Sikelians, Sikanians, Sardinians and Iolaeians: Diodoros on ancient migrations and local customs on Sicily (mid-first century BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Sikelians, Sikanians, Sardinians and Iolaeians: Diodoros on ancient migrations and local customs on Sicily (mid-first century BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified March 25, 2024,

Ancient author: Diodoros of Sicily (mid-first century BCE), Library of History 4.23-30; 4.78, 80, 82-83; 5.2-15; 11.52, 76, 78, 88-92 (link).

Comments: In these passages, Diodoros of Sicily at first continues to relate episodes in the history of particular peoples by way of a retelling of Herakles’ journeys or campaigns. In this case, however, Diodoros turns to his home turf in Sicily, discussing the early Sikanian natives that Herakles defeats and the Thespiadian colonizers of the nearby island of Sardinia. In the latter case, we have another tale of early Greek colonization linked with this legendary figure, who is also pictured as the ancestor of these colonizers.

In connection with the Iolaeians on Sardinia, Diodoros deploys the concept of “barbarizing” (on which compare the post on Medizing at this link and the post on Judaizing and Hellenizing at this link) to portray Greek colonizers who, under the influence of local barbarians, gradually leave the civilized life of the city to live life in the rougher parts of Sardinia. From the perspective of the Roman elites, Sardinia would be a breeding ground for so-called “bandits.” On this, see Tacitus’ account of Judeans being sent (as punishment) to Sardinia to suppress “bandits” (link).

After further diversions (based on myths) on Taurians and Kolchians on the Black Sea (link) and Teukrians and Trojans in northwestern Turkey (link), Diodoros returns once again to further materials about the peoples of Sicily at various points of history and about the surrounding islands, including local myths and customs. He also deals with other stories of migration, including migrations by Greeks, Cretans, Phoenicians, Tyrrhenians (Etruscans), and others.

In the final section, Diodoros juxtaposes the lifestyle of the slavish Kyrnian “barbarians” to the always free and undefeatable (earlier) Iolaeians, descendants of Herakles (before their later “barbarization,” presumably). The Kyrnians are characterized as having unusual gender roles associated with birth, with the men laying in bed with sympathy pains for several days, so I have also put this in the gender category. On this, see also the collections of barbarian paradoxes in Nikolaos of Damaskos and others, where similar gender-bending or -inverting customs are attributed to other “barbarian” peoples (link).

I have now also added (from book 11) Diodoros’ discussion of Iapygians and Sikelians in the fourth century BCE. He focusses on the era of Douketios’ leadership and Diodoros also describes a native sanctuary for the Palikian (Palikoi) gods.


[For Diodoros’ preceding discussion of Romans, go to this link]

Book 4 

[Herakles’ arrival among the Sikelians]

23  Upon his arrival in Sicily, Herakles desired to make the circuit of the entire island and so set out from Pelorias in the direction of Eryx [i.e. from the easternmost point of the north coast to the westernmost].​ While passing along the coast of the island, the myths relate, the Nymphs caused warm baths​ to gush out so that he might refresh himself after the toil sustained in his journeying [“Herakleia” was a comman name for hot springs generally]. There are two of these, called respectively Himeraia and Egestaia, each of them having its name from the place where the baths are. (2) As Herakles approached the region of Eryx [now mount San Giuliano),​ he was challenged to a wrestling match by Eryx, who was the son of Aphrodite and Butas, who was then king of that country. The contest of the rivals carried with it a penalty, whereby Eryx was to surrender his land and Herakles the cattle. Now at first Eryx was displeased at such terms, maintaining that the cattle were of far less value as compared with the land. But when Herakles, in answer to his arguments, showed that if he lost the cattle, he would likewise lose his immortality, Eryx agreed to the terms, and wrestling with him was defeated and lost his land.

(3) Herakles turned the land over to the natives of the region, agreeing with them that they should gather the fruits of it until one of his descendants should appear among them and demand it back. This actually came to pass. For in fact many generations later Dorieus the Lakedaimonian [Spartan] came to Sicily, and taking back the land founded the city of Herakleia [see also Herodotos, Inquiries 5.41-48]. Since the city grew rapidly, the Carthaginians, being jealous of it and also afraid that it would grow stronger than Carthage and take away the Phoenicians’ sovereignty, came up against Carthage with a great army, took it by storm, and razed it to the ground. But we will discuss this matter in detail in connection with the period in which it falls.

[Herakles sacrifices to Kore and Demeter and defeats the Sikanians]

(4) While Herakles was making the circuit of Sicily at this time he came to the city which is now Syracuse. After learning about what the myth relates about the rape of Kore, Herakles offered sacrifices to the goddesses​ [i.e. Kore and Demeter] on a magnificent scale. After dedicating to her the fairest bull of his herd and casting it in the spring Kyane​, he commanded the natives to sacrifice each year to Kore and to conduct at Kyane a festive gathering and a sacrifice in splendid fashion. (5) Herakles then passed with his cattle through the interior of the island, and when the native Sikanians [or: Sicani; i.e. pre-Greek and pre-Phoenician inhabitants of Sicily] opposed him in great force, he overcame them in a notable battle and killed many of their number. Certain writers of myths relate that among those killed were some distinguished generals who receive honours granted to heroes even until today, such as Leukaspis, Pediakrates,​ Bouphonas, Glychatas, Bytaias, and Krytidas.

[Honours and sacrifices to Herakles by the Leontinians]

24  After this Herakles, as he passed through the plain of Leontinoi, was amazed at the beauty of the land. In order to show his affection for the men who honoured him, he left behind him there imperishable memorials of his presence. And it came to pass that a peculiar thing took place near the city of Agyrion.​ Here he was honoured on equal terms with the Olympian gods by festivals and splendid sacrifices. Even though Herakles had accepted no sacrifice before this time, he then gave his consent for the first time. This was because the deity was giving intimations to Herakles of his coming immortality. (2) For instance, there was a road not far from the city which was all of rock, and yet the cattle left their tracks in it as if in a waxy substance. Since, then, this same thing happened in the case of Herakles as well​ and his tenth labour was likewise coming to an end, he considered that he was already to a degree participating in immortality and so accepted the annual sacrifices which were offered him by the people of the city. (3) Consequently, as a mark of his gratitude to the people who had found favour with him, he built a lake that was four stadium-lengths in circumference, which he decided should be named after him. And he likewise gave his name to the moulds of the tracks which the cattle had left in the rock and dedicated to the hero Geryones a sacred precinct which is honoured to this day by the people of that region. (4) To Iolaos, his nephew, who was his companion on the expedition, he likewise dedicated a notable sacred precinct, and ordained that annual honours and sacrifices will be offered to him, as is done even until today.

