: Adj. and Eth. Ἀκραγαντῖνος
, Eth. Agrigentinus
), one of the most powerful and celebrated of the Greek cities in Sicily, was situated on the SW. coast of the island, about midway between Selinus and Gela.
It stood on a hill between two and three miles from the sea, the foot of which was washed on the E. and S. by a river named the ACRAGAS from whence the city itself derived its appellation, on the W. and SW. by another stream named the HYPSAS
which unites its waters with those of the Acragas just below the city, and about a mile from its mouth.
The former is now called the Fiume di S. Biagio,
the latter the Drago,
while their united stream is commonly knomn as the Fiume di Girgenti
; Siefert, Akragas u. sein Gebiet,
We learn from Thucydides that Agrigentum was founded by a colony from Gela, 108 years after the establishment of the parent city, or B.C. 582.
The leaders of the colony were Aristonous and Pystilus, and it received the Dorian institutions of the mother country, including the sacred rites and observances which had been derived by Gela itself from Rhodes. On this account it is sometimes called a Rhodian colony. (Thuc. 6.4
; Scymn. Ch. 292
; Strab. vi. p.272
, where Kramerjustly reads Γελῴων
for Ἰώνων; Plb. 9.27
. Concerning the date of its foundation see Schol. ad Pind. O. 2.66
; and Clinton, F. H.
vol. ii. p. 265.) We have very little information concerning its early history, but it appears to have very rapidly risen to great prosperity and power: [p. 1.75]
though it preserved its liberty for but a very short period before it fell under the yoke of Phalaris (about 570 B.C.).
The history of that despot is involved in so much uncertainty that it is difficult to know what part of it can be depended on as really historical. [Dict. of Biogr.
art. PHALARIS, vol. iii.] But it seems certain that he raised Agrigentum to be one of the most powerful cities in Sicily, and extended his dominion by force of arms over a considerable part of the island.
But the cruel and tyrannical character of his internal government at length provoked a general insurrection, in which Phalaris himself perished, and the Agrigentines recovered their liberty. (Diod. Exc. Vat.
p. 25; Cic. de Off: 2.7
; Heraclides, Polit.
37.) From this period till the accession of Theron, an interval of about 60 years, we have no information concerning Agrigentum, except a casual notice that it was successively governed by Alcamenes and Alcandrus (but whether as despots or chief magistrates does not appear), and that it rose to great wealth and prosperity under their rule. (Heraclid. l.c.
) The precise date when Theron attained to the sovereignty of his native city, as well as the steps by which he rose to power, are unknown to us: but he appears to have become despot of Agrigentum as early as B.C. 488. (Diod. 11.53
By his alliance with Gelon of Syracuse, and still more by the expulsion of Terillus from Himera, and the annexation of that city to his dominions, Theron extended as well as confirmed his power, and the great Carthaginian invasion in B.C. 480, which for a time threatened destruction to all the Greek cities in Sicily, ultimately became a source of increased prosperity to Agrigentum. For after the great victory of Gelon and Theron at Himera, a vast number of Carthaginian prisoners fell into the hands of the Agrigentines, and were employed by them partly in the cultivation of their extensive and fertile territory, partly in the construction of public works in the city itself, the magnificence of which was long afterwards a subject of admiration. (Diod. 11.25
.) Nor does the government of Theron appear to have been oppressive, and he continued in the undisturbed possession of the sovereign power till his death, B.C. 472. His son Thrasydaeus on the contrary quickly alienated his subjects by his violent and arbitrary conduct, and was expelled from Agrigentum within a year after his father's death. (Id. 11.53. For further details concerning the history of Agrigentum during this period, see the articles THERON and THRASYDAEUS in the Dict. of Biogr.
The Agrigentines now established a democratic form of government, which they retained without interruption for the space of above 60 years, until the Carthaginian invasion in B.C. 406--a period which may be regarded as the most prosperous and flourishing in the history of Agrigentum, as well as of many others of the Sicilian cities.
The great public works which were commenced or completed during this interval were the wonder of succeeding ages; the city itself was adorned with buildings both public and private, inferior to none in Greece, and the wealth and magnificence of its inhabitants became almost proverbial. Their own citizen Empedocles is said to have remarked that they built their houses as if they were to live for ever, but gave themselves up to luxury as if they were to die on the morrow. (D. L. 8.2.63
The number of citizens of Agrigentum at this time is stated by Diodorus at 20,000: but he estimates the whole population (including probably slaves as well as strangers) at not less than 200,000 (Diod. 13.84
and 90), a statement by no means improbable, while that of Diogenes Laertius (l.c.
