A region steeped in history, today there’s a host of incredible Greek ruins to visit in Sicily and among the very best are the Valley of the Temples, Segesta and Selinunte. We’ve handpicked the very best Ancient Greek sites to explore with our top five ancient places to check out in Sicily.
What are the best Ancient Greek ruins in Sicily?
The Valley of the Temples is a world famous archaeological site in Sicily housing some of the best preserved Ancient Greek ruins in the world, especially outside Greece. Agrigento, in which they are located, had been a Greek colony since the 6th century BC.
The majority of the temples were constructed in the fifth century BC. However, having been destroyed first by the Carthaginians and then the Christians almost a thousand years later, they are now partly made up of reconstructions. Nevertheless, of the ten original temples, the remains of nine can now be seen.
The oldest of the temples, the Temple of Herakles, was constructed in the sixth century BC and is made up of several Doric columns. The best preserved of the ruins is the fifth century BC Temple of Concorde, saved from destruction when it was incorporated into a Christian church. The other temples are dedicated to Juno, Olympian Zeus, Hephaistos, Hera Lacinia and Castor and Pollux.
Segesta is an archaeological site in north western Sicily most famous for the Temple of Segesta. This fifth century BC temple was started by the Elymian people but never completed. Nevertheless, with its over thirty intact Doric columns and clear structure, the unfinished Temple of Segesta is so well-preserved that it is considered to be one of Sicily’s most important historic sites. Only the roof and interior are missing.
As for its builders, the Elymians were thought by some to have been former Trojans who fled and settled in Sicily. The reason that the Temple of Segesta is incomplete is often attributed to a possible war between the Elymians and a neighbouring city.
Selinunte is an Ancient Greek archaeological site in southern Sicily containing the ruins of an acropolis surrounded by five historic temples, mostly dating to the sixth to fifth centuries BC.
The sites at Selinunte are relatively meagre when one considers that this would once have been one of the great cities of Magna Graecia founded in the mid-seventh century BC. However, much of Selinunte was destroyed by the Carthaginians in the fifth century BC.
Of the temples at Selinunte, only one has been substantially partially reconstructed, its standing Doric columns forming an impressive sight.
Syracuse Archaeological Site contains the impressive remains of the ancient city of Syracuse dating as far back as the eighth century BC.
The city of Syracuse was founded by Greek colonists – heralding from Corinth – in 734 BC. At its height, Syracuse was the most powerful city in Sicily and, according to Cicero, was the “most beautiful” of all Greek cities. By the fifth to fourth century BC, Syracuse controlled Sicily, especially during the reign of Dionysus the Elder.
In the third century BC, the Romans laid siege to Syracuse and, after three bitter years, it came under Roman rule in 212 BC as a province. One of the most famous residents of Syracuse, the mathematician Archimedes, died during this attack.
Today, visitors to the archaeological site can enjoy the spectacular remnants of its past, the most famous of which is its Ancient Greek theatre. There is also a Roman amphitheatre, a sanctuary to Apollo, an altar to Sicilian King Hieron II, a set of ancient quarries and a fort known as the Castle of Euryalus.
Taormina Amphitheatre was initially built by the Greeks in the third century BC before being rebuilt and enlarged by the Romans. While known as an amphitheatre, the site is actually an ancient theatre, not an arena of the type normally meant by the term.
Parts of the Taormina Amphitheatre, such as its scenery, are still quite well-preserved, although some would say that the modern seating ruins the effect. Today, as well as being a major draw for tourists to the city, the theatre is still used for concerts, plays and other event.