Lo scontro con i Cartaginesi e il completamento del tempio
In 480 BC, however, there was a crucial event in the history of the Greeks in Sicily. The expansionism of Akragas, which had extended its sphere of influence to the north coast, occupying Himera, was causing concern to another great Mediterranean power, that of the Carthaginians, who were settled in the western sector of the island. The pitched battle took place in the plain of Himera: here the Carthaginian army led by Hamilcar confronted the army of Theron, who was joined by the tyrant of Syracuse, Gelo. The Greeks triumphed, capturing a huge amount of plunder and an immense number of slaves. For the Greeks of Sicily it was a victory so important that the ancient historians created parallels with another major victory which occurred in the same year, that of the Spartans and the Athenians over the Persians barbarians. The rich spoils and the huge mass of slaves led to a sharp acceleration in the monumental process of the Greek cities of Sicily: many large sanctuaries were built in those years. In Akragas, Theron had the resources to resume his grand plan. The construction site must have been immense: in addition to slaves there were high pulleys for raising and placing the enormous blocks, which still show the grooves for the ropes that were passed around to move them. The temple stood on a huge rectangular platform of approximately 56 by 113 metres; on it was built a base of five steps, which raised and isolated the temple above the surrounding landscape. The temple did not have a peristyle of columns, but a boundary wall against which stood Doric columns, seven on the short sides and fourteen on the long sides, whose diameter was more than four metres and the height of which, according to scholars, must have been approximately 18 metres. The Giants, built of stone blocks, and each 7.65 metres high, were probably placed on a shelf and leant against the top of the perimeter wall, to hold up, along with half columns, the trabeation. Visible among the ruins are metopes and triglyphs which formed the Doric frieze, and lion's head gutters for the drainage of rainwater were previously found and are preserved in the Archaeological Museum; in the same museum there is also one of the Giants, reconstructed from recovered fragments. The cell, which remains uncovered, is divided into pronaos, naos and opisthodomos, and the walls were spaced out by quadrangular pillars. It is fascinating to think that the majestic Giants, forced to hold up the roof of the great temple, were symbols of the subjection of the Carthaginian barbarians to Greek power. On the other hand, according to the historian Diodorus Siculus, there were war scenes illustrated on the gables: the battle of the Giants, rebelling against Zeus and the gods of Olympus, and the Trojan war, which saw the defeat of the Trojans by the Greeks, thanks to the astute deceit of Ulysses. These are two mythological stories at the basis of Greek civilisation and identity, celebrating the triumph of the controlled force of reason over blind and destructive power. Even the altar, 54 m long by 15.7 m, is distinguished by its monumental scale, the greatest of the entire classical age of Greek Sicily. Because of its size, it must have been intended to impress the faithful with the sacrifice of a large amount of animals: the religious celebration was thus associated with the celebration of the power of the tyrant.