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Agrigento

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Agrigento aɡriˈdʒɛnto  listen  Sicilian: Girgenti is a city on the southern coast of Sicily, Italy, and capital of the province of Agrigento It is renowned as the site of the ancient Greek city of Akragas also known as Acragas Ἀκράγας in Greek, Agrigentum in Latin and Kirkent or Jirjent in Arabic, one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia during the golden age of Ancient Greece with population estimates in the range of 200,000 to 800,000 before 406 BC12345

Contents

  • 1 History
  • 2 Economy
  • 3 Main sights
  • 4 People
  • 5 International relations
  • 6 References
  • 7 Sources
  • 8 External links

Historyedit

Agrigento was founded on a plateau overlooking the sea, with two nearby rivers, the Hypsas and the Akragas, and a ridge to the north offering a degree of natural fortification Its establishment took place around 582-580 BC and is attributed to Greek colonists from Gela, who named it Akragas

Akragas grew rapidly, becoming one of the richest and most famous of the Greek colonies of Magna Graeciacitation needed It came to prominence under the 6th-century tyrants Phalaris and Theron, and became a democracy after the overthrow of Theron's son Thrasydaeus At this point the city could have been as large as 100,000 to 200,000 people67 Although the city remained neutral in the conflict between Athens and Syracuse, its democracy was overthrown when the city was sacked by the Carthaginians in 406 BC Akragas never fully recovered its former status, though it revived to some extent under Timoleon in the latter part of the 4th century

Didrachm, 490–483 BC

The city was disputed between the Romans and the Carthaginians during the First Punic War The Romans laid siege to the city in 262 BC and captured it after defeating a Carthaginian relief force in 261 BC and sold the population into slavery Although the Carthaginians recaptured the city in 255 BC the final peace settlement gave Punic Sicily and with it Akragas to Rome It suffered badly during the Second Punic War 218-201 BC when both Rome and Carthage fought to control it The Romans eventually captured Akragas in 210 BC and renamed it Agrigentum, although it remained a largely Greek-speaking community for centuries thereafter It became prosperous again under Roman rule and its inhabitants received full Roman citizenship following the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BC

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city successively passed into the hands of the Vandalic Kingdom, the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy and then the Byzantine Empire During this period the inhabitants of Agrigentum largely abandoned the lower parts of the city and moved to the former acropolis, at the top of the hill The reasons for this move are unclear but were probably related to the destructive coastal raids of the Saracens and other peoples around this time In 828 AD the Saracens captured the diminished remnant of the city; they pronounced its name as Kerkent in Arabic

Following the Norman conquest of Sicily, the city changed its name to the Norman version Girgenti8 In 1087, Norman Count Roger I established a Latin bishopric in the city Normans built the Castello di Agrigento to control the area The population declined during much of the medieval period but revived somewhat after the 18th century

In 1860, as in the rest of Sicily, the inhabitants supported the arrival of Giuseppe Garibaldi during the Expedition of the Thousand one of the most dramatic events of the Unification of Italy which marked the end of Bourbon rule910 In 1927, the Italian government through the "Decree Law n 159, July 12, 1927"11 introduced the current Italianized version of the Latin name12 The city suffered a number of destructive bombing raids during World War II

Economyedit

Agrigento is a major tourist centre due to its extraordinarily rich archaeological legacy It also serves as an agricultural centre for the surrounding region Sulphur and potash have been mined locally since Minoan times until the 1970s, and were worldwide exported from the nearby harbour of Porto Empedocle named after the philosopher Empedocles who lived in ancient Akragas In 2010, the unemployment rate in Agrigento was equal to 192%,13 almost twice the national average

Main sightsedit

Main article: Valle dei Templi

Ancient Akragas covers a huge area — much of which is still unexcavated today — but is exemplified by the famous Valle dei Templi "Valley of the Temples", a misnomer, as it is a ridge, rather than a valley This comprises a large sacred area on the south side of the ancient city where seven monumental Greek temples in the Doric style were constructed during the 6th and 5th centuries BC Now excavated and partially restored, they constitute some of the largest and best-preserved ancient Greek buildings outside of Greece itself They are listed as a World Heritage Site

The best-preserved of the temples are two very similar buildings traditionally attributed to the goddesses Juno Lacinia and Concordia though archaeologists believe this attribution to be incorrect The latter temple is remarkably intact, due to its having been converted into a Christian church in 597 AD Both were constructed to a peripteral hexastyle design The area around the Temple of Concordia was later re-used by early Christians as a catacomb, with tombs hewn out of the rocky cliffs and outcrops

Temple of Juno

The other temples are much more fragmentary, having been toppled by earthquakes long ago and quarried for their stones The largest by far is the Temple of Olympian Zeus, built to commemorate the Battle of Himera in 480 BC: it is believed to have been the largest Doric temple ever built Although it was apparently used, it appears never to have been completed; construction was abandoned after the Carthaginian invasion of 406 BC

