“Termini Imerese” takes its name from the Latin Thermae Himerenses or “Hot Springs of Himera”. Imera was the name that ancient Greeks gave to the first settlement they founded near the present Termini Imerese.It was the birthplace of the poet Stesichorus.
A Greek colony ofremarkable importance, ithad the role of hellenistic-outer harbour towards theSicilian Chartaginian west.As a matter of fact to theeast of Himera stood therich colonies of Zancle(that later changed itsname into Messina),Siracusa, Myles (Milazzotoday), while to the eastthe hegemony of Carthagewas dominant.
Its foundation, according to Tucidide,was due to a group of Calcidesi fromZancle, under the leadership of Euclide,Simo and Saccone, and to a Syracusanexiled people because of a civil war.But, according to some scholars, thenew colonies may have enlarged a pre-existing site
The different origins of the population of Himera have madethe customs and traditions of the town different from theGreek ones. In addition to the Gods of Olympus, they tendedto worship rivers and springs of water, as in the Sicanistradition; while on a linguistic point of view, the influences ofDoric and Corinthian dialect brought along by the Syracusansare clear.
Its importance, is also due to its access to the Tyrrhenian Sea and to the consequent possibility of trade with Etruria and Spain which provided great quantities of silver used to mint the coin. This peculiarity distinguished it from the other Greek colonies.
Yet, it was this closeness to the sea which sealed its fate. In 480 B.C. Terone, tyrant of Akragas, invaded Himera and put Terillo, tyrant of Himera to flight. The latter called the Carthaginians for help, who arrived in Sicily with a great military force, led by Hannibal.Terone asked Gelone of Syracuse to intervene and thus they managed to defeat the Carthaginians. Temples were built and coins were minted to celebrate the victory that, according to the tradition, took place on the scene of the famous battle of Salamina.
The military success brought a period ofpeace and prosperity during which thetown could develop both artistically andculturally.This phase was interrupted in 408 whenHannibal, Amilcares grandson decidedto avenge the defeat suffered by hisancestors. After sacking Selinunte, hedirected to Himera, no more protectedby the Syracusan army.
This time the Carthaginians had the best:Himera was completely destroyed and itsinhabitants were killed or deported toCarthage. This once and for all ruined thetown. Some years later, on reward, thedeported were allowed to come back to Sicilyand populate Thermae, founded by theCarthaginians in 407 B.C., together withother colonists of African origin.
Himera was constituted by three districts:Thenorthern and southern districts rose on the plain,where the most northern part hosted the sacredarea (which does not include the Temple ofVictory). To the North-East there were the housesof the eastern suburb and on the western side thenecropolis.
As in other ellenisticcentres, the canonof orthogonality wasstrictly respected.The streets wereparallel andequidistant. Theabsence of a centralintersection makesus suppose that thesquares and thepublic buildingswere placed inareas destined tohousing withoutspoiling the urbantissue.
Of the sacred area, whichwas isolated from thehousing structure of thetown, The mainelements are fourtemples and an altar.Themost considerable partof the finds is constitutedby the temple of Victoriawhich presents featuressimilar to theAgrigentinian temples,thus suggesting that theworkers who were incharge with itsconstruction came fromAkragas. It is said it was built in 480 B.C. on the field where the battle was fought thats why it was called “temple of the Victory” It is a temple of Doric style probably dedicated to Zeus which precedes the call and a pronaos at the back of the cell equal for size and dimension.
During the excavations facingthe temples 56 lion-headedshaped gutters were found,probably the work of differentsculptors. Other excavations inthe themeneos (the sacredarea) brought to light a coupleof bronze greaves togetherwith fragments of weaponsnow kept at the RegionalArchaelogical Museum ofPalermo.
By the early 5th century BC,the strategic importance of thesite attracted Theron ofAkragas who expelled thetyrant Terillus.Theron’s victory led to nearly acentury of Greek supremacy inSicily. However in 409, theCarthaginians,under Hamilcar’snephew Hannibal, returned anddestroyed the town.
The archeological site ofancient Himera is bestknown for the remains of itsTemple of Victory located atthe mouth of the RiverImera about eightkilometres east of TerminiImerese, in the districtcalled Buonfornello.
It is a Doric structure built tocommemorate the defeat of theCarthaginians,Carthaginianprisoners supplied the labour forits construction.To the south of the temple wasthe town’s necropolis.Some artefacts recovered fromthis site are kept in Palermo’sMuseo Archeologico Regionale.Today there is a huge industrialcomplex nearby.