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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites

Akragas

  Graeco-Roman city founded ca. 582 B.C. by Rhodio-Cretan colonists from Gela led by Aristonoos and Pystilos. The new city, which took its name from the river along its E boundary, stood on a steep hill defended on three sides by the abrupt drop of the natural (tufa) rock. On the S side the hill slopes gently down to the lofty ridge, on which the temples stand, and opens toward the sea. This natural position is described and praised by Polybios (9.27).
   In its early years the city was ruled by an oligarchic government. About 570 B.C. it came under the tyrant Phalaris, who carried out an energetic military and political program to extend Akragan territory, conquering Sikanian towns of the interior and even threatening Himera. At his death (ca. 554 B.C.) Phalaris was succeeded by other tyrants such as Alkamenes and Alkandros. During the second half of the 6th c. B.C. the city gained prosperity by the production and export of grain, wine, and olives, as well as by the breeding of livestock. In this period Akragas minted its first silver coins, with an eagle on the obverse and a crab on the reverse. The city reached the peak of its military and political power under Theron, of the family of the Emmenids (488-473 B.C.), who ruled with justice and moderation, though he continued Phalaris' expansionist policy. He conquered Himera, provoking Carthaginian intervention. In 480 B.C. the Carthaginians were thoroughly defeated by a Greek army led by Theron and his brother-in-law Gelon. After this victory Akragas undertook a grandiose building program, including the Temple to Olympian Zeus and the system of aqueducts planned by the architect Phaiax. Pindar lived at the court of Theron.
   A semi-aristocratic government followed the tyrants, and was in turn superseded by a democratic constitution; a notable role in this change was played by Empedokles. Until the end of the 5th c. B.C. Akragas enjoyed a long period of prosperity and splendor, disturbed only by a Sikel revolt led by Ducetius, who was defeated at the Akragan border around 450 B.C. The Akragans' wealth, enjoyment of life, and urge to erect splendid public and private buildings were so great that Empedokles remarked that his fellow citizens "ate as if they would die the next day; and built as if they would never die".
   At the end of the 5th c. the Carthaginians, resuming their attempt to conquer Sicily, captured Himera and Selinus and marched quickly toward Akragas. After a long siege the city was taken in 406 B.C.; temples and shrines were burnt and sacked, the whole city was razed to the ground. For many decades Akragas lay abandoned; it was rebuilt and repopulated only after 338 B.C. by the new lord of Syracuse, the Corinthian Timoleon, who defeated the Carthaginians and restored peace and democratic governments in the Sicilian towns. Akragas' new colonists, who were joined by the former inhabitants of the city, came from Elea and were led by Megellus and Pheristos. In this period the city expanded considerably and enjoyed a certain prosperity. Between 286 and 280 B.C. it came under the tyrant Phintias, who tried in vain to restore the city to its former power. At his death, all hopes of freedom rested on Pyrrhos, who tried to expel the Carthaginians from Sicily and managed to conquer Akragas in 276 B.C. When Pyrrhos' expedition failed, Akragas came again under Carthaginian domination and suffered the conflict between Rome and Carthage in the first and second Punic wars. In 262, 255, and finally in 210 B.C., Akragas was besieged and occupied by the Roman army. From this moment onward the city disappeared as a political entity although under Roman domination it enjoyed a lasting peace and a notable economic recovery. It was repopulated by Roman colonists in 207 B.C. and again in the Augustan period. Under Roman administration Agrigentum was civitas decumana, though it retained civic offices of Greek type. In the Imperial period, besides its usual agricultural production, the city developed a textile industry and the extraction of sulphur; it also had an important commercial harbor, the Emporium, cited by Strabo and Ptolemy. With the spread of Christianity, the end of the Roman empire, and the subsequent Byzantine domination, Agrigentum rapidly declined. The temples were abandoned or transformed into Christian basilicas; the city area became progressively smaller and the hill of the temples was used for cemeteries and catacombs. When the Arabs invaded it in 825, the city was reduced to a village.
   During Greek and Roman times the city occupied a large square area delimited by ravines and by a powerful circuit of fortification walls which, in their original form, probably went back to the 6th c. B.C. On the S side the wall follows a winding course to its SE corner, formed by the so-called Temple of Juno. In this stretch the scant remains of Gate I are followed by a powerful pincer bastion to block a canyon that provided easy access to the city. This bastion was formed by two ashlar walls meeting at an angle and defended by a strong square tower. Gate II, called the Geloan Gate, opened farther S; it was cut into the rock and spanned a road which, from the valley of the river Akragas, climbed up to the city between steep cliffs protected by walls; one can still see today the deep furrows made by wheeled traffic. On the ridge immediately to the W of the Temple of Juno stood Gate III, of which only a few remains survive together with the road level and the vehicle tracks. From this point the fortifications ran along the S edge of the temple hill and were partly cut into the natural rock. To the W of the Temple of Herakles was Gate IV, today called the Golden Gate. It was the most important city gate, and led toward the sea, to the Emporium; there are now no traces of its defenses. The walls continue S of the Temple of Zeus and the Shrine of the Chthonian Divinities; Gate V was in a set-back of the walls and was protected on the right by a bastion projecting ca. 25 m. Today the gate is blocked by tumbled masonry. Beyond Gate V other stretches of the walls have been brought to light, with postern gates and square towers up to the SW corner. Along the W side, the walls resume a winding course to Gate VI, probably a dipylon defended by two towers. Farther N Gate VII was also defended by towers and a projecting bastion. At this point the fortifications curved in an ample arc toward the E and then back to the foot of the acropolis. Gates VIII and IX were built in this stretch. The whole N side of the town was protected only by the rock scarp; to the NW it included the hill called di Girgenti on which the modern town is built, and to the NE the other peak called the Athenian Rock, which most scholars identify with the lophos athenaios mentioned by Polybios. Along the circuit of the walls, as if in defense of the city, rose the series of temples and sanctuaries which still form the greatest archaeological attraction of Agrigentum. Starting from the NE corner, on the slopes of the Athenian Rock, one sees first the Sanctuary of Demeter. In the center are the foundations of its temple in antis (30.2 x 13.3 m), on which, in the Middle Ages, the Normans built the small church of St. Biagio, partly incorporating into its structure the cella of the Greek temple. This latter dates from 480-460 B.C. and carried a stone sima with lion head water spouts. Along the N side of the temple are two round altars with bothroi, typical of the cult of Chthonian divinities. On its S side the sanctuary was closed by a long retaining wall; access to the temple was by means of two roads cut into the rock and still preserved with their deep furrows cut by the chariots' wheels. Nearby, but outside the walls at the foot of the rock scarp, lies another Sanctuary of Demeter, of pre-Hellenic origin. It consists of two natural grottos from which water flowed, and which were found filled with terracotta busts of Demeter and Kore. In the archaic period a rectangular building with inward leaning walls was erected in front of the grottos; it was probably a cistern that gathered the water of the caves and channeled it into various troughs on the outside. At a later phase the sanctuary was enclosed by a trapezoidal wall and the entrance was flanked by pilasters.
