The archaeological area known as the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily, is one of the most important archeological sites in the world and a Unesco world heritage site since 1998. Along a long rocky scarp, chosen as the southern limit of the town, are still sited the great temples of ancient Akragas: the Temple of Hera (Juno) Lacinia, Concordia, Heracles (Hercules), Olympian Zeus (Jupiter), Castor and Pollux (Dioscuri) and Hephaistos (Vulcan). Further down, on the bank of the Akragas river, near a medical spring, stood the Temple dedicated to Asklepius (Eusculapius), the god of medicine. At the mouth of the river there was the harbour and emporion (trading-post) of the ancient city.
Ancient Akragas , in its hey-day, was a flourishing cultural centre: it gave the world Empedocles, the pre-socratic philosopher, whose concept of matter as divided into four elements- Earth, Air, Fire and Water- was the foundation of science for many centuries to come. The city attracted poets like Simonides and Pyndar who described it as "the most beautiful of mortal cities". In Roman times, Agrigento was visited by Cicero in search of evidence of pro-consul Verres' abuse of power and later described by Virgil in the Eneid. From the Middle Ages up to modern times, its remains, landscapes, flora, colours and the echo of lost civilizations have inspired poets, writers and painters: Ludovico Ariosto, Wolfgang Goethe, Guy de Maupassant, Alexander Dumas, Anatole France, Murilo Mendes, Lawrence Durrell, E.M.Forster, Francesco Lojacono, Nicolas de Stael, Salvatore Quasimodo, Luigi Pirandello.