Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

YOU CAN ALSO FIND ME ON MUSEA-LEONIDAS (in Dutch) FOR MUSEUM NEWS.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Blue Guide, Sicily by Ellen Grady

Simply the best! The editor of this Blue Guide, Sicily (ISBN 978-1-905131-54-9) is Dr Michael Metcalfe, whom I had the immense pleasure to meet on several trips organized by Peter Sommer Travels.

This travel guide starts with a sketchy presentation of Sicily’s complex history. After that, each province of Sicily is being explained in detail, beginning each time with a short history of its own followed by the role its capital and other main cities played over the centuries, highlighting the main buildings and others, inclusive opening hours, entrance fees and handy phone numbers. Clear town plans and site maps help the prospective visitor to find his way among the Greco-Roman ruins and in the web of streets and alleys of these cities and towns. Key events or key personalities receive special attention in a framed window, and clear drawings and an occasional (black & white) picture definitely help to get a good idea of what to expect.

At the end of each chapter treating a separate province, there is a list of hotels and restaurants that deserve to be taken into consideration. That goes for all the provinces of Sicily: Palermo, Trapani, Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Enna, Ragusa, Syracuse, Catania and Messina.

The guide concludes with some practical information about opening hours, emergency numbers, means of communication and travel, and finally some details about accommodation and the island’s wide range of typical food and drinks (wines). There also is a glossary of special terms, mostly pertaining to Greek temples and theatres, handily completed with drawings of the basic temple design, the classical orders of the temples, the design of ancient theatres, as well as the names and shapes of all kinds of pottery one can encounter. It also includes a list of Sicilian architects, painters and sculptors. At the very end of the guide holds a full road map of Sicily and a series of more detailed maps by province. In short, everything you need to know before heading for this beautiful island but also extremely useful while travelling around.

To my greatest pleasure and utmost satisfaction I did indeed visit this island in a two-weeks tour led by Dr Michael Metcalfe in person (for the tour details of Peter Sommer Travels, see Exploring Sicily), who truly brought Sicily and its rich history and culture to life!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Archimedes, the most illustrious citizen of Syracuse

If one name is immediately associated with Syracuse, it certainly is that of the mathematical genius Archimedes (ca 287-212 BC). Yes, we all know he was Greek but never realize that he actually lived and died in Sicily, then part of Magna Graecia.

It is unclear whether he was a close friend or a relative of King Hieron II of Syracuse (c.308-215 BC) but we know that the king sponsored Archimedes’ trip to Alexandria to study at the renowned library where he seems to have met his friend Conon of Samos and also Erastothenes of Cyrene whom he mentioned in the introduction of two of his works.

Archimedes was working for Hieron II and his son Gelon II constructing devices as catapults, burning mirrors, and an iron claw, a sort of crane with a grappling hook that was able to lift the ships out of the water and making them capsize and sink. He also is famous for inventing an orrery, i.e. a mechanical model of the solar system in which the sun is at the center and the earth rotates around it; it could predict solar and lunar eclipses.

Archimedes established the relationship between the circumference and the diameter of a circle.

His best known invention happened while he was taking a bath and noticed that the water level rose when he stepped into the tub. This led to his theory to calculate the volume of an object and he was so excited about his discovery that he ran out of his house, stark naked, shouting “Eureka!”, I found it! If we can believe Vitruvius, Archimedes applied this principle when King Hieron II asked him to determine whether the votive crown he had ordered for a temple was indeed made with the pure gold he had supplied or if the goldsmith had added some cheaper silver. A charming anecdote, no doubt, but it may not be entirely true as the calculations are far more complex than that.

Another invention called the Archimedes’ screw has been used successfully over the centuries, and still is in those places where water has to be moved from a lower level to higher grounds or canals. His system, consisting of a revolving screw inside a cylinder even applies to moving coal or grain. There are however discussions that tend to attribute the invention to the Babylonians who used the principle to irrigate their Hanging Gardens.

