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Agrigento Guide Italy

History and culture


History and culture

The history of Agrigento begins in 581 b.C. , when it was founded under the name of Akragas by a group of Greek colonists. The city reached the height of its splendor in the 5th century B.C. under the tyrant Tenore, who extended his dominion out to the northern coasts of Sicily. During this period, art and culture were intensely pursued in the city. It was in this period that the temple of Olympian Zeus was constructed, as well most of the other temples, rendering Agrigento, according to the Greek poet Pindaro, "The most beautiful among the dwellings of mortals."

The year 406 was a tragic one in the history of Agrigento: the city was defeated by Hannibal and the Carthaginians, who completed destroyed the city. Agrigento was refounded in the 4th century by the statesman and general Timoleon. During this period, the new Hellenic quarter was constructed, signaling the grand rebirth of Hellenistic art and culture in Agrigento, until 210 B.C., when the city came under Roman rule.

After the fall of Imperial Rome, the city did not return to its former splendor until after the Arab and Norman occupations. In the 9th century, the Arabs built a new city, which still stands today as both medieval and modern Agrigento. In 1087, they were succeeded by the Norman occupation. With the construction of numerous churches, the Normans gave new life to the Christian arts and culture. The fortifications they built defended Agrigento from the incursions of Saracen pirates.

The 18th century marked another cardinal moment for the history of the city: the flowering of the baroque period in Agrigento, evident today in nearly all the churches in the city. In the following years, the city suffered under the ill-governing of the Bourbons, as did all of Sicily, until 1860, when Sicily officially linked itself with the Kingdom of Italy. The 20th century marked the advent of chaotic construction development in the city, which has threatened the very integrity of the archeological zone.

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Photos are courtesy of: AAPIT Agrigento and APT Trapani

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