For all the inhabitants of this city [Leontinoi] let the hair of their heads grow from their birth in honour of Iolaos, until they have obtained good omens in costly sacrifices and have rendered the god propitious. (5) And such a holiness and majesty pervade the sacred precinct that the boys who fail to perform the customary rites lose their power of speech and become like dead men. But so soon as anyone of them who is suffering from this malady takes a vow that he will pay the sacrifice and guarantees to the god a pledge to that effect, at once, they say, he is restored to health. (6) Now the inhabitants, in pursuance of these rites, call the gate, at which they come into the presence of the god and offer him these sacrifices, “The Herakeian” gate. Every year with the utmost enthusiasm they hold games which include gymnastic contests and horse-races. And since the whole populace, both free men and slaves, unite in approbation of the god they have commanded their servants, as they do honour to him apart from the rest, to gather in bands and when they come together to hold banquets and perform sacrifices to the god.

(7) Herakles then crossed over into Italy with the cattle and proceeded along the coast. There he killed Lakinios as he was attempting to steal some of the cattle. Herakles granted to Kroton, whom he killed by accident, a magnificent funeral and erected for him a tomb. He also foretold to the natives of the place that in subsequent times a famous city would arise which should bear the name of the man who had died. . . [omitted material]

[Colonization of Sardinia by Iolaos and the Thespiadians]

29 After Herakles had performed his labours, the god revealed to him that it would be good if, before he passed into the company of the gods, he dispatched a colony to Sardinia and made the sons who had been born to him by the daughters of Thespios the leaders of the settlement. So he decided to send his nephew Iolaos with the boys, since they were still quite young.

(2) Now it seems to us indispensable that we should speak first of the birth of the boys, in order that we may be able to present more clearly what is to be said about the colony. Thespios was by birth a distinguished man from Athens and son of Erechtheus, and he was king of the land which bears his name​ [i.e. the territory of the city of Thespiae in Boiotia]. He had fifty daughters with his wives (which were numerous). (3) When Herakles was still a boy, but already of extraordinary strength of body, the king strongly desired that his daughters should bear children by him. Consequently he invited Herakles to a sacrifice, and after entertaining him in a brilliant fashion he sent his daughters one by one in to him. And Herakles slept with every one of them, making them all pregnant. So he became the father of fifty sons. These sons all took the same name after the daughters of Thespios.

When they became men, Herakles decided to send them to Sardinia to found a colony, as the oracle had commanded. (4) Since the expedition was under the general command of Iolaos, who had accompanied Herakles on practically all of his campaigns, the latter entrusted him with the care of the Thespiadians and the planting of the colony. Of the fifty boys, two continued to live in Thebes where they say that their descendants are honoured even to the present day. Seven lived in Thespiai, where they are called demouchoi,​ and where their descendants, they say, were the chief men of the city until recent times.

(5) All the other Thespiadians and many more who wished to join in the founding of the colony Iolaos took with him and sailed away to Sardinia. Here he overcame the natives in battle and divided the best part of the island into allotments, especially the land which was a level plain and is called to this day Iolaiion. (6) When he had brought the land under cultivation and planted it with fruit-bearing trees, he made the island a point of contention. For instance, it gained such fame for the abundance of its fruits that at a later time the Carthaginians, when they had grown powerful, desired the island and faced many struggles and perils over possession of it. But we will write about these matters in connection with the period to which they belong.

30  After this Iolaos, on his return to Greece, sailed over to Sicily and spent a considerable time on that island. And at this time several of those who were visiting the island in his company remained in Sicily because of the beauty of the land. Joining with the Sicanians, they settled in the island, being especially honoured by the natives. Iolaos also received a great welcome, and since he conferred benefits upon many men, he was honoured in many of the cities with sacred precincts and with such distinctions as are accorded to heroes.

(4) A peculiar and unbelievable thing happened in connection with this colony in Sardinia. For the god​ [i.e. Apollo] had told them in an oracle that all who joined in this colony and their descendants should continually remain free men for ever. In their case, the outcome has continued to be in keeping with the oracle even to our own times.

[Barbarization of Iolaeians / Sardinians]

(5) Over a long period of time, the people of the colony became barbarized (barbarōthēnai), because the barbarians who took part in the colony above them outnumbered them. So they relocated into the mountainous part of the island and made their home in the rough and barren regions. Getting accustomed to living on milk and meat and raising large flocks and herds, they had no need for grain. They also built themselves underground dwellings. By spending their lives in such dug-out homes, they avoided the perils which wars entail. (6) As a consequence both the Carthaginians in former days and the Romans later, despite the many wars which they waged with this people, did not succeed in their aim.

Therefore, regarding Iolaos, the Thespiadians, and the colony which was sent to Sardinia, we will remain satisfied with what has been said, and we will continue the story of Herakles from the point at which our account left off. . . [omitted sections].

[For Diodoros’ subsequent discussion of Taurians and Colchians, go to this link.]


[For Diodoros’ preceding discussion of Trojans, go to this link.]

[Daidalos’ contributions for the Sikanians on Sicily]

. . . 78  Daidalos spent a considerable time with king Kokalos and the Sikanians (after having escaped from Crete), being greatly admired for his amazing skill. On this island [Sicily], he constructed certain works which stand even to this day. For instance, near Megaris he ingeniously built a “kolumbethra,​” as men have named it, from which a great river, called the Alabon, empties into the sea which is not far distant from it. (2) Also in the present territory of Akragas [modern Agrigento] on the Kamikos​ river, as it is called, he built a city which lay upon a rock and was the strongest of any in Sicily and altogether impregnable to any attack by force. The ascent to it he made narrow and winding, building it in so ingenious a manner that it could be defended by three or four men.

Consequently Kokalos built the royal residence in this city. Storing his treasures there, he had them in a city which had been made impregnable by the inventiveness of its designer Daidalos. (3) A third construction of Daidalos’, in the territory of Selinos, was a grotto where he so successfully expelled the steam caused by the fire which burned in it that those who frequented the grotto got into a perspiration imperceptibly because of the gentle action of the heat. Gradually, and actually with pleasure to themselves, they cured the illnesses of their bodies without experiencing any annoyance from the heat. (4) Also at Eryx, where a rock rose sheer to an extraordinary height and the narrow space, where the temple of Aphrodite lay, made it necessary to build it on the precipitous tip of the rock, he constructed a wall upon the very crag, by this means extending in an astonishing manner the overhanging ledge of the crag. (5) Moreover, for the Aphrodite of mount Eryx, they say, he ingeniously constructed a golden ram, working it with exceeding care and making it the perfect image of an actual ram. Many other works as well, men say, he ingeniously constructed throughout Sicily. However, these have disappeared because of the long time which has elapsed. . . [omitted tale of Kokalos killing king Minos of Crete].

