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Greek settlers on Sicily


Thucydides. Mosaic from Jerash, now in the Altes Museum Berlin (Germany). Photo Jona Lendering. Thucydides; mosaic from Jerash (Altes Museum, Berlin) The Athenian historian Thucydides (c.460-c.395) wrote the History of the Peloponnesian War, which was fought between Athens and Sparta in the years 431-404. In books 6 and 7, he describes the Athenian expedition against Sicily in the years 415-413, an act of naked imperialism that ended in disaster. Of many Athenians only a few returned.

In his account of the Sicilian war, Thucydides inserts a history of Greek settlements on Sicily, probably based on the History of Sicily by Antiochus of Syracuse, which appeared shortly after 424. The list is very important, because it is one of the few accounts of Greek colonialization. Archaeologists have often used the chronological information offered by Thucydides to date the oldest deposits at Sicilian sites, which were in turn used to establish a more or less accurate chronology of Greek ceramics (especially Corinthian style pottery).

Thucydides 6.1-5 is offered here in the translation by Richard Crawley. (Go here for the beginning.)

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Sicily. Design Jona Lendering.
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Thucydides 6.5

Himera was founded from Zancle by Euclides, Simus, and Sacon, most of those who went to the colony being Chalcidians; though they were joined by some exiles from Syracuse, defeated in a civil war, called the Myletidae. The language was a mixture of Chalcidian and Doric, but the institutions which prevailed were the Chalcidian.

Acrae and Casmenae were founded by the Syracusans; Acrae 70 years after Syracuse [663 BCE], Casmenae nearly twenty after Acrae [643].

Camarina was first founded by the Syracusans, close upon a 125 years after the building of Syracuse [598]; its founders being Daxon and Menecolus. But the Camarinaeans being expelled by arms by the Syracusans for having revolted, Hippocrates, tyrant of Gela, some time later receiving their land in ransom for some Syracusan prisoners, resettled Camarina, himself acting as its founder. Lastly, it was again depopulated by Gelon, and settled once more for the third time by the Geloans.

Such is the list of the peoples, Greek and barbarian, inhabiting Sicily, and such the magnitude of the island which the Athenians were now bent upon invading.





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