Five km E of the commune of Aidone on a ridge known locally as Serra Orlando. The city commanded a strategic position controlling the ancient roads that led from Gela on the S to Messina on the NE and up from Katane on the E. The original Sikel settlement dates from the third millennium B.C. The name of the city reflects an influx of the Morgetes from south central Italy ca. 1200 B.C. (Strab. 6.2.4). Greek settlers from the E coast, and later from the S, merged apparently without conflict with the local inhabitants until Morgantina became essentially a Greek outpost at the edge of the hinterland to the W. In 459 B.C. Ducetius, king of the Sikels, sacked the town in his campaign to wrest Sicily from Greek domination (Diod. Sic. 11.78.5), and in 425 Morgantina was assigned to the city of Kamarina (Thuc. 4.65.1). In 397 Dionysios of Syracuse brought the city back into the sphere of Syracusan interests (Diod. Sic. 14.78.7). Agathokles began an extensive renewal and building program, which continued under Hieron II of Syracuse, and from the middle of the 3d c. Morgantina prospered as the center of an extensive grain-producing area. It was also the center of a considerable production of terracottas. Coincident with Marcellus' capture of Syracuse in 211 B.C. the city was sacked and all but destroyed. A senate decree granted the Hispanic allies of Marcellus the right to issue their own coinage, but this seems not to have been exercised until after the middle of the 2d c. Little new building exists from that period, save for a large macellum in the center of the original agora. Repairs to the houses converted many rich dwellings into middle class houses--;centers for small industry or makeshift apartments. Cicero (Verr. 2.3.23 ǵ6) speaks of the injuries to a worthy citizen of the place. Strabo (6.2.4), writing ca. 25 B.C., says that what once was a city is no more. The excavations, begun in 1955 and still continuing, have confirmed this, and the scarcity of coins found of Julius Caesar and of Augustus are evidence for the extinction of Morgantina. Apparently there was no final sack; the abandonment is due, rather, to the failure of the grain market and the general impoverishment of the area.
The walled area of the town measures from E to W 2.4 km by 580 m to as little as 140 m. Approach from N and S is very steep, but gates on those sides gave access to the central market area. A W gate gave access to a street that ran the length of the town. To the E on an isolated hill (Cittadella), whose walls do not join with those of the rest of the city lay the earlier settlement, almost an acropolis. A long narrow shrine (dedication unknown) and a substantial series of foundations for four adjacent square rooms were perhaps the principal monuments, and in the same area was a small hieron of Persephone and Kore.
The civic center lies not far from the mid-point of the ridge, in a hollow between two low hills. It was flanked to E and W by stoas (the W one never completed) and on the N lay a gymnasium with bath and running track, and a council house. The agora was on two levels, separated by a monumental series of steps forming a little less than half of a hexagon. On the lower level a course of stone outlines what must have been a speaker's platform. The steps served both as a retaining wall to prevent the erosion of the upper area and to accommodate a standing audience for large popular assemblies. The original plan for a fourth side of this comitium was curtailed by the presence of the area, described below, sacred to the underworld gods. South of the W stoa is the theater, seating 2-3000. On the E side of the agora, continuing the stoa to the southward, is a prytaneion and a long, narrow building (92.85 x 7.60 m) designed as a granary and conveniently located near the S gate. A large kiln for brick and tile completes the E side. Within the agora before it had taken its final form stood a small naiskos, with an altar, and two or three other small altars. One of these was preserved into later times and incorporated in a rectangular macellum with shops, dating from the 2d c. The most important sanctuary, however, was one dedicated to the gods of the underworld: a circular altar, an abaton for the dedication of offerings, small vases and lamps, and a small naiskos, together rooms where worshipers might shelter. Several lead curse tablets were found here, and the sanctuary seems to have survived well into the 1st c. B.C.
East and W of the agora the town was laid out in a grid pattern, with blocks averaging 37.5 m by 60.0 m. Several rich houses have been excavated, with fine cocciopesto or mosaic floors, especially two in the House of Ganymede high above the granary E of the agora. The mosaic of Ganymede and the Eagle, which gives the house its name, dates from the middle of the 3d c. B.C. and is one of the earliest examples of tesselated mosaic known. The House of the Official, in a shallow valley 250 m W of the agora, shows the Vitruvian division of a Greek house into separate areas for men and women, with two separate peristyles. The House of the Arched Cistern on the hill immediately W of the market is also of the same type.
No temples properly so called have been found. Instead there are at least four shrines of Demeter and Kore, characterized by an inner room, or adyton, furnished with a place for ablution. The abundant remains of terracotta figurines leave no doubt to whom the holy places were dedicated. All these sanctuaries were violently destroyed in the sack of 211 B.C. and never rebuilt. About 400 m W of the House of the Official are the remains of a bath of the 3d c. B.C., with circular rooms covered by domical vaults made of hollow terracotta tubes. The extreme E end of the ridge, before reaching the depression separating it from Cittadella, was occupied by a large structure, either a barracks or a series of apartments of poorer sort. Nearby lay an early shrine, long and simple, of the 6th-5th c. Little is to be seen of the walls of the city, but they have been traced for nearly the entire perimeter. As is to be expected they show much rebuilding of different dates.
Three cemeteries lie just outside the town. The earliest, of the 6th and 5th c., is on a steep slope just below the E edge of Cittadella. The tombs were cut into the rock in the form of chambers, with sarcophagi in the walls or graves in their floors. A second burial area lies close against the S wall, below the depression in which was the House of the Official. These are of the Epitymbion type, and the vases date from ca. 330 to 210 B.C. A later cemetery with rock-cut shafts, covered by stone slabs and dating mainly from the 2d c., lies ca. 100 m W of the city, along the road leading to the W gate. (R. STILLWELL) Wikidata ID: Q1947692
Info: Princeton Encyclopedia
(Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, from Perseus Project)