Agrigento

3d model and reconstruction

Agrigento

Extensive work on the modern level curves to study and eliminate any modern age interventions, plus an inter-disciplinary study in close contact with geologists and archaeologists made it possible to reconstruct an overall view of the ancient city of Agrigento, reconstructing its sacred areas, le fortifications and dwelling quarters. The surface on which Akragas developed covered about 450 hectares. This huge size was due to the need to make sure that urban development integrated with the nature defense system provided by the hills (Collina di Girgenti, Rupe Atenea and Collina dei Templi).

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Short history of

Agrigento

The city of Agrigento ranges over two narrow long hills (around 300-350 meters above the sea level), orientated according to an east-west line and connected to each other by a narrow isthmus: to the West rises the Hill of Girgenti, to the East the Rupe Atenea. To the South the city expands on a highland, at a lower level (among 120-170 meters above the sea level). The highland has steep inclines to the South (Hill of the Temples) and a flat central valley (Valley of the Temples) which guarantee, despite the irregular morphology of the territory, the regular development of the city plan. The steep little valley to the North of the hills and the three sides of the highland are crossed by two rivers: the Akragas (today’s S. Biagio) to the north and to the east, and the Hypsas (today’s S. Anna) to the west, which meet in a river toward the south (today’s S. Leo) into the mouth of which was sited the ancient port of the city (today’s Porto Empedocle). The surface area of ancient Akragas was around 450 hectares. This enormous extension was due to the necessity to integrate the urban development with the natural system of defence constituted by all the high ground (Hill of Girgenti, Rupe Atenea, Hill of the Temples).

A passage of the Histories Polybius (IX,27) is of great importance for the definition of the geomorphology and the topography of the ancient Akragas.

From the story of Polybius and others, combined with archaeological research, the following elements can be observed:

  1. The wall circuit followed the physical line of the territory. Ten gates were stationed along the walls.
  2. The acropolis would seem to be identifiable with the Rupe Atenea, even if the location is still controversial, given the existence of the second strengthened high ground of the Hill of Girgenti, where the medieval settlement developed.
  3. The settlement and the monuments were placed at the feet of the acropolis in the area today called the Valley of the Temples. It is bordered to the South by a low rise parallel to the sea. The area between the acropolis and the Valley of the Temples is arranged into 5 terraces, organized according to the Hippodamic scheme, then rearranged in Roman epoch.
  4. From Livy (XXXVI,40), Cicero (Verr. 2,4,43) and from archaeological research into the territory it can be observed that the agora was located in the level zone northeast of the Olympieion. To the north of the agora there was a gymnasium.
  5. Even further north of the gymnasium, near the Church of S. Nicola, rose the ekklesiasterion and the bouleuterion, which was transformed into an odeion in the Roman age.
  6. The temples rise along the circuit wall. Departing from northeast corner, on the slopes of the Rupe Atenea, is the Sanctuary of Demeter. On the Southern hill are the main temples: Temple of Iuno Lacinia to the Eastern end, then the Temple of the Concord, both datable around the middle of the 5th BC; then, near Gate IV, the Temple of Heracles (end of the 6th c. BC), the Olympieion (480 BC – 406 BC), the Sanctuary of the Chtonian deities (6th c. BC), and after that the Temple of Volcano (5th c. BC). On the Hill of Girgenti the Temple of Athena rose (today’s S. Maria of the Greeks). In the extra urban area, at the point of the confluence of the Akragas with the Hypsas (today’s S. Leo) it is the Sanctuary of Asclepius.
  7. To the west of the mouth of the S. Leo, on the hillock of Montelusa, is the archaic necropolis, contemporary with the foundation of Akragas. Southwest of the modern city rises the so called necropolis of Contrada Pezzino (6th-5th BC.).