   Another small rock sanctuary, with little niches for votive pinakes cut into the cliff, lies farther S to the side of Gate II. The temple hill proper formed the S side of the city; on its highest point is the so-called Temple of Juno (38.15 x 16.9 m), Doric peripteral (6 x 13). The conditions of the ground required the construction of a massive platform which increases the upward thrust of the building. On the N side the columns, the epistyle and part of the frieze are standing, but on the other three sides only the columns are partially preserved. The door leading from the pronaos into the cella is flanked by piers with traces of stairways to the roof; the opisthodomos was inaccessible from the cella. The temple is dated ca. 460-440 B.C., and was restored in Roman times. To the E of the temple lie the large foundations of its altar. Descending along the ridge, where the rock is honeycombed with Early Christian and Byzantine arched tombs, one reaches the so-called Temple of Concord. Its exceptional state of preservation is due to the fact that in the 6th c. A.D. the temple (to the Dioskouroi?) was transformed into a Christian church to SS. Peter and Paul. The temple (39.4 x 16.9 m) is Doric peripteral (6 x 13) and dates from ca. 450-440 B.C. Columns, pediments, and entablature up to the level of the cornice are still standing. The cella, with pronaos, opisthodomos, and piers, with inner stairways, now appears transformed by its adaptation to a Christian church: the rear wall is missing and the side walls are pierced by 12 arches; the pronaos shows evidence of its change into a sacristy and bishop's lodgings. The whole area between the so-called Temple of Concord and the next temple (of Herakles) is filled with Roman graves and Christian catacombs and cemeteries. The Roman necropolis contains heroa in the Hellenistic tradition, cist graves, and sarcophagi; the most notable structure is the so-called Tomb of Theron near the Golden Gate. It is a typical Hellenistic heroon of Asia Minor form, dating from the 1st c. B.C.; it consists of a square podium surmounted by a chamber with engaged Attic-Ionic columns at the corners, and a Doric entablature.
   The Christian cemeteries lie around and under the modern Villa Aurea, with rock-cut tombs and catacombs formed by corridors with arched entrances and round halls adapted from ancient cisterns. On the crest above the Golden Gate stands the Temple of Herakles, perhaps mentioned by Cicero (Verr. 2.4.43). It is the earliest of Akragas' temples, datable to the end of the 6th c. B.C. because of the shape of columns and capitals, the elongated plan of the foundations (67 x 25.34 m) and the ratio of the facade columns to those of the flanks (6 x 15). It is a Doric peripteral temple, of which 9 columns still stand or have been re-erected, 8 of them on the S side. From this building come parts of the stone entablature with lion head water spouts (at present on display in the National Museum) which can be assigned to a restoration of the temple during the first half of the 5th c. B.C. Remains of the altar were found E of the temple. Beyond the Golden Gate one sees the ruins of the colossal Temple of Olympian Zeus, begun after the victory of Himera and left unfinished at the time of the Carthaginian destruction in 406 B.C. Its size (112.6 x 56.3 m) makes it comparable to Temple G in Selinus and the great Ionic temples of Asia Minor, e.g., the Artemision at Ephesos and the Didymaion at Miletos. Although Doric in style, this temple is unique architecturally. Over the foundations and the five-stepped crepidoma, in place of the traditional colonnade there extended a solid wall, strengthened at regular intervals by Doric half columns on the exterior and pilasters on the interior. Between the half columns, at mid height up against the solid wall, stood colossal statues of Telamons, 7.65 m high, with arms bent at head level as if supporting an architrave. One of these Telamons was reassembled during the past century and is now exhibited in the National Museum; it was originally lying among the ruins of the temple where it has now been replaced by a cast. The building was almost certainly hypaethral, but we cannot restore its entablature. We only know that the facades were decorated with sculptural representations of the Gigantomachy and the Fall of Troy.
   At some distance from the E front of the temple lie the remains of the great altar (54.5 x 17.5 m), which was originally a platform supported by piers. Near the SE corner of the Temple of Zeus are the foundations of a small temple with a double-naved cella; its chronology is controversial (between the 6th and 4th c. B.C.). Safely dated to the second half of the 4th c. B.C. is a long portico set along the crest of the walls S of the Temple of Zeus; a trough filled with votive terracottas was found at one end of it. Another portico, of which only the foundations are preserved, separated the Temple of Zeus from the adjacent Sanctuary of the Chthonian Divinities. Excavation in this area revealed traces of prehistoric settlements going back to the Neolithic period. The sanctuary and its various architectural structures are surrounded by a wall that is still extant on the W side. The earliest monuments are on the S side of the sanctuary and consist of 8 round and square altars; two enclosures, each containing several rooms and two interior altars; three shrines with pronaos, cella, and adyton; and various bothroi scattered among the structures. During the 6th c. B.C. work started on two temples that were left unfinished and are now preserved only as foundations; a third temple was completed during the first half of the 5th c. B.C., and is now erroneously called the Temple of the Dioskouroi. Its foundations are preserved and, at the NW corner, a group of four columns with entablature, in a picturesque but incorrect reconstruction of the 19th c. which incorporated architectural elements of various periods. A few yards to the S are the foundations, column drums, and entablature blocks of a Hellenistic temple (now called "Temple L") and its altar. Very recent excavations E of this temple have uncovered a paved court and another shrine of rather complex plan, built in the 5th c. B.C. over an earlier archaic shrine. Another sanctuary, perhaps also of the Chthonian Divinities, has recently been identified at the W end of the hill, but the scarce monumental remains that have come to light (shrine platforms, a round altar) do not allow positive identification. A narrow valley lies under the N ridge of the Sanctuary of the Chthonian Divinities; it is perhaps to be identified as the "Colimbetra", the reservoir into which flowed the waters of the Akragan aqueducts planned by Phaiax. Beyond this valley, on a small hill, stands the so-called Temple of Vulcan. It was of the Doric order (43 x 20.8 m). At present only the foundations of peristyle and cella, a few sections of the crepidoma, and the shafts of two columns remain. The temple dates from the second half of the 5th c. B.C., but it contains in its interior the foundations of an earlier temple in antis of the 6th c. B.C.; pieces of its polychrome terracotta revetments are now on display in the National Museum.