History written down by Athenaeus of Naucratis tells us that King Hieron II asked Archimedes in 240 BC to build a large ship to carry huge amounts of supplies and could also be used in war as well as for pleasure. It was in fact a catamaran weighing 4,000 tons for which timber from Mount Etna was used together with rosewood and ivory from Africa and rope from Iberia – nothing less!  It was capable of transporting 600 people and was equipped with a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, a gymnasium and even a garden! Because of its size, the ship that was appropriately called the Syracusia, would leak considerably through the hull but Archimedes’ screw was capable of pumping the excess bilge water out. As the ship was far too big to anchor in most harbors, Hieron II decided to generously send it to Ptolemy IV Philopator in Egypt loaded with wheat when Egypt was struck by famine.

It should be noted that Hieron II perfectly realized the advantages of taking side with Rome rather than resisting it and his sixty-year long reign brought the city great prosperity. This shows in particular in the huge altar used for sacrifices to Zeus where as many as 450 bulls could be offered in one day. It is still there for us to see, nearly 200m long and 23 meters wide making it the largest altar ever known. Originally it was 15 meters high, that is until the Spaniards reused the stones to fortify the harbor of Syracuse in 1526. We also owe to this king the construction of the largest theater of the Greek world of his days that could hold 15,000 people. When Hieron II died in 215 BC, his successor decided to chose the side of the Carthaginians, who were threatening Rome at the time. This event had unfortunate results for our friend Archimedes.

It happened during the Second Punic War that the Romans, after a two-year-long siege, finally took possession of Syracuse. The leading general, Marcus Claudius Marcellus, had issued clear instructions that whoever found Archimedes should treat him kindly and not harm him. Yet an inpatient soldier noticing that the old man refused to meet his general, killed Archimedes who was totally absorbed in his mathematical diagram. Apparently he had not realized that he was in fact addressing Archimedes – this is at least what Plutarch tells us.

Not a single trace is left of Archimedes in today’s Syracuse, except for a square in the heart of Ortygia that is named after him, Piazza Archimede. Recently a small science museum has opened there, entirely dedicated to the city’s famous citizen exhibiting a number of interactive displays and models that illustrate some of his inventions and theories like the Stomachon, a 14-piece composition puzzle; a sphere contained by the cylinder; and the burning mirrors. These are all very intriguing and very much worth the visit.

[Drawings taken from Wikipedia]

Friday, July 18, 2014

Alexander sets out to cross to Asia

When Alexander left Pella in the spring of 334 BC the city of Thessaloniki, about 46 km further east did not exist, meaning that his army marched through the plains to near modern Lagkadàs. From there, we can today choose between two roads towards Amphipolis: the freeway running north of Lake Koroneia and Lake Volvi or the local road that follows the southern banks of these lakes. Both roads are interesting to drive for they give a very vivid idea of the terrain crossed by Alexander and before him by his father, King Philip II during his repeated battles on the Chalcidice peninsula.

It is obvious that Alexander didn’t set out from Pella with the entire army, only with his Macedonians. The delegations from the northern Balkan tribes joined him at Amphaxatis near the mouth of the Axios River. It was in Amphipolis that Parmenion met his king with the contingents from Greece and the Greek mercenaries, and where Alexander’s fleet connected with his land forces. From there the entire army which must have counted nearly 30,000 men and 5,000 cavalry marched towards Abdera and Maroneia, both in Greek hands. After crossing the Hebrus River, Alexander led his troops to Sestos on the Chersonese peninsula in European Turkey, where he arrived twenty days after leaving home. Here he had his first glance of Asia lying across of the Dardanelles known as the Hellespont in antiquity and which formed a major natural barrier for any invading army.

The crossing of the Hellespont, which had been done in the opposite direction a good century early by the Persian armies of Darius I and Xerxes, cannot be underestimated. The current at the narrowest point is extremely swift as the water is squeezed between the low continental banks.

It is here that I pick up history when travelling with Peter Sommer In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, a trip that is now split into two parts but which I had the immense pleasure to follow by walking, driving and sailing over a period of almost three weeks, the best days of my life! Peter himself has walked all the way from Istanbul to Iskenderun near the Syrian border in search of Alexander’s path and he reads the landscape like no other – a blessing beyond description!

