This section is from the book "A Library Of Wonders And Curiosities Found In Nature And Art, Science And Literature", by I. Platt. Also available from Amazon: A library of wonders and curiosities.
Ruins of Agrigentum, in Sicily. - The present town, Girgenti, occupies the mountain on which the ancient citadel stood. At the north-east angle of the ancient limits, upon some foundations of large irregular stones, a church has been erected; a road appears hewn in the solid rock, for the convenience of votaries, who visited this temple in ancient days. It was then dedicated to Ceres and her daughter Proserpine, the peculiar patronesses of Sicily. Bishop Blaise has succeeded to their honours.
At the south-east corner, where the ground, rising gradually, ends in a bold eminence, which is crowned with majestic columns, are the ruins of a temple, said to have been consecrated to Juno. To the west of this, stands the building commonly called the Temple of Concord; the stone of which, and the other buildings, is the same as that of the neighbouring mountains and cliffs, a conglutination of sea-sand and shells, full of perforations, - of a hard and durable texture, and a deep reddish brown colour. This Doric temple has all its columns, entablature, pediments, and walls, entire; only part of the roof is wanting. It owes its preservation to the piety of some Christians, who have covered half the nave, and converted it into a church, consecrated under the invocation of St. Gregory, bishop of Girgenti.
In the same direction are rows of sepulchres cut in the rock. Some masses of it are hewn into the shape of coffins; others are drilled full of small square holes, employed in a different mode of interment, and serving as receptacles of urns. One ponderous piece of it lies in an extraordinary position; by the failure of its foundation, or the shock of an earthquake, it has been loosened from the general quarry, and rolled down the declivity, where it now remains supine, with the cavities turned upwards.
Only a single column marks the confused heap of moss-grown ruins belonging to the temple of Hercules. It stood on a projecting rock above a chasm in the ridge, which was cut through for a passage to the port.
In the same tract, over some hills, is situated the Tomb of Thero. It is surrounded by aged olive-trees, which cast a wild irregular shade over the ruin. The edifice inclines to the pyramidal shape, and consists at present of a triple plinth, and a base supporting a square pedestal: upon this plain solid foundation is raised a second order, having a window in each front, and at each angle two Ionic pilasters, crowned with an entablature of the Doric order. Its inside is divided into a vault, a ground room, and one in the Ionic story, communicating with each other by means of a small internal staircase.
In the plain are seen the fragments of the temple of AEscula-pius: part of two columns and two pilasters, with an inter-mediate wall, support the end of a farm-house, and were probably the front of the cells.
Towards the west are the gigantic remains of the temple of Jupiter Olympus, minutely described by Diodorus Siculus. It may literally be said, that it has not one stone left upon another; and it is barely possible, with the help of much conjecture, to discover the traces of its plan and dimensions. Diodorus calls it the largest temple in the whole island; but adds, that the calamities of war caused the work to be abandoned before the roof could be put on; and that the Agrigentines were ever after reduced to such a state of poverty and dependence, that they never had it in their power to finish this superb monument of the taste and opulence of their ancestors. The length of this temple was 370 Greek feet, its breadth 60, and its height 220, exclusive of the foundation; the extent and solidity of its vaults and underworks, its spacious porticos and exquisite sculpture, were suited to the grandeur of the whole.
The next ruin belongs to the temple of Castor and Pollux: vegetation has covered the lower parts of the building, and only a few fragments of columns appear between the vines This was the point of the hill where the wall stopped on the brink of a large fishpond, spoken of by Diodorus: it was cut in the solid rock thirty feet deep, and water was conveyed to it from the hills. In it was bred a great quantity offish, for the use of public entertainments; swans, and various other kinds of wild fowl, swam along its surface, for the amusement of the citizens; and the great depth of water prevented an enemy from surprising the town on that side. It is now dry, and used as a garden.
On the opposite bank are two tapering columns without their capitals, placed in a tuft of carob trees. Monte Toro, where Hanna encamped with the Carthaginian army, before the Roman consuls drew him into an engagement that ruined his defensive plan, is a noble back-ground in this picturesque group of objects.
The whole space, comprehended within the walls of the ancient city, abounds with traces of antiquity, foundations, brick arches, and little channels for the conveyance of water; but in no part are there any ruins that can be presumed to have belonged to places of public entertainment. This is the more extraordinary, as the Agrigentines were fond of shows and dramatic performances; and the Romans never dwelt in any place long, without introducing their savage games.