St Lawrence Church

The remains of the temple were extensively quarried in the 18th century to build the jetties of Porto Empedocle Temples dedicated to Hephaestus, Heracles and Asclepius were also constructed in the sacred area, which includes a sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone formerly known as the Temple of Castor and Pollux; the marks of the fires set by the Carthaginians in 406 BC can still be seen on the sanctuary's stones

Porta di Ponte Palace of the Giants and the Church of San Domenico

Many other Hellenistic and Roman sites can be found in and around the town These include a pre-Hellenic cave sanctuary near a Temple of Demeter, over which the Church of San Biagio was built A late Hellenistic funerary monument erroneously labelled the "Tomb of Theron" is situated just outside the sacred area, and a 1st-century AD heroon heroic shrine adjoins the 13th century Church of San Nicola a short distance to the north A sizeable area of the Greco-Roman city has also been excavated, and several classical necropoleis and quarries are still extant

Much of present-day Agrigento is modern but it still retains a number of medieval and Baroque buildings These include the 14th century cathedral and the 13th century Church of Santa Maria dei Greci "St Mary of the Greeks", again standing on the site of an ancient Greek temple hence the name The town also has a notable archaeological museum displaying finds from the ancient city

Peopleedit

  • Empedocles, the Greek pre-Socratic philosopher, was a citizen of ancient Agrigentum
  • Luigi Pirandello, dramatist and Nobel prize winner for literature Born at contrada u Càvusu in Agrigento
  • Vinnie Paz, the Italian-American rapper and lyricist behind Philadelphia underground hip-hop group Jedi Mind Tricks

International relationsedit

See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Italy

Agrigento is twinned with:

  • Tampa, Florida United States14
  • Valenciennes, Francecitation needed
  • Perm, Russiacitation needed

Referencesedit

  1. ^ Hooke, N 1818 The Roman history, from the building of Rome to the ruin of the commonwealth New ed Printed for FC and J Rivington p 17 Retrieved 2014-10-10 
  2. ^ Lemprière, J 1842 A Classical Dictionary: Containing a Full Account of All the Proper Names Mentioned in Ancient Authors, with Tables of Coins, Weights, and Measures, in Use Among the Greeks and Romans To which is Now Prefixed, a Chronological Table T Allman p 26 Retrieved 2014-10-10 
  3. ^ Royal Institution of Great Britain 1828 Quarterly Journal of Science, Literature, and the Arts James Eastburn p 98 Retrieved 2014-10-10 
  4. ^ Maynard, J 2005 The Light of Alexandria Lulu Enterprises Incorporated p 35 ISBN 9781411653351 Retrieved 2014-10-10 
  5. ^ Rollin, C; Bell, J 1870 The ancient history of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Grecians and Macedonians: including a history of the arts and sciences of the ancients Harper & Brothers p 286 Retrieved 2014-10-10 
  6. ^ Ring, Trudy; Salkin, Robert M; Boda, Sharon La 1 January 1994 "International Dictionary of Historic Places: Southern Europe" Taylor & Francis Retrieved 19 September 2016 – via Google Books 
  7. ^ Hornblower, Simon 6 January 2005 "A Commentary on Thucydides: Books IV-V24" Clarendon Press Retrieved 19 September 2016 – via Google Books 
  8. ^ Sicilia, Esplora "La Storia di Agrigento - Sicilia" Retrieved 19 September 2016 
  9. ^ "Expedition of the Thousand: Italian campaign" Retrieved 19 September 2016 
  10. ^ "Garibaldi and the 1,000" Retrieved 19 September 2016 – via The Economist 
  11. ^ "Augusto - Automazione Gazzetta Ufficiale Storica" Retrieved 19 September 2016 
  12. ^ "AGRIGENTO in "Enciclopedia Italiana"" Retrieved 19 September 2016 
  13. ^ "Agrigento, investimenti al palo" Il Sole 24 ORE 2 April 2011 Retrieved 2013-03-25 
  14. ^ "Tampa Sister Cities from City of Tampa website" Tampagovnet Retrieved 2011-04-17 

Sourcesedit

  • "Acragas" The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature Ed MC Howatson and Ian Chilvers Oxford University Press, 1996
  • "Agrigento", The Columbia Encyclopædia Columbia University Press, 2004
  • "Agrigento" Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names John Everett-Heath Oxford University Press 2005
  • "Agrigento" Encyclopædia Britannica, 2006

External linksedit

Find more aboutAgrigentoat Wikipedia's sister projects
  • Media from Commons
  • Travel guide from Wikivoyage
  • Data from Wikidata
  • Yair Karelic's photos of the Valley of the Temples

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