Eraclea Minoa (AG)

The long empty beach in March. Click to enlarge and spot Leon in the distance!I've made three visits at different seasons: in July it was a packed (but pleasant) sea-side resort; in November it was a sea of mud after recent torrential rain; in March the campsite was open, and so, thankfully, was the pizzeria on the beach - otherwise it was deserted! We had the miles of beach and pinewoods all to ourselves. The sea was cold, but the sun was already hot enough to burn (23C). We left Eraclea one morning and spent the next night in a hotel at Rifugio Sapienza on Etna - where it was -5C and snow lay deep!


Leon enjoying the hot March sun in Eraclea MinoaThe name Minoa is a false friend - in extensive excavation of the site not a single Minoan or Mycenaean fragment has come to light: the evidence suggests in fact that it was a colony founded by Selinus in the second half of the 6th century BC. Lying as it did between Selinus and Agrigento, the name possibly arose from the Agrigentines (who came from Crete via Gela, remember) trying to establish a non-existent claim to this strategic place on the river Halykos (now Platani). Diodorus has a story about Theron of Akragas finding "Minos' bones" here - and it was widely believed that Cocalus' as yet undiscovered capital - Kamikos - was somewhere hereabouts. King Cocalus, according to myth welcomed Daedalus during his escape from Minos in Crete: when Minos arrived in pursuit, Cocalus' daughters killed him in his bath. Cocalus may have existed - but the Cretan connection is a later addition, it appears.

The real importance of the place was its situation on the frontier between Greeks and Carthaginians. But despite its crucial role in border quarrels, it flourished - and extensive remains of the town, mainly from the 4th century BC can be visited. It's a very spectacular site - and the theatre's natural backdrop of sea and sandy beach must have sometimes made it hard for the audience to concentrate on the show. [This seems to have been a feature of Greek theatres in Sicily - compare Akrai, Siracusa, Segesta, and especially Taormina.] The sandstone seats have been encased in plastic in an attempt to preserve them against further erosion.

The cliff-top Greek theatre at Eraclea Minoa


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