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AGY´RIUM (Ἀγύριον: Eth. Ἀγυριναῖος, Eth. Agyrinensis), a city of the interior of Sicily now called S. Filippo d'Argirò. It was situated on the summit of a steep and lofty hill, between Enna and Centuripa, and was distant 18 Roman miles from the former, and 12 from the latter. (Tab. Peut. The Itin. Ant. p. 93, erroneously gives only 3 for the former distance.) It was regarded as one of the most ancient cities of Sicily, and according to the mythical traditions of the inhabitants was visited by Heracles on his wanderings, who was received by the inhabitants with divine honours, and instituted various sacred rites, which continued to be observed in the days of Diodorus. (Diod. 4.24.) Historically speaking, it appears to have been a Sicelian city, and did not receive a Greek colony. It is first mentioned in B.C. 404, when it was under the government of a prince of the name of Agyris, who was on terms of friendship and alliance with Dionysius of Syracuse, and assisted him on various occasions. Agyris extended his dominion over many of the neighbouring towns and fortresses of the interior, so as to become the most powerful prince in Sicily after Dionysius himself, and the city of Agyrium is said to have been at this time so wealthy and populous as to contain not less than 20,000 citizens. (Diod. 14.9, 78, 95.) During the invasion of the Carthaginians under Mago in B.C. 392, Agyris continued steadfast to the alliance of Dionysius, and contributed essential service against the Carthaginian general. (Id. 14.95, 96.) From this time we hear no more of Agyris or his city during the reign of Dionysius, but in B.C. 339 we find Agyrium under the yoke of a despot named Apolloniades, who was compelled by Timoleon to abdicate his power. The inhabitants were now declared Syracusan citizens: 10,000 new colonists received allotments in its extensive and fertile territory, and the city itself was adorned with a magnificent theatre and other public buildings. (Diod. 16.82, 83.)

At a later period it became subject to Phintias, king of Agrigentum: but was one of the first cities [p. 1.81]to throw off his yoke, and a few years afterwards we find the Agyrinaeans on friendly terms with Hieron king of Syracuse, for which they were rewarded by the gift of half the territory that had belonged to Ameselum. (Diod. xxii. Exc. Hoesch. pp. 495, 499.) Under the Roman government they continued to be a flourishing and wealthy community, and Cicero speaks of Agyrium as one of the most considerable cities of Sicily. Its wealth was chiefly derived from the fertility of its territory in corn: which previous to the arrival of Verres found employment for 250 farmers (aratores), a number diminished by the exactions of his praetorship to no more than 80. (Cic. Ver. 3.18, 27--31, 51, 52.) From this period we have little further notice of it, in ancient times. It is classed by Pliny among the “populi stipendiarii” of Sicily, and the name is found both in Ptolemy and the Itineraries. In the middle ages it became celebrated for a church of St. Philip with a miraculous altar, from whence the modern name of the town is derived. It became in consequence a great resort of pilgrims from all parts of the island, and is still a considerable place, with the title of a city and above 6000 inhabitants. (Plin. Nat. 3.8. 14; Ptol. 3.4.13; Fazell. de Reb. Sicul. vol. i. p. 435; Ortolani, Diz. Geogr. della Sicilia, p. 111.)

The historian Diodorus Siculus was a native of Agyrium, and has preserved to us several particulars concerning his native town. Numerous memorials were preserved there of the pretended visit of Heracles: the impression of the feet of his oxen was still shown in the rock, and a lake or pool four stadia in circumference was believed to have been excavated by him. A Temenos or sacred grove in the neighbourhood of the city was consecrated to Geryones, and another to Iolaus, which was an object of peculiar veneration: and annual games and sacrifices were celebrated in honour both of that hero and of Heracles himself. (Diod. 1.4, 4.24.) At a later period Timoleon was the chief benefactor of the city, where he constructed several temples, a Bouleuterion and Agora, as well as a theatre which Diodorus tells us was the finest in all Sicily, after that of Syracuse, (Id. 16.83.) Scarcely any remains of these buildings are now visible, the only vestiges of antiquity being a few undefined fragments of masonry. The ruined castle on the summit of the hill, attributed by some writers to the Greeks, is a work of the Saracens in the tenth century. (Amico, ad Fazell. p. 440; Lex. Topogr. Sic. vol. i. p. 22.)



hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.9
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.95
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.82
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.78
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.83
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.8
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 1.4
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 4.24
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.4
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