), who makes the population of the city alone amount to 800,000, is certainly a gross exaggeration.
This period was however by no means one of unbroken peace. Agrigentum could not avoid participating--though in a less degree than many other cities--in the troubles consequent on the expulsion of the Gelonian dynasty from Syracuse, and the revolutions that followed in different parts of Sicily. Shortly afterwards we find it engaged in hostilities with the Sicel chief Ducetius, and the conduct of the Syracusans towards that chieftain led to a war between them and the Agrigentines, which ended in a great defeat of the latter at the river Himera, B.C. 446. (Diod. 11.76
.) We find also obscure notices of internal dissensions, which were allayed by the wisdom and moderation of Empedocles. (D. L. 8.2.64
.) On occasion of the great Athenian expedition to Sicily in B.C. 415, Agrigentum maintained a strict neutrality, and not only declined sending auxiliaries to either party but refused to allow a passage through their territory to those of other cities. And even when the tide of fortune had turned decidedly against the Athenians, all the efforts of the Syracusan partisans within the walls of Agrigentum failed in inducing their fellow-citizens to declare for the victorious party. (Thuc. 7.32
A more formidable danger was at hand. The Carthaginians, whose intervention was invoked by the Segestans, were contented in their first expedition (B.C. 409) with the capture of Selinus and Himera: but when the second was sent in B.C. 406 it was Agrigentum that was destined to bear the first brunt of the attack.
The luxurious habits of the Agrigentines had probably rendered them little fit for warfare, but they were supported by a body of mercenaries under the command of a Lacedaemonian named Dexippus, who occupied the citadel, and the natural strength of the city in great measure defied the efforts of the assailants.
But notwithstanding these advantages and the efficient aid rendered them by a Syracusan army under Daphnaeus, they were reduced to such distress by famine that after a siege of eight months they found it impossible to hold out longer, and to avoid surrendering to the enemy, abandoned their city, and migrated to Gela.
The sick and helpless inhabitants were massacred, and the city itself with all its wealth and magnificence plundered by the Carthaginians, who occupied it as their quarters during the winter, but completed its destruction when they quitted it in the spring, B.C. 405. (Diod. 13.80
; Xen. Hell. 1.5. 21
Agrigentum never recovered from this fatal blow, though by the terms of the peace concluded with Dionysius by the Carthaginians, the fugitive inhabitants were permitted to return, and to occupy the ruined city, subject however to the Carthaginian rule, and on condition of not restoring the fortifications, a permission of which many appear to have availed themselves. (Diod. 13.114
A few years later they were even able to shake off the yoke of Carthage and attach themselves to the cause of Dionysius, and the peace of B.C. 383, which fixed the river Halycus as the boundary of the Carthaginian dominions, must have left them in the enjoyment of their liberty; but though we find them repeatedly mentioned during the wars of Dionysius [p. 1.76]
and his successors, it is evident that the city was far from having recovered its previous importance, and continued to play but a subordinate part. (Diod. 14.46
; Plut. Dio 25
In the general settlement of the affairs of Sicily by Timoleon, after his great victory over the Carthaginians on the Crimissus, B.C. 340, he found Agrigentum in a state of such depression that he resolved to recolonise it with citizens from Velia in Italy (Plut. Tim. 35
.): a measure which, combined with other benefits, proved of such advantage to the city, that Timoleon was looked upon as their second founder: and during the interval of peace which followed, Agrigentum again attained to such great prosperity as to become once more the rival of Syracuse.
