Akragas and Theron the Tyrant
Akragas reached its maximum power, wealth and monumentality in the fifth century BC, especially under the government of the tyrant Theron, who seized power in 488 and died in 472. Belonging to the family of Emminidi and related to Gelo, tyrant of Gela, Theron commissioned from the great poet Pindar the celebration of his chariot victory in the 476 Olympic Games. Pindar himself visited Akragas, and called it the most beautiful city of mortals in his Pythian II. Another famous Greek poet, Simonides, also spent some time at the court of Theron in Agrigento, where he died and was buried. It was under Theron that the city experienced its greatest development, expanding its territory to the north. Now it could be considered one of the main Greek cities of Sicily, rivalling Syracuse in terms of power, wealth and splendour. Large public works were designed and built by the tyrant: above all, an impressive system of underground aqueducts, whose designer was the architect Feace, and the construction of an artificial lake, the Kolymbethra. According to some scholars, it may have been Theron who, at the beginning of his tyranny, had the city's first great peripteral Doric temple (surrounded by columns on all sides) built, the so-called temple of Heracles, which marked the role of Akragas in the development of the Doric order in the colonial Greek world. Its antiquity compared with the other temples of the hill is evident in its elongated layout (6 columns on the front and 15 along the sides), and by the style of lion's head gutters, now on display at the Archaeological Museum. But the expansionism of Akragas, which had extended its sphere of influence to the north coast, occupying Himera, worried the Carthaginians, who settled in the western sector of the island. The pitched battle took place on 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 so important a victory that 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.