sicily | greek archaeological sites

did you know that some of the most well preserved examples of ancient greek architecture are located in sicily?  the greeks colonized sicily from around the 8th-3rd centuries BCE.  so, my husband, bob, and i were excited to visit some of the greek archaeological sites during our recent vacation to sicily.

 map of greek archaeological sites in sicily

photo credit best of sicily

in ancient greece, there were two kinds of sacred buildings, theaters and temples.

in the theaters, the ancient greeks held celebrations in honor of dionysus, the god of wine.  greek tragedy developed from these celebrations.  stone theatres were built in a semicircular shape, with tiered ledges for seating (cavea or theatron) surrounding the stage (orchestra), where the altar of dionysus (thymele) was located.  the chorus entered from either side of the stage and surrounded the altar.  the backdrop for scenery (proscenium) and the backstage (skene) were located behind the orchestra.  the natural surroundings also acted as scenery.

teatro greco | 3rd century BCE | parco archeologico della neapolis | siracusa, sicily

the cavea or theatron | teatro greco | 3rd century BCE | parco archeologico della neapolis | siracusa, sicily

the orchestra | teatro greco | 3rd century BCE | parco archeologico della neapolis | siracusa, sicily

photo credits rilievoarcheologico.it and lisa walsh | innerspace
even though we stayed at the san domenico palace in taormina, we decided not to visit the theatro antico di taormina.  one day the theater was partially closed.  and, the streets of taormina were filled with so many tourists that we decided not to
return.

the proscenium | teatro antico di taormina | 3rd century CE | taormina, sicily

the theater could be either greek or roman

part of the proscenium is still standing

the theater is now used as a concert venue

photo credit strettoweb.com

in the temples, the ancient greeks held rites and sacrifices in honor of a god or goddess.  at the heart of the temple, an oblong chamber called the cella housed a statue of the god or goddess.  the pronao (antechamber) was located in front of the cella.  while, the opisthodomo (treasury) was located behind it.  a peristyle (colonnade) surrounded the building, which was constructed on a stepped foundation.  the columns, which supported the architrave (main beam) were erected on the stylobate, the highest step of the foundation.

some of the most extraordinary existing doric temples are located in sicily.

 diagram of the doric order

photo credit jtrullin

the entablature | tempio della concordia | 440-430 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the columns | tempio della concordia | 440-430 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the stylobate | tempio della concordia | 440-430 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

tempio della concordia | 440-430 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the temple is well preserved because it was converted into a christian basilica during the 6th century CE

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

 plan | tempio della concordia | 440-430 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the roof was accessed via stairs, located on both sides of the entrance to the cella

photo credit parcodeitempli.net

tempio di giunone (hera lacinia or juno) | 450-440 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the columns were re-erected in the 18th century

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

plan | tempio di giunone (hera lacinia or juno) | 450-440 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

photo credit parcodeitempli.net

tempio di giove olimpico (zeus) | 488-472 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

described in ancient texts as the largest doric temple in the western greek world

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

plan | tempio di giove olimpico (zeus) | 488-472 BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

photo credit parcodeitempli.net

tempio di ercole (eracle or hercules) | 6th century BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the eight columns on the south side were re-erected in 1921

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

tempio di ercole (eracle or hercules) | 6th century BCE | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

photo credit parcodeitempli.net

the valle dei templi contains more monuments, including some temples that remain in ruins, and one temple that was reconstructed during the 19th century from architectural elements of different periods.  and, a garden, originally planted around 500 BCE, that has been restored by the fondo ambiente italiano (fai), the italian national trust.

if you need a break from the tourist filled archaeological park, you can stroll through the five hectare (12 acre) giardino della kolymbetra, which is located on the south side of the valle dei templi.  in the garden, the terraces are planted with mediterranean botanical specimens.  and, a cane lined stream runs through the valley, which is cultivated with fruit and nut orchards, as well as citrus and olive groves.

 view of the tempio dei dioscuri (480-460 BCE) from the giardino della kolymbetra | parco valle dei templi | agrigento, sicily

the temple was reconstructed in 1836, using archaeological elements from different periods

photo credit fai
even the duomo in ortigia, an island connected to siracusa by bridge, is built around a doric temple from the 6th century BCE.
the duomo was rebuilt in the baroque style following the earthquake in 1693, which destroyed much of eastern sicily.  palermo architect, andrea palma, incorporated the doric columns from the greek temple into the baroque building.  so, the columns now frame the some of the duomo’s lateral chapels.

 doric columns from a 6th century BCE greek temple incorporated into the duomo | ortigia, sicily

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace
we only visited eastern and southern sicily.  so, we didn’t go to selinunte or segesta, which are located in western sicily.

 tempio E | 5th century BCE | parco archeologico di selinunte | castelvetrano, sicily

reconstructed in 1957

photo credit parco archeologico di selinunte

tempio di segesta | 430 BCE | parco archeologico di segesta | calatafimi segesta, sicily

the temple is possibly incomplete

it doesn’t have a cella, the shafts of the columns are un-fluted, and there aren’t any holes for the roof beams in the architrave

photo credit regione.sicilia.it
that gives us one more reason to plan another sicilian holiday!

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