Shortly after the accession of Agathocles, the Agrigentines, becoming apprehensive that he was aspiring to the dominion of the whole island, entered into a league with the Geloans and Messenians to oppose his power, and obtained from Sparta the assistance of Acrotatus the son of Cleomenes as their general: but the character of that prince frustrated all their plans, and after his expulsion they were compelled to purchase peace from Syracuse by the acknowledgement of the Hegemony or supremacy of that city, B.C. 314. (Diod. 19.70
,71.) Some years afterwards, in B.C. 309, the absence of Agathocles in Africa, and the reverses sustained by his partisans in Sicily, appeared again to offer a favourable opening to the ambition of the Agrigentines, who chose Xenodocus for. their general, and openly aspired to the Hegemony of Sicily, proclaiming at the same time the independence of the several cities. They were at first very successful: the powerful cities of Gela and Enna joined their cause, Herbessus and Echetla were taken by force; but when Xenodocus ventured on a pitched battle with Leptines and Demophilus, the generals of Agathocles, he sustained a severe defeat, and was compelled to shut himself up within the walls of Agrigentum. Agathocles himself shortly afterwards returned from Africa, and quickly recovered almost all that he had lost: his general Leptines invaded the territory of Agrigentum, totally defeated Xenodocus, and compelled the Agrigentines once more to sue for peace. (Diod. 20.31
After the death of Agathocles, Agrigentum fell under the yoke of Phintias, who became despot of the city, and assumed the title of king. We have very little information concerning the period of his rule, but he appears to have attained to great power, as we find Agyrium and other cities of the interior subject to his dominion, as well as Gela, which he destroyed, in order to found a new city named after himself. [GELA
] The period of his expulsion is unknown, but at the time when Pyrrhus landed in Sicily we find Agrigentum occupied by Sosistratus with a strong force of mercenary troops, who however hastened to make his submission to the king of Epeirus. (Diod. xxii. Exc. Hoesch.
On the commencement of the First Punic War, Agrigentum espoused the cause of the Carthaginians, and even permitted their general Hannibal to fortify their citadel, and occupy the city with a Carthaginian garrison. Hence after the Romans had secured the alliance of Hieron of Syracuse, their principal efforts were directed to the reduction of Agrigentum, and in B.C. 262 the two consuls L. Postumius and Q. Mamilius laid siege to it with their whole force.
The siege lasted nearly as long as that by the Carthaginians in B.C. 406, and the Romans suffered severely from disease and want of provisions, but the privations of the besieged were still greater, and the Carthaginian general Hanno, who had advanced with a large army to relieve the city, having been totally defeated by the Roman consuls, Hannibal who commanded the army within the walls found it impossible to hold out any longer, and made his escape in the night with the Carthaginian and mercenary troops, leaving the city to its fate.
It was immediately occupied by the Romans who carried off 25,000 of the inhabitants into slavery.
The siege had lasted above seven months, and is said to have cost the victorious army more than 30,000 men. (Diod. xxiii. Exc. Hoesch.
p. 501--503; Plb. 1.17
; Zonar. 8.10
At a later period of the war (B.C. 255) successive losses at sea having greatly weakened the Roman power in Sicily, the Carthaginian general Carthalo recovered possession of Agrigentum with comparatively little difficulty, when he once more laid the city in ashes and razed its walls, the surviving inhabitants having taken refuge in the temple of the Olympian Zeus. (Diod. l.c.
From this time we hear no more of Agrigentum till the end of the First Punic War, when it passed under the dominion of Rome: but it must have in some degree recovered from its late calamities, as it plays no unimportant part when the contest between Rome and Carthage was renewed in the Second Punic War. On this occasion it continued steadfast in its adherence to the Romans, but was surprised and taken by Himilco, before Marcellus could arrive to its support (Liv. 24.35
.): and from henceforth became the chief stronghold of the Carthaginians in Sicily, and held out against the Roman consul Laevinus long after the other cities in the island had submitted.
At length the Numidian Mutines, to whose courage and skill the Carthaginians owed their protracted defence, having been offended by their general Hanno, betrayed the city into the hands of Laevinus, B.C. 210.
The leading citizens were put to death, and the rest sold as slaves. (Liv. 25.40
Agrigentum now became, in common with the rest of the Sicilian cities, permanently subject to Rome: but it was treated with much favour and enjoyed many privileges. Three years after its capture a number of new citizens from other parts of Sicily were established there by the praetor Mamilius, and two years after this the municipal rights and privileges of the citizens were determined by Scipio Africanus in a manner so satisfactory that they continued unaltered till the time of Verres. Cicero repeatedly mentions Agrigentum as one of the most wealthy and populous cities of Sicily, the fertility of its territory and the convenience of its port rendering it one of the chief emporiums for the trade in corn. (Cic. Ver. 2.50
It is certain, however, that it did not in his day rank as a Roman colony, and it is very doubtful whether it ever attained this distinction, though we find that it was allowed to strike coins, with the Latin inscription AGKIGENTUM, as late as the time of Augustus. (Eckhel, D. N.
