Himera was founded in 648 BC. from Greeks of mixed Chalcidian and Doric origin, from Zankle (Messina), from Greece, and by a group of enigmatic Myletiadiremembered by Thucydides as having escaped from Syracuse for political reasons. The three founders of the colony were Euclid, Simo and Sacon. The city underwent rapid building and population growth, as documented by the large-scale urban development projects carried out from the first half of the 6th century BC. An epigraph found in Samos recalls moments of tension with the Sicilian populations of the hinterland, disagreements that probably forced the Imeresi, around the middle of the 6th century B.C., to ask Falaride, tyrant of Agrigento, for help. In 480 B.C. an epic battle took place under the walls of Himera, won by a coalition of Greeks of Sicily against the Carthaginians; in the following years the city remained under the political control of Terone, tyrant of Agrigento and under his action took place the repopulation of the city with Doric people.
Himera soon regained independence from Agrigento but was not involved in any important episodes in the island's history. In 409 B.C. it was conquered and destroyed by the Carthaginians in a violent episode of warfare that marked the end of the city forever. A few years later a group of Imeresi participated with the Carthaginians in the foundation of Thermai Himeraiai (Termini Imerese), at the site of thermal baths not far from the ancient city. Among the illustrious citizens of Himera are the lyric poet Stesicoro and several Olympic winners.
The archaeological exploration of Himera, after the identification of the site in the 16th century, was started between 1926 and 1930 with the first investigations at the east necropolis and with the excavation of the Temple of Victory by Pirro Marconi. Systematic explorations, concentrated above all on the upper town (inhabited area and sanctuary of Athena), began in 1963: at present the area of the Temple of Victory and that of the upper city are open to the public, offering the visitor an articulated panorama of the main aspects of a Greek colonial reality of archaic and classical age: monumental buildings, urban layout and housing culture.
In addition, investigations have recently begun on the Piano del Tamburino, located to the west of the Piano di Himera, where several sacred areas or zones dedicated to cultic activities have been discovered. Finally, extensive investigations have been carried out in the necropolis, especially in the western necropolis where more than 13,000 burials have been excavated, including some of the mass graves of those killed in the battles of 480 and 409 BC.