Gela is a town and comune
In Italy, the comune is the basic administrative division, and may be properly approximated in casual speech by the English word township or municipality.-Importance and function:...

in the province of Caltanissetta
Province of Caltanissetta
The Province of Caltanissetta is a province in the southern part of Sicily, Italy...

 in the south of Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. The city is at about 84 kilometers distance from the city of Caltanissetta
Caltanissetta is a city and comune located on the western interior of Sicily, capital of the province of Caltanissetta...

, on the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

. The city has a larger population than the provincial capital, and ranks second in land area.

Gela is an important industrial city and port town. One important industry that is located here is that of petroleum refinery.

Ancient era

The city was founded around 688 BC by colonists from Rhodos
In Greek mythology, Rhodos or Rhodus also known as Rhode was the goddess of the island of Rhodes and wife of Helios, she was the daughter of Aphrodite and Poseidon. -References:* Grimal, Pierre, , Wiley-Blackwell, 1996, ISBN 9780631201021....

 (Rhodes) and Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

, 45 years after the founding of Syracuse
Syracuse, Italy
Syracuse is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in...

. The city was named after the river Gela
Gela (river)
The Gela river is located in Sicily. It originates from the Disueri lake and, after about 59 kilometers, flows into the Strait of Sicily of the Mediterranean Sea, near the homonymous town.-Overview:...

. The Greeks had many colonies in the south of what is now Italy, and for many centuries the Greeks had a major influence on the area. Gela flourished and, after only a century, a group of Geloi founded the colony of Agrigento
Agrigento , is a city on the southern coast of Sicily, Italy, and capital of the province of Agrigento. It is renowned as the site of the ancient Greek city of Akragas , one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia during the golden...

. The expansion, however, led to economic and social strains, which led the plebs to leave the city and settle in nearby Maktorion
Maktorion or Mactorium , was an ancient town of Sicily, in the neighborhood of Gela, mentioned by Herodotus , who tells us that it was occupied by a body of Geloan citizens, who were driven out from their country, and were restored to it by Telines, the ancestor of Gelon. The name is also found in...

. However, the revolt was opposed by the great priest of Diana
Diana (mythology)
In Roman mythology, Diana was the goddess of the hunt and moon and birthing, being associated with wild animals and woodland, and having the power to talk to and control animals. She was equated with the Greek goddess Artemis, though she had an independent origin in Italy...

 and the exiled plebs returned to Gela.

For over a century no further mention is made about the internal politics of the city, until the ancient historians note that a tyrant, Cleander
Cleander of Gela
For other persons with the same name, see CleanderCleander was a tyrant who ruled the Sicilian city of Gela, which had been previously subject to an oligarchy. He reigned for seven years, and was murdered 498 BC, by a citizen of Gela named Sabyllus who wanted to see the introduction of democracy...

, ruled Gela between 505 BC and 498 BC. After his death, power transferred to his brother Hippocrates
Hippocrates of Gela
Hippocrates was the second tyrant of Gela and ruled from 498 BC to 491 BC. He was the brother of Cleander and succeeded him to the throne after his death. With him, Gela began its expansion phase; Hippocrates aimed to conquer all of southeastern Sicily in order to build a great state with Gela as...

, who conquered Callipoli, Leontini, Naxos
Naxos (Sicily)
Naxos or Naxus , was an ancient city of Sicily, on the east coast of the island between Catana and Messana...

, Hergetios and Zancles, the current Messina. Only Syracuse, with the help of her former colonizing city, Corinth
Corinth is a city and former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Corinth, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit...

 and Corcyra, managed to escape the Gelese expansion. When Camarina
thumb|240px|Remains of the Temple of Athena.Kamarina is an ancient city of Sicily, southern Italy, situated on the south coast, about 27 kilometers South East of Gela . It was founded by Syracuse in 599 BC, but destroyed by the mother city in 552 BC. Its remains are today in the municipality of...

, a Syracusan colony, rebelled in 492 BC, Hippocrates intervened to wage war against Syracuse. After having defeated the Syracusan army at the Heloros river, he besieged the city. However, in the end he was convinced to retreat in exchange for the possession of Camarina. The tyrant lost his life in 491 in a battle against the Siculi, the native Sicilian people.