vol. i. p. 193.)2
If it really obtained the title and privileges of a colony under that emperor, it must have soon lost them, as neither Pliny [p. 1.77]
nor Ptolemy reckon it among the Roman colonies in Sicily. From the time of Augustus we find no historical mention of it under the Roman empire, but its continued existence is attested by the geographers and Itineraries, and as long as Sicily remained subject to the Greek empire, Agrigentum is still mentioned as one of its most considerable cities. (Strab. vi. p.272
; Plin. Nat. 3.8.14
; Ptol. 3.4.14
; Itin. Ant. p. 88; Tab. Peut.; Const. Porph. de Prov.
It was one of the first places that fell into the hands of the Saracens on their invasion of Sicily in 827, and was wrested from them by the Normans under Roger Guiscard in 1086.
The modern city of Girgenti
still contains about 13,000 inhabitants, and, is the see of a bishop, and capital of one of the seven districts or Intendenze into which Sicily is now divided.
The situation of Agrigentum is well described by Polybius (9.27
It occupied a hill of considerable extent, rising between two small rivers, the Acragas and Hypsas, of which the southern front, though of small elevation, presented a steep escarpment, running nearly in a straight line from E. to W. From hence the ground sloped gradually upwards, though traversed by a cross valley or depression, towards a much more elevated ridge which formed the northern portion of the city, and was divided into two summits, the north-western, on which stands the modern city of Girgenti,
and the north-eastern, which derived from a temple of Athena, that crowned its height, the name of the Athenaean hill (δ Ἀθηναῖος λόφος, Diod. 13.85
This summit, which attains to the height of 1200 feet above the sea, and is the most elevated of the whole city, is completely precipitous and inaccessible towards the N. and E., and could be approached only by one steep and narrow path from the city itself. Hence, it formed the natural citadel or acropolis of Agrigentum, while the gentle slopes and broad valley which separate it from the southern ridge,--now covered with gardens and fruit-trees,--afforded, ample space for the extension and development of the city itself: Great as was the natural strength of its position, the whole city was surrounded with walls, of which considerable portions still remain, especially along the southern front: their whole circuit was about 6 miles.
The peculiarities of its situation sufficiently explain the circumstances of the two great sieges of Agrigentum, in both of which it will be observed that the assailants confined all their attacks to the southern and south-western parts of the city, wholly neglecting the north and east. Diodorus, indeed, expressly tells us that there was only one quarter (that adjoining the river Hypsas) where the walls could be approached by military engines, and assaulted with any prospect of success. (Diod. 13.85
Agrigentum was not less celebrated in ancient times for the beauty of its architecture, and the splendour and variety of its buildings, both public and private, than for its strength as a fortress. Pindar calls it “the fairest of mortal cities” (καλλίστα βροτεᾶν πολέων, Pyth.
12.2), though many of its most striking ornaments were probably not erected till after his time.
The magnificence of the private dwellings of the Agrigentines is sufficiently attested by the saying of Empedocles already cited: their public edifices are the theme of admiration with many ancient writers. Of its temples, probably the most ancient were that of Zeus Atabyrios, whose worship they derived from Rhodes, and that of Athena, both of which stood on the highest summit of the Athenaean hill above the city. (Polyb. l.c.
) The temple of Zeus Polieus, the construction of which is ascribed to Phalaris (Polyaen. v. 50.1), is supposed to have stood on the hill occupied by the modern city of Girgenti,
which appears to have formed a second citadel or acropolis, in some measure detached from the more lofty summit to the east of it. Some fragments of ancient walls, still existing in those of the church of Sta Maria de' Greci,
are considered to have belonged to this temple.
But far more celebrated than these was the great temple of the Olympian Zeus, which was commenced by the Agrigentines at the period of their greatest power and prosperity, but was not quite finished at the time of the Carthaginian invasion in B.C. 406, and in consequence of that calamity was never completed.
It is described in considerable detail by Diodorus, who tells us that it was 340 feet long, 160 broad, and 120 in height, without reckoning the basement.
