The ancient Valley of Temples at Akragas reveals its Hellenistic theater


The ancient city of Akragas (or Ἀκράγας) – currently Agrigento, in Sicily was one of the major Greek-populated settlements of Magna Graecia, during what is termed as the golden age of Greek city-states (circa 5th century BC). The city, famous for its monumental Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples), was originally founded in the early 6th century by Greek colonists from Gela (in Sicily), and by the turn of the century, it possibly had a population of more than 100,000 people. And now, archaeologists have found evidence of one of the settlement’s eminent civic structures, in the form of a large Hellenistic theater possibly dated from circa 4th century BC.


The incredible (and rather long-awaited) discovery was made by the archaeologists of the Sicilian park and the Politecnico di Bari. They have hypothesized that the theater, with its impressive diameter of 330 ft (100 m), was not only used for spectator-based plays but also for public meetings involving the elites of Akragas. According to Giuseppe Parello, the director of the archaeological park of Agrigento (Akragas) –

We are halfway through the work, and by the end of January, we will have completed these excavations that have confirmed the structure of the theatre.


Pertaining to this ancient structure, the archaeologists were able to locate large trapezoid-shaped blocks at a depth of only a few centimeters below the ground. The main superstructure of theater is presumed to be hidden underneath the blocks. And in addition to these stone remnants, the researchers found theatrical masks and lamps, objects that are typical to the scope of a theater. Moreover, they also came across a fragment of a red vase, possibly dating from the same period.


In any case, the archaeologists are looking forth to set up an exhibition that will demonstrate many of their fascinating finds, and the project will be followed by another major excavation campaign in the spring. Antonello Tini of the Politecnico di Bari said –

Our hope is to find complete seats in their original position, descending down the slope of the structure, so as to perfectly reconstruct the theater.


And lastly, beyond just the ambit of the Hellenistic theater, the enigmatic Valley of the Temples (pictured above) does boast its fair share of historical pragmatism and mysteries. As we discussed in one of our previous articles on Akragas –

A study conducted in 2015, by a team of Kiwi and Italian researchers, revealed the orientation of the ancient Greek monuments at the city’s renowned Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples). Interestingly enough, the research invalidated the popular belief that these temples were originally built to face the sun and show that, while some of them are indeed aligned with astronomical events like the full moon, there are others whose construction was influenced by an altogether different set of factors, such as urban planning.

In the research, the team thoroughly surveyed the Valley of the Temples, in order to determine the orientation of the ancient structures. Located in Akragas (or Agrigento) in the southern part of Italy, the site houses the remains of as many as 10 Doric shrines, each dedicated to a Greek god, goddess or hero, such as Juno, Heracles, Demeter and Persephone, Olympic Zeus, Vulcan, Concordia, Aesculapius and so on.

Source / Images Credit: La Repubblica / Via: Archaeology News Network