April 19th, 2016

The Hyblaean Mountains is a mountain range in south-eastern Sicily.
It straddles the provinces of Ragusa, Syracuse and Catania. The highest peak of the range is Monte Lauro, at 986 m.

The name derives from the Siculi king Hyblon, who gave a portion of his territory to Greek colonists to build the town of Megara Hyblaea.

The Basilica of Saint Paul
Palazzolo Acreide, Sicily  


Palazzolo Acreide (9204 inhabitants, 670 metres above sea level) stands on the eastern side of Acremonte.
This place was chosen by the Siculi to build their own villages around the 12th century B.C., before the Syracusans discovered it.

Palazzolo Acreide owes its genesis to the expansionist ambitions of Syracuse,
who in 664 BC placed it at the center of the most important transportation routes to control the south-western coasts.
It’s in this period that Akrai stands out in southern Sicily for importance and prestige.

  According to Tucidide's information, Akrai was the oldest subcolony founded by the Corinthian settlers around 663-664 B.C.,
seventy years after the foundation of Siracusa, in a strategic position on the top of the Iblean mountains,
between the upper valleys of Anapo and Tellaro rivers to oversee a broad part of the Sicilian territory.


  Akrai reaches its apogee during the wise ruling of Hieron II (306-215 B.C.).


The Greek Theatre within the archaeological park of Ancient Akrai is certainly the most prestigious monument of the ancient "Polis",
whose construction began in mid-second century BC.
The Theatre consists of eight steps, with twelve rows of stone seats, and it is oriented toward the north.

The so-called "Santoni" of Akrai are reliefs depicting the goddess Cybele (the "Great Mother") and other figures.
They represent Cybele wearing a long tunic with a “timphanum” (a shaman tambourine drum),
and next to the goddess are the figures of Hermes, the Dioscuri and a pair of maned lions as symbols of royalty of the goddess.

The orchestra section is semi-circular, and from the top of the “cavea”
there is a tunnel that leads to the "Bouleuterion" where the popular assembly met.
In the upper part of the Theatre there are the remains of the Temple of Aphrodite,
 dedicated to the "goddess of Akrai" although today there are only a few remains of the Temple*,
destroyed by the earthquake of 1693.

A paved street in lava stone crosses the town from east to west connecting the Selinunte Gate with the Syracuse Gate.
At the foot of the hill there are some important quarries called the “Ferali” Temples.
Here the cult of the dead and the cult of heroes were practiced, with the typical Greek inscription "Eros agathos" (Noble heroes).

South-east of the Theatre in Akrai are the so-called quarries of the “Intagliata”
as shown by the presence of some Greek, Roman and Christian graves.
You can see various niches with many votive "pinakes", or small votive paintings on the tombs dating back to different ages.

In Roman times Akrai belonged to the so-called  "stipendiariae civitates" [=tribute-paying communities],
i.e. it was forced to pay taxes to Rome, which could mean that it was always opposed to the Romans, taking the side of Syracuse.

One of the first scholars to identify the site of the lost city was the Sicilian scholar Tommaso Fazello (1498 – 1570).
Later the Palazzolan baron Gabriele Judica, who undertook the first archaeological excavations at the site in the early nineteenth century,
described his findings in the book
Le antichità di Acre
(The Antiquities of Akrai), published in 1819.