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Agrigento

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Greek Temples

 

 

Temple of Hera (Juno) Lacinia
The name is, like that one of other Agrigentan temples, conventional. In the architecture of this temple, erected on the south- east corner of the Valley of the Temples at a height of 120 meters above sea level, is obvious the worry of a rigorous artistic perfection. The building, like the others, faces east and has remarkable dimensions: on a high rectangular platform (m.41,106 in length and 20,260 in width), mounted on four steps, rest 34 columns. Six on the short side and thirteen on the long side , counting the corner ones both ways. A double square that occupies a surface of 832,807 square meters. The columns consist of four tamburi or drums with 20 sharp-edged flutes and have a height of meters 6,32 and a base diameter of meters 1,70; their distance is meters 1.71 at the center and 1,76 at the sides. It can be dated around 450-440 B.C.
Today, 30 columns are standing but only sixteen with their capitals. It was restored by the Prince of Torremuzza in 1787.
Temple of Concordia
The setting of this temple is unique in the world. Ratios are simple and proportions are perfect. Erected around 430 B.C., it is meters 19,758 by 42,230, slightly larger than a double square. It covers an area of 843,38 square meters and has a height of meters 13,481.
The cella was preceded by a simple antechamber (pronaos m. 5,110 by 7,650) with two columns and was followed by a back porch (opistodomos m. 4,720 by 7,650), where the treasure, votive gifts and the archives of the temple were kept. The elegant and airy columnade, according to classical models, has 6 columns by 13; every column, 6,75 metres high, consists of 4 drums and has 20 sharp- edged flutes.
The temple was named by the historian Fazello (1490- 1570), who found a Latin inscription in the vicinities, not having any relationship with the building. In 597, it was converted into a Christian basilica by the bishop Gregorio, He pulled down two pagan idols in the temple; since one of them was called Raps, the Church was later consecrated to St. Gregorio of the Rape (Turnips).
Temple of Heracles (Hercules) (510 B.C.)
One of the most beautiful temples of antiquity , it is now reduced in poor ruins. But even so, the building, still visible from far away, is imposing and rises in the Valley of the Temples just like the symbol of the power and strength of Herakles, the national hero of Sicily and, in particular, Agrigento.
The wide rectangular platform, mounted on four steps, measures m.73,992 in length and 27,788 in width, a triple square that occupies a surface of .2.056,89 square meters. It was m. 16,264 high.
Out of 38 columns (6 on the front and 15 on the long sides counting the corner ones twice), only 9 stand out today. They were put back up in 1922, thanks to the English captain Alexander Hardcastle.
Tempio di Asclepius (Esculapius)
It was this temple that all the sick would attend to receive treatments and advice. It dates from 400- 390 B.C. It consisted of a cella in antis and of a pronaos with two columns.
The building, says Polybius, was eight and a half stadiums away from the city, that is 1480 meters. Cicero asserts that in the temple there was a statue of Apollo, made by Miron, whose name was written with silver letters on one thigh of the masterpiece.
The Temple of Asclepios was a small building: 22,144 meters long and 11,118 wide, it occupied a surface of 246,196 square meters, and its decoration was by far inferior to that of classical Greek temples. The walls are m.0,55; the diameter of the columns is m.1,10.
Temple of Olyumpian Zeus (Jupiter)
The Akragantines, after their victory over the Carthaginians at Himera (480- 479), as a thanks- giving to Zeus, erected this temple that, for its proportions, was one of largest of antiquity. It is an essentially Doric building but it was pseudoperipteral i.e. there were no free-standing columns but demi-columns , seven by fourteen, engaged into a continuous wall.
The massive rectangular platform stands on five steps, faced east and measured 113, 20 meters in length and 56meters in width, a double square covering an area of .6407 square meters, nearly the dimensions of a soccer field that can accommodate approximately 42.00 spectators.
In the intercolumni (spaces between the columns) stood giant statues (7.61 metres high) called Telamons or Atlantes.
The historian Tommaso Fazello, who can be regarded as the discoverer of this temple, reported that most of the building fell to the ground on 9 December 1401.
The Temple of Castor and Pollux (Dioscuri)
The high platform, mounted on three steps, measured m. 34,12 in length and 15,86 in width, little less than a double square. It occupied a surface of 541,143 square metres.. Only four columns, out of 34, stand out among its ruins. On the corner ashlar there is a beautiful rosette.
The building was, in 1836, cleared of all the rubble and the earth that for many centuries had covered it. The archeologists Villareale and Cavallari, for order of the Duke of Serradifalco, unearthed the columns and re- erected three of them on three steps. A fourth one was added in 1856.
The Temple of Hephaistos (Vulcan)
Only two columns standing on the incomplete base are the remains of the Temple of Vulcan. Erected around 430 B.C. on the western-most end of the hill, its length was 37,89 meters and its width 19,26 meters. It was originally surrounded by 34 columns.
The Temple of Demeter
It was a temple in antis built around 480 B.C. The base and most of the cella are still well preserved.
It was 22,66 metres long and 12,10 metres wide.
In the Middle Ages, the Church of San Biagio was built on the steps of the temple.
Excerpts from the guidebook "Agrigento- The Valley of the Temple and the Regional Museum" by Giuseppe Di Giovanni, a companion to most of the visitors of the Valley of The Temples. The photographs belong to the Archivio Di Giovanni and are reproduced under kind permission of the author.

 

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