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HIMERA Sicily.

A colony founded in 648 B.C. on the N shore of the island (Ptol. 3.4.3) by the Myletidai (perhaps Syracusan refugees, guests of the people of Zankle) by the Chalkidians of Zankle and of Mylai, and by an ethnic group probably originating from Euboia (Thuc. 6.5.1; Diod. 13.62.4; Strab. 6.272). The leaders were Euclid, Simon, and Sakon. The Ionic-Chalkidian culture of Himera, mixed with Doric elements, was subverted in 476 B.C. by Theron of Akragas who, to avenge his son Thrasideos, exterminated the Ionic inhabitants of the city and replaced them with Doric colonists (Herod. 7.165ff; Thuc. 7.58.2-3; Pind. 0l. 12; Diod. 11.48.6-8 and 49.3-4). In 480 B.C. Himera was the site of the famous battle between a league of Sicilian Greeks and the Carthaginians who, having been utterly defeated on that occasion (Herod. 7.165-67; Diod. 11.20ff and 13.62.1-4), returned to attack the Doric cities of Sicily in 409 B.C. Himera was razed to the ground and abandoned (Diod. 11.49.4; 13.62.4-5; 13.79.7-8 and 114.1), and Graeco-Carthaginian political interests to the West with the foundation of Thermai Himeraiai (Thermae Himerenses: Cic. Verr. 2.35.86).

In antiquity the city and its territory occupied a large portion of the coastal plain to the W of the river Grande (the N stretch of the ancient river Himera) and the two adjacent hills which dominate the plain to the S (cf. Thuc. 6.62.2 and 8.58.2; Herod. 7.165ff; Pind. 0l. 12.26-27). In 1929-30 a large Doric temple was excavated— the so-called Temple of Victory, which had been erected near the river, perhaps in commemoration of the victorious battle fought in 480 B.C. It is hexastyle peripteral (55.9 x 22.4 m) with 14 columns on the sides, rising on a four-stepped crepidoma, and having pronaos, naos, and opisthodomos; small stairways cut into the anta walls between naos and pronaos gave access to the roof; the splendid sima with lion-head water spouts (of which 56 units have been recovered) deriving from two different sculptural conceptions, was carved by several masters.

Uphill, on the Himera Plain, campaigns from 1963 to 1972 led to the identification of a sacred area with three temples, an altar, and traces of the temenos wall, some blocks of the ancient habitation quarters, three sections of a necropolis, and some stretches of the archaic city walls. The three temples are of pre-Doric type, without peristasis. An archaic shrine (15.7 x 6 m), which has yielded a rich votive deposit, was built in the decades immediately after the foundation of the colony. A new and more elaborate sacred building (30.7 x 10.6 m) incorporated within its structures the remains of the archaic shrine, undoubtedly for religious reasons. The long life of the new temple, from the middle of the 6th c. until 409 B.C., is attested by a very large number of terracotta reliefs (metopes, pediments, akroteria) and by numerous and diverse elements of architectural terracotta decoration. The third temple (14.3 x 7.1 m) is toward the N border of the sacred area. The monumental altar (13.1 x 5.6 m) lies to the E on the axis of the main temple. The urban system and the typology of the houses show that the city was planned as a whole and at one time (early 5th c. B.C.) on the Himera Plain, with full adherence to a single and strictly orthogonal system, to replace an older and irregular archaic plan. The necropolis contains inhumations in terracotta sarcophagi with grave goods dating from the second half of the 5th c. B.C. The finds from the early excavations are housed in the National Museum of Palermo and in the Civic Museum of Termini Imerese; those of the recent campaigns will be exhibited at Himera, in an antiquarium soon to be erected.


L. Mauceri, “Cenni sulla topografia d'Imera e sugli avanzi del tempio di Buonfornello,” MonAnt 18,2 (1908)MPI; P. Marconi, Himera (1931); A. Adriani et al., Himera I, excavation campaigns 1963-65 (1 970)MPI; Quaderno Imerese, Studi e Materiali 1 (1972)MPI.


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