When I park near the entrance of the Temple of Juno, the sun is already burning. I buy a combined ticket with the museum, and walk up to the Temple of Juno, the easternmost sanctuary of the Valley of the Temples. This is an enormous archaeological site of the rich Greek heritage of Sicily, one of the most important on the island. After climbing up to the temple, I wonder about the name: I see other ruins of temples in the distance, all of them on top of a ridge. Archaeologists walk around the fenced off grounds around the temple, and in the temple itself: this is still a work in progress. The second best preserved of the temples, the Temple of Juno, or Hera Lacinia, has many columns standing, and parts of the frieze on top of them at the northern side. Inside, ruins of the cella can be seen, as well as damage of the fire that raged here: Akragas was destroyed by the Carthaginians in 406 BCE.
Heading west, I see remains of the city wall, as well as many arcosolia, tombs hewn out in the rocky cliffs. Then, I find myself in front of the Temple of Concordia, by far the best preserved classical temple of the Valley of the Temples and, indeed, in the wider world. Alas, visitors are not allowed in, and are cordoned off around the perimeter. The temple was probably spared destruction as it was converted into a church. A short walk takes me to the Temple of Heracles, where I find a row columns standing amidst many more fallen ones. The most ancient of all temples in the valley, it was the most venerated, but destroyed by an earthquake. I walk through a villa with a garden, and reach the Olympeion field, with the Temple of Zeus, the upper god, as the main attraction. After walking around the massive altar, I enter the temple from the east side. This was the largest Doric style temple ever built. An indication of its massive size are several telamon lying around: these eight metre tall atlases were used as supporting columns with the weight of the temple roof. Carthaginians and earthquakes brought it to its knees, after which its stones were used for construction in nearby Porto Empedocle.
Walking further west, I come across the residential area of Akragas, and see four standing columns: the ruins of the Temple of the Dioscuri. These columns were assembled using remains of various temples. I now exit the complex, and walk up to the museum, where I spend several hours marvelling at its rich collection of artefacts from the Valley of the Temples with intricately painted vases, stone tombs, jewellery, and many more items. Among the most impressive is a telamon exposed against a wall, which gives a good impression of its size. A replica of the Temple of Zeus finally gives a good idea of what this monster temple looked like before it was destroyed. Even though my ticket is a one-entry ticket, I manage to talk myself into the western entrance. The sun is dropping below the clouds in the sky, and I walk the entire length of the Valley of the Temples again, now with the warm late afternoon sunlight on the west side of the temples. When I reach the Temple of Juno again, a wedding party is walking up - what a terrific spot to celebrate!
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Valley of the Temples (Italy). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Valley of the Temples. Read more about this site.