[Migration of Cretans to Sicily]

(5) However, the Cretans of Sicily, after the death of king Minos, fell into factious strife, since they had no ruler and since their ships had been burned by the Sikanians serving under Kokalos, they gave up any hope they had had of returning to their homeland. After deciding to make their home in Sicily, a portion of them established a city on that island to which they gave the name “Minoa” after their king. Others from Crete, after wandering about through the interior of the island, seized a place which was naturally strong and founded a city to which they gave the name “Engyon” after the spring which flowed forth within the city. (6) Later on, when Troy had been captured and Meriones the Cretan came to shore in Sicily, they welcomed the Cretans who landed with him and shared with them their citizen­ship due to their kinship with them. Using as their base a well-fortified city and having subdued certain neighbouring peoples, the Cretans secured for themselves a fairly large territory. (7) Growing steadily stronger, they built a temple to the Mother goddesses​ and granted these goddesses unusual honours, adorning their temple with many votive offerings. They say that the cult of these goddesses was moved from their home in Crete, since the Cretans also hold these goddesses [e.g. Mother Rhea] in special honour. . . [omitted further details of myths regarding these goddesses].

[Myths and customs relating to the Mother goddesses among inhabitants of Sicily]

80  The account which the myths preserve of the Mothers runs like this: They nurtured Zeus of old without the knowledge of his father Kronos. In return, Zeus translated them into the heavens and designated them as a constellation which he named the Bears.​ (2) Aratos [Phainomena 30‑35]​ agrees with this account when he states in his poem on the stars: “Turned backwards then upon their shoulders are / the Bears. If true it be that they from Crete / into the heavens mounted by the will / of mighty Zeus, for that when he was babe / in fragrant Dikton near the Idaian mount / they set him in a cave and nurtured him / a year, the while Kouretes Diktaian / practiced deceit on Kronos.”

(3) There is no reason why we should omit to mention the sanctity of these goddesses and the renown which they enjoy among humankind. In fact, they are not only honoured by the inhabitants of this city [i.e. Engyon],​ but certain neighbouring peoples also glorify these goddesses with magnificent sacrifices and every other kind of honour. (4) Some cities were actually commanded by oracles from the Pythian god to honour the goddesses, being assured that in this way the lives of their individual citizens would be blessed with good fortune and their cities would flourish.

In the end, the reputation of the goddesses advanced to such a degree that the inhabitants of this region have continued to honour them with many votive offerings in silver and gold down to the time of the writing of this history. (5) For instance, a temple was built there for them which not only excels in size but also occasions wonder by reason of the expense incurred in its construction. For since the people had no suitable stone in their own territory they brought it from their neighbours, the inhabitants of Agyrion [modern Agira],​ though the cities were nearly one hundred stadium-lengths apart and the road by which they had to transport the blocks were rough and altogether hard to traverse. For this reason they constructed wagons with four wheels and transported the stone by the use of one hundred span of oxen. (6) Indeed, because of the vast quantity of the sacred properties of the temple they were so plentifully supplied with means that, by reason of their abundant prosperity, they took no account of the expense. For only a short time before our day, the goddesses possessed three hundred head of sacred cattle and vast holdings of land, so that they were the recipients of great revenues. . . [omitted material].

[Aristaios from Libya and his contributions on Sardinia and on Sicily]

82 … (4) We are further informed that Aristaios [the son of Apollo and Cyrene] left descendants behind on the island of Keos and then returned to Libya, from where he set forth with the help of his mother, a Nymph,​ and put ashore on the island of Sardinia. Here he made his home, and since he loved the island because of its beauty, he set out plantings in it and brought it under cultivation, whereas formerly it had been unused.

(5) After this he visited other islands and spent some time in Sicily. Because of the abundance of the fruits on the island of Sicily and the multitude of flocks and herds which grazed there, he was eager to display to its inhabitants the benefactions which were his to grant. Consequently, as men say, Aristaios received especial honour as a god among the inhabitants of Sicily, in particular by those who harvested the fruit of the olive-tree. (6) Finally, as the myths relate, he visited Dionysos in Thrace and was initiated into his secret rites, and during his stay in the company of the god he learned from him much useful knowledge. And after dwelling some time in the neighbourhood of mount Haimos [still in Thrace], he never was seen again by men. He received immortal honours not only among the barbarians of that region but among the Greeks as well.

[Myths and customs relating to Erykinian Aphrodite among Sikanians, Eryxians, Carthaginians, and Romans]

83  Regarding Aristaios, we will rest content with what has been said, and we will next endeavour to present what relates to Daphnis and Eryx. This is what is told about them: Eryx was a son of Aphrodite and Butas, a certain native king of Sicily of very great fame, and he was admired by the locals because of his noble birth on his mother’s side. Eryx became king over a part of the island. He also founded a notable city which bore his name. It was established on a lofty place, and on the highest point​ [i.e. on mount Eryx] within the city he established a shrine of his mother, which he embellished not only with a beautifully built temple, but also with the multitude of his dedications.

(2) The goddess, both because of the reverence which the inhabitants of the region paid to her and because of the honour which she received from the son whom she had borne, displayed an exceptional love for the city, and for this reason she came to be called Erykinian Aphrodite. And a man may well be filled with wonder when he stops to sum up the fame which has gathered about this shrine. (3) All other sanctuaries have indeed enjoyed a flush of fame. However, frequently various happenings have brought them low. Yet this is the only temple which, founded as it was at the beginning of time, not only has never failed to be the object of veneration but, on the contrary, has as time went on ever continued to enjoy great growth.

(4) For after Eryx bestowed upon it the honours we have described, Aineas, the son of Aphrodite – when at a later time he was on his way to Italy and came to anchor off the island – embellished the sanctuary, since it was that of his own mother, with many votive offerings. After him, the Sikanians paid honour to the goddess for many generations and kept continually embellishing it with both magnificent sacrifices and votive offerings. After that time, the Carthaginians never failed to hold the goddess in special honour when they had become the masters of a part of Sicily.

Last of all, the Romans surpassed all people who had preceded them in the honours they paid to her after they had subdued all Sicily. (5) It was with good reason that they did so, for since they traced back their ancestry to her and for this reason were successful in their undertakings, they were simply repaying the goddess who was the cause of their expansion with such expressions of gratitude and honours as they owed to her. (6) The consuls and praetors, for instance, who visit the island and all Romans who travel there possessing any authority, whenever they come to Eryx, embellish the sanctuary with magnificent sacrifices and honours. They also lay aside the austerity of their authority, enter into sports and have conversation with women in a happy spirit, believing that only in this way will they make their presence there pleasing to the goddess. (7) In fact, the Roman senate has so enthusiastically concerned itself with the honours of the goddess that it has decreed that the seventeen cities of Sicily which are most faithful to Rome shall pay a tax in gold to Aphrodite, and that two hundred soldiers shall serve as a guard of her shrine.