Before crossing the Hellespont we stop at a plant where shells are being processed and where I can walk to the very edge of the water to have a first look at the blue landmass of Asia on the other side. A thrilling experience for this must have been what Alexander saw 2,500 years ago. A little further down the Chersonese peninsula, Peter points at a wide flat between the low rolling hills - the plain of Arisbe - where Alexander’s army set up camp awaiting to be shipped to the other side. My imagination immediately gets to work, pitching tents, lighting campfires, building stockades where soldiers keep watch, adding the sound of men talking, yelling, singing or cursing. What a place!

My crossing is not in style with any of Alexander’s 160 triremes that moved back and forth to transport men and beasts over several days, but instead I take a regular ferry from Kilitbahir to Çanakkale. Once on board I look back and forth, behind me are the remains of Ottoman forts with a proud Turkish flag on top, ahead of me the busy quays of the city that was the land where Alexander jumped out of his ship in full armor and threw his spear into Asian soil, taking Asia as spear-won territory from the very start.

Just like Alexander, we first pay a visit to Troy, home of Homer’s Trojan War where the young king’s heroes had fought and died. In his days there wasn’t much left of the old city but its history and legends were still very much alive. During my visit, I was led around by an expert who had worked very closely together with Manfred Korfmann, an archeologist who had dedicated the last 16 years of his life to Troy. I receive a simplified view of the nine successive layers of Troy built one on top of the other over the 3,000 thousand years of its existence but I still cannot sort it out. The different layers of the city are labeled with numbers to help the visitor locating each time-frame but then the layers get mixed up or disappear so that I am left with a variety of walls fitting certain buildings at some time in history. The discovery of Troy by Heinrich Schliemann in 1871 is general knowledge, and his so-called Treasure of Priam turned out to be at least one thousand years older. Schliemann had read Homer’s Iliad and so had Alexander, who slept with a copy of the book with annotations made by Aristotle. Both men were inspired by the Iliad although in very different ways and for different reasons. But in the end, Troy is Troy, the city of Alexander’s hero, Achilles.

I am then led to an odd looking hill with scant remains. I’m told that this is the place where the Temple of Athena stood where Alexander made a gift of his armor in exchange for some weapons from the Trojan War that could have belonged to Achilles – or at least that is probably what Alexander wanted to believe. I stare at the hardened soil in between the stones that barely outline the temple walls and I wonder whether or not I am standing in the space where Alexander once stood. The temple clings to the edge of a cliff offering an unreal but peaceful view over a plain that was mostly covered by the sea in his days.

The cherry on the cake for that day is most surprising. Our minivan drives off from Troy over local roads and suddenly stops at the end of a dirt road in the middle of what seems to be an orchard. From here we continue on foot through waist-high barley fields at whose edges I discover a tumulus. This turns out to be the Tomb of Achilles! For a moment I’m speechless. How exciting! Earlier today I have seen many tumuli in the landscape, but to hear that this one is actually the hero’s burial site is so terribly unique. According to some, Achilles’ tomb is shared by his faithful friend Patroclus, and this makes the place even more special as Alexander saw himself as Achilles and his dearest boyhood friend Hephaistion as Patroclus. Both men cut their hair and laid a wreath on this tomb and afterwards ran a race around it stripped of all their clothes. The picture certainly fuels my imagination!


For no reason at all, we all rush to the very top where some rough stones crown the summit. What a place to visit, to touch, to experience. The view this late in the afternoon is blessed with the delicate light of diminishing sunlight blanketing the landscape with a delicate glow. I can actually see a good stretch of the seashore and Peter kindly pinpoints the very bay where the Greek fleet was hidden from view by the Trojans while awaiting for the city gates to be opened by the soldiers hidden inside the famous Trojan Horse. So much history has happened on these grounds! What a place to be.



From here, Alexander rejoined his troops which by now had all crossed the Hellespont into Asia. He soon would have to face the Persian enemy (see: The Battle of the Granicus) and I’ll pick up his traces tomorrow.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tapestries showing Alexander the Great

Somehow, I missed the excitement around two huge Flemish tapestries depicting Alexander the Great!