The columns were not detached, but engaged
in the wall, from which only half of their circumference projected: so gigantic were their dimensions, that each of the flutings would admit a man's body. (Diod. 13.82
; Plb. 9.27
.) Of this vast edifice nothing remains but the basement, and a few fragments of the columns and entablature, but even these suffice to confirm the accuracy of the statements of Diodorus, and to prove that the temple must not only have greatly exceeded all others in Sicily, but was probably surpassed in magnitude by no Grecian building of the kind, except that of Diana at Ephesus.
A considerable portion of it (including several columns, and three gigantic figures, which served as Atlantes to support an entablature), appears to have remained standing till the year 1401, when it fell down: and the vast masses of fallen fragments were subsequently employed in the construction of the mole, which protects the present port of Girgenti.
(Fazell. vol. i. p. 248; Smyth's Sicily,
Besides these, we find mention in ancient writers of a temple of Hercules, near the Agora, containing a statue of that deity of singular beauty and excellence (Cic. Ver. 4.43
), and one of Aesculapius without the walls, on the south side of the city (Cic. l.c.; Plb. 1.18
), the remains of which are still visible, not far from the bank of the river Acragas.
It contained a celebrated statue of Apollo, in bronze, the work of Myron, which Verres in vain endeavoured to carry off. Of the other temples, the ruins of which are extant on the site of Agrigentum, and are celebrated by all travellers in Sicily, the ancient appellations cannot be determined with any certainty.
The most conspicuous are two which stand on the southern ridge facing the sea: one of these at the S. E. angle of the city, is commonly known as the temple of Juno Lacinia, a name which rests only on a misconception of a passage of Pliny (Plin. Nat. 35.9.36
): it is in a half ruined state, but its basement is complete, and many of its columns still standing. Its position on the projecting angle of the ridge, with a precipitous bank below it on two sides, gives it a singularly picturesque and striking character.
A few hundred paces to the W. of this stands another temple, in far better preservation, being indeed the most perfect which remains in Sicily; it is commonly called the temple of Concord, from an inscription said to have been discovered there, but which (if authentic) is of Roman date, while both this temple and that just [p. 1.78]
described must certainly be referred to the most flourishing period of Agrigentine history, or the fifth century B.C. They are both of the Doric order, and of much the same dimensions: both are peripfteral,
or surrounded with a portico, consisting of 6 columns in front, and 13 on each side.
The existing vestiges of other temples are much less considerable: one to the W. of that of Concord, of which only one column is standing, is commonly regarded as that of Hercules, mentioned by Cicero. Its plan and design have been completely ascertained by recent excavations, which have proved that it was much the largest of those remaining at Agrigentum, after that of the Olympian Zeus : it had 15 columns in the side and 6 in front. Another, a little to the north of it, of which considerable portions have been preserved, and brought to light by excavation on the spot, bears the name, though certainly without authority, of Castor and Pollux: while another, on the opposite side of a deep hollow or ravine, of which two columns remain, is styled that of Vulcan.
A small temple or aedicula,
near the convent of S. Nicolo,
is commonly known by the designation of the Oratory of Phalaris : it is of insignificant size, and certainly of Roman date.
The church of St. Blasi,
near the eastern extremity of the Athenaean hill, is formed out of the cella of an ancient temple, which is supposed, but without any authority, to have been dedicated to Ceres and Proserpine. (For full details concerning these temples, and the other ruins still
|PLAN OF AGRIGENTUM.|
A A. Modern City of Girgenti.
B B. The Athenaean Hill.
C C. Ancient Walls of Agrigentum.
D. Ancient Port.
E. Modern Port.
F F. Ancient Burial Ground.
G G. River Hypsas (F. Drago
H H. River Acragas (F. di S. Biagio
Temple of Zeus Polieus.
of Athena (?).
of Ceres and Proserpine
Temple of Juno Lacinia.
of Zeus Olympius.
of Castor and Pollux.
called the Oratory of Phalaris.
Tomb of Theron.
Supposed site of Piscina described by Diodorus. [p. 1.79]
visible at Girgenti,
see Swinburne's Travels,
vol. ii. p. 280--291; Smyth's Sicily,
p. 207--212; D'Orville's Sicula,
p. 89--103; Siefert, Akragas,
p. 24--38; and especially Serra di Falco, Antichità della Sicilia,
vol. iii., who gives the results of recent labours on the spot, many of which were unknown to former writers.)