Now if we have spent too much time on the topic of Eryx, we have at least given an account of the goddess such as was rightly her due. . . [omitted discussion of myths of Daphnis, Orion, and Messsene relating to Sicily due to lack of attention to peoples].


Book 5

[Return to peoples on Sicily: Sikanians, Sikelians]

2 Since we have given this book the title “On the Islands,”​ in accordance with this heading the first island we will speak about will be Sikelia (Sicily), since it is both the richest of the islands and holds first place in respect of the great age of the myths related concerning it. The island in ancient times was called Trinakria,​ after its shape, then Sikania after the Sikanians who made their home there, and finally it has been given the name Sicily after the Sikelians (Sicilians) who crossed over in a body to it from Italy. (2) Its circumference is some four thousand three hundred and sixty stadium-lengths. For of its three sides, that extending from Pelorias to Lilybaion is one thousand seven hundred stadium-lengths, that from Lilybaion to Pachynos in the territory of Syracuse is a thousand five hundred, and the remaining side is one thousand one hundred and forty stadium-lengths.​

[Notion of Sicily being the most superior land for produce]

(3) The citizens of Sicily (Sikeliotians / Sikeliōtai) [explained further below as a combination of Sikanians, Sikelians and Greeks] settled on the island have received the tradition from their ancestors. The report has always been handed down successively from earliest time by one generation to the next that the island is sacred to Demeter and Kore. Nonetheless, there are certain poets who recount the myth that at the marriage of Plouton and Persephone, Zeus gave this island as a wedding present to the bride. (4) That the ancient inhabitants, the Sikanians, were indigenous, is stated by the best authorities among historians. Furthermore, the fact that the goddesses we have mentioned first made their appearance on this island and that it was the first to produce fruit of the corn (due to the fertility of the soil) are attested by the most renowned of the poets, who bears witness when he writes: “But all these things grow there for them unsown / and even untilled, both wheat and barley, yes, / and vines, which yield such wine as fine grapes give, / and rain of Zeus grows them [Homer, Odyssey 9.109‑11]. Indeed, in the plain of Leontinoi, we are told, and throughout many other parts of Sicily the wheat men call “wild” grows even to this day. (5) Generally speaking, before corn was discovered,​ if a person was to raise the question of what type of land on the inhabited earth it was where the fruits we have mentioned appeared for the first time, the honorary reward may reasonably be accorded to the richest land. And in keeping with what we have stated, it is also to be observed that the goddesses who made this discovery are those who receive the highest honours among the citizens of Sicily.

[Local myths on the rape of Kore in Sicily and Kore’s contributions to civilization]

3  Again, the fact that the rape of Kore took place in Sicily is, men say, proof most evident that the goddesses made this island their favourite retreat because it was cherished by them before all others. (2) And the myth of the rape of Kore relates that it took place in the meadows in the territory of Enna. The spot lies near the city, a place of striking beauty for its violets and every other kind of flower and worthy of the goddess. And the story is told that, because of the sweet odour of the flowers growing there, trained hunting dogs are unable to hold the trail, because their natural sense of smell is balked.​ And the meadow we have mentioned is level in the centre and well-watered throughout, but on its periphery it rises high and falls off with precipitous cliffs on every side. And it is conceived of as lying in the very centre of the island, which is the reason why certain writers call it the navel of Sicily. (3) Near to it also are sacred groves, surrounded by marshy flats, and a huge grotto which contains a chasm which leads down into the earth and opens to the north. The myth relates that Plouton, coming out of the chasm with his chariot, effected the rape of Kore. And the violets, we are told, and the rest of the flowers which supply the sweet odour continue to bloom, to one’s amazement throughout the entire year, and so the whole aspect of the place is one of flowers and delight.

(4) And both Athena and Artemis, the myth goes on to say, who had made the same choice of maidenhood as had Kore and were reared together with her, joined with her in gathering the flowers, and all of them together wove the robe for their father Zeus. And because of the time they had spent together and their intimacy they all loved this island above any other, and each one of them received for her portion a territory, Athena receiving hers in the region of Himera, where the Nymphs, to please Athena, caused the springs of warm water​ to gush forth on the occasion of the visit of Herakles to the island, and the natives consecrated a city to her and a plot of ground which to this day is called Athena’s.

(5) And Artemis received from the gods the island at Syracuse which was named Ortygia after her, by both the oracles and men.​ On this island likewise these Nymphs, to please Artemis, caused a great fountain to gush forth to which was given the name Arethusa. (6) And not only in ancient times did this fountain contain large fish in great numbers, but also in our own day we find these fish still there, considered to be holy and not to be touched by men. On many occasions, when certain men have eaten them in the midst of the stress of war, the deity has shown a striking sign, and has delivered great sufferings to those who dared to take them for food.​ We will give an exact account of these matters in connection with the appropriate period of time.

Like the two goddesses whom we have mentioned [i.e. Athena and Artemis], we are told that Kore received as her portion the meadows around about Enna. But a great fountain was made sacred to her in the territory of Syracuse and given the name Kyane or “Azure fount.” (2) For the myth relates that it was near Syracuse that Plouton effected the Rape of Kore and took her away in his chariot, and that after cleaving the earth asunder he himself descended into Hades, taking along with him the bride whom he had seized, and that he caused the fountain named Cyanê to gush forth, near which the Syracusans each year hold a notable festive gathering. And private individuals offer the lesser victims, but when the ceremony is on behalf of the community, bulls are plunged in the pool, this manner of sacrifice having been commanded by Heracles on the occasion when he made the circuit of all Sicily, while driving off the cattle of Geryones.

(3) After the rape of Kore, the myth goes on to recount, Demeter, being unable to find her daughter, kindled torches in the craters of mount Aitna [now Etna] and visited many parts of the inhabited world. When people received her with the greatest favour, she conferred benefactions, rewarding them with the gift of the fruit of the wheat. (4) And since a kindlier welcome was extended the goddess by the Athenians than by any other people, they were the first after the Sikeliotians​ to be given the fruit of the wheat. And in return for this gift the citizens of that city in assembly honoured the goddess above all others with the establishment both of most notable sacrifices and of the mysteries of Eleusis. The mysteries of Eleusis have come to be famous among all humankind due to their very great antiquity and sanctity. From the Athenians many peoples received a portion of the gracious gift of the corn, and they in turn, sharing the gift of the seed with their neighbours, in this way caused all the inhabited world to abound with it.

