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October 2, 2021

Eraclea Minoa, an ancient Greek city in the province of Agrigento

Sicily offers some important evidence of the presence of the Greek civilization on the island. Among the most important is Eraclea Minoa, an ancient Greek city whose ruins are located in the Agrigento municipality of Cattolica Eraclea. Let’s get to know this city in more detail, taking a trip into the most ancient Sicilian history.

The origins and history of Eraclea

The name of this city has a double origin: Heraclea in honor of Heracles, while Minoa due to an ancient legend. In fact, it is said that the Cretan king Minos chased Daedalus as far as Sicily, to punish him for helping Ariadne and Theseus when they were struggling with the labyrinth. Later Minos was killed in Sicily, where Daedalus had found refuge.

From the end of the 4th century BC the city of Heracles Minoa was under the dominion of Akragas, which corresponds to today’s Agrigento. After the Punic invasion of 409 BC, control of the area passed to the Carthaginians. An important territory, where the nearby river Platani marked the border between the lands under Carthaginian rule and those owned by Syracuse.

From the third century BC, Eraclea Minoa became a Roman colony. The city was reported in Cicero’s Verrine (a series of orations of him) as one of the civitates decumanae of Roman Sicily. Later, during the first servile war staged between 136 BC. and 132 BC, the city was almost totally depopulated and a new Roman colony was born there.

Places to visit in the city

During a trip to the Cattolica Eraclea area, a stop at the archaeological area where the ancient Eraclea Minoa once stood is practically mandatory. The excavations began in 1950, when the theater was found, of which testimonies were found through excavations until 1964.

Thanks to these excavations, it was discovered that the ancient city was protected by an imposing wall that extended to the Platani river. Two superimposed layers of houses have also been ascertained, which refer to as many eras. These are the Hellenistic and the Roman Republican ones.

Regarding the first period in question, which goes from the 4th to the 3rd century BC, the remains of two houses were found inserted in a system of parallel and orthogonal streets. Their plan was simple: square structure, closed around a small atrium with a central courtyard.

The second period dates back to the II-I century BC, when the praetor Publio Rupilio repopulated the area after the first servile war. In this case, the houses generally consist of two or more rooms gravitating over a courtyard with a fireplace. Finally, in a small antiquarium, materials from the excavations of the site and the surrounding area are exhibited.

Activities

In addition to admiring the remains of the ancient city of Eraclea Minoa, the Cattolica Eraclea area also offers other very interesting places. For nature lovers, it might be ideal to go to the Mouth of the Platani River Nature Reserve. This oasis covers an area of 206 hectares and borders the Capo Bianco promontory.

In terms of flora, in the 1950s there was a reforestation in the area consisting of a pine forest in which there are among other eucalyptus and acacia trees. There is also psammophilous vegetation, close to the pine forest and which favors the formation of dunes. Among the plants of this type are the rush, the kali grass and the sea lily. As for fauna, however, there are numerous species of both sedentary and migratory birds.

What and where to eat in Eraclea

Cattolica Eraclea takes up the culinary tradition of Agrigento. Among the typical dishes of the area there are: argentiera cheese, aubergine caponata, walled meat and swordfish rolls. These and other dishes can be tasted in several excellent restaurants in the municipality of Agrigento such as “Baglio Sicilia Antina”, “Al Casale Di Magazzu ‘Giuseppina” and “Cento Passi”.

Eraclea Minoa beach

Eraclea Minoa beach is very long and with fine golden sand. It satisfies all needs, as it is partly free and partly equipped with umbrellas, bars and restaurants. The nearby beach of Capo Bianco, in the shape of a crescent, also has very similar characteristics (fine golden sand).

How to reach Eraclea

Eraclea Minoa can be reached by bus, through one of the lines that connect it with Palermo, Catania and Agrigento. Of course, you can also get to this location by car, taking the a29 motorway if you are coming from western Sicily. You must then take the Castelvetrano exit, take the SS 115 to the junction for Cattolica Eraclea and take the Provinciale 30 towards Cattolica Eraclea. If, on the other hand, you are leaving from eastern Sicily, the motorway to take is the a19. The route is then as follows: Caltanissetta exit, Statale 640 towards Agrigento, Statale 115 up to the junction for Montallegro and Provinciale 29 towards Cattolica Eraclea. As for the train, the closest station is Agrigento Centrale, while for the ship the most convenient port is Porto Empedocle.

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