Morgantina: A Very Different Site

Photo of Morgantina. Photo Credit: Andrew Goodwin
Author: 
Andrew Goodwin

On a windy Saturday morning, we visited the site of the Ancient Greek settlement of Morgantina in Sicily. The site contained many differences to most of the other Greek sites that we had visited, most noticeably its lack of a temple, a stereotypical building in the Ancient Greek World. However these differences went beyond just the superficial. Hidden away in the centre of Sicily, through a small town and down a cobbled back road, Morgantina was not the kind of place you would expect to find a very impressive site. However, there I was standing on a windswept hill overlooking the spectacular remains of the city, and provided an inspirational view. The beauty of Morgantina continued to be present inside the site, and was also far more appreciated when we were sheltered from the wind too. Looking out from a Greek town over the beautiful rolling hills and farms of central Sicily, you can easily imagine why ancient peoples would have settled this area. Furthermore, the city of Morgantina had a long settlement history, mainly as a Sicel site with many Greek elements – the Sicels were a native population of Sicily.

 

The site itself displayed many differences apart from the lack of temple, Morgantina was not situated on the coast or a river – unlike almost every other Greek site we have visited. Many other settlements were located near a body of water, presumably because of the benefits it gives to trade. Within Sicily, Morgantina sits among farms and most importantly lakes. These lakes were once considered sacred as an entrance to the Underworld. The unique nature of Morgantina continues to be evident in its urban planning. Its theatre does not face the beautiful views of rolling hills, like most Greek theatres do, but instead it faces the city. The acropolis is located away from the site of the city, and the walls do not protect the agora like they do in most other cities.  Even the agora, or central meeting and market-place was unique namely due to its size. For a site that was considered an insignificant settlement it is odd that the agora was supposedly larger than the agora located in Athens. It is pertinent to note that all these out-of-place buildings and town planning quickly sparked a great deal of debate in the group. There was arguments for this simply being Greeks doing things differently, because there is always exceptions to every rule. Another theory posited that it could have been the Sicels adopting Greek building practices but not quite executing these buildings in the exact same style. Then questions were raised about the agora – if it was so big, then surely this was more than an insignificant town, and could have been a trading hub of Sicily? A theory that has some weight as it was one of the few areas in which animals were herded (pastoralism), rather than just agricultural farming. Perhaps these questions will one day be answered, and I can only hope that they are answered in our lifetime. Regardless of all the questions it raised, Morgantina provided a beautiful and worthwhile site to visit. 

Updated:  10 February 2017/Responsible Officer:  CASS Marketing and Communications/Page Contact:  Development Officer, CASS