[Customs related to Demeter and Kore]

(5) Due to the inhabitants of Sicily’s intimate relationship with Demeter and Kore, the Sikelians were the first to share in the corn after its discovery. They instituted to each one of the goddesses sacrifices and festive gatherings, which they named after them, and by the time chosen for these made acknowledgement of the gifts which had been conferred upon them. (6) In the case of Kore, for instance, they established the celebration of her return at about the time when the fruit of the corn was found to come to maturity. They celebrate this sacrifice and festive gathering with such strictness of observance and such enthusiasm as we should reasonably expect those men to show who are returning thanks for having been selected before all humankind for the greatest possible gift. (7) But in the case of Demeter they preferred that time for the sacrifice when the sowing of the corn is first begun, and for a period of ten days they hold a festive gathering which bears the name of this goddess and is most magnificent by reason of the brilliance of their preparation for it. At the same time, they imitate the ancient manner of life when they are observing it. It is their custom during these days to indulge in coarse language as they associate one with another, the reason being that by such coarseness the goddess, grieved though she was at the rape of Kore, burst into laughter.

That the rape of Kore took place in the manner we have described is attested by many ancient historians and poets. Karkinos​, the tragic poet, for instance, who often visited in Syracuse and witnessed the enthusiasm which the inhabitants displayed in the sacrifices and festive gatherings for both Demeter and Kore, has the following verses​ in his writings: “Demeter’s daughter, her whom none may name, / by secret schemings Plouton, men say, stole, / and then he dropped into earth’s depths, whose light / is darkness. Longing for the vanished girl / her mother searched and visited all lands / in turn. And Sicily’s land by Aitna’s crags / was filled with streams of fire which no man could / approach, and groaned throughout its length. In grief / over the maiden now the folk, beloved / of Zeus, was perishing without the corn. /  So they honour these goddesses even now.”

[Demeter’s contributions to civilization]

(2) But we should not omit to mention the very great benefaction which Demeter conferred upon humankind. For beside the fact that she was the discoverer of corn, she also taught humankind how to prepare it for food and introduced laws by obedience to which men became accustomed to the practice of justice. This is the reason, we are told, why she has been given the epithet Law-bringer (Thesmophoros).​ (3) Surely a benefaction greater than these discoveries of hers one could not find, for they embrace both living and living honourably. However, as for the myths which are current among the citizens of Sicily (Sikeliotians), we will be satisfied with what has been said.

[Sikanians as the first inhabitants of Sicily, whether immigrants or indigenous]

We must now write briefly about the Sikanians who were the first inhabitants of Sicily, in view of the fact that certain historians are not in agreement about them. Philistos,​ for instance, says that they moved from Iberia and settled the island, having got the name they bore from a certain river in Iberia named Sikanos. However, Timaios adduces proof of the ignorance of this historian and correctly declares that they were indigenous (autochthōnes). In so far as the evidence he offers of the antiquity of this people are many, we think that there is no need for us to recount them. (2) The Sikanians, then, originally made their homes in villages, building their settlements on the strongest hills because of the bandits (lēstai). For they had not yet been brought under the single rule of a king, but in each settlement, there was one man who was lord.

[Conflict between the Sikanians and Sikelians, and the foundation of Greek colonies on Sicily]

(3) At first, the Sikanians made their home in every part of the island and secured their food by tilling the land. But at a later time, when mount Aitna sent up volcanic eruptions in an increasing number of places and a great torrent of lava was poured forth over the land, it came to pass that a great stretch of the country was ruined. And since the fire kept consuming a large area of the land during an increasing number of years, in fear they left the eastern parts of Sicily and moved to the western parts. Finally, many generations later, the people (ethnos) of the Sikelians crossed over in a body from Italy into Sicily and made their home in the land which had been abandoned by the Sikanians. (4) Furthermore, since the Sikelians steadily grew more avaricious and kept ravaging the land which bordered on theirs, frequent wars arose between them and the Sikanians. Finally, they made covenants and set up boundaries, upon which they had agreed, for the territory. With regard to the Sikanians, we will give a detailed account in connection with the appropriate period of time.​

[Greek colonies, and the mixing of Sikanians, Sikelians, and Greeks into a single body of citizens]

(5) The colonies of the Greeks – and they were notable ones – were the last to be established in Sicily. The Greeks’ cities were founded on the sea. All the inhabitants mingled with one another, and since the Greeks came to the island in great numbers, the natives learned their speech. Then, having been brought up in the Greek ways of life, they lost in the end their barbarian speech as well as their name, all of them being called citizens of Sicily (Sikeliotians / Sikeliōtai).

[Peoples on the Aiolides islands] 

But since we have spoken about these matters at sufficient length we will now turn our discussion to the islands known as the Aiolides [now the Lipari islands].​ These islands are seven in number and bear the following names: Strongyle [Stromboli], Euonymos [Panaria], Didyme [Salina], Phoenicodes [Filicuri], Erikodes [Alicuri], Hiera Hephaistou [Vulcano],​ and Lipara [Lipari],​ on which is situated a city of the same name. (2) They lie between Sicily and Italy in a straight line from the Strait, extending from east to west. They are about one hundred and fifty stadium-lengths away from Sicily and are all of about the same size, and the largest one of them is about one hundred and fifty stadium-lengths in circumference.

(3) All of them have experienced great volcanic eruptions, and the resulting craters and openings may be seen to this day. On Strongyle and Hiera even at the present time there are sent forth from the open mouths great exhalations accompanied by an enormous roaring, and sand and a multitude of red-hot stones are erupted, as may also be seen taking place on mount Aitna. (4) The reason is, as some say, that passages lead under the earth from these islands to Aitna and are connected with the openings at both ends of them, and this is why the craters on these islands usually alternate in activity with those of Aitna.

[Lipara island]

(5) We are told that the islands of Aiolos​ were uninhabited in ancient times. But, later, Liparos, as he was called, the son of Auson the king, was overcome by his brothers who rebelled against him. Securing some war-ships and soldiers, Liparos fled from Italy to the island, which received the name Lipara after him. On it he founded the city which bears his name and brought under cultivation the other islands mentioned before. (6) When Liparos had already grown old, Aiolos son of Hippotes came to Lipara with certain companions and married Kyane daughter of Liparos. And after he had formed a government in which his followers and the natives shared equally, he became king over the island. To Liparos, who had a longing for Italy, Aiolos gave his help in securing for him the regions around Surrentum [Sorrento], where he became king and, after winning great esteem, ended his days. And after he had been accorded a magnificent funeral, he received at the hands of the natives honours equal to those offered to the heroes.

[Aiolis’ and his descendants’ contributions to civilization]

(7) This is the Aiolos to whom, the myth relates, Odysseus came in the course of his wanderings [Homer, Odyssey 10.1].​ He was, they say, pious, just and also kind in his treatment of foreigners. Furthermore, he introduced sea-farers to the use of sails. He had also learned, by long observation, what the fire​ of the volcano foretold and to predict with accuracy the local winds. This is why the myth has referred to him as the “keeper of the winds” (Odyssey, 10.21). And it was because of his very great piety that he was called a friend of the gods.

