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Archaeological Museum of Aidone


Morgantina is an ancient Sicilian-Greek city, an archaeological site in the Aidone area.

The city was brought to light in the autumn of 1955 by the archaeological mission of Princeton University (United States). The excavations carried out so far allow us to follow the development of the settlement over a period of about a millennium, from prehistory to Roman times. The most easily visited area, it preserves remains from the middle of the 5th to the end of the 1st century BC, the period of maximum splendor of the city.

Very important archaeological finds come from this site such as the Goddess of Morgantina (wrongly called “Venus”), currently housed in the archaeological museum of Aidone which arrived on March 17, 2011 from the United States where it was exhibited at the Getty Museum in Malibu, and the Treasure of Morgantina, also returned.

The oldest traces of attendance on the site belong to the early Bronze Age (2100 -1600 BC), a period to which dates back to a village of circular and rectangular huts which occupied the Cittadella hill (contrada “Terrazzi di San Francesco”). The village belonged to the Culture of Castelluccio, characterized by an elementary civil organization and the possession of rudimentary domestic and agricultural handicraft techniques and to the subsequent culture of Thapsos. Mycenaean and Sub-Mycenaean pottery was also found at the site

The city seems to have been destroyed for the first time at the end of the century, by the tyrant of Gela, Hippocrates. In 459 BC, the city was taken and destroyed by Ducezio, leader of the Sicilians, during the revolt against Greek rule.

After the Roman conquest the walls were demolished and the inhabited area shrunk considerably, but the city continued to exist as an important commercial hub for the production of terracotta in the kilns and above all for the production of cereals (wheat, barley), oil and of the wine obtained from the famous Vite Murgentina.

The Macellum and many public buildings were built in the center of the Agora and in a short time the Polis was progressively transformed into a Roman oppidum used by the various legions passing through Sicily.

The remains were identified for the first time at the end of the 19th century by the archaeologist Paolo Orsi and initially the city was identified with Herbita. The discovery of some bronze coins and the concordance of the archaeological data with the news reported by the sources therefore allowed the recognition with the ancient Morgantina.

Notable remains of the Hellenistic city remain in the area: several public buildings, mostly articulated around the Agora square, the public granary, the “Great Furnace”, the theater and the Roman slaughterhouse and important houses, richly decorated with mosaics.


At its eastern end, the remains of a monumental double-basin fountain (nymphaeum), preceded by a wide staircase and decorated with columns with Doric friezes, were brought to light (1982-1984). Probably built in the second half of the 3rd century BC, it was dedicated to the Nymphs and was violently destroyed, perhaps by an earthquake, during the last years of the 1st century BC.


The lower square is flanked on the west side by the theatre, which rests on the slopes of the western hill. In a first phase, datable to the mid-fourth century BC. it seems to have had a trapezoidal shape, while it was later rebuilt with a horseshoe cavea. The theater was dedicated to Dionysus, whose name appears on the riser of one of the steps forming the cavea. This, with about fifteen steps divided into several sectors, was built in such a way as to allow a surprising acoustic effect, still appreciable today, and is supported by a sturdy retaining wall in carefully squared blocks


Next to the theater and in close relationship with it, in an elevated position stood the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore, the two patron deities of the city. The southern sector, intended for worship, is organized around a large cylindrical altar, still covered by traces of the original plaster. Next to it, surrounded by a low circular wall, there is a bothros or sacred pit, for offerings to the deities of the underworld.


The Goddess of Morgantina is a statue from a clandestine excavation and exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Aidone following a dispute that lasted for years between Italy and the United States, caused by the previous illegal purchase of the work by the Paul Getty Museum of Los Angeles.

The goddess was carved in the 5th century BC. in Sicily, the author would be a disciple of Phidias. The statue was stolen from the archaeological site of Morgantina in the second half of the twentieth century, to then be sold to the Paul Getty Museum which bought it and exhibited it in 1988. It was purchased at an auction in London for 28 billion lire.


The statue is 2.24 m tall and would have been carved between 425 BC and 425 BC. and 400 BC, the period in which the city of Morgantina was assigned to Kamarina, after the agreements of Gela (424 BC). The Goddess having her body made of colored limestone from an Iblean quarry, and the bare parts (head, arms, feet) in Parian marble. The statue is worked in the smallest details also in the rear part, where the drapery is richly characterized: this would suggest an exhibition of the work on a pedestal.

From a stylistic point of view, the statue falls within the so-called rich post-Fidiac style, which spread in Greece during the years of the Peloponnesian war: it is evident from the so-called “wet effect” of the garment on the torso, which highlights the features of the body, and from the rich drapery to form wide folds, a detail visible only from the side or back. These characteristics are also present in other contemporary or slightly older statues, such as the Nike in Olympia or the Victories of the Temple of Athena Nike in Athens. The head is not finished in the back but is only sketched, probably because it was covered with a layer of stucco on which a wig or headdress was placed.

Other "gems" of the area