Every year, Brussels is hosting a fair of Antique and Fine Art Dealers and recently the event was in the news because they contributed to the restoration of two tapestries made in the workshops of Pasquier Grenier around 1460 in Tournai (Belgium), and which are presently part of the Princes Doria Pamphilj Collection in the Palazzo del Principe in Genoa (Italy). 



Alexander is being represented here as rendered in the so-called Alexander Romance, a personage I find rather remote from his true historical context – in as far as we are still able to find it after two thousand five hundred years, of course.

Wool and silk, gold and silver threads were used to weave these huge tapestries that were in an advanced state of disintegration. The old silk threads were pulverized; most of the brown wool was corroded by the iron components used in the original dyeing process; and many warp threads were broken or missing due to accidents or mishandling.

The Royal Manufacturers De Wit in Mechelen (Belgium) is one of the rare places capable of performing this kind of restoration job although seldom done on pieces of such poor condition. Each tapestry (about 10 meters long) required two years of work, cleaning them first, followed by an overall stabilization of the material and a consolidation of the weaker areas. Finally, a sturdy lining provided the much needed support to hold the tapestry together and camouflage the gaps.

According to the specialists, these tapestries are spectacular, not only because of their composition and design, but also because of their technical aspect and color palette, and should be ranked among the finest examples of 15th century tapestries to survive. The Story of Alexander knew at least seven tapestry versions, all created between 1460 and 1470, and these two examples most likely belonged to Admiral Andrea Doria, who commanded the fleet of Charles the Fifth at the battle of Tunis in 1535.

The first tapestry shows young Alexander surrounded by his mother Olympias and his father, Philip II; the taming of Bucephalus; and his first military victories; culminating with the crowning of Alexander by his dying father. The second tapestry, depicts six scenes of Alexander’s conquests of Asia, including idealistic (and in my eyes unrealistic) images where Alexander soars the skies in a cage drawn by griffons, and later travels under water in a glass bulb, to finally journey to the end of the world where wild men and dragons live.

They are lively illustrations of the Alexander Romance that was popular at the time, embellished thanks to the ideals of the Crusaders, for whom Alexander became an example of virtue and morality for knighthood of the late Middle Ages. Not exactly my cup of tea, as you can imagine, but it shows how much Alexander stimulated the imagination of mankind over the centuries. And he still does …

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Plans enough to dig out Philippopolis (Bulgaria)

Few people are aware that modern Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe as its origins go back some 6,000 years. It was conquered by King Philip II of Macedonia who changed the Thracian name of Eumolpia into Philippopolis, meaning “the city of Philip, in 340 BC.

Very few remains from those days have been revealed so far and what we see today is mostly Roman. In 46 AD Emperor Claudius made it “the largest and most beautiful of all cities” as Lucian tells us. The most important military road in the Balkans, the Via Militaris, passed right through Philippopolis, the major communication line between Belgrade and Byzantium. Roman times led to flourishing commerce and monumental constructions of which so far the theatre is the best known example.

In recent years many new excavations have been carried out and slowly the Roman city is rising from its ashes as archaeologists have been able to locate and partly expose many public buildings like the Stadium, Treasury, Baths facilities, Odeon and other structures around the central Forum. A defensive double city-wall has been found and an excellent water and sewage system has been established.

Lately, the archaeologists’ attention has focused on the area around the Forum which was built at the time of Emperor Augustus, probably in part on top of an older Hellenistic Agora although this is not yet entirely certain. This Forum however covers a surface of 11 hectares, arguably one of the largest Roman Forums of the country. On the eastern and southern side we find the known Theatre and the Stadium, while the western and northern sides were occupied by a series of shops connected to the Forum by a ten-meters-wide Stoa. Meanwhile the Propylaea, defining the entrance to the Forum have been located and need excavation.


Unfortunately, under the communist regime of the 1970’s a concrete post-office was built smack in the middle of today’s excavation site and this is not helping in reconstructing the city’s past. It is in this area that the Odeon has been dug out next to a theater that is smaller than the existing one. Plans are made to remove some modern buildings, including the post-office, in order to create an archaeological passage between the different monuments – but the matter is evidently subject to a lot of red tape.