8  To Aiolos, we are told, sons were born to the number of six, Astyochos, Xouthos, and Androkles, and Pheraimon, Jocastos, and Agathyrnos. Every one of them received great approbation both because of the fame of their father and because of their own high achievements. Among them, Jocastus held fast to Italy and was king of the coast as far as the regions about Rhegion. But Pheraimon and Androkles were lords over Sicily from the Strait as far as the regions around Lilybaion [Marsala on Sicily].

Of this country the parts to the east were inhabited by Sikelians and those to the west by Sikanians. (2) These two peoples quarrelled with each other, but they rendered obedience of their own free will to the sons of Aiolos we have mentioned, both because of the piety of their father Aiolos, which was famed afar, and because of the fair-dealing of the sons themselves. Xouthos was king over the land in the neighbourhood of Leontinoi, which is known after him as “Xouthia” to this day. Agathyrnos, becoming king of the land now called Agathyrnitis, founded a city which was called after him Agathyrnos. Astyochos secured the lordship over Lipara. (3) All these men followed the example which their father had set for both piety and justice and hence were accorded great praise. Their descendants succeeded to their thrones over many generations, but in the end the kings of the house of Aiolos were overthrown throughout Sicily.

[Colonization by Knidos and Rhodes]

After this, the Sikelians put the leader­ship in each case in the hands of the ablest man, but the Sikanians quarrelled over the lordship and warred against each other during a long period of time. But many years later than these events, when the islands​ again were becoming steadily more destitute of inhabitants, certain men of Knidos and Rhodes, being resentful at the harsh treatment they were receiving at the hands of the kings of Asia, resolved to send out a colony. (2) Consequently they chose as their leader Pentathlos of Knidos – who traced his ancestry back to Hippotes, who was a descendant of Herakles – during the time of the fiftieth olympiad [i.e. imagined to take place ca. 580-576 BCE],​ when Epitelidas of Sparta won the running race (stadion). So these settlers of the company of Pentathlos sailed to Sicily to the regions around Lilybaion, where they found the inhabitants of Egesta and of Selinos at war with one another. (3) And being persuaded by the men of Selinos to take their side in the war, they suffered heavy losses in the battle, Pentathlos himself being among those who fell.

Consequently the survivors, since the men of Selinos had been defeated in the war, decided to return to their homes. And choosing for leaders Gorgos, Thestor and Epithersides, who were relatives of Pentathlos, they sailed off through the Tyrrhenian sea. (4) But when they put in at Lipara and received a kindly reception, they were prevailed upon to make common cause with the inhabitants of Lipara in forming a single community there, since of the colony of Aiolos there remained only about five hundred men. At a later time, because they were being harassed by the Tyrrhenians [perhaps Etruscans] who were engaging in banditry on the sea, they fitted out a fleet and divided themselves into two bodies. One group took over the cultivation of the islands which they had made the common property of the community, whereas the other group was to fight the bandits (lēstai). They also made their possessions common property, and living according to the public banqueting system,​ they passed their lives in this communal fashion for some time. (5) At a later time they apportioned among themselves the island of Lipara, where their city also lay, but cultivated the other islands in common. And in the final stage they divided all the islands among themselves for a period of twenty years, and then they cast lots for them again at every expiration of this period.​ After effecting this organization they defeated the Tyrrhenians in many sea-fights, and from their plunder they often made notable dedications of a tenth part, which they sent to Delphi. . . [omitted discussion of Lipara and Osteodes islands due to lack of attention to peoples].

[Melite island as a Phoenician colony]

12  But for our part, since we have set forth the facts concerning the islands of the Aiolides, we shall consider it appropriate to make mention in turn of the islands which lie on the other side.​ For off the south of Sicily three islands lie out in the sea, and each of them possesses a city and harbours which can offer safety to ships which are in stress of weather. (2) The first one is that called Melitê (modern Malta),​ which lies about eight hundred stadium-lengths from Syracuse, and it possesses many harbours which offer exceptional advantages, and its inhabitants are blest in their possessions. For it has artisans skilled in every manner of craft, the most important being those who weave linen, which is remarkably sheer and soft, and the dwellings on the island are worthy of note, being ambitiously constructed with cornices and finished in stucco with unusual workman­ship. (3) This island is a colony planted by the Phoenicians, who, as they extended their trade to the western ocean, found in it a place of safe retreat, since it was well supplied with harbours and lay out in the open sea. And this is the reason why the inhabitants of this island, since they received assistance in many respects through the sea-merchants, shot up quickly in their manner of living and increased in renown.

[Gaulos and Kerkina islands]

(4) After this island there is a second which bears the name of Gaulos [Gozo],​ lying out in the open sea and adorned with well-situated harbours, a Phoenician colony. Next comes Kerkina [modern Kerkenna or Kerkenah],​ facing Libya, which has a modest city and most serviceable harbours which have accommodations not only for merchant vessels but even for ships of war.

But now that we have spoken of the islands which are to the south of Sicily, we shall turn back to those which follow upon Lipara and lie in the sea known as the Tyrrhenian sea. . . [omitted discussion of Aithaleia island].

[Peoples on Kyrnos / Corsica island: Tyrrhenians and slavish but morally superior Kyrnian “barbarians”]

13 . . . (3) After Aithaleia there is an island, some three hundred stadium-lengths distant, which is called Kyrnos by the Greeks but Corsica by the Romans and those who live there. This island, being easy to land on, has a most excellent harbour which is called Syracosium. There are also on it two notable cities, the one being known as Kalaris and the other as Nikaia. (4) Kalaris​ [Roman Aleria] was founded by Phokaians, who made their home there for a time and were then driven out of the island by Tyrrhenians. But Nikaia was founded by Tyrrhenians at the time they were masters of the sea and were taking possession of the islands lying off Tyrrhenia. They were lords of the cities of Kyrnos for a considerable period and exacted tribute of the inhabitants in the form of resin, wax, and honey, since these things were found in the island in abundance. (5) Slaves from Kyrnos are reputed to be superior to all others for every service which the life of man demands, nature herself giving them this characteristic.​ And the entire island, which is very large, has mountainous land over much of its area, which is thickly covered with continuous forests and traversed by small rivers.

14  For their food, the inhabitants of Kyrnos use milk, honey and meat, the land providing all these in abundance. Among themselves they live lives of honour and justice, to a degree surpassing practically by all other barbarians. Any honeycomb, for instance, which may be found in the trees on the mountainside belongs to the first man to find it, no one disputing his claim. Their cattle are distinguished by brands, and even though no man may watch over them, they are still kept safe for their owners. In every other dimension of life it is amazing how they revere uprightness before everything else. (2) But the most amazing thing which takes place among them is connected with the birth of their children: When the wife is about to give birth, she is the object of no concern as regards her delivery. Rather, it is her husband who lays in bed, as though sick, and he practises sympathy pains for a specified number of days, pretending that his body is in pain. (3) There also grows in this island box-wood in great abundance and of excellent quality, and it is due to it that the honey of the island is altogether bitter. And the island is inhabited by barbarians who have a language which is different from others and hard to understand, and there are more than thirty thousand of them.

