My mum found her Great-Grandmas travel diaries a while ago and I have been typing them up for her to read and thought I would put them on here as well- If you want a little bit more background read part one here 🙂
Built 520 B.C. this town had 10 temples on its sacred hill of deities, it was protected by a wall and had an aquaduct. Today, a reservoir provides water, sulphur mines bring prosperity and there is a university and a port. The Temple of Concordia is the finest Doric temple in the world, it is not dedicated to a deity as when it was found it had no name on it, but a tablet held the world ‘Concordia’, hence its name. Set on a hill to be visible for miles, so that the shape and build should not get spoiled or lost in perspective, the foundations were bowed upwards and the pillars curved. The stoves are not elevated together, all the same size, they are layered, alternatively, thus giving strength so that the walls did not fall with age. Iron spindles were put in the pillar drums and when one was put atop another, sand was inserted and they were rotated; the sand made them lay perfectly by finding the level. In front of the temple was a platform for dancing. The temple was turned into a church and 2 sets of stairs were built, leading to a bell tower; services were held here till 1830. Statues of St Peter and Paul were erected at its base, but have been lost over the ages; when it was converted into a church, arches were put in and walls filled in. The Temple of Juno has many altars for animal sacrifice; the only part of the beast sacrificed was what could not be eaten; if the smoke did not go up straight from the altar, the gods were angry, but as there is never any wind, all was well; the altars were always in the east. The temple and its stucco decorations were built in the same manner as the Egyptian ones. Block and tackle were used to haul up the cornices and the U shape for the chains is still visible on the stone. The roof was open to allow the gods to enter. The Carthaginians destroyed the temple, 406 B.C., setting fire to it; the wooden under structure was burnt, the stoves, now in ruins, show marks of the fire. The Temple of Hercules, 500 B.C., was extremely large for that era; only 8 columns remain and these were re-erected in 1924; a statue of Hercules has been removed. The Temple of Castor and Pollux has only a few pillars remaining, there topped by a length of cornice; the columns are pure Doric, the cornice has traces of ancient paintings on it. Altars surround the temple, 4 animals at a time were sacrificed on them, heads pointing to the centre so that when their throats were cut, the blood collected in the altar centre. On the cornice frieze is a lion head gargoyle and a rose medallion, the emblem of shades. Some historians say this is not a temple as the pillars were scattered around before being re-erected. The Temple of Zeus is the longest in Sicily; its foundations are perfect and unbroken; this gives rise to some historians, claims that earthquakes missed agrigento although it is in the earthquake zone. The ruins are vast but chaotic, as the construction was never completed, and today not a single piece of wall stands. The roof was supported by 38 giant figures, male and female alternating, and 38 columns; the giants were half the height of the columns and had 3 features European, African-American and Asian. On the temple site is the Church of St Nicholas of Normanian architecture and plain interior, in one of the side chapels is a beautifully marble sarcophagus, delicately carved on all 4 sides, large and high; the panel carvings are of Greek and Romanian figures, the Greek panel depicts Poseidon, and Greek troops with horses and chariots in a battle scene, the features of the men are decidedly Greek, especially the noses. Agrigento has a cathedral but it is closed, as, due to an earthquake, the building is sliding. Below the Sacred hill of the deities is the Temple of Vulcan only 2 columns now stand but they point the way of the temples on the hill. At the foot of the hill also, is the City of the dead, a series of Byzantine wall tombs cut into the wall that guarded the city when it was built, but now ruined. Agrigento has many cave houses in the hills where people live to avoid paying rent; the climate is warm and they are quite comfortable.
This place is famous for the mosaics in a Roman hunting lodge, the Villa Casale, guidebooks state that Emporer Maximonus built it, but among the mosaics are 2 of an African American, dressed in fine linen, and it is thought that he was the builder, using money given to him by the emperor in return for his help and hunting services. The flooring in one corridor has slipped owing to the earthquake, but the mosaic went into the floor and remained intact. These mosaics are the best on the island, every floor is covered, a childs’ nursery has children hunting, a gymnasium has girls playing ball, a hunt with every species of animal, the labours of Hercules, a small hunt, family scenes at the baths, games of children and cupids, races in chariots drawn by bustards and partridges, fishing, gathering grapes and the quarrel of Eros and Pan. There are also geometrical designs, some forming small objects or portraits of animals; in one of the groups Maximianus and his family appear. On the ruined walls of the Villa Casale can be seen tracks of paint, usually red.
Let me know in the comments if you have ever been to Sicily 🙂