Next to the temple of the Olympian Zeus, the public work of which Diodorus speaks with the greatest admiration (11.25, 13.72), was a piscina,
or reservoir of water, constructed in the time of Theron, which was not less than seven stadia in circumference, and was plentifully stocked with fish, and frequented by numerous swans.
It had fallen into decay, and become filled with mud in the time of the historian, but its site is supposed to be still indicated by a deep hollow or depression in the S. western portion of the city, between the temple of Vulcan and that of Castor and Pollux, now converted into a garden. Connected with this was an extensive system of subterranean sewers and conduits for water, constructed on a scale far superior to those of any other Greek city: these were called Phaeaces, from the name of their architect Phaeax.
It was not only in their public buildings that the Agrigentines, during the flourishing period of their city, loved to display their wealth and luxury.
An ostentatious magnificence appears to have characterised their habits of life, in other respects also: and showed itself especially in their love of horses and chariots. Their territory was celebrated for the excellence of its breed of horses (Verg. A. 3.704
), an advantage which enabled them repeatedly to bear away the prize in the chariot-race at the Olympic games: and it is recorded that after one of these occasions the victor Exaenetus was accompanied on his triumphant entry into his native city by no less than three hundred chariots, all drawn by white horses. (Diod. 13.82
.) Not less conspicuous and splendid were the hospitalities of the more wealthy citizens.
Those of Theron are celebrated by Pindar (01. 3.70), but even these probably fell short of those of later days. Gellias, a citizen noted even at Agrigentum for his wealth and splendour of living, is said to have lodged and feasted at once five hundred knights from Gela, and Antisthenes, on occasion of his daughter's marriage, furnished a banquet to all the citizens of Agrigentum in the several quarters they inhabited. (Diod. 13.83
These luxurious habits were not unaccompanied with a refined taste for the cultivation of the fine arts: their temples and public buildings were adorned with the choicest works of sculpture and painting, many of which were carried off by Himilco to Carthage, and some of them after the fall of that city restored to Agrigentum by Scipio Africanus. (Diod. 13.90
; Cic. Ver. 4.43
; Plin. Nat. 35.9. s. 36
A like spirit of ostentation was displayed in the magnitude and splendour of their sepulchral monuments; and they are said to have even erected costly, tombs to favourite horses and to pet birds. (Diod. 13.82
; Plin. Nat. 42. 64
; Solin. 45.11
The plain in front of the city, occupying the space from the southern wall to the confluence of the two rivers, was full of these sepulchres and monuments, among which that of Theron was conspicuous for its magnitude (Diod. 13.86
): the name is now commonly given to the only structure of the kind which remains, though it is of inconsiderable dimensions, and belongs, in all probability, to the Roman period.
For this extraordinary wealth Agrigentum was indebted, in a great measure, to the fertility of its territory, which abounded not only in corn, as it continued to do in the time of Cicero, and still does at the present day, but was especially fruitful in vines and olives, with the produce of which it supplied Carthage, and the whole of the adjoining parts of Africa, where their cultivation was as yet unknown. (Diod. 11.25
The vast multitude of slaves which fell to the lot of the Agrigentines, after the great victory of Himera, contributed greatly to their prosperity, by enabling them to bring into careful cultivation the whole of their extensive and fertile domain.
The allies on the banks of its river furnished excellent pasture for sheep (Pind. P. 12.4
), and in later times, when the neighboring country had ceased to be so richly cultivated, it was noted for the excellence of its cheeses. (Plin. Nat. 11.42. 97
It is difficult to determine with precision the extent and boundaries of the territory of Agrigentum, which must indeed have varied greatly at different times : but it would seem to have extended as far as the river Himera on the E., and to have been bounded by the Halycus on the W.; though at one time it must have comprised a considerable extent of country beyond that river; and on the other hand Heraclea Minoa, on the eastern bank of the Halycus, was for a long time independent of Agrigentum. Towards the interior it probably extended as far as the mountain range in which those two rivers have their sources, the Nebrodes Mons, or Monte Madonia,
which separated it from the territory of Himera. (Siefert, Akragas,
p. 9--11.) Among the smaller towns and places subject to its dominion are mentioned MOTYUM
in the interior of the country, CAMICUS
the ancient fortress of Cocalus (erroneously supposed by many writers to have occupied the site of the modern town of Girgenti
on the borders of the territory of Gela, and subsequently PHINTIAS
founded by the despot of that name, on the site of the modern Alicata.
