Rome, 5 January – The mayor of the Sicilian city of Agrigento said Thursday that he would not sell one of Italy’s prime archaeological treasures even for 40 billion euros after it reportedly attracted the interest of Russian industrialist Mikhail Prokhorov.The precious-metals billionaire, who plans to run in this year’s presidential elections in Russia as an independent candidate, has set his sights on buying the ruins of the Temple of Zeus in Agrigento’s famed Valley of the Temples, according to media reports.But Agrigento Mayor Marco Zambuto has moved to nip the notion in the bud.”I wouldn’t sell the Temple of Zeus even for 40 billion euros, the figure Premier Mario Monti had to find to save Italy’s finances,” Zambuto said referring to the government’s austerity package, which was actually nearer to 30 billion.”It’s simply unthinkable that a billionaire could buy our historical wonders and take them to their own country”.Zambuto said, however, that the city was interested in attracting foreign investment in the UNESCO World Heritage site.
”It’s a different matter if we are talking about turning over management (of sites) for events or initiatives, or even the sponsorship of renovations and maintenance of the temples and sanctuaries in the valley,” he said. ”I don’t rule out this option”. The seven Doric temples at Agrigento, most of which probably date from the fifth century BC, are one of the glories of Magna Graecia, a swathe of southern Italy which was once dotted with wealthy and culturally lavish Greek cities.
The name Valley of the Temples is misleading as the site is located on a ridge on the edge of Agrigento.
”The history of the Valley of the Temples goes back thousands of years and the site is one of the few historic remains of Magna Graecia,” added Zambuto.
”If a private sponsor intends to finance a restoration, it’s welcome. Our door is always open to this type of proposal”. photo: the Temple of Concordia in Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples.(ANSA)