect them from weathering. This can still be seen in places on the Temple of Juno. They were all built to the same basic plan with a colonnade around the perimeter surrounding central shrine area. The entrance always faced south. This shrine area is made up of three parts, The first room was where the votive offerings were left. The main room or cella had a statue of the deity and priests and initiates held secret rites here. Beyond was the treasury.
The upper parts of the temples were painted with stories from the Greek myths.
At the front was a large stone platform used for public sacrifice when a sheep or goat was offered up to the deity. This is best seen in front of the Temple of Juno.
The temples were linked by the Sacred Way and part of this can be seen between the Temple of Hercules and the Temple of Zeus. Near it is part of the aqueduct which brought water to the city.
Work began in the C18th work on restoring the temples. In 1921, Sir Alexander Hardcastle, a captain in the British Army came to Akragas and built a house here which is still used as offices for the Parks Authority. He financed excavations of the site and was responsible for re-erecting eight of the pillars of the Temple of Hercules.
It is an amazing place and well worth visiting. The site is so huge that you are not aware of the crowds. We spent a morning there, but it would be quite easy to spend the whole day – but do go prepared with water and food. There can also be a LOT of walking!
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.