Hippocrates was succeeded by Gelo
Gelo , son of Deinomenes, was a 5th century BC ruler of Gela and Syracuse and first of the Deinomenid rulers.- Early life :...

, who, in 484, conquered Syracuse and moved his seat of government there. His brother Hiero
Hiero I of Syracuse
Hieron I was the son of Deinomenes, the brother of Gelon and tyrant of Syracuse in Sicily from 478 to 467 BC. In succeeding Gelon, he conspired against a third brother Polyzelos. During his reign, he greatly increased the power of Syracuse...

 was given control over Gela. When Theron
Theron, originally Greek pronounced and meaning "Hunter", or as a last name , may refer to:*Theron of Acragas , 5th century BC tyrant of Acragas, Sicily*Therons, a race of fictional aliens in the Dan Dare stories...

 of Agrigento conquered Himera
thumb|250px|Remains of the Temple of Victory.thumb|250px|Ideal reconstruction of the Temple of Victory.Himera , was an important ancient Greek city of Sicily, situated on the north coast of the island, at the mouth of the river of the same name , between Panormus and Cephaloedium...

 and a Carthaginian
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 army disembarked in Sicily to counter him, he asked for help from Gela and Syracuse. Gelo and Hiero were victorious in the subsequent battle of Himera
Battle of Himera (480 BC)
The Battle of Himera , supposedly fought on the same day as the more famous Battle of Salamis, or on the same day as the Battle of Thermopylae, saw the Greek forces of Gelon, King of Syracuse, and Theron, tyrant of Agrigentum, defeat the Carthaginian force of Hamilcar the Magonid, ending a...

, in which the Carthaginian leader Hamilcar lost his life.

After the death of Gelo (478 BC), Hiero moved to Syracuse, leaving Gela to Polyzelos. Thenceforth the history of the city becomes uncertain: it has been suggested that the citizens freed themselves from the rule of tyrants and established a democratic government.

Many of the Geloi returned from Syracuse in this period, and the city regained part of its power: Aischylos died in this city in 456 BC. Gela was at the head of the Sicilian league that pushed back the Athenian
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 attempt to conquer the island in 424 (see Sicilian Expedition
Sicilian Expedition
The Sicilian Expedition was an Athenian expedition to Sicily from 415 BC to 413 BC, during the Peloponnesian War. The expedition was hampered from the outset by uncertainty in its purpose and command structure—political maneuvering in Athens swelled a lightweight force of twenty ships into a...


In 406 the Carthaginians conquered Agrigento and destroyed it. Gela asked for the help of Dionysius I of Syracuse
Dionysius I of Syracuse
Dionysius I or Dionysius the Elder was a Greek tyrant of Syracuse, in what is now Sicily, southern Italy. He conquered several cities in Sicily and southern Italy, opposed Carthage's influence in Sicily and made Syracuse the most powerful of the Western Greek colonies...

. However, for unknown reasons, the latter did not arrive in time and, after heroic deeds, Gela was turned into ruins and its treasures sacked (405). The survivors took refuge in Syracuse. In 397 they returned home and joined Dionysius II
Dionysius II of Syracuse
Dionysius the Younger or Dionysius II ruled Syracuse, Sicily from 367 BC to 357 BC and again from 346 BC to 344 BC....

 in his struggle for the freedom from the invaders, and in 383 BC they saw their independence acknowledged.

Under Agathocles
Agathocles , , was tyrant of Syracuse and king of Sicily .-Biography:...

 (317-289 BC) the city suffered again for internal strife between the general population and the aristocrats. When the Carthaginians arrived in 311 BC, they met little resistance and captured the city with the help of the aristoi. In 282 BC Phintias of Agrigento, who had founded a city next to the modern Licata
Licata is a city and comune located on the south coast of Sicily, at the mouth of the Salso River , about midway between Agrigento and Gela...

, destroyed ruthlessly Gela to crush forever its power.

