Within the sprawling, expansive Valley of the Temples, outside Agrigento, runs a narrow, rocky ridge. The ridge is visible from all points of the valley, and from far out to sea. At one time, long ago, the valley was filled with one of the most lavish cities of the entire Grecian Empire, and the ridge was its centerpiece. Along it stood a row of magnificent temples dedicated to the most powerful gods of these people, like a row of knuckles along a clenched fist. Now the city has vanished, and wars and earthquakes have ravaged the temples.
We walked down the ridge, passing columns and pediments and ruins in various stages of decay and restoration, until we stood before the most impressive of all. It was called the Temple of Concordia, because no one living knows the name of the god the people worshipped here. It was a collection of pediments, lintels, arches, portions of roof, and fluted columns that rose so abruptly from the ground that it seemed to launch itself toward the sky. And as our guide said, “This one is unique. It has never been restored. It has never been rebuilt. It has never been altered. These towering stones were erected by the hand of man 2,500 years ago, and they have never fallen. It is the best preserved Greek temple on earth.”
When Goethe saw this same sight in the 18th century, he thought nothing he ever saw again would compare with it. He wrote, “We shall never in our lives be able to rejoice again, after seeing such a stupendous view in this splendid valley.”