Agrigento & Its Wonderful Rupe Atenea

December 16, 2021 By Bellarome Travel

Agrigento was founded around 581 BC and is in an area where various people who left their traces on the island once settled. Already home to indigenous peoples who maintained commercial relations with the Aegean and Mycenaean, the Agrigento area saw the rise of the Akragas polis (Ἀκράγας), founded by Geloi of Rhodian-Cretan origin. Agrigento reached its peak in the fifth century BC, before the decline initiated by the war with Carthage. During the Punic Wars it was conquered by the Romans, who latinized the name to Agrigentum. Subsequently it fell under the Arab rule, with the name of Kerkent, and in 1089 it was conquered by the Normans, who renamed it Girgenti, a name it kept until 1927 when it was renamed with the current toponym.

It is known as the City of Temples for its expanse of Doric temples of the ancient Greek city located in the so-called Valley of the Temples, included, in 1997, among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The historic center of Agrigento can be identified on the western summit of the hill of ancient Girgenti. Dating back to the medieval age of the eleventh and fifteenth centuries, it still retains various medieval buildings (churches, monasteries, convents, and noble palaces). Since April 2016, it has officially returned to its name Girgenti. A place to visit for those who want to explore more out from their Sicily vacations.

One of the most beautiful places to visit in Agrigento is the building complex known as the rock sanctuary that rises outside the walls on the eastern slope of the Rupe Atenea and overlooks the valley of the San Biagio River. In the rocky walls, there are two artificial caves not far from each other, which proceed in parallel for 8 meters and then are intersected by a transversal tunnel. Female divinities, placed in the niches of the rocky walls, are an evident sign of the practice of a cult. A third gallery, located on the right, conveyed the water of a spring to the outside, where the main structure of the complex is located, with an elongated rectangular plan made of squared blocks of sandstone and equipped with a series of openings corresponding to the caves. The upper floor, whose walls were inclined inwards and crowned by a cornice, gave access to the caves. The lower floor, divided into two waterproofed tanks, functioned as a water collection basin.

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From the tanks, equipped at the bottom with a small well for cleaning and maintenance of the reservoir, the water flowed into other tanks below through the gargoyles. Furthermore, the water could be directly drawn with a jug (hydria) resting on a shaped block. Originally there was a simple wooden porch to protect the fountain, then later replaced by the trapezoidal paved square still preserved, bordered by a wall with pillars. The system of communicating tanks on the square was built following the collapse of the first water distribution system, which took place already in the Greek era. The front of the square is oblique as it is connected to the road that passed outside the walls, right in front of the monument and continued in the direction of Porta I. Following the excavations in the 1930s, the complex was subjected to a consolidation intervention: now easily recognizable with modern stone, brick pylons and the retaining wall.


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