The Temple of Heracles (Roman name Hercules) has been attributed to the divine hero on the basis of a plausible testimony by Cicero. It is the most ancient temple in Agrigento, its origin dates back to the end of the 6th century BC.The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento ranks amongst the most impressive complexes of ancient Greek buildings outside Greece. Its Doric temples, dating from the 5th century BC were destroyed in part by the Carthaginians in 406 BC, and partially during the 6th century by Christians, who believed the temples to be pagan. Earthquakes wreaked further havoc. Nine of the original ten temples are still visible and can be covered in a day. When we visited tourists were very thin on the ground, and the weather was just right for wandering around. I can imagine that at the height of the season, and when it is very hot, it is quite hard work, something worth bearing in mind if you intend to visit.
I showed a simple four column temple on the first Sicily post where have we been?. The reason I showed it was that it is the most used image of all the ancient sites in Sicily. It is called Temple of Castor and Pollux, and curiously it is a controversial assemblage of pieces from other buildings, and erected in the 19th century. It is not a true temple at all, just a mock up. It is hard to understand why it is used so extensively, but I had hoped it would give some clues to readers.
This whole area is lovely, and covered in Almond blossom and Olive trees, some of which are over 600 years old.
The first temple encountered is Temple Juno (Latin) Hera (Greek), built around 450 BC, and many of its columns are still intact.
Walking along from this Temple, you pass what was a natural protective cliff stone wall, but which became a Byzantine necropolis.
Between the gaps in the rocky cliff face, it is possible to see that the name Valley of the Temples is rather a misnomer, as the Temples are high up on this plateau above the plain beyond.
Temple of Concord (Harmony) built in the 5th century BC is the best preserved temple, mainly due to it being converted into a church by early Christians. In the 4th century AD the Christians viewed the building as being a place of Paganism. The Temple would originally have been white. White marble was crushed to a fine powder and then made into a form of stucco which was then plastered over the Temple, there are still small fragments of the white remaining. Lying to the lower side of the Temple is an early Christian necropolis used when the building became a church.
Regrettably the Temple of Olympian Zeus (Jupiter) requires a certain amount of vision from visitors to imagine how it looked 2500 years ago. The proportions were enormous making it one of the largest temples in antiquity. Only 15% of the building materials remain, most of the material was used to build nearby Porto Empedocle and Agrigento. Today it survives only as a broad stone platform heaped with tumbled pillars and blocks of stone. In between the columns of the Temple were colossal atlases, stone figures standing some 7.5m high. The figures appear to have alternated between bearded and clean-shaven figures, all nude and standing with their backs to the wall, hands stretched up above their heads. Attempts have been made to reconstruct the male Caryatids or Telamons original appearance, but the parts remaining are heavily eroded and all of their feet are missing. The atlases would have been an exceptionally unusual feature, and may possibly have been unique in their time. They have been interpreted by some as symbolising the Greek enslavement of the Carthaginian invaders, or have even been attributed to Egyptian influences.
The sad pile of broken pillars and stones from the temple.
A reconstruction of one of the male Caryatids or Telamons from the piles of remaining of stone. I have left a person at the top left hand side of the photo so that it is possible to see the scale of the figure - as previously mentioned no feet could be found.
This is a contemporary mock up of one of the figures, again you can see the scale of the figure from the people in the background.
These two images from the Agrigento Archaeological Museum show how the temple and figures probably looked.
Part 1 here.
Part 1 here.