   The Temple of Asklepios is outside the city in the center of the plain of St. Gregorius, almost at the confluence of the rivers Akragas and Hypsas. It is almost certainly the temple mentioned by Polybios (1.18) in his description of the Roman siege in 262 B.C. According to Cicero (Verr. 2.4.43) it contained a statue of Apollo by Myron, stolen by Verres. This small temple of the second half of the 5th c. B.C. is built on a high podium; it is Doric, in antis (21.7 x 10.7 m) with pronaos, cella, and a false opisthodomos formed by a solid wall decorated with two Doric half-columns in between corner pilasters. The remains of another temple, of the first half of the 5th c. B.C., lie in the center of the modern city, on the colle di Girgenti, under the mediaeval church of S. Maria dei Greci. The drums of six columns and 22.5 m of the krepidoma are preserved. It has been suggested that this is the Temple of Athena built by Theron, but excavations have provided no evidence to confirm this theory.
   Two important archaeological complexes have been uncovered in the last twenty years in the center of the valley of the temples. One is the archaeological area between the church of S. Nicola and the new National Museum; the other is the Hellenistic and Roman quarter nearby. The first archaeological area is called S. Nicola after the beautiful mediaeval church next to it; here the famous Phaedra sarcophagus is at present exhibited. This masterpiece is attributable to an Attic workshop of the 2d-3d c. A.D. In the 6th and 5th c. B.C. the area next to the church must have housed a Sanctuary of the Chthonian Divinities; its scanty remains have been sacrificed to the construction of the new museum. Around the middle of the 3d c. B.C. the rocky plateau was cut into a semicircular cavea with low steps, which has been identified as the meeting place of the citizens' assembly, either the ekklesiasterion or the comitium of the early Roman city. It is an important monument because it represents the first public structure of a civic character to be discovered in Agrigento. In the 1st c. B.C. the cavea was filled in and replaced by a court, and at one end of it wasbuilt the famous prostyle temple on a high podium known by the conventional name of Oratory of Phalaris. It was once thought to be a monumental tomb, but the discovery of an altar with semicircular exedra has confirmed that it was a shrine. In the Imperial period this area was occupied by private houses of which a few rooms with mosaics are visible at the foot of the cavea.
   Not far from the S. Nicola area, on the opposite side of the national road, recent excavations have uncovered a large section of the Roman living quarters, built on an earlier Hellenistic site with a regular grid plan which, on stratigraphic evidence, seems to go back to the 5th c. B.C. Aerial photography has revealed that the entire slope of the valley was occupied by these habitation quarters with regular plan. The road system of the area thus far excavated includes four long parallel cardines, ca. 4 m wide and separated one from another by ca. 30 m. The cardines end at the present state road, which in this section must overlie the ancient decumanus, as shown by sections of terracotta paving in opus spicatum one of which is preserved in place. The houses, aligned in rows between the cardines, are separated from each other by narrow ambitus and lie at different levels according to their different chronology. Some houses belong to the Late Republican period and have floors in opus signinum; most of them however belong to the Imperial period, with polychrome mosaic floors. Some houses have an atrium of Italic type, others the Hellenistic peristyle. They are all built with blocks of local limestone, and no bricks were used. Large fragments of wall paintings with geometric motifs are preserved. Among the most important are the Peristyle House, the House of Aphrodite, and the House of the Gazelle, now displayed in the National Museum. Among the houses there are also some tabernae and, on the surface, a few Early Christian or Byzantine graves which infiltrated into the quarter after it was abandoned in the 5th c. A.D.
   Other notable monuments, though not easily accessible, are the so-called hypogea, subterranean installations of the Greek aqueducts of the 5th c. B.C. The best known are the Hypogeum Giacatello, to the N of the Museum, and the Hypogeum del Paradiso in the center of the modern city. They are large rooms supported by pilasters into which converge the galleries of the aqueducts. Outside Agrigento, besides the so-called Tomb of Theron and the already-mentioned Temple of Asklepios, are the remains of a small Early Christian apsidal basilica in the valley of the river Akragas, along the road that climbs to the Temple of Juno. A large monumental complex has also been discovered recently in the area of the modern quarter of Villa Seta, between Agrigento and Porto Empedocle. It consists of the massive ashlar foundations of a large quadrangular portico, probably with an Ionic colonnade as suggested by an extant base. It may have been a large public building or an extramural sanctuary of the Hellenistic-Roman period. All the archaeological material once in the old Museo Comunale and the finds from recent excavations in Agrigento and its territory are today gathered in the new National Museum near the church of S. Nicola, which also houses the Superintendency to the Antiquities.

P. Orlandini, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Sep 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains 261 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.


Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)

Agrigentum

  Agrigentum, Akragas: Eth. and Adj. Akragantinos, Agrigentinus: Girgenti. One of the most powerful and celebrated of the Greek cities in Sicily, was situated on the SW. coast of the island, about midway between Selinus and Gela. It stood on a hill between two and three miles from the sea, the foot of which was washed on the E. and S. by a river named the Acragas from whence the city itself derived its appellation, on the W. and SW. by another stream named the Hypsas which unites its waters with those of the Acragas just below the city, and about a mile from its mouth. The former is now called the Fiume di S. Biagio, the latter the Drago, while their united stream is commonly knomn as the Fiume di Girgenti (Polyb. ix. 27; Siefert, Akragas u. sein Gebiet, p. 20-22).
