Valley of the Temples - History and Facts | History Hit

Valley of the Temples

Agrigento, Sicily, Italy

The Valley of the Temples is a UNESCO-listed site in Sicily housing the very well-preserved remains of several Ancient Greek temples.

Peta Stamper

14 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Valley of the Temples

The Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi) is a famous archaeological site in Agrigento housing some of the best-preserved Ancient Greek ruins in the world outside of Greece.

More a ridge than a valley, the Valley of the Temples mainly comprises the beautiful ruins of 9 ancient sacred temples. Beyond the temples, the Valley of the Temples boasts numerous other archaeological sites, including the 1st century AD Tomb of Theron and several sanctuaries, the oldest of which was built around the 6th century BC.

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997, the Valley of the Temples also has an on-site museum for visitors to explore.

Valley of the Temples history

The majority of the sites at the Valley of the Temples were initially constructed in the 5th century BC. However, having been destroyed first by the Carthaginians around 406 BC and then the Christians in the 6th century AD, the temples have since been partly reconstructed.

The excavation and restoration project was largely due to the efforts of archaeologist Domenico Antonio Lo Faso Pietrasanta, the Duke of Serradifalco from 1809 to 1812.

Valley of the Temples today

Today, visitors can spend several hours wandering back into ancient times through the Valley of the Temples. The oldest of the temples, the Temple of Herakles, was constructed in the 6th century BC and dedicated to one of the ancient Greeks’ most venerated deities: Hercules. The temple is believed to have been one of the first built by the area’s Greek tyrant, Theron. Destroyed by an earthquake, all that remains of the Temple of Herakles were 8 Doric columns.

The best preserved of the ruins are the 5th century BC Temple of Concorde, saved from destruction when it was incorporated into an early Christian church. The spaces between columns were filled in and the pagan altar destroyed. Visitors with a keen eye should spot the head of Medusa on the back of Icarus’ wing next to the temple, a nearby remnant of the pagan era.

The other temples are dedicated to Juno, Olympian Zeus (in celebration of the Greek victory over Carthage), Hephaistos, Hera Lacinia and Castor and Pollux. The Temple to Castor and Pollux, despite only consisting of 4 columns, became the modern symbol for Agrigento after being reconstructed in the 19th century using pieces from other temples.

The Valley of the Temples is also home to the Tomb of Theron, a large monument in a pyramid shape made from volcanic rock. The monument is believed to have commemorated Romans killed during the Second Punic War.

Multiple informative boards are dotted along the paths to provide you with further details of the site. Also remember to bring plenty of drinking water and a hat when visiting during the intense Mediterranean summer.

Getting to the Valley of the Temples

Located along the SP4, the Valley of the Temples is only a 4 minute drive from Agrigento on the Sicilian coast. It is a 2 hour drive from either Palermo or Catania, and you must walk from the car park up to the ruins.

Alternately, Agrigento has a central transit station with both train and bus links, so with comfortable footwear and plenty of water, you could walk from the town to the ruins in 30 minutes.

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