city, near the southern coast of Sicily, Italy. It lies on a plateau encircled by low cliffs overlooking the junction of the Drago (ancient Hypsas) and San Biagio (Acragas) rivers and is dominated from the north by a ridge with twin peaks. Agrigento was a wealthy ancient city founded about 581 BC by Greek colonists from Gela. It was ruled 570-554 BC by the notorious tyrant Phalaris, who was reputed to have had men roasted alive in a brazen bull, and it reached its peak in 480 when the tyrant Theron, in alliance with Syracuse, won the decisive Battle of Himera over the Carthaginians. In 470 the tyranny was replaced by a democracy. Agrigento was the birthplace of the philosopher-politician Empedocles. Under the tyranny it was a considerable centre of the arts. The city was neutral in the struggle between Athens and Syracuse but was ravaged by the Carthaginians in 406 BC, a disaster from which it never really recovered. Refounded by the Greek general and statesman Timoleon in 338, it achieved some local importance in the early 3rd century BC but was sacked by the Romans (262) and the Carthaginians (255) before falling finally to Rome in 210 BC. Under Roman rule its agricultural wealth and the exploitation of the nearby sulfur mines ensured a modest prosperity. In late antiquity its inhabitants withdrew to the relative security of the medieval hilltop town of Girgenti, the nucleus of modern Agrigento. Occupied and colonized by the Saracens in 828, Girgenti was captured in 1087 by the Norman conqueror of Sicily, Count Roger I, who established a Latin bishopric.
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