  We learn from Thucydides that Agrigentum was founded by a colony from Gela, 108 years after the establishment of the parent city, or B.C. 582. The leaders of the colony were Aristonous and Pystilus, and it received the Dorian institutions of the mother country, including the sacred rites and observances which had been derived by Gela itself from Rhodes. On this account it is sometimes called a Rhodian colony. (Thuc. vi. 4; Scymn. Ch. 292; Strab. vi. p. 272, where Kramerjustly reads Geloion for Ionon; Polyb. ix. 27. Concerning the date of its foundation see Schol. ad Pind. Ol. ii. 66; and Clinton, F. H. vol. ii. p. 265.) We have very little information concerning its early history, but it appears to have very rapidly risen to great prosperity and power: though it preserved its liberty for but a very short period before it fell under the yoke of Phalaris (about 570 B.C.). The history of that despot is involved in so much uncertainty that it is difficult to know what part of it can be depended on as really historical. But it seems certain that he raised Agrigentum to be one of the most powerful cities in Sicily, and extended his dominion by force of arms over a considerable part of the island. But the cruel and tyrannical character of his internal government at length provoked a general insurrection, in which Phalaris himself perished, and the Agrigentines recovered their liberty. (Diod. Exc. Vat. p. 25; Cic. de Off: ii. 7; Heraclides, Polit. 37.) From this period till the accession of Theron, an interval of about 60 years, we have no information concerning Agrigentum, except a casual notice that it was successively governed by Alcamenes and Alcandrus (but whether as despots or chief magistrates does not appear), and that it rose to great wealth and prosperity under their rule. (Heraclid.) The precise date when Theron attained to the sovereignty of his native city, as well as the steps by which he rose to power, are unknown to us: but he appears to have become despot of Agrigentum as early as B.C. 488. (Diod. xi. 53.) By his alliance with Gelon of Syracuse, and still more by the expulsion of Terillus from Himera, and the annexation of that city to his dominions, Theron extended as well as confirmed his power, and the great Carthaginian invasion in B.C. 480, which for a time threatened destruction to all the Greek cities in Sicily, ultimately became a source of increased prosperity to Agrigentum. For after the great victory of Gelon and Theron at Himera, a vast number of Carthaginian prisoners fell into the hands of the Agrigentines, and were employed by them partly in the cultivation of their extensive and fertile territory, partly in the construction of public works in the city itself, the magnificence of which was long afterwards a subject of admiration. (Diod. xi. 25.) Nor does the government of Theron appear to have been oppressive, and he continued in the undisturbed possession of the sovereign power till his death, B.C. 472. His son Thrasydaeus on the contrary quickly alienated his subjects by his violent and arbitrary conduct, and was expelled from Agrigentum within a year after his father's death.
  The Agrigentines now established a democratic form of government, which they retained without interruption for the space of above 60 years, until the Carthaginian invasion in B.C. 406-a period which may be regarded as the most prosperous and flourishing in the history of Agrigentum, as well as of many others of the Sicilian cities. The great public works which were commenced or completed during this interval were the wonder of succeeding ages; the city itself was adorned with buildings both public and private, inferior to none in Greece, and the wealth and magnificence of its inhabitants became almost proverbial. Their own citizen Empedocles is said to have remarked that they built their houses as if they were to live for ever, but gave themselves up to luxury as if they were to die on the morrow. (Diog. Laert. viii. 2. § 63.)  The number of citizens of Agrigentum at this time is stated by Diodorus at 20,000: but he estimates the whole population (including probably slaves as well as strangers) at not less than 200,000 (Diod. xiii. 84 and 90), a statement by no means improbable, while that of Diogenes Laertius, who makes the population of the city alone amount to 800,000, is certainly a gross exaggeration.
  This period was however by no means one of unbroken peace. Agrigentum could not avoid participating-though in a less degree than many other cities-in the troubles consequent on the expulsion of the Gelonian dynasty from Syracuse, and the revolutions that followed in different parts of Sicily. Shortly afterwards we find it engaged in hostilities with the Sicel chief Ducetius, and the conduct of the Syracusans towards that chieftain led to a war between them and the Agrigentines, which ended in a great defeat of the latter at the river Himera, B.C. 446. (Diod. xi. 76, 91, xii. 8.) We find also obscure notices of internal dissensions, which were allayed by the wisdom and moderation of Empedocles. (Diog. Laert. viii. 2. § 64-67.) On occasion of the great Athenian expedition to Sicily in B.C. 415, Agrigentum maintained a strict neutrality, and not only declined sending auxiliaries to either party but refused to allow a passage through their territory to those of other cities. And even when the tide of fortune had turned decidedly against the Athenians, all the efforts of the Syracusan partisans within the walls of Agrigentum failed in inducing their fellow-citizens to declare for the victorious party. (Thuc. vii. 32, 33, 46, 50, 58.)
  A more formidable danger was at hand. The Carthaginians, whose intervention was invoked by the Segestans, were contented in their first expedition (B.C. 409) with the capture of Selinus and Himera: but when the second was sent in B.C. 406 it was Agrigentum that was destined to bear the first brunt of the attack. The luxurious habits of the Agrigentines had probably rendered them little fit for warfare, but they were supported by a body of mercenaries under the command of a Lacedaemonian named Dexippus, who occupied the citadel, and the natural strength of the city in great measure defied the efforts of the assailants. But notwithstanding these advantages and the efficient aid rendered them by a Syracusan army under Daphnaeus, they were reduced to such distress by famine that after a siege of eight months they found it impossible to hold out longer, and to avoid surrendering to the enemy, abandoned their city, and migrated to Gela. The sick and helpless inhabitants were massacred, and the city itself with all its wealth and magnificence plundered by the Carthaginians, who occupied it as their quarters during the winter, but completed its destruction when they quitted it in the spring, B.C. 405. (Diod. xiii. 80-91, 108; Xen. Hell. i. 5. 21)
  Agrigentum never recovered from this fatal blow, though by the terms of the peace concluded with Dionysius by the Carthaginians, the fugitive inhabitants were permitted to return, and to occupy the ruined city, subject however to the Carthaginian rule, and on condition of not restoring the fortifications, a permission of which many appear to have availed themselves. (Diod. xiii. 114.) A few years later they were even able to shake off the yoke of Carthage and attach themselves to the cause of Dionysius, and the peace of B.C. 383, which fixed the river Halycus as the boundary of the Carthaginian dominions, must have left them in the enjoyment of their liberty; but though we find them repeatedly mentioned during the wars of Dionysius and his successors, it is evident that the city was far from having recovered its previous importance, and continued to play but a subordinate part. (Diod. xiv. 46, 88, xv. 17, xvi. 9; Plut. Dion, 25, 26, 49.) In the general settlement of the affairs of Sicily by Timoleon, after his great victory over the Carthaginians on the Crimissus, B.C. 340, he found Agrigentum in a state of such depression that he resolved to recolonise it with citizens from Velia in Italy (Plut. Timol. 35.): a measure which, combined with other benefits, proved of such advantage to the city, that Timoleon was looked upon as their second founder: and during the interval of peace which followed, Agrigentum again attained to such great prosperity as to become once more the rival of Syracuse.
