Sicily

SICILY (sĭs'ĭ-lē). The triangular island lying off the toe of Italy was colonized by a tribe closely related to those from the region of the Tiber who became the Roman people. The west and south of the island was colonized from the eighth century b.c. onward by the Carthaginians (themselves Phoenician colonists from Tyre), and the east and north by the Greeks. Colonization in both cases was by the building of “emporia,” or seacoast towns, designed to exploit the hinterland. Centuries of tension and strife between the Greeks and Carthaginians ended with the intervention of Rome in the middle of the third century b.c. The western Mediterranean was too small for two first-class powers, and Rome and Carthage both looked on Sicily as a bridgehead. Hence the firmness with which Rome took advantage of factional strife at Messana to invade the island. The end of the Punic wars saw Sicily a Roman province.


SICILY. The great three-cornered island off the toe of Italy was first colonized by Italian or Indo-European stocks, whose language, not dissimilar from early Lat., suggests that the Sicani or Siculi were part of the folk-wandering of the second millennium b.c. Phoenician settlement followed, and produced a wide occupancy of the S and W of the island esp. after Phoen. Carthage became strong and expansive on the confronting African coast. Toward the end of the 8th cent., the great influx of Gr. urban colonists began. Syracuse was founded in 734 b.c., and became one of the major cities of the Mediterranean world. The Gr. cities of the E and N grew into strong prosperous trading communities, and mevitably clashed with the rival colonizers of Sicily, the Carthaginians. The year 480 saw Gr. victory at Himera, and a great upsurge and penetration of Gr. culture through the island. It was at the end of this cent. that Athens attacked Syracuse, and suffered naval and military disaster from which she never recovered completely. It was inevitable that Carthage and Rome should contend over Sicily, which lay an essential bridgehead between their expanding spheres of power. After Rome’s victory in the Second Punic War (218-201 b.c.), the island became part of the Rom. provincial system, and the main source of her wheat for over 150 years.

Bibliography

E. A. Freeman, History of Sicily (1891-1894); T. J. Dunbabin, The Western Greeks (1948).