|Summary:||One of the most prosperous of the Greek cities of Sicily and a rival to Syracuse in power.|
Akragas occupied the top of a ridge between the confluence of the Hypsas and Akragas rivers, ca. 5 km inland from the Sicilian SW coast. The slope of the ridge is abrupt in three dircetions, but more gentle to the S side which leads down to the Hypsas valley. The acropolis occupied the highest and narrowest part of the ridge at the NW. This was also the steepest area of the ridge and the acropolis was not walled. Southeast of the acropolis the ridge top broadens and slopes gently away to the S. This area of approximately 1 km square was enclosed by a strong fortification wall of ca. 10 km in length and contained the main part of the city. Recent excavations in the ancient residential area have shown that the Hellenistic and Roman city was laid out on a rectangular grid plan that seems to overlay an earlier grid system of the 5th century B.C. The regular grid system of the earlier city streets may have been established during the extensive building program carried out at the beginning of the 5th century B.C. and coincide with the design of aqueducts and underground water transfer and storage system built by the architect Phaiax.
South of the main area of the city, the city wall runs along the southern edge of the ridge top. Just inside the city wall and also arranged along the southern edge of the ridge plateau are the major sanctuaries and temples of the city. The temples of Hera, Concord, Herakles, Olympian Zeus, and Hephaistos, as well as the sanctuary of Demeter and the Chthonic Deities and other religious shrines are arranged along the southern boundary of the city.
The central city gate (Gate IV or the Golden Gate) opens near the center of the southern wall on the temple ridge. From this gate an ancient road continued down slope to the Hypsas valley, passing additional religious centers, including the sanctuary of Asklepios, and continued on to the city's harbor at Emporium.
Akragas claimed the legendary Daedalus as its founder, but in fact the city seems to have been established by a group of Rhodian and Cretan colonists from the city of Gela at ca. 582 B.C. The settlers named the city after the river along its eastern side. Under the tyrant Phalaris, ca. 570 B.C., the city began to expand its territory and by the end of the reign of Theron, a century later, the city state had reached the height of its military and political power.
Theron had led the city to victory over the Carthaginians in 480 B.C. and initiated a major building program in Akragas which included an extensive water system designed by the architect Phaiax. The city continued to prosper until the end of the 5th century B.C. In 406, after a siege of eight months, Akragas was conquered and completely destroyed by Carthage. the city remained abandoned until ca. 340 B.C. when Timoleon, the Corinthian established at Syracuse, defeated the Carthaginians and restored independence to the Sicilian cities. Timoleon rebuilt Akragas and repopulated it with displaced Akragasians and immigrants from Elea.
In 276 B.C. Akragas again fell under the control of Carthage, but after several sieges of the city, Rome gained control in 210 B.C. The Romans enslaved the inhabitants and repopulated the city which thereafter enjoyed peace and prosperity under Roman rule. Commerce and industry advanced and the port at Emporium flourished. During the early Christian period the city quickly declined and it was little more than a village by the time of the Arab invasion in A.D. 827.