  Shortly after the accession of Agathocles, the Agrigentines, becoming apprehensive that he was aspiring to the dominion of the whole island, entered into a league with the Geloans and Messenians to oppose his power, and obtained from Sparta the assistance of Acrotatus the son of Cleomenes as their general: but the character of that prince frustrated all their plans, and after his expulsion they were compelled to purchase peace from Syracuse by the acknowledgement of the Hegemony or supremacy of that city, B.C. 314. (Diod. xix. 70,71.) Some years afterwards, in B.C. 309, the absence of Agathocles in Africa, and the reverses sustained by his partisans in Sicily, appeared again to offer a favourable opening to the ambition of the Agrigentines, who chose Xenodocus for. their general, and openly aspired to the Hegemony of Sicily, proclaiming at the same time the independence of the several cities. They were at first very successful: the powerful cities of Gela and Enna joined their cause, Herbessus and Echetla were taken by force; but when Xenodocus ventured on a pitched battle with Leptines and Demophilus, the generals of Agathocles, he sustained a severe defeat, and was compelled to shut himself up within the walls of Agrigentum. Agathocles himself shortly afterwards returned from Africa, and quickly recovered almost all that he had lost: his general Leptines invaded the territory of Agrigentum, totally defeated Xenodocus, and compelled the Agrigentines once more to sue for peace. (Diod. xx. 31, 32, 56, 62.)
  After the death of Agathocles, Agrigentum fell under the yoke of Phintias, who became despot of the city, and assumed the title of king. We have very little information concerning the period of his rule, but he appears to have attained to great power, as we find Agyrium and other cities of the interior subject to his dominion, as well as Gela, which he destroyed, in order to found a new city named after himself. The period of his expulsion is unknown, but at the time when Pyrrhus landed in Sicily we find Agrigentum occupied by Sosistratus with a strong force of mercenary troops, who however hastened to make his submission to the king of Epeirus. (Diod. xxii. Exc. Hoesch. p. 495-497.)
  On the commencement of the First Punic War, Agrigentum espoused the cause of the Carthaginians, and even permitted their general Hannibal to fortify their citadel, and occupy the city with a Carthaginian garrison. Hence after the Romans had secured the alliance of Hieron of Syracuse, their principal efforts were directed to the reduction of Agrigentum, and in B.C. 262 the two consuls L. Postumius and Q. Mamilius laid siege to it with their whole force. The siege lasted nearly as long as that by the Carthaginians in B.C. 406, and the Romans suffered severely from disease and want of provisions, but the privations of the besieged were still greater, and the Carthaginian general Hanno, who had advanced with a large army to relieve the city, having been totally defeated by the Roman consuls, Hannibal who commanded the army within the walls found it impossible to hold out any longer, and made his escape in the night with the Carthaginian and mercenary troops, leaving the city to its fate. It was immediately occupied by the Romans who carried off 25,000 of the inhabitants into slavery. The siege had lasted above seven months, and is said to have cost the victorious army more than 30,000 men. (Diod. xxiii. Exc. Hoesch. p. 501-503; Polyb. i. 17-19; Zonar. viii. 10.) At a later period of the war (B.C. 255) successive losses at sea having greatly weakened the Roman power in Sicily, the Carthaginian general Carthalo recovered possession of Agrigentum with comparatively little difficulty, when he once more laid the city in ashes and razed its walls, the surviving inhabitants having taken refuge in the temple of the Olympian Zeus. (Diod. l. c. p. 505.)
  From this time we hear no more of Agrigentum till the end of the First Punic War, when it passed under the dominion of Rome: but it must have in some degree recovered from its late calamities, as it plays no unimportant part when the contest between Rome and Carthage was renewed in the Second Punic War. On this occasion it continued steadfast in its adherence to the Romans, but was surprised and taken by Himilco, before Marcellus could arrive to its support (Liv. xxiv. 35.): and from henceforth became the chief stronghold of the Carthaginians in Sicily, and held out against the Roman consul Laevinus long after the other cities in the island had submitted. At length the Numidian Mutines, to whose courage and skill the Carthaginians owed their protracted defence, having been offended by their general Hanno, betrayed the city into the hands of Laevinus, B.C. 210. The leading citizens were put to death, and the rest sold as slaves. (Liv. xxv. 40, 41, xxvi. 40.)
  Agrigentum now became, in common with the rest of the Sicilian cities, permanently subject to Rome: but it was treated with much favour and enjoyed many privileges. Three years after its capture a number of new citizens from other parts of Sicily were established there by the praetor Mamilius, and two years after this the municipal rights and privileges of the citizens were determined by Scipio Africanus in a manner so satisfactory that they continued unaltered till the time of Verres. Cicero repeatedly mentions Agrigentum as one of the most wealthy and populous cities of Sicily, the fertility of its territory and the convenience of its port rendering it one of the chief emporiums for the trade in corn. (Cic. Verr. ii. 5. 0, 62, iii. 43, iv. 33, 43.) It is certain, however, that it did not in his day rank as a Roman colony, and it is very doubtful whether it ever attained this distinction, though we find that it was allowed to strike coins, with the Latin inscription AGKIGENTUM, as late as the time of Augustus. (Eckhel, D. N. vol. i. p. 193.)2 If it really obtained the title and privileges of a colony under that emperor, it must have soon lost them, as neither Pliny nor Ptolemy reckon it among the Roman colonies in Sicily. From the time of Augustus we find no historical mention of it under the Roman empire, but its continued existence is attested by the geographers and Itineraries, and as long as Sicily remained subject to the Greek empire, Agrigentum is still mentioned as one of its most considerable cities. (Strab. vi. p. 272; Plin. H. N. iii. 8. § 14; Ptol. iii. 4. § 14; Itin. Ant. p. 88; Tab. Peut.; Const. Porph. de Prov. ii. 10.) It was one of the first places that fell into the hands of the Saracens on their invasion of Sicily in 827, and was wrested from them by the Normans under Roger Guiscard in 1086. The modern city of Girgenti still contains about 13,000 inhabitants, and, is the see of a bishop, and capital of one of the seven districts or Intendenze into which Sicily is now divided.
