colony founded at the S edge of the Campi Leontini
(modern piana di Catania). First inhabited by the Sikels,
in the second half of the 8th c. B.C. (ca. 729), it was
occupied by the Chalkidians of Naxos led by the Oikistes
Theokles; Thucydides (6:3
) mentions that the Sikels
were forcibly expelled (cf. Polyaenus, Strat
For the entire archaic period Leontinoi was autonomous. It was conquered by Hippokrates in 495 B.C., and
was restored to freedom only after 466 B.C. In 427 it
asked for Athenian help against Syracuse (Diod. 12:53
and was Athens' ally during the Sicilian expedition.
Occupied by the Syracusans in 422 B.C, it regained independence for brief intervals but was virtually dominated by the Syracusan rulers throughout the 4th and
3d c. B.C. It was conquered by the Romans in 215 B.C.
The ancient city lay beyond the hills to the S of present-day Lentini in Valle S. Mauro, which is flanked by
two series of steep rises sloping from S to N. Polybios
(7:6), in describing the city's topography, locates the
agora within the valley with a city gate at either end, the
Syracusan Gate to the S and the gate leading to the
Campi Leontini to the N.
In 1950, at the far end of the Valle S. Mauro the S
gate of the city was discovered. One phase dates to the
beginning of the 6th c. B.C., the other to the middle of the
5th c. At the end of the century it was demolished together with the surrounding fortifications, and during the
4th and 3d c. it lay under the rising ground level and was
covered by a necropolis. A third defensive work, following the plan of the earlier gate, was hastily built at the
end of the 3d c. over the cemetery strata.
The gateway opened at the center of a pincer-like
fortification whose projections to the E and W embraced the edges of the overhanging hills of Metapiccola
and S. Mauro. The circuit wall has been uncovered for
a few hundred meters and is still in an excellent state
of preservation. The various chronological phases are
reflected in the different construction techniques. On S.
Mauro, besides the structures connected with the various
phases of the gate, an earlier wall has been uncovered; it
was built with large blocks set as headers, and belongs
to the time when the city extended only over S. Mauro
or part of it.
Some archaic houses have been identified within the
walls, and the summit of the hill, near the Aletta dwelling, has yielded numerous architectural terracottas from
a temple now no longer visible.
On the opposite hill (Metapiccola) remains of houses
and the foundations of an archaic temple have been
found. On the plateau at the summit of the hill were
identified the remains of a Sikel village of the Iron
Two native cemeteries have been identified and explored in the Valle S. Eligio to the E, and in the Valle
Ruccia to the W. The graves are in the shape of small
artificial grottos and are largely preserved.
The finds from the excavations carried out since 1950
are housed in the Archaeological Museum of Lentini,
where they are arranged chronologically and with specific
reference to the major phases of the city's life.
P. Orsi, “Scavi di Leontini-Lentini”
(1930) 7-39 with previous bibliography;
P. Griffo, “Lentini. Campagna Topografica e scavi in
località varie,” Le Arti
3 (1940-41) 212; G. Rizza, “Note
di topografia lentinese,” Sic. Gym
. (1949) 276-84; id.,
“Gli scavi di Leontini e il problema della topografia della
città,” Sic. Gym
. (1951) 190-98; id., “Scavi e ricerche
nella città di Leontini negli anni 1951-1953,” BdA
69-73; id., “Leontini. Campagne di scavi degli anni
1950-1952: la necropoli nella valle S. Mauro; le fortificazioni meridionali della città e la porta di Siracusa,”
(1955) 281-376; id., “Leontini. Scavi e ricerche degli
anni 1954-1955,” BdA
(1957) 63-73; id., “Precisazioni
sulla cronologia del primo strato della necropoli di Leontini,” ArchCl
11 (1959) 78-86; id., “Siculi e Greci sui
colli di Leontini,” Cronache di Archeologia
1-27; id., “Stipe votiva sul colle di Metapiccola a Leontini,” BdA
(1963) 342-47; D. Adamesteanu, “Lentini.
Scavo nell'area sacra della città di Leontini,” NSc