Thucydides’ History, Book 6

Chapter 1

During the same winter, the Athenians, having sailed to Sicily, wished again to subdue it by greater armaments than those with Laches and Eurymedon1, if they could, although the majority were ignorant of the size of the island and of the number of the inhabitants, both of the Hellenes2 and of the barbarians, and that they were taking up a battle not lesser by any great amount than that for the Peloponnesus. For the circumnavigation of Sicily in a merchant man takes not much less than eight days, and although being so large the mainland was separated by a length of sea only about twenty stadia3.

Chapter 2

It was settled thus from ancient times, and tribes such as follows held the whole island. The Cyclops4 and the Laestrygonians5 are said to be the most ancient inhabitants in a certain portion of the land, but I am able to say neither what race they were nor whence they came or whither they departed. Suffice to say that it has been spoken of by the poets and that everyone somehow knows about them. After them, the first inhabitants are clearly the Sicanians, and perhaps even earlier, so they say, on account of being sprung from the land itself, but when the truth was discovered, they were actually Iberians from the Sicanos River in Iberia, but made to leave by the Ligurians. And because of them, the island is sometimes called Sicania, earlier called Trinakria. They still live there now, in the parts toward west Sicily. After Ilium6 was captured, some of the Trojans, escaping the Achaeans7 by ships, arrived at Sicily8, and so, bordering on the Sicanians, they dwelled all together and were called Elymoi, and their cities were Erux and Egesta. Some of the Phocians from Troy settled with them at that time, brought ashore by a storm first to Libya, and thereupon to Sicily. And the Sicilians from Italy (for they dwelled there), crossed over to Sicily, fleeing the Opici on rafts, so it is said and it is reasonable to believe, having watched the strait for a wind to come upon them, but they may also have sailed in some other way. And there are now Sicilians still in Italy, and the land was thusly named Italy from Italus, a certain king of the Sicilians of that name. And having come to Sicily as a large army, and being stronger than the Sicanians in battle, they repelled them to the southern and the western parts9 of it, and instead of Sicania, they decided to call the island Sicily, and by holding it, they inhabited the wealthiest parts of the land, and since they crossed over about three-hundred years passed before the Hellenes came to Sicily; and even now they still hold the middle and the north of the island. And the Phoenicians dwell all around Sicily, having taken the headlands over the sea, and the islets lying off the coast, for the sake of commerce with the Sicilians; but when the many Hellenes sailed after them by the sea, they abandoned the larger and distributed Motye, and Soleis, and Panormus amongst themselves and jointly colonized them, near the Elymoi, trusting in an alliance with the Elymoi, and because from there, Carthage was the shortest voyage from Sicily. Such, then, were the Barbarians also dwelling in Sicily.

1. Laches and Eurymedon were Athenian generals.
2. The Greeks called themselves Hellenes, and Greece Hellas.
3. A stade is about 600 metres. Twenty stadia would be about 12 kilometres (about 7 ½ miles).
4. The one-eyed servants of the god, Hephaestus.
5. Said to be cannibals.
6. The city of Troy.
7. The Achaeans occupied Hellas before the Hellenes. We would call them the Myceneans.
8. For more about the Trojans at Sicily, see my previous post, translating Livy.
9. The Greek directions, τὰ μεσημβρινὰ καὶ ἑσπέρια (ta mesembrina kai hesperia), mean literally, “the noontide (parts) and the eventide (parts)”, when the sun is furthest in the southern and western skies, respectively.

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