Of the two rivers which flowed beneath the walls of Agrigentum, the most considerable was the ACRAGAS
from whence according to the common consent of most ancient authors the city derived its name. Hence it was worshipped as one of the tutelary deities of the city, and statues erected to it by the Agrigentines, both in Sicily and at Delphi, in which it was represented under the figure of a young man, probably with horns on his forehead, as we find it on the coins of Agrigentum. (Pind. O. 2.16
12.5, and Schol. ad locc.;
Empedocles ap. Diog. Laert. 8.2.63; Steph. Byz. v. Ἀκράγας; Ael. VH 2.33
; Castell. Numm. Sic. Vet.
At its mouth was situated the Port or Emporium of Agrigentum, mentioned by Strabo and Ptolemy; but notwithstanding the extensive commerce of which this was at one time the centre, it had little natural advantages, and must have been mainly formed by artificial constructions. Considerable remains of these, half buried in sand, were still visible in the time of Fazello, but have since in great measure disappeared.
The modern port of Girgenti
is situated above three miles further west. (Strab. vi. pp. 266, 272; Ptol. 3.4.6
; Fazell. 6.1. p. 246; Smyth's Sicily,
Among the natural productions of the neighbourhood of Agrigentum, we find no mention in ancient authors of the mines of sulphur, which are at the [p. 1.80]
present day one of the chief sources of prosperity to Girgenti;
but its mines of salt (still worked at a place called Aborangi,
about 8 miles north of the city), are alluded to both by Pliny and Solinus. (Plin. Nat. 31.7. s. 41
; Solin. 5
. § § 18, 19.) Several writers also notice a fountain in the immediate neighbourhood of the city, which produced Petroleum or mineral oil, considered to be of great efficacy as a medicament for cattle and sheep.
The source still exists in a garden not far from Girgenti, and is frequently resorted to by the peasants for the same purpose. (Dioscorid. 1.100; Plin. Nat. 35.15. s. 51
; Solin. 5.22
; Fazell. de Reb. Sicul.
vi. p. 261; Ferrara, Campi Flegrei della Sicilia,
A more remarkable object is the mud volcano (now called by the Arabic name of Maccalubba
) about 4 miles N. of Girgenti,
the phenomena of which are described by Solinus, but unnoticed by any previous writer. (Solin. 5.24
; Fazell. p. 262 ; Ferrara, l.c.
p. 44; Smyth's Sicily,
Among the numerous distinguished citizens to whom Agrigentum gave birth, the most conspicuous is the philosopher Empedocles : among his contemporaries we may mention the rhetorician Polus, and the physician Acron. Of earlier date than these was the comic poet Deinolochus, the pupil, but at the same time the rival, of Epicharmus. Philinus, the historian of the First Punic War, is the latest writer of eminence, who was a native of Agrigentum.
The extant architectural remains of Agrigentum have been already noticed in speaking of its ancient edifices. Besides these, numerous fragments of buildings, some of Greek and others of Roman date, are scattered over the site of the ancient city: and great numbers of sepulchres have been excavated, some in the plain below the city, others within its walls.
The painted vases found in these tombs greatly exceed in number and variety those discovered in any other Sicilian city, and rival those of Campania and Apulia.
But with this exception comparatively few works of art have been discovered.
A sarcophagus of marble, now preserved in the cathedral of Girgenti,
on which is represented the story of Phaedra and Hippolytus, has been greatly extolled by many travellers, but its merits are certainly over-rated.
There exist under the hill occupied by the modern city extensive catacombs or excavations in the rock, which have been referred by many writers to the ancient Sicanians, or ascribed to Daedalus.
It is probable that, like the very similar excavations at Syracuse, they were, in fact, constructed merely in the process of quarrying stone for building purposes.
The coins of Agrigentum, which are very numerous and of beautiful workmanship, present as their common type an eagle on the one side and a crab on the other.
The one here figured, on which the eagle is represented as tearing a hare, belongs undoubtedly
|COIN OF AGRIGENTUM.|
to the most flourishing period of Agrigentine history, that immediately preceding the siege and capture of the city by the Carthaginians, B.C. 406. Other coins of the same period have a quadriga on the reverse, in commemoration of their victories at the Olympic games. [E.H.B