For now, finds seem to be limited to smaller items like Roman and Medieval coins, tiles with theatrical masks, Roman bowls, cups, amphorae and other pottery, some glassware, and vessels used in religious ceremonies.

No wonder that Plovdiv is running to become the European Capital of Culture in 2019.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Valley of the Temples at Akragas, Sicily

My first glance of these temples is quite exciting as I discover them on a high ridge above the road, playing hide and seek with the passing trees. According to my map, the string of temples at Akragas (modern Agrigento) are located between two rivers, the Hypsas and the Akragas, but why this place high up the ridge is called “The Valley of the Temples” I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Roughly, all these temples were built within a period of one hundred years, somewhere between 500 BC for the Temple of Heracles and 400 BC for the enormous Temple of Zeus. The sixth and fifth centuries BC were definitely the most prosperous times for Akragas, which was founded as a colony of Gela in 580 BC to become one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia counting as much as 100,000 to 200,000 people. The Carthaginians captured the city in 406 BC and burnt it to the ground, selling its inhabitants as slaves. Soon afterwards Akragas fell victim to the disputes between Rome and Carthage during the First Punic War. After besieging the city and defeating the Carthaginians in 261 BC, the inhabitants were once again sold as slaves this time by the Romans. Six years later the Carthaginians recaptured the city but in the end they had to surrender it to Rome, ending the Second Punic War. In 210 BC the Romans took possession of Akragas and renamed it Agrigentum, although Greek was still the common language. Those were hard times for such a proud city!

The temples we see here today do not tell this gruesome story and only testify of Magna Graecia’s grandeur. The best known is the Temple of Concord, simply because this is the best preserved sanctuary of the Greek world after the Temple of Hephaistos in Athens. It was built around 430 BC and suffered only slight damage from the Carthaginian invasion. It is a rather standard construction in Doric style counting 6x13 columns nearly 7 meters high that has kept its cella nearly intact thanks to the fact that it was converted into a church. This sounds familiar after seeing what has been done to the Temple of Apollo in Syracuse with that difference however that here, except for the arches in the nave, the building has been entirely stripped of its Christian additions. Its location is absolutely superb as it shines there at the end of the Sacred Road, even without the coat of original white stucco that was enhanced with red, blue, green and yellow details. It must have been visible from quite a distance!

When I enter ”The Valley of the Temples”, my first stop however is at the Temple of Hera, clinging to the edge of the cliff. For security reasons, I am not allowed inside. It is slightly smaller and about 20 years older than the Temple of Concord, although it counts as many columns. This temple is in poorer condition with only parts of the columns and the cella walls still standing as it suffered from the (still visible) devastating Carthaginians fires in 406 BC. In fact, it is surprising that so much of the temple has survived after all.

As this Temple of Hera lies on higher ground, I have an excellent view over the city walls which are generally an extension of the steep cliff that has been hollowed out to leave only a wall of some sort. More to the right and parallel to this wall runs the said Via Sacra that leads to the Temple of Concord and beyond that to the Temple of Heracles and across the modern road to the enormous Temple of Zeus. It is a beautiful walk among the blossoming trees and high grasses, overlooking the valley below.

Passing the Temple of Concord, I reach the end of the Via Sacra at the Temple of Heracles that has only one row of nine columns left to fuel my imagination. This is by far the oldest temple of Akragas built around 500 BC and is a little larger than the two previous ones counting originally 6 by 15 columns. It also has suffered badly from the Carthaginian destruction of 406 BC and traces of fire are still visible. In its heydays it contained a painting by the most famous artist of the ancient world, Zeuxis. I wonder what this must have looked like.

