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One of the sights on the interary of every tourist who visits Sicily is the so-called “Valley of Temples” at Agrigento. A reminder of Sicily’s long Greek heritage, the ruined temples that dot the valley are fine examples of the flowering of Greek art and architecture that was the result of the prosperity of Syracuse and the Grek cities of southern Italy.
When the Romans succeeded the Greeks and Carthaginians in control of Sicily, they adopted the temples and the peace they brought to the Mediterranean meant further prosperity for the region and greater adornment for the temples.
The decline set in with the arrival of Christianity, when the temples were abandoned as places of worship, but the real devastation began when Sicily became the battleground between ambitious Normans, raiding Saracens, a welter of Italian factions and interference from a variety of European nations. No doubt the Greeks and Romans would have regarded all of them as barbarians – and given the sorry history of the place, they would have been right.
Now the temples are under attack from a new wave of barbarism. In early November, 2001, a bomb exploded between the columns of one of the temples, causing light damage to the staircase leading up to the portico. One of the site workers reported seeing a man running away from the temple immediately before the explosion and police who attended the incident discovered a note saying, “We are with our Afghan brothers.”
His Afghan brothers were responsible for the destruction of the huge statue of Buddha at Bamian in Afghanistan. It is a tragedy when political or religious fervour leads to the destruction of irreplaceable archaeological monuments.