  The situation of Agrigentum is well described by Polybius (ix. 27). It occupied a hill of considerable extent, rising between two small rivers, the Acragas and Hypsas, of which the southern front, though of small elevation, presented a steep escarpment, running nearly in a straight line from E. to W. From hence the ground sloped gradually upwards, though traversed by a cross valley or depression, towards a much more elevated ridge which formed the northern portion of the city, and was divided into two summits, the north-western, on which stands the modern city of Girgenti, and the north-eastern, which derived from a temple of Athena, that crowned its height, the name of the Athenaean hill (d Athenaios lophos, Diod. xiii. 85). This summit, which attains to the height of 1200 feet above the sea, and is the most elevated of the whole city, is completely precipitous and inaccessible towards the N. and E., and could be approached only by one steep and narrow path from the city itself. Hence, it formed the natural citadel or acropolis of Agrigentum, while the gentle slopes and broad valley which separate it from the southern ridge,-now covered with gardens and fruit-trees,-afforded, ample space for the extension and development of the city itself: Great as was the natural strength of its position, the whole city was surrounded with walls, of which considerable portions still remain, especially along the southern front: their whole circuit was about 6 miles. The peculiarities of its situation sufficiently explain the circumstances of the two great sieges of Agrigentum, in both of which it will be observed that the assailants confined all their attacks to the southern and south-western parts of the city, wholly neglecting the north and east. Diodorus, indeed, expressly tells us that there was only one quarter (that adjoining the river Hypsas) where the walls could be approached by military engines, and assaulted with any prospect of success. (Diod. xiii. 85.)
  Agrigentum was not less celebrated in ancient times for the beauty of its architecture, and the splendour and variety of its buildings, both public and private, than for its strength as a fortress. Pindar calls it the fairest of mortal cities (kallista brotean poleon, Pyth. xii. 2), though many of its most striking ornaments were probably not erected till after his time. The magnificence of the private dwellings of the Agrigentines is sufficiently attested by the saying of Empedocles already cited: their public edifices are the theme of admiration with many ancient writers. Of its temples, probably the most ancient were that of Zeus Atabyrios, whose worship they derived from Rhodes, and that of Athena, both of which stood on the highest summit of the Athenaean hill above the city. (Polyb. l. c.) The temple of Zeus Polieus, the construction of which is ascribed to Phalaris (Polyaen. v. l. § 1), is supposed to have stood on the hill occupied by the modern city of Girgenti, which appears to have formed a second citadel or acropolis, in some measure detached from the more lofty summit to the east of it. Some fragments of ancient walls, still existing in those of the church of Sta Maria de' Greci, are considered to have belonged to this temple. But far more celebrated than these was the great temple of the Olympian Zeus, which was commenced by the Agrigentines at the period of their greatest power and prosperity, but was not quite finished at the time of the Carthaginian invasion in B.C. 406, and in consequence of that calamity was never completed. It is described in considerable detail by Diodorus, who tells us that it was 340 feet long, 160 broad, and 120 in height, without reckoning the basement. The columns were not detached, but engaged in the wall, from which only half of their circumference projected: so gigantic were their dimensions, that each of the flutings would admit a man's body. (Diod. xiii. 82; Polyb. ix. 27.) Of this vast edifice nothing remains but the basement, and a few fragments of the columns and entablature, but even these suffice to confirm the accuracy of the statements of Diodorus, and to prove that the temple must not only have greatly exceeded all others in Sicily, but was probably surpassed in magnitude by no Grecian building of the kind, except that of Diana at Ephesus. A considerable portion of it (including several columns, and three gigantic figures, which served as Atlantes to support an entablature), appears to have remained standing till the year 1401, when it fell down: and the vast masses of fallen fragments were subsequently employed in the construction of the mole, which protects the present port of Girgenti. (Fazell. vol. i. p. 248; Smyth's Sicily, p. 203.)
  Besides these, we find mention in ancient writers of a temple of Hercules, near the Agora, containing a statue of that deity of singular beauty and excellence (Cic. Verr. iv. 4. 3), and one of Aesculapius without the walls, on the south side of the city (Cic. l. c.; Polyb. i. 1 8), the remains of which are still visible, not far from the bank of the river Acragas. It contained a celebrated statue of Apollo, in bronze, the work of Myron, which Verres in vain endeavoured to carry off. Of the other temples, the ruins of which are extant on the site of Agrigentum, and are celebrated by all travellers in Sicily, the ancient appellations cannot be determined with any certainty. The most conspicuous are two which stand on the southern ridge facing the sea: one of these at the S. E. angle of the city, is commonly known as the temple of Juno Lacinia, a name which rests only on a misconception of a passage of Pliny (H. N. xxxv. 9. § 36): it is in a half ruined state, but its basement is complete, and many of its columns still standing. Its position on the projecting angle of the ridge, with a precipitous bank below it on two sides, gives it a singularly picturesque and striking character. A few hundred paces to the W. of this stands another temple, in far better preservation, being indeed the most perfect which remains in Sicily; it is commonly called the temple of Concord, from an inscription said to have been discovered there, but which (if authentic) is of Roman date, while both this temple and that just described must certainly be referred to the most flourishing period of Agrigentine history, or the fifth century B.C. They are both of the Doric order, and of much the same dimensions: both are peripfteral, or surrounded with a portico, consisting of 6 columns in front, and 13 on each side. The existing vestiges of other temples are much less considerable: one to the W. of that of Concord, of which only one column is standing, is commonly regarded as that of Hercules, mentioned by Cicero. Its plan and design have been completely ascertained by recent excavations, which have proved that it was much the largest of those remaining at Agrigentum, after that of the Olympian Zeus: it had 15 columns in the side and 6 in front. Another, a little to the north of it, of which considerable portions have been preserved, and brought to light by excavation on the spot, bears the name, though certainly without authority, of Castor and Pollux: while another, on the opposite side of a deep hollow or ravine, of which two columns remain, is styled that of Vulcan. A small temple or aedicula, near the convent of S. Nicolo, is commonly known by the designation of the Oratory of Phalaris : it is of insignificant size, and certainly of Roman date. The church of St. Blasi, or S.Biagio, near the eastern extremity of the Athenaean hill, is formed out of the cella of an ancient temple, which is supposed, but without any authority, to have been dedicated to Ceres and Proserpine. (For full details concerning these temples, and the other ruins still visible at Girgenti, see Swinburne's Travels, vol. ii. p. 280--291; Smyth's Sicily, p. 207-212; D'Orville's Sicula, p. 89-103; Siefert, Akragas, p. 24-38; and especially Serra di Falco, Antichita della Sicilia, vol. iii., who gives the results of recent labours on the spot, many of which were unknown to former writers.)
  Next to the temple of the Olympian Zeus, the public work of which Diodorus speaks with the greatest admiration (xi. 25, xiii. 72), was a piscina, or reservoir of water, constructed in the time of Theron, which was not less than seven stadia in circumference, and was plentifully stocked with fish, and frequented by numerous swans. It had fallen into decay, and become filled with mud in the time of the historian, but its site is supposed to be still indicated by a deep hollow or depression in the S. western portion of the city, between the temple of Vulcan and that of Castor and Pollux, now converted into a garden. Connected with this was an extensive system of subterranean sewers and conduits for water, constructed on a scale far superior to those of any other Greek city: these were called Phaeaces, from the name of their architect Phaeax.
