Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The roman Piazza Armerina and Agrigenta

The roman Villa del Casale is the most important sight in this region of France. This luxurious manor house of Maximianus Erculeus’ imperial family was built between the end of the 3rd and early 4thC BC. It enjoyed its maximum splendour between the 4th and 5thC AD and consists of a luxury home and garden complex with farms where slaves and procurators exploited the fertile land.

It was buried under a mudslide and preserved until it came to light in the 1920s and the work of excavating is still not quite complete.

The use of beautiful mosaics on the walls and floors is very impressive. The work was probably done by artists of North African origin. There is a music room and gymnasium for young females. It’s an example of the ancient origins of the bikini.

The massive dining room and hallway, along with the basilica are very interesting to view. And when you consider they had none of our modern tools...

There’s even a roman latrine for the family. Little seats and plumbing were carved into it. For me the highlights included the mosaics outside. To stand on these artworks 2500 years after they were laid is very special and they still retain some colour. Much of them are worn away but you can imagine how it would have been in its heyday.

The house and adjacent buildings are roofed over to preserve them and to make it more comfortable for archaeologists.

We moved on to the city of Agrigento and it’s ancient ruins

The Agrigento area has been inhabited since prehistoric times dating from the Copper and Bronze Ages. The earliest traces of the Greeks date back to the end of the 7C BC. Outside the city there is the magnificent Valley of the Temples. It is unique for the vastness of its views and the richness of the monuments.

The Temple of the Concord is a wonderful example of Doric architecture. It has survived in reasonable shape although the centuries have eroded the limestone structure and stripped it of its stucco coating. It was converted into a Christian basilica in the sixth century.

The Temple of Hercules has eight columns standing out of the original 44. It is almost certainly the oldest temple there. It was considerably restored in Roman times

The Temple of Hera Lacinia was built shortly before the Temple of the Concord. It was burnt by the Carthaginians in 406 BC and restored by the Romans. Near the east front is a sacrificial altar.

I was intrigued by the ancient olive tree standing alone near the Temple of the Concord. We were told it was almost, if not, 3000 years old. I gave the tree a hug. It was gnarled and much of it was hollow but there's still plenty of life left in it.


Alison said...

Have been enjoying your holiday tales Frances. Great stuff!

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