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D + 25: Dorian Temples

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

Today we planned to travel further into Greater Greece, the part of Sicily colonised by Greek settlers between the 8th and 6th century BC. We definitely wanted to visit the Dorian Temples in Agrigento.

Temple of Concordia seen from the Temple of Juno, both built in the 5th century BC

The weather looked good at 7.30 am with wind speeds of 6 knots. However, the Harbour Master had not returned our papers yet. We could not leave. Our skipper spent hours waiting at the Guardia Costeria but the man never showed up - and nobody dared to call him. We waited and waited. By 1 pm we still had not papers and winds had accelerated to 23 knots. Our plan to sail to the port of Agrigento was in tatters. Time for Plan B. We found a solution with a local cab company who offered to take us to Agrigento and back. It was a one man operation run by a nice, 50 year old burly man who would wait until we finished our visit - what a nice fellow. He spoke no English and our Italian was rusty. But hands talk and we agreed on the deal. By 2 pm we were in his van.

Winds at Sciacca at 2 pm as per our beloved app Windspeed - they had reached speeds of 25 knots which would make for rather bumpy sailing

The drive to the Valley of the Temples - it is not really a valley but a fortified ridge - took just an hour. By 3 pm we arrived. As already described by Wolfgang Goethe more than 200 years ago, the temples are a magnificent sight. Built at the same time as the Acropolis in Athens, they represent the peak of Greek civilisation. We started with the temple of Juno, Zeus' wife, and the equivalent to the Temple of Hera we saw yesterday in Salinunte. Built a few decades later, it was also smaller and had only 6 x 13 pillars (Temple of Hera had 6 x 15). It is also well preserved and re-surrected but nobody is allowed to go inside - in Selinunte we could.

A long road on top of the former fortifications leads from the Juno Temple to the Concordia Temple. Many interesting illustrations show how the temples were constructed and the giant columns and stones transported from the far away quarries.

Of all the seven temples, Concordia is the best preserved since it was converted to a church by early Christians. In a way it reminds me of the Madeleine in Paris next to the Place de la Concorde. Wonder whether it was inspired by this temple here in Agrigento.


The temple district was part of the very large Greek town of Akragas. It was one of the most important Greek colonies, founded in 582 BC and covering more than 485 hectares. The size of its population is estimated between 100'000 to 200'000 citizens which would have made it larger than Athens. It flourished for almost two hundred years but was sacked in 406 BC by the Carthaginians from which it never fully recovered. Under the Romans, which took over in 238 BC, it was partially rebuilt albeit on a smaller scale.

Today, a very large olive orchard covers the site of the Roman town. It separates the Valley of the Temples from modern Agrigento and has not been excavated. There must be many treasures still hidden in its ground.

Back at the harbour by 6 pm, we agreed with Captain Nikos to set sail at midnight today and reach Syracuse in one swoop. We should arrive just after lunch tomorrow. Mount Etna shields the east coast from the heavy winds and will allow us two last leisurely sailing days.

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