Temple of Hercules


The name derives from a passage in Cicero that mentions a temple dedicated to Hercules “non longe a foro“, that is, not far from the forum. According to Cicero, the temple housed a beautiful bronze statue of Hercules, whose chin had been worn away by the kisses of the faithful. An attempted robbery carried out a night under the order of Verre was resoundingly frustrated thanks to the resistance of the guards. Zeuxis, the great painter of antiquity, painted a representation of Alcmena (the mother of Hercules) for the same temple and which was presented as a gift to the Agragantini. It is the most archaic of all the known temples of Agrigento; the first of the glorious series of monumental buildings from the 6th century B.C. It dates from the century’s final years, as indicated not only by the stylistic characteristics of the columns and certain elements of the entablature, but also by the slightly elongated shape of the base (67.06m × 25.08m in the stylobate) and the relationship (6 × 15) of the columns between the fronts and the longer sides. It is hexastyle, Doric and peripteros. It stands, in the same manner as the temples of Juno and Concordia, on an artificial base that is low on the south side, where the crepidoma coincides with the ground level, and gradually rises towards the west and the north in order to overcome the uneven ground. The crepidoma has 3 steps. Until the early 20th century, only one column remained standing (the second from the west to the north). The rest of the peristyle and cell had fallen in a uniform manner from north to south. The collapse is still evident in the north wall and in some of the columns on the same side, which can be seen lying in the original position in which they fell: the cause was apparently an earthquake. Eight columns on the south side were raised again during 1924-1931. The archaic silhouette and the presence of an opening between the echinus and the column shaft can be observed. Some shafts still bear visible remains of the white stucco with which the columns were completely covered; it is not uncommon to find these remains in the ruins of Agrigento’s monuments. The cell, long and narrow, in reality consists of the cell itself, the pronaos and opisthodomos: the latter two both have pilasters (in antis).