[Iolaeians and colonization by Herakles’ descendants on Sardinia]

15  Adjoining Kyrnos is an island which is called Sardinia. It is about equal in size to Sicily and is inhabited by barbarians who bear the name of Iolaeians. They are thought to be descendants of the men who settled there along with Iolaos and the Thespiadians. For at the time when Herakles was accomplishing his famous labours, he had many sons by the daughters of Thespios. Herakles sent these descendants to Sardinia in accordance with a certain oracle. He sent along with them a notable force composed of both Greeks and barbarians, in order to plant a colony. (2) Iolaos, the nephew of Herakles, was in charge of the undertaking, and taking possession of the island he founded in it notable cities. When he had divided the land into allotments, he called the populations (laoi) of the colony Iolaeians (Iolaeis) after himself. He also constructed gymnasia and temples to the gods and everything else which contributes to making people’s lives happy, with memorials of this remaining even to this day. The fairest plains there derive their name from him and are called “Iolaeia,” and the whole body of the people preserve to the present the name which they took from Iolaos.

(3) Now the oracle regarding the colony contained also the promise that the participants in this colony should maintain their freedom for all time, and it has indeed come to pass that the oracle, contrary to what one would expect, has preserved autonomy for the natives unshaken to this day. (4) Thus the Carthaginians, though their power extended far and they subdued the island, were not able to enslave its former possessors, but the Iolaeians fled for safety to the mountainous part of the island and built underground dwellings. There they raised many flocks and herds which supplied them with food in abundance, so that they were able to maintain themselves on a diet of milk, cheese and meat. And since they had retired from the plain country, they avoided the hardship which accompanies labour, but ranged over the mountainous part of the island and led a life which had no share in hardship, in that they continued to use the foods mentioned above. (5) The Carthaginians made war upon them many times with considerable armies. Yet because of the rugged nature of the country and the difficulty of dealing with their dug-out dwellings, the people remained unenslaved. Last of all, when the Romans conquered the island and frequently made war on them, they remained unsubdued by the troops of an enemy for the reasons we have mentioned.

(6) In the early period, however, Iolaos, after helping to establish the affairs of the colony, returned to Greece, but the Thespiadians were the chief men of the island for many generations until finally they were driven out into Italy, where they settled in the region of Cyme [modern Cumae]. The mass of the colonists who were left behind became barbarized. Choosing the best among the natives to be their chieftains, they have maintained their freedom down to our own day.

[For Diodoros’ subsequent discussion of Baliaridians off the coast of Iberia, go to this link].


[For Diodoros’ preceding discussion of Medes, go to this link.]

[Conflict between Tarantinians and Iapygians]

(11.52) When Menon was archon in Athens, the Romans chose as consuls Lucius Aemilius Mamercus and Gaius Cornelius Lentulus, and in Italy a war broke out between the Tarantinians [in Taranto, Italy] and the Iapygians [in modern Apulia, Italy, ca. 473 BCE]. (2) For these peoples, disputing with each other over some land on their borders, had been engaging for some years in skirmishess and in raids on each other’s territory, and since the difference between them kept constantly increasing and frequently resulted in deaths, they finally rushed into full on competition for honour.

Now the Iapygians not only made ready the army of their own men but they also joined with them an auxiliary force of more than twenty thousand soldiers. And the Tarantinians, on learning of the great size of the army gathered against them, both gathered together the soldiers of the city and added to them many more of the Rhegians, who were their allies. A fierce battle took place and many fell on both sides, but in the end the Iapygians were victorious. When the defeated army split in the flight into two bodies, the one retreating to Tarenton and the other fleeing to Rhegion, the Iapygians, following their example, also divided. Those who pursued the Tarantini, the distance being short, slew many of the enemy, but those who were pressing after the Rhegians were so eager that they broke into Rhegium together with the fugitives and took possession of the city. . . [omitted material about other military activities of Syracuse].

[Conflict between Sikelians and Katanians

(11.76) . . . While these events were taking place [ca. 461 BCE], Douketios, the leader of the Sikelians (Sikeloi) led an army against them, because he harboured a grudge against the inhabitants of Katana [modern Catania, Sicily] due to the fact that they had robbed the Sikelians of their land. And since the Syracusans [i.e. Greeks] had likewise sent an army against Katana, they and the Sikelians joined in portioning out the land in allotments among themselves and made war upon the settlers who had been sent by Hieron when he was ruler of Syracuse.​ The Katanians opposed them with weapons, but were defeated in a number of engagements and were expelled from Katana, and they took possession of what is now Aitna, which was formerly called Inessa, and the original inhabitants of Katana, after a long period, got back their native city.

After these events the peoples who had been expelled from their own cities while Hieron was king, now that they had assistance in struggle, returned to their fatherlands and expelled from their cities the men who had wrongfully seized for themselves the habitations of others, among these were inhabitants of Gela, Akragas, and Himera. In a similar manner Rhegians along with Zanklians expelled the sons of Anaxilas, who were ruling over them, and liberated their homelands.​ Later on Geloans, who had been the original settlers of Kamarina, portioned that land out in allotments. And practically all the cities, being eager to make an end of the wars, came to a common decision, whereby they made terms with the mercenaries in their midst. They then received back the exiles and restored the cities to the original citizens,​ but to the mercenaries who because of the former tyrannical governments were in possession of the cities belonging to others, they gave permission to take with them their own goods and to settle one and all in Messenia. In this manner, then, an end was put to the civil wars and disorders which had prevailed throughout the cities of Sicily, and the cities, after driving out the forms of government which foreigners had introduced, with almost no exceptions portioned out their lands in allotments among all their citizens. . . [omitted sections].

(11.78) . . . While these events were taking place [i.e. when the Athenians and Aeginetans were engaged in battle, ca. 459 BCE], in Sicily the king of the Sikelians, Douketios, a man of famous family and influential at this time, founded the city of Menainon and distributed the neighbouring territory among the settlers, and making a campaign against the strong city of Morgantina and reducing it, he won fame among his own people (homoethneis). . . [omitted discussions of Greek colonies at war with one another].

