I santuari di Akragas

Le divinità di Akragas
We do not know to which deities the Doric temples – known by their conventional names of Juno, Concordia, Hercules, and Vulcan – of the southern hill were dedicated. Certainly, however, the construction of the beautiful buildings on the southern hill of the city was certainly part of a single and coherent programme, implemented throughout the fifth century BC, which exploited the dramatic potential of the rocky ridge overlooking the sea. Akragas offered sailors a singular spectacle of beauty and an unequivocal message of power: a city held in the close embrace of its gods. According to the testimony of Cicero, not far from the Forum there was a temple of Hercules, where there a statue of the god  consumed by the kisses of the faithful, who determinedly resisted the heinous attempt of Verre to seize the simulacrum. But we do not know if the temple mentioned by Cicero is the same as the temple conventionally called by this name. The orator also tells us of a temple dedicated to the god of medicine, which the Romans called Aesculapius and the Greeks Asclepius, where there was a beautiful bronze statue of Apollo carved by Myron. Archaeologists have identified a sanctuary of Asclepius on the plain to the south of the city, beyond the walls, built in the fourth century BC.

Tempio cosiddetto di Giunone

Tempio cosiddetto della Concordia

Tempio cosiddetto di Ercole

Il tempio cosiddetto di Ercole illuminato

Tempio cosiddetto di Vulcano

Santuario di Asclepio, dio della medicina, eretto nel IV secolo a.C. a Sud della città, fuori le mura

Il Ratto di Persefone
Hail daughter of Persephone! Thus Pindar, the great Theban lyric poet, guest of the tyrant Theron at the beginning of the fifth century BC, addressed Akragas, calling it the most beautiful city of mortals. No wonder, in a community that owed all its wealth and power to the proceeds of a flourishing agriculture, that there would be filial devotion and gratitude to the protective deities of the earth and its productive cycles, the most venerated in Sicily, according to the testimony of Cicero. It was the smile of Demeter, the mother of Persephone, which made crops flourish, the fields fertile the hard labour of man fruitful. The myth tells of the kidnapping of the young Persephone in Enna by Hades, god of the underworld, who carried her into the afterlife to make her his bride. A desperate Demeter lit two torches in the crater of Etna, and searched all over Sicily for her missing daughter. The sadness of the goddess had an impact on the earth, everything becoming dry, arid and barren. At this point Zeus intervened, imposing a compromise: Persephone, who had linked her fate inextricably to the realm of the dead by eating seven seeds from the hellish pomegranate fruit, would return to her mother for only half the year. These are the six months in which the earth flourishes, cheered by the joy of the goddess and coinciding with spring and summer. For the rest of the year, autumn and winter, the fields sleep and do not give fruit. This is how the ancients explained the changing seasons. 

Santuario delle Divinità Ctonie. L'altare circolare ed il tempio.

Santuario delle Divinità Ctonie. Tempio dorico ricostruito nell'800.

Santuari e feste di Demetra
The cult of Demeter and Persephone, also known as Kore, that is young girl, is documented in Akragas by the monumental sacred area in the western part of the southern hill, known as the Sanctuary of the Chthonic Deities. Here stood two Doric temples, one of which was partially rebuilt in 800 and is known by the name of Castor and Pollux, along with rectangular and circular altars where sacrifices were offered to the goddesses. At dusk during the feasts of Thesmophoria, women with torch in hand recalling Demeter's search brought suckling pigs in procession, which were then sacrificed. The ritual lasted three days, during which the sadness of the goddess was evoked through fasting, until rebirth on the last day. There are hundreds of terracotta statuettes from the sanctuary of offerers with torch and pig, probably votive offerings for the goddesses, made in the figurine workshops of the city, and which are on display today at the Archaeological Museum of Agrigento. Perhaps the temple located on the eastern slopes of the Atenea cliff was also dedicated to Demeter and Persephone, where the Romanesque church of San Biagio was later built. Numerous oil lamps, attesting to midnight rites, have come from this area, where two circular altars remain. Dug into the rocky ridge, a few metres further down, there are some caves and constructions for water, certainly linked to a sacred context of the classical age. Female clay busts – probably of the Nymphs, minor deities who protected nature, the woods and the springs – have been found here. According to the theory of the four elements developed by Empedocles, the great Akragantine philosopher of the fifth century BC, alongside the deities of air, earth and fire – Hera, Hades and Zeus – is the nymph Nestis, the Akragantine goddess of water.

Altare circolare presso il tempio di Demetra sulle pendici orientali dell'acropoli

Chiesa di San Biagio. Particolare delle fondazioni a vespaio del tempio greco dedicato a Demetra

Tempio di Demetra. Gli altari

Chiesa di San Biagio costruita sulle fondazioni del tempio di Demetra sulle pendici orientali della Rupe Atenea

Zeus ed Athena ad Akragas
Le fonti antiche ricordano due templi sull’acropoli di Akragas, la parte più alta della città dove, in genere erano venerati i culti più importanti. Qui sorgevano il tempio di Zeus Atabyrios, eretto dal crudele tiranno Falaride, e il tempio di Athena, due divinità del pantheon dell’isola di Rodi da dove proveniva un nucleo di coloni che fondarono la città. Tra questi erano gli Emmenidi, la stirpe di Terone, il tiranno che portò la città all’apogeo della sua potenza e che costruì il tempio dedicato ad Athena, i cui resti sono stati identificati sotto la Chiesa medievale di Santa Maria dei Greci sulla collina di Girgenti. Ancora a Terone si deve la costruzione dell’Olympieion, uno dei templi più grandi dell’antichità, i cui resti rimangono a pochi metri dal tempio cosiddetto di Ercole. Eretto per celebrare la vittoria sui Cartaginesi invasori ad Himera nel 480 a.C., il tempio con le sue proporzioni inusitate è un vero manifesto di propaganda della potenza del tiranno: alto circa trenta metri, accanto alle imponenti colonne erano i telamoni, figure gigantesche, corrispettivo mitico dei nemici sconfitti. Terone, al pari di Zeus, che aveva bloccato il tentativo dei giganti di rovesciare il suo potere, aveva fermato il barbaro invasore nello stesso giorno, così amavano ripetere gli antichi, in cui in Grecia l’esercito panellenico aveva sconfitto il persiano invasore.

Le imponenti rovine del tempio dedicato a Zeus Olimpio

Altare monumentale posto ad Est del Tempio di Zeus

Riconoscimenti: storia

La mostra è stata curata da Giusi Messina.
Coordinamento generale: Giuseppe Parello, Direttore Parco Archeologico e Paesaggistico Valle dei Templi di Agrigento.
Testi: Maria Serena Rizzo e Valentina Caminneci
Foto: Emanuele Simonaro, Fabio Florio, Angelo Pitrone.

Ringraziamenti: tutti i partner multimediali
In alcuni casi, la storia potrebbe essere stata realizzata da una terza parte indipendente; pertanto, potrebbe non sempre rappresentare la politica delle istituzioni (elencate di seguito) che hanno fornito i contenuti.
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