A colossal Atlas statue, now seen fallen in the premises of the Temple of Zeus in the Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Sicily, will soon be raised and repositioned in front of the temple, according to an announcement by the city’s Archaeological Park.
|The Atlas statue will soon be raised upright to stand in front of the temple
[Credit: Yuriy Brykaylo/Alamy]
The eight metres tall statue was erected in the 5th century BC, and was one of the nearly 40 similar Atlantes, also known as Telamones, that adorned the ancient building, which is considered the largest Doric temple ever built, even though it was never completed.
According to Hesiod, Atlas was the son of Titan Iapetus and Oceanida Klymeni. During the Battle of the Titans he was the leader of the Titans and in fact the strongest and most skilful. But after his victory, Zeus punished Atlas, forcing him to carry the celestial dome on his shoulders for all eternity.
|Atlas statue in Regional Archaeological Museum [Credit: poudou99]
Archaeologists and architects will soon begin work to erect the statue in the “Valley of the Temples” on the occasion of the anniversary of the founding of the city.
“The reinstalment of the statue of Atlas is the culmination of a more comprehensive restoration [of the temple],” says Roberto Sciarratta, director of the archaeological park. “In the last decade, we’ve recovered and catalogued numerous artefacts that were once a part of the original structure … The goal is to recompose piece-by-piece the [entablature] of the Temple of Zeus to restore a portion of its original splendour.”
|Model of Temple of Zeus at the Regional Archaeological Museum of Agrigento
[Credit: Jose Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro]
“The idea is to place one of these Atlases in front of the temple,” says Sciarratta, “so that it guards the temple dedicated to the father of the gods.”
According to the project’s technical report, the blocks will be placed inside a “structure designed to support the stone elements and forming the reconstructed figure of the Telamon”. To this end, vertically ribbed sheet of stainless steel will support horizontal shelves where the Atlas’ reassembled fragments will be placed. Critics have argued, however, that this method does not convey a true restoration but is mostly for display purposes.
The city of Akragas was founded by Greek colonists 2,600 years ago on a plateau overlooking the sea with two neighbouring rivers and a ridge that formed a natural fortification. It was one of the most vibrant communities in the ancient Greek world with an estimated population of some 800,000 inhabitants during its peak in the mid-5th century BC. According to the philosopher Empedocles, the inhabitants of the city lived as if they were going to die tomorrow and built as if they were going to live forever.
The city remained neutral in the conflict between Athens and Syracuse but was later destroyed by Carthage in 406 BC. Akragas would again prosper in the 3rd century BC and then after 210 BC, following a complete redevelopment by the Romans who renamed the city Agrigentum.