  It was not only in their public buildings that the Agrigentines, during the flourishing period of their city, loved to display their wealth and luxury. An ostentatious magnificence appears to have characterised their habits of life, in other respects also: and showed itself especially in their love of horses and chariots. Their territory was celebrated for the excellence of its breed of horses (Virg. Aen. iii. 704), an advantage which enabled them repeatedly to bear away the prize in the chariot-race at the Olympic games: and it is recorded that after one of these occasions the victor Exaenetus was accompanied on his triumphant entry into his native city by no less than three hundred chariots, all drawn by white horses. (Diod. xiii. 82.) Not less conspicuous and splendid were the hospitalities of the more wealthy citizens. Those of Theron are celebrated by Pindar (01. iii. 70), but even these probably fell short of those of later days. Gellias, a citizen noted even at Agrigentum for his wealth and splendour of living, is said to have lodged and feasted at once five hundred knights from Gela, and Antisthenes, on occasion of his daughter's marriage, furnished a banquet to all the citizens of Agrigentum in the several quarters they inhabited. (Diod. xiii. 83, 84.) These luxurious habits were not unaccompanied with a refined taste for the cultivation of the fine arts: their temples and public buildings were adorned with the choicest works of sculpture and painting, many of which were carried off by Himilco to Carthage, and some of them after the fall of that city restored to Agrigentum by Scipio Africanus. (Diod. xiii. 90; Cic. Verr. iv. 4. 3; Plin. H. N. xxxv. 9. s. 36.) A like spirit of ostentation was displayed in the magnitude and splendour of their sepulchral monuments; and they are said to have even erected costly, tombs to favourite horses and to pet birds. (Diod. xiii. 82; Plin. H. N. 42. 64; Solin. 45. § 11.) The plain in front of the city, occupying the space from the southern wall to the confluence of the two rivers, was full of these sepulchres and monuments, among which that of Theron was conspicuous for its magnitude (Diod. xiii. 86): the name is now commonly given to the only structure of the kind which remains, though it is of inconsiderable dimensions, and belongs, in all probability, to the Roman period.
  For this extraordinary wealth Agrigentum was indebted, in a great measure, to the fertility of its territory, which abounded not only in corn, as it continued to do in the time of Cicero, and still does at the present day, but was especially fruitful in vines and olives, with the produce of which it supplied Carthage, and the whole of the adjoining parts of Africa, where their cultivation was as yet unknown. (Diod. xi. 25, xiii. 81.) The vast multitude of slaves which fell to the lot of the Agrigentines, after the great victory of Himera, contributed greatly to their prosperity, by enabling them to bring into careful cultivation the whole of their extensive and fertile domain. The allies on the banks of its river furnished excellent pasture for sheep (Pind. Pyth. xii. 4), and in later times, when the neighboring country had ceased to be so richly cultivated, it was noted for the excellence of its cheeses. (Plin. H. N. xi. 42. 97.)
  It is difficult to determine with precision the extent and boundaries of the territory of Agrigentum, which must indeed have varied greatly at different times : but it would seem to have extended as far as the river Himera on the E., and to have been bounded by the Halycus on the W.; though at one time it must have comprised a considerable extent of country beyond that river; and on the other hand Heraclea Minoa, on the eastern bank of the Halycus, was for a long time independent of Agrigentum. Towards the interior it probably extended as far as the mountain range in which those two rivers have their sources, the Nebrodes Mons, or Monte Madonia, which separated it from the territory of Himera. (Siefert, Akragas, p. 9-11.) Among the smaller towns and places subject to its dominion are mentioned Motyum and Erbessus in the interior of the country, Camicus the ancient fortress of Cocalus (erroneously supposed by many writers to have occupied the site of the modern town of Girgenti), Ecnomus on the borders of the territory of Gela, and subsequently Phintias founded by the despot of that name, on the site of the modern Alicata.
  Of the two rivers which flowed beneath the walls of Agrigentum, the most considerable was the Acragas from whence according to the common consent of most ancient authors the city derived its name. Hence it was worshipped as one of the tutelary deities of the city, and statues erected to it by the Agrigentines, both in Sicily and at Delphi, in which it was represented under the figure of a young man, probably with horns on his forehead, as we find it on the coins of Agrigentum. (Pind. Ol. ii. 16, Pyth. xii. 5, and Schol. ad locc.; Empedocles ap. Diog. Laert. viii. 2. § 63; Steph. Byz. v. Akragas; Aelian. V. H. ii. 33; Castell. Numm. Sic. Vet. p. 8.) At its mouth was situated the Port or Emporium of Agrigentum, mentioned by Strabo and Ptolemy; but notwithstanding the extensive commerce of which this was at one time the centre, it had little natural advantages, and must have been mainly formed by artificial constructions. Considerable remains of these, half buried in sand, were still visible in the time of Fazello, but have since in great measure disappeared. The modern port of Girgenti is situated above three miles further west. (Strab. vi. pp. 266, 272; Ptol. iii. 4. § 6; Fazell. vi. 1. p. 246; Smyth's Sicily, pp. 202,203.)
  Among the natural productions of the neighbourhood of Agrigentum, we find no mention in ancient authors of the mines of sulphur, which are at the present day one of the chief sources of prosperity to Girgenti; but its mines of salt (still worked at a place called Aborangi, about 8 miles north of the city), are alluded to both by Pliny and Solinus. (Plin. H. N. xxxi. 7. s. 41; Solin. 5. § § 18, 19.) Several writers also notice a fountain in the immediate neighbourhood of the city, which produced Petroleum or mineral oil, considered to be of great efficacy as a medicament for cattle and sheep. The source still exists in a garden not far from Girgenti, and is frequently resorted to by the peasants for the same purpose. (Dioscorid. i. 100; Plin. H. N. xxxv. 15. s. 51; Solin. 5. § 22 ; Fazell. de Reb. Sicul. vi. p. 261; Ferrara, Campi Flegrei della Sicilia, p. 43.) A more remarkable object is the mud volcano (now called by the Arabic name of Maccalubba) about 4 miles N. of Girgenti, the phenomena of which are described by Solinus, but unnoticed by any previous writer. (Solin. 5. § 24; Fazell. p. 262 ; Ferrara, l. c. p. 44; Smyth's Sicily, p. 213.)