Roman, Byzantine and mediaeval ages

The city subsequently disappeared from the chronicles. Under the Roman domination a small settlement still existed, which is mentioned by Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

, Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

, Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 and Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

. Later it was a Byzantine minor center. Under the Arab it was known as "City of Columns".

The later city was founded in AD 1233 by Frederick II
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II , was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily and stretching through Italy to Germany, and even to Jerusalem, were enormous...

 by the name Terranova, by which it remained known until 1928. The new settlement was west of the ancient Gela, and was provided with a castle and a line of walls. Terranova, also known as Heracles, was a royal possession until 1369, when King Frederick III of Aragon
Frederick III of Sicily
Frederick II was the regent and subsequently King of Sicily from 1295 until his death. He was the third son of Peter III of Aragon and served in the War of the Sicilian Vespers on behalf of his father and brothers, Alfonso and James...

 gave it to Manfredi III Chiaramonte. In 1401, however, it was confiscated after the treason of Andrea Chiaramonte, and assigned to several Aragonese feudataries. In 1530 the title of Marquis of Terranova was created for Giovanni Tagliavia Aragona, and in 1561 his son Carlo obtained the title of Duke. The Terranova Aragona held the city until 1640, when the marriage of Giovanna Tagliavia Aragona and Ettore Pignatelli give the possession to the latter's family. The Pignatelli held the fief until 1812.

Modern era

Renamed Terranova di Sicilia, in 1927 the city was given back the name of Gela.

During the Allied invasion of Sicily
Allied invasion of Sicily
The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major World War II campaign, in which the Allies took Sicily from the Axis . It was a large scale amphibious and airborne operation, followed by six weeks of land combat. It launched the Italian Campaign.Husky began on the night of...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, The US First Infantry Division landed on the beaches during the initial assault on July 9, 1943. The Allied forces repelled an Italian and German armored counterattack at Gela as well. Several advanced landing airfields were built by United States Army engineers in the area around the city which was used by the Twelfth Air Force during the Italian Campaign
Italian Campaign (World War II)
The Italian Campaign of World War II was the name of Allied operations in and around Italy, from 1943 to the end of the war in Europe. Joint Allied Forces Headquarters AFHQ was operationally responsible for all Allied land forces in the Mediterranean theatre, and it planned and commanded the...


After the war, a large oil refinery
Oil refinery
An oil refinery or petroleum refinery is an industrial process plant where crude oil is processed and refined into more useful petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt base, heating oil, kerosene, and liquefied petroleum gas...

 was built in the Gela's territory, as a part of Enrico Mattei
Enrico Mattei
Enrico Mattei was an Italian public administrator. After World War II he was given the task of dismantling the Italian Petroleum Agency Agip, a state enterprise established by the Fascist regime. Instead Mattei enlarged and reorganized it into the National Fuel Trust Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi...

's industrial expansion plan. This move tried to help the economy of the region, but instead it created significant damage to the area's visual appearance and touristic appeal. The chaotic building program, which was carried out in the absence of a planning process, created almost intractable social problems.

In the 1980s, the area saw the increasing power of a mafioso association, Stidda
La Stidda is a name for Mafia-type criminal organizations centered in Gela, Sicily, in Italy. Members are known as stiddari or stiddaroli. It is most active in the rural parts of southern Sicily and is partially a rival to Cosa Nostra...

, which was protagonist of a long series of violences and homicides. In December 2001, as part of a large anti-mafia operation led by the provincial carabinieri
The Carabinieri is the national gendarmerie of Italy, policing both military and civilian populations, and is a branch of the armed forces.-Early history:...

, 88 arrest warrants were carried out and a number of companies associated with Gela's Rinzivillo mafia clan were seized under suspicion of money laundering and drug trafficking. The strong mafia influence in the city is partly responsible for the Gela's lack of tourism, with attempts to invest in the local tourism industry (through the creation of hotels etc.) being repeatedly, and mysteriously, blocked.
Recently a development and recovering program has slightly improved the situation of the city. The universities of Catania
University of Catania
The University of Catania is a university located in Catania, Italy, and founded in 1434. It is the oldest university in Sicily, the 13th oldest in Italy and the 29th oldest university in the world...

 and Palermo
University of Palermo
The University of Palermo is a university located in Palermo, Italy, and founded in 1806. It is organized in 12 Faculties.-History:The University of Palermo was officially founded in 1806, although its earliest roots date back to 1498 when medicine and law were taught there...

 have opened faculties in Gela, and the historical center, as well as the archaeological area, the seaside and the Castelluccio, have been renovated.


