Archaeological area of Akrai

The Archaeological area of Akrai has a splendid view, suspended between the Anapo valley and the volcano Etna. Today’s archaeological area consists of several areas: theatre, bouleuterion and latomie.

Already inhabited in prehistoric times, according to the writings of Thucydides, the Greek colony of Akrai was founded around 664/663 BC by Corinthian colonists.

Destroyed by the Arabs in the year 827 A.D., the inhabitants soon returned to populate the area moving towards the current center of Palazzolo Acreide.

Of uncertain epoch and remodeled at the time of the Romans, the theatre is attributed to the time of Ierone II, therefore towards the second half of the III century B.C. and is different from the traditional structure of the Greek theatre because it has no more angular development than the semicircle and has not been dug into the rock.

Another characteristic is the orchestra, of semicircular shape. Never explained is the function, on the western part of the steps, of a tunnel that connects the theatre to the back bouleuterion.
The absence of the diazoma, instead, is justified by its small size.

Cavea and Bouleuterion

The cavea, discovered around 1824, consisted of 8 ladders, 9 wedges and 12 rows of seats. It could also be accessed from two front entrances, located on either side of the scene, which replaced the paradoi, the entrance to the choir.

The front of the stage (proskenion) is placed in line with the two end wings of the koilon, so the scene is more advanced than the canons of the time.

The bouleuterion was found around 1820 by Gabriele Judica. Initially confused with an Odeon, Heinrich Bulle revealed the real nature of the building.

This was the meeting place of the city senate and consisted of a koilon (cavea) with a small semicircular orchestra facing west.

Not far away was a lagorà which, according to Bernabò Brea’s studies, must have been on the eastern side of the city.

Beyond the boundary wall that delimits the area of the bouleuterion, there is a circular construction that was considered to be a thermal baths in Roman times, but used as a baptistery in Byzantine times.

Still traceable is the road layout, which arouses interest because the side streets cross the main one obliquely to mitigate the strong wind.

The decumanus, 4 metres wide and equipped with lava paving, was the main street, on which two small arteries, called stenopò, converged, with a north/south orientation.

The last area is that of the latomie, visible near the theatre.

The largest, called “carved”, was reached by a door still visible today under the theatre. The carvings had various votive niches and tombs.

According to scholars, the archaeological area should also include three temples, dedicated to Artemis, Kore and Aphrodite.

The latter, dated around the 6th century B.C., was the most important, in Doric style. Today very little is visible.