  Among the numerous distinguished citizens to whom Agrigentum gave birth, the most conspicuous is the philosopher Empedocles : among his contemporaries we may mention the rhetorician Polus, and the physician Acron. Of earlier date than these was the comic poet Deinolochus, the pupil, but at the same time the rival, of Epicharmus. Philinus, the historian of the First Punic War, is the latest writer of eminence, who was a native of Agrigentum.
  The extant architectural remains of Agrigentum have been already noticed in speaking of its ancient edifices. Besides these, numerous fragments of buildings, some of Greek and others of Roman date, are scattered over the site of the ancient city: and great numbers of sepulchres have been excavated, some in the plain below the city, others within its walls. The painted vases found in these tombs greatly exceed in number and variety those discovered in any other Sicilian city, and rival those of Campania and Apulia.
  But with this exception comparatively few works of art have been discovered. A sarcophagus of marble, now preserved in the cathedral of Girgenti, on which is represented the story of Phaedra and Hippolytus, has been greatly extolled by many travellers, but its merits are certainly over-rated.
  There exist under the hill occupied by the modern city extensive catacombs or excavations in the rock, which have been referred by many writers to the ancient Sicanians, or ascribed to Daedalus. It is probable that, like the very similar excavations at Syracuse, they were, in fact, constructed merely in the process of quarrying stone for building purposes.
  The coins of Agrigentum, which are very numerous and of beautiful workmanship, present as their common type an eagle on the one side and a crab on the other. The one here figured, on which the eagle is represented as tearing a hare, belongs undoubtedly to the most flourishing period of Agrigentine history, that immediately preceding the siege and capture of the city by the Carthaginians, B.C. 406. Other coins of the same period have a quadriga on the reverse, in commemoration of their victories at the Olympic games.

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited July 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


The Catholic Encyclopedia

Girgenti

Diocese of Girgenti (Agrigentina).
  Girgenti is the capital of a province in Sicily and is situated about three miles from the sea, on a steep rock overlooking a rich plain watered by the Drago. Besides a trade in vegetables, fruits, and cereals, it is a mining centre for sulphur, soda, chalk, copper, and iron. Its marble quarries are also rich. The Greeks called it Acragas; the Romans Agrigentum. It was founded by a Greek colony from Gela about 582 B. C. The upper portion of the town was already in existence. It was called Camicum from its position on a platform of Mt. Camicus, and was surrounded by cyclopean walls. The Greeks settled at the foot of this acropolis, which they made the acropolis of their city; soon the town was doing a rich trade with the Carthaginians, and was reckoned, after Syracuse, the first town in Sicily. Like other Doric towns, it became a republic, but was often under the control of tyrants, e. g. Phalaris the Cruel (570-555), Theron (488-472), who with Gelon of Syracuse defeated the Carthaginians under Hamilcar near Himera (480 B. C.). The war of Thrasydeus, son and successor of Theron, on Hieron of Syracuse, brought Agrigentum under the tyrants of Syracuse (471 B. C.), but it soon regained its freedom. In 406 the Carthaginians under Hannibal and later under Himilco besieged the city, captured it, slew the inhabitants, and despoiled the temples of their artistic treasures, which were carried off to Carthage. Once more it regained autonomy, only to fall under the tyranny of Phintias (288 B. C.). After this it became the centre of Carthaginian resistance to Rome. In 262 the Romans captured it for the first time, and in 210 they gained complete control. The wealth and splendour of the ancient city are attested by all writers, and by ruins that remain till this day. The principal antiquities are: the temple of Jupiter on the acropolis, of which seven columns of the peristyle remain; that of Minerva, to which many of the townsfolk fled in 406 B. C., seeking death under its ruins rather than fall into the hands of the Carthaginians; in the district known as Neapolis the temple of Hercules mentioned by Cicero in his "Oratio in Verrem"; the Temple of Concord, in old Ionic style, the best preserved of them all, because used as a church in later times; over one of the cornices was carved a treaty of alliance between Agrigentum and Lilyb?um. There are, moreover: the temple of Juno Lacinia; the temple of ?sculapius, which contained a bronze statue of the god (this work of Myron was carried away to Carthage but restored by Scipio Africanus); the temple of Olympian Jove, according to Polybius the largest and most beautiful in Sicily. In 1401 three colossal caryatides supporting an architrave were discovered; the fact was commemorated in the coat of arms of Girgenti. Other edifices of the city were: the temple of Castor and Pollux, of which there remains an architrave supported on four pillars; the temple of Vulcan; that of Ceres and Proserpine; and the remains of a stadium. In 827 the Arabs, called in by the Byzantine tribune Euphemios, captured the city, and spread over the whole island. In the eleventh century Girgenti was the centre of Saracen resistance to the Normans, who finally captured it in 1087; thenceforth it shared the fortune of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
  In the roll of its illustrious citizens are found the names of the philosophers Empedocles and Acron; the historian Philinos; the musician Metellos, Plato's master; the dramatists Archion and Carenos; the orator Sophocles; the humanist Nicolo la Valle; and the dramatist Francesco del Carretto. Among the natural curiosities of note in the neighbourhood is the hill of Maccalubba, studded with small craters, about thirty inches deep, spouting cold water, carbonic acid, and hydrogen mixed with asphaltum, chalk, sulphate of lime, etc. The cathedral is built of ancient materials, and has a beautiful Madonna by Guido Reni, and paintings by Nunzio Magro. The church of S. Nicolo exhibits a very fine Norman doorway. Girgenti venerates St. Libertinus as its earliest apostle; he is said to have been sent thither by St. Peter. The earliest bishop of whose date we are certain is St. Potamius, a contemporary of Pope Agapetus I (535-36). St. Gregory I, Bishop of Agrigentum, said to have been martyred in 262, is probably only a double of the homonymous bishop who was a contemporary of St. Gregory the Great. The list of bishops, interrupted by the Saracen invasion, began again in 1093 with St. Gerlando. Other bishops of note are: Rinaldo di Acquaviva (1244), who restored the cathedral and crowned King Manfred, for which latter action he was excommunicated by Alexander IV; and Fra Matteo Gimmara, called the Blessed. Girgenti is a suffragan of Monreale, has 66 parishes and 381,000 souls, 10 religious houses for men, and 42 for women. It is also a centre for the Azione Cattolica Sociale in Sicily.

U. Benigni, ed.
Transcribed by: Richard Hemphill
This text is cited June 2004 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.


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