Gela is situated on the Mediterranean coast
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 at the estuary of Gela river
Gela (river)
The Gela river is located in Sicily. It originates from the Disueri lake and, after about 59 kilometers, flows into the Strait of Sicily of the Mediterranean Sea, near the homonymous town.-Overview:...

, in the south-western side of Sicily, between Agrigento
Agrigento , is a city on the southern coast of Sicily, Italy, and capital of the province of Agrigento. It is renowned as the site of the ancient Greek city of Akragas , one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia during the golden...

 and Ragusa
Ragusa, Italy
Ragusa is a city and comune in southern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Ragusa, on the island of Sicily, with around 75,000 inhabitants. It is built on a wide limestone hill between two deep valleys, Cava San Leonardo and Cava Santa Domenica...

. The bounding municipalities are Acate
Acate is a small town and comune in the south of Sicily, Italy, part of the province of Ragusa. It is located in the Dirillo River valley, 34 kilometers from Ragusa....

, Butera, Caltagirone
Caltagirone is a town and comune in the province of Catania, on the island of Sicily, about 70 km southwest of Catania. It is bounded by the comuni of Acate, Gela, Grammichele, Licodia Eubea, Mazzarino, Mazzarrone, Mineo, Mirabella Imbaccari, Niscemi, Piazza Armerina, San Michele di...

, Mazzarino
Mazzarino is a city and comune in the province of Caltanissetta in the region of Sicily, Italy.The city emerged in the second half of the 13th century. In 1507, the lords of the manor received the title Count of Mazzarini.It is home to two castles.In the 50s, the local friary was theater for the...

 and Niscemi
Niscemi is a town and comune in the province of Caltanissetta, Sicily, Italy. It has a population of 26,492.-Etymology:The name Niscemi is derived from the Arabic word نَشَم neshem or its singular form نَشَمَة neshemeh, this being the name of a particular type of tree.-World War II:During World War...


Main sights

  • Akropolis.
  • Regional Archeological Museum.
  • The archeological site of Capo Soprano (with the Greek Fortification and ellenistic quarters).
  • Greek temple
    Greek temple
    Greek temples were structures built to house deity statues within Greek sanctuaries in Greek paganism. The temples themselves did usually not directly serve a cult purpose, since the sacrifices and rituals dedicated to the respective deity took place outside them...

  • The Cathedral, dedicated to the Holy Virgin Assunta, was rebuilt in 1766-1794 over a pre-existing small church of Madonna della Platea. It has two orders façade with Doric and Ionic semi-columns. The interior, with a nave and two aisles, houses a wood with the Transit of the Virgin by Deodato Guidaccia and other 18th centuries canvasses.
  • The Castelluccio ("Small Castle"), built in the early 13th century. It is located 10 km from the city.
  • Natural Reserve of Biviere di Gela, including a coastal lake surrounded by dunes.
  • Manfria, with a typical beach with Mediterranean dune landscape, and the Torre di Manfria ("Manfria Tower").

Twin towns — Sister cities

Gela is twinned
Town twinning
Twin towns and sister cities are two of many terms used to describe the cooperative agreements between towns, cities, and even counties in geographically and politically distinct areas to promote cultural and commercial ties.- Terminology :...

 with: Eleusina
Eleusina is a town and municipality in West Attica, Greece. It is situated about 18 km northwest from the centre of Athens. It is located in the Thriasian Plain, at the northernmost end of the Saronic Gulf. It is the seat of administration of West Attica regional unit...

, Greece Wittingen
Wittingen is a town in the district of Gifhorn, Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated approx. 30 km northeast of Gifhorn, and 30 km southeast of Uelzen.- Division of the town :Wittingen consists of 27 districts:- Demographic data :...

, Germany

External links

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