Throughout the centuries, Agrigento has assumed different denominations: the Greeks called it Agrakas, the Romans Agrigentum, the Arabs Kerkent and the Normans Girgenti. Only in 1927 the city acquired its current name, Agrigento.
It was founded in 581 b.C. by a group of people from Gela, originally from Rodes and Crete and the Greek poet Pindaro descrive it "the most beautiful city of mortals". It was fortified by the tyrant Phalaris (who usually used a hollow bronze bull as an instrument of torture; the city reached its height under the tyrant Theron, becaming a military power and defeating the Carthaginians for may times. Economic stability, coupled with political strength, favoured a flowering of the arts: the Temple of Zeus was built, literature and the performing arts flourished (the philosopher Empedocle was born in Agrigento).
In 406 b.C. it was defeated by the Carthaginians and was quite totally destroyed; then it was re-built by Timoleon and in 210 b.C it was besieged by the Romans.
During 827 A.D., it was conquered by the Arabs, who made it richer and and enhanced its beauty by building numerous mosques. In 1087 it became a Norman seat. As of the XIV century, the town belonged to several noble families such as the Chiaramonte and the Montaperto families.
The archaeological area of Agrigento was declared by UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The Valley of the Temples s the very symbol of the city with its spectacular temples dedicated to Juno Lacinia, Concordia, Hercules, Zeus Olympian and Volcano, in addition to many other Roman-Hellenistic remains.
Numerous and remarkable are the monuments present all over the city, among which we mention the Cathedral, erected during the XI century by bishop Gerlando, that has a Chapel dedicated to the same bishop, and the Chiesa di San Nicola (Church of Saint Nicholas), XIII century, that is now an Archeological Museum. Also, the Chiesa del Santo Spirito (Church of the Holy Spirit), and its homonymous Monastery, one of the most antique and best preserved monuments in Sicily; the Chiesa del Purgatorio (Purgatory Church), XVII century, that beholds eight allegorical statues representing "Virtue".