History of Agrigento







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History of Agrigento                                       (Back to Agrigento main information page)

Agrigento is a great place to visit, not only for the tourist interested in learning about Greek history and mythology. History is preserved for all to see.

The city was founded as Akragas ( named after the nearby river) around 582 BC by a group of colonists from Gela, who themselves were the immediate descendants of Greeks from Rhodes and Crete.

The area was however inhabited much earlier as a female skull, ?Girl of Mandrascava", found near Cannatello, is half a million years old.

A Mesolithic village at Point Bianca, farther down the coast toward Montechiaro Castle, dates from 6000 BC.

Akragas was renamed Agrigentum by the Romans, Girgenti by the Saracens, and finally named Agrigento in 1927.

Akragas flourished under Phalaris (570-554 BC), and developed further under Theron (488-471 BC), whose troops participated in the Battle of Himera in 480 BC, defeating the Carthaginians.

The city was destroyed several times during the Punic Wars, suffering particularly extensive damage, but always rebuilt. The Greek poet Pindar (518-438 BC) described Akragas as "the most beautiful city of the mortals." Akragas' most famous citizen was the philosopher and scientist Empedocles (490-430 BC).

After fall of the Romans, Agrigento's importance declined under the Byzantines and Saracens. Captured by the Normans under the rule of Count Roger I in 1087 it was established a Latin bishopric. It was during the Norman rule that beautiful churches were constructed in and around the city.

During the Norman time, the city achieved political importance; its bishop seat was restored and re-organized and new important buildings such as the cathedral and other fortifications were erected across the territory. Agrigento also grew economically much due to important commercial relationships with North-African countries.

A demographic decrease was recorded in the following centuries (14th-17th), the power held first by a few aristocratic families, then the clergy. A new phase of social and economic prosperity would come in the 18th century.

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