Agìra is a town in the province of Enna, Sicily (southern Italy). It is located in the mid-valley of the River Salso, 27 from Enna. Until 1861 it was called San Filippo d'Argiriò, in honour of its saint, Filippo il Siriaco, or Philip of Agira.
Agira stands on the site of the ancient Sicel city of Agyrion, which was ruled by tyrants, one of whom, Agyris, was the most powerful ruler in the centre of Sicily. He was a contemporary of Dionysius the Elder, and with him successfully resisted the Carthaginians when they invaded the territory of Agyrion in 392 BC. Agira was not colonised by the Greeks until the Corinthian general Timoleon drove out the last tyrant in 339 BC, settled 10,000 Greeks, according to Diodorus Siculus, and erected various splendid buildings of which no traces remain, as the modern city overlies the ancient one.
The Romans called it Agirium. Under their control it underwent a decline, as a result of the heavy taxation imposed on it. In 1063, it was taken by the Normans under Count Roger I of Sicily (Ruggero in Italian), who defeated the Saracens near the river Salso.
Agira passed through the hands of the the Hohenstaufen, the Angevines and Aragonese, and in about 1400 it became state property of Sicily. Over the years the town has been influenced by Spanish and Jewish arrivals, both leaving their architectural mark, the latter a synagogue.
The main buildings of note are its numerous churches, most of which contain collections of art works. They include the Norman Chiesa Madre ("Mother Church") dedicated to Santa Maria Maggiore, the Norman church of Santa Margherita, which is the largest in the diocese, with thirteen altars, and which dates from the early 13th century (though it has been much changed since then), the church of St Filippo, which has three naves, and contains paintings by Olivo Sozzi, the 16th century church of Sant'Antonio da Padova, which also has three naves, the 16th-century church of Sant'Antonio Abate, containing fourteen small paintings of the Venetian school, and the church of San Salvatore, with Gothic bell-tower.
There is also an Arab–Byzantine castle, later rebuilt by the Hohenstaufen, of which two towers still stand.
The modern town
The municipality of Agira has 9,004 inhabitants, with a population density of 55 inhabitants per square kilometre. It covers 163.11 km², and is 650 metres above sea-level.
Agira is 141 kilometres from Agrigento, 69 kilometres from Caltanissetta, 66 kilometres from Catania, 34 kilometres from Enna (to whose province it belongs), 162 kilometres from Messina, 184 kilometres from Palermo, 144 kilometres from Ragusa, 124 kilometres from Siracusa, and 291 kilometres from Trapani.
The town is a centre of agriculture — mainly cereals, almonds, olives, and grapes. The large areas of pasture also make possible the breeding of cattle, sheep, and horses.
The Pozzillo artificial lake lies near the town in a eucalyptus wood, and provides an important habitat for a large variety of birds, and a way-stage for migrators. Another reserve – the Riserva di Piano della Corte – has been created in the Erei Mountains, and the Mediterranean forest of the Vallone di Piano della Corte is scheduled to become another reserve. The area also contains sulphur springs.
There is a railway station south of the town.
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites asserts only that Agira is "a city of ancient but uncertain origins".
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