Across the modern road are the ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus that defies my wildest imagination. It was built in Doric style by the Carthaginians taken prisoners during the battle of Himera in 480 BC and measures as much as 110x53m, i.e. a double square and for that reason it is unique among the Greek temples. It counted 7x14 columns rounded on the outside and square on the inside, a staggering 4m across and 16.7m high. In between stood statues of colossal Telamones  (male caryatides), 38 pieces in all. A few of these Telamones  or parts of them have been recovered and give an idea of the oversized proportions of the temple. Archeologists have not yet agreed on the final lay-out of this temple that has suffered from repeated earthquakes and from quarrying for several local projects. This Temple of Zeus was not finished in 406 BC when the Carthaginians arrived and we know that it was converted into a fortress in 255 BC so the inhabitants and the Roman garrison could take shelter here from the Carthaginian attack. Walking among these huge blocks, it is very difficult to mentally reconstruct this sanctuary and the remains of a few Telamones stretched out in their full length around the temple add to the general confusion about its true proportions. Luckily the local museum shows a model reconstruction of the temple, at least one of the possibilities, putting things more or less in perspective. The benefit of visiting these remains lies in the details for when you see the shear size of the triglyphs or the large U-shaped incisions on some of the stones that were used to lift the enormous blocks, you can somehow visualize the biblical proportions of this temple that certainly deserves the addition of Olympian to the name of Zeus.

Further to the west are the poor remains of the city of Akragas from the 6th century BC divided by three five-meter wide north-south streets. Much of the city was rebuilt in Hellenistic times but only the base of the walls remains visible. At the far end of this plain dotted with patches of flowers of all colors, one can see the Sanctuary of the Chthonic Divinities (the gods of the earth), in which two temples of the 7th century BC have been erroneously assembled together in 1836. It is easy to recognize the two large altars in front of this reconstruction belonging to the same period, a round and a square one. There are more remains of other temples but I cannot properly figure them out.

Behind this section of the Chthonic Sanctuary lies a small valley that separates me from the two columns that belong to the Temple of Hephaistos which I can see among the trees. Down below lies the so-called Kolymbetra Garden where a pool was dug by the same Carthaginian prisoners mentioned above, taken at Himera in 480 BC. It was meant to serve as a water reservoir and a pond for fresh fish. This pond was rather short lived as approximately one century later it was drained to become a garden where Arabs cultivated oranges. Unfortunately there is no time to visit the Garden or the poor remains of the Temple of Hephaistos.

The site of Akragas and its “Valley of the Temple” covers an area of approximately 4.5 x 3 kilometers, and this means that even a full-day’s visit is not enough to see it all. But a stop to the local museum is an absolute must, were it only to see the one original re-erected Telamon. I feel dwarfed next to this enormous statue, and even next to the three rescued Telamon-heads! Together with the abovementioned reconstruction of the Temple of Zeus, these definitely are the highlights of the museum. Yet there are several other artifacts that deserve attention. For a start there is a terracotta Dinos with triangular pattern from Gela belonging to the end of the 7th century BC, a pattern that still stands as a symbol for the triangular shape of Sicily and that is reproduced in colorful copies for the tourists. Then there is a lovely marble head of a veiled goddess, probably Demeter from the end of the 5th century BC; a marble statue of a warrior in a style typical for 480-475 BC; a delicate statue of a young athlete, smaller than life-size and thought to be victorious at the Olympic Games dated to 480 BC; a small headless statue of Aphrodite bathing and wringing her hair in late Hellenistic style from Rhodes; fragments of Archaic architectural terracotta elements from the sixth century BC, probably belonging to the Temple of Zeus; a rather static Kouros-head from around 450 BC; and a wide range of terracotta heads, amphorae and craters from the fifth and fourth century BC. Quite a number of showcases are not lit, whether this is for economical reasons or because of some defect, I don’t know.

Strangely enough this museum is partially built over what once was the Hellenistic ekklesiasterion that could hold 3,000 citizens for assemblies. It looks very much like an eroded semi-circular theatre as it was leveled to accommodate the foundations of a later Roman temple. The 13th century church of San Nicola built with materials from nearby Roman constructions does not help to get a clear view of this area.

I take one last glance back to where I came from. “The Valley of the Temples” with the Temple of Concord are beautifully framed by the trees on the foreground. What a place to truly taste the past!

[Click here to see all the pictures of Akragas and here for all the pictures of the Museum of Agrigento]