Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Sicily - Part 2

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. 

23 comments:

  1. Sicily part II

    Dear Rosemary.. You have gone to great lengths to give us some of the wonderful ancient history of Sicily..
    What amazing photos..
    I am now totally in love with Sicily.. Past history holds so much for us to learn about. Its fascinating..
    enjoyable blog Rosemary..
    Thank you
    happy tuesday.. (i will be reading it again)
    val

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    1. Dear Val - I am pleased that you enjoyed a trip to Agrigento. It is difficult sometimes to relate what you have seen and also keep the post not too long, and inevitably things get left out.
      I think that the older we get, the more one appreciates the history and background to the places where we live and visit.
      Thanks for your lovely comments.

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  2. Hello Rosemary:
    You are certainly whetting our appetite to see Sicily. It is rather a pity that several of the temples have not fared well over the years, but, nevertheless, walking amongst those ancient stones must have been incredibly atmospheric, redolent of the civilisations of times past.

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    1. Hello Jane and Lance - It is sad that some of the temples have almost been lost, but after 2500 years I expect it is an understandable loss. However, there is still plenty to see and we do intend to return in order to visit some of the other spectacular sites that Sicily has to offer.

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  3. So much beauty. So much history. You've been so lucky to travel there Rosemary... and we lucky to have traveled - in a way with you.


    Castor and Pollux where twins and the brothers of Beautiful Hellene... did you meet her ; )

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    1. These beautiful temples will be very familiar to you having grown up with such wonderful antiquity around you.
      Thanks for your input on the twin brothers of beautiful Hellene - was she Helen of Troy?

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    2. Yes! You know I am - a bit ; ) ?- language confused : D
      She is called Hellene in Norwegian !

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  4. ... sorry sometimes I sound... so Greek!
    you see we learned all of it at school, and somehow it just stays with you for ever...

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    1. Dear Demie - I just love your Greek recollections, it brings it all so much more to life. Your school taught you well. Thank you.

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  5. Sicily looks like a fascinating place to visit... definitely on my list! Your photos and commentary are very interesting.

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    1. I am sure you would enjoy it Nat, and glad you have it on your list. Thanks for your kind comments. I am never too sure how much information to give. I do have a tendency to write too much.

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  6. it looks wonderful!

    I am busy with a stage design for the school-musical
    the subject: the Olympic games
    so your images are very helpful
    ;^))

    love
    Patrice A.

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    1. Dear Patrice - how great, I am so delighted that the images are a help to you, Thanks for your visit.

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  7. A lovely second part to our virtual tour of Sicily.

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    1. Pleased that you enjoyed it - the trip now seems such a long time ago, and yet we have only been home a week.

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  8. Dear Rosemary,
    Another great post!
    Thanks for sharing more from Sicily.
    Loved the tour.
    Thanks for helping me with the duck, the 'hairy stuff' on the head confused me. I've only seen two of them.
    Wish you a beautiful day.
    Mette

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    1. Those ducks are rather cute, aren't they? They look really fashionable with their topknots on, as if they are off to a wedding.
      Glad you enjoyed the tour, and thanks for visiting.

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  9. What a fascinating place! I've never heard of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and certainly never seen caryatids used quite like that. I can see how the columns might have been influenced by Egypt, though the reconstructed model appears the way I imagine temples of Crete might have looked.

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    1. I far as I know these are the only male Greek caryatids in existence, as you know, normally the female form was used. The temple must have been an incredible sight to come across. It is thought that there were 36 of these figures, 6 at each end and 12 down both sides.

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  10. Dear Rosemary,
    I myself, never get tired of History.. Its the beginning of our roots and who we are and where we came from..
    Please give us a Sicily III..!!1 Your blogs are so informative and this one on sicilly is wonderful.
    I have just read it again.
    Its refreshing to read how you write.. your command of our language is par excellence..
    val xx

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    1. Dear Val - Your comments are so very generous and kind. How can I resist your request? Just for you Val, one more post on Sicily.

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  11. i am so happy to have found your blog! I love this post...the history, the pictures, the images...wow..fabulous!! Thank you.
    I am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.

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    1. Thank you very much for visiting and for becoming a follower. I am really delighted that you enjoyed the post. The history in Sicily is something rather special because of all the different civilisations that have marched over their little island during the course of the last 2500 years and left their mark.

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