[Conflict between Syracusans and Tyrrhenians]

(11.88) As for the events in Sicily [ca. 453 BCE], since the Tyrrhenians were practising banditry at sea, the Syracusans chose Phayllon as admiral and sent him to Tyrrhenia. He sailed at first to the island known as Aithaleia​ [modern Elba island off of northwestern Italy] and ravaged it, but he secretly accepted a bribe of money from the Tyrrhenians and sailed back to Sicily without having accomplished anything worthy of mention. The Syracusans found him guilty of treachery and exiled him, and choosing another general, Apelles, they dispatched him with sixty ships with three banks of oars (triremes) against the Tyrrhenians. Apelles overran the coast of Tyrrhenia and then passed over to Kyrnos [modern Corsica island, France],​ which was held at those times by the Tyrrhenians. After sacking many places in this island and subduing Aithaleia, he returned to Syracuse accompanied by a multitude of captives and a considerable amount of plunder.

[Sikelians under Douketios’ leadership]

After this, Douketios, the leader of the Sikelians, gathered all the cities of their peoples, with the exception of Hybla, into one and a common federation, and being an energetic man, he was always grasping after innovations, and so he gathered a large army from the Sicilian League and removed the city of Menas, which was his homeland, and planted it in the plain. Also near the sacred precinct of the Palikian gods (Palikoi), as the deities are called, he founded an important city, which he named Palike after the gods just mentioned.

[Sanctuary of the native Palikian gods]

(11.89) Since we have spoken of these Palikian gods, we should not omit mention of both the antiquity and the incredible nature of the sanctuary and, to put it briefly, the peculiar phenomenon of “the Craters” [near Mount Aetna on northeastern Sicily],​ as they are called. The myth relates that this sacred area surpasses all others in antiquity and the reverence paid to it, and many marvels there are reported by tradition.

First of all, there are craters which are not at all large in size, but they throw up extraordinary streams of water from a depth beyond description and have very much the nature of cauldrons which are heated by a strong fire and throw up boiling water. Now the water that is thrown up gives the impression of being boiling hot. But this is not known for certain because of the fact that no man dares touch it, because the amazement caused by the spout of water is so great that men believe the phenomenon to be due to some divine power. For not only does the water give out a strongly sulphurous smell but the yawning mouth emits a mighty and terrifying roar. And what is still more astonishing than this, the water neither pours over nor recedes, but has a motion and force in its current that lifts it to a marvellous height.

Since so divine a majesty pervades the sacred area, the most sacred oaths are taken there and men who swear falsely are immediately overtaken by the punishment of heaven. Thus, certain men have lost their sight when they depart from the sacred sanctuary. The deities of this sanctuary are so awesome that men who are pressing claims, when, for instance, they are being overborne by a person of superior dignity, have their claims adjudicated on the strength of the preliminary examination of the witnesses supported by oaths taken in the name of these deities.

This sacred area has also been recognized for some time as a place of sanctuary and has been a source of great aid to luckless slaves who have fallen into the hands of brutal masters. For if slaves have fled there for refuge, their masters have no power to remove them by force. They remain there protected from harm until their masters, having gained their consent upon conditions of humane treatment and having given pledges, supported by such oaths, to fulfil their agreements, lead them away. There are no recorded cases in history of a violation out of all who have given slaves such a pledge as this. The recognition of the awesome nature of these gods make those who have taken the oath faithful to their slaves.

The sacred area, which lies on a plain appropriate for a god, has been appropriately embellished with colonnades and every other kind of place for lounging. But let what we have said suffice for this subject, and we will return to the narrative at the point where our history broke off.

[Further incidents involving Douketios and the Sikelians]

(11.90)  Douketios, after founding Palike and enclosing it with strong walls, portioned out the neighbouring countryside in allotments. And it came to pass that this city, on account of the fertility of the soil and the multitude of the colonists, enjoyed a rapid growth. It did not, however, prosper for long, but was razed to the ground and has remained without habitation until our own day. Regarding this we will give a detailed account in connection with the appropriate period of time.

(11.91) When Antidotos was archon in Athens, the Romans elected as consuls Lucius Postumius and Marcus Horatius [ca. 451 BCE]. During this year Douketios, who held the leader­ship of the Sikelians, seized the city of Aitna, having treacherously killed its leader, and then he moved with an army into the territory of the Akragantinoi [modern Agrigento] and laid siege to Motyon [modern Mozia], which was held by a garrison of Akragantinoi. And when the Akragantinoi and the Syracusans came to the aid of the city, he joined battle with them, was successful, and drove them both out of their camps. But since at the time winter was setting in, they separated and returned to their homes, and the Syracusans [i.e. Greeks] found their general Bolkon, who was responsible for the defeat and was thought to have had secret dealings with Douketios, guilty of treason and put him to death.

With the beginning of summer they appointed a new general, to whom they assigned a strong army with orders to subdue Douketios. This general, setting out with his army, came upon Douketios while he was encamped near Nomai, a fierce struggle ensued and many died on both sides. However, with difficulty the Syracusans over­powered and defeated the Sikelians, killing many of them as they fled. Among those who survived the battle the larger number found safety in the strongholds of the Sikelians, but a few chose to share the hopes of Douketios.

While these things were taking place, the Akragantinoi forced the capitulation of the stronghold of Motyon, which was held by the Sikelians who stayed with Douketios. Then, uniting their troops with the Syracusans who had already won the victory, they now camped together. As for Douketios, now that he had been completely crushed by his defeat and that some of his soldiers were deserting and others plotting against him, he had come to the depths of despair.

[Douketios surrenders to the Syracusans]

(11.92) Finally, when Douketios saw that his remaining friends were about to lay hands upon him, he anticipated them by slipping away at night and riding off to Syracuse. While it was still night, he entered the market-place of the Syracusans. Seating himself at the altars he became a suppliant of the city, placing both his person and the land which he controlled at the disposition of the Syracusans. When the multitude poured into the market-place in amazement at the unexpected event, the magistrates called a meeting of the assembly and laid before it the question of what should be done with Douketios. Some of those who were accustomed to seek favour with the people advised that they should punish him as an enemy and inflict on him for his actions the appropriate penalty.

But the more fair-minded of the elder citizens came forward and declared it as their opinion that they should spare the suppliant and show due regard for Fortune and the wrath of the gods. The people should consider, they continued, not what punishment Douketios deserved, but what action was proper for the Syracusans. Slaying the victim of Fortune was not appropriate, but to maintain reverence for the gods as well as to spare the suppliant was an act worthy of the magnanimity of the people. At that point, the people cried out as with one voice from every side to spare the suppliant. The Syracusans, accordingly, released Douketios from punishment and sent him off to Corinth, ordering him to spend his life in that city and also giving him sufficient means for this his support. Since we are now at the year preceding the campaign of the Athenians against Cyprus under the leader­ship of Kimon, pursuant to the plan announced at the beginning of this book​ we here bring it to an end.

[For Diodoros’ subsequent discussion of the Celts and the fourth century invasion of Italy, go to this link]


Source of translation: C. H. Oldfather, Diodorus Sicilus: Library of History, volumes 1-6, LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1935-1952), public domain (passed away in 1954), adapted by Victoria Muccilli and Harland.

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