previous next


CENTU´RIPA or CENTU´RIPI (τὰ Κεντόριπα, Thuc., Diod., Strab., &c.; Κεντούριπαι, Ptol.: Eth. Κεντοριρῖνος, Eth. Centuripinus: Centorbi), a city in the interior of Sicily, situated on a lofty hill, to the SW. of Mount Aetna, from which it was separated by the valley of the Symaethus (Simeto), and 24 miles NW. of Catana (Strab. vi. p.272; Ptol. 3.4.13; Itin. Ant. p. 93.) It is first mentioned by Thucydides, from whom we learn that it was a city of the Siculi, and appears to have been from a very early period one of the most important [p. 1.586]of the strongholds of that people. Hence, at the time of the Athenian expedition (B.C. 414), its commanders thought it worth while to march with their whole force against Centuripa, which was induced to enter into a treaty of alliance with them, and subsequently rendered them good service by attacking the auxiliaries of the Syracusans on their march through the interior of the island. (Thuc. 6.96, 7.32.) We are told, indeed, that Gellias of Agrigentum, who was sent thither as ambassador by his countrymen, treated the Centuripans with contempt, as the people of a poor and insignificant city; but this must be understood only with reference to the great Greek colonies, not the Siculian cities. (Diod. 13.83.) Shortly after we find Dionysius the Elder, in B.C. 396, concluding an alliance with the ruler of Centuripa, a despot named Damon; but he does not appear to have ever reduced the city under his subjection. (Id. 14.78.) In the time of Timoleon it was governed by another despot named Nicodemus, who was expelled by the Corinthian general, and the city restored to liberty, B.C. 339 (Id. 16.82): but it subsequently fell into the power of Agathocles, who occupied it with a garrison. During the wars of that monarch with the Carthaginians however, Centuripa, after some ineffectual attempts to throw off his yoke, succeeded in recovering its independence, which it was thenceforth able to maintain. (Id. 19.103, 20.56.) Shortly before the First Punic War we find the Centuripans in alliance with Hieron of Syracuse, whom they assisted against the Mamertines, and from whom they received a grant of part of the territory of Ameselum, which that monarch had destroyed. (Id. 22.13, Exc. Hoesch. p. 499; Pol. 1.9.)

But this alliance had the effect of drawing upon them the Roman arms, and in the second campaign of the war Centuripa was besieged by the consuls Otacilius and Valerius Messala. It was during this siege that the envoys of numerous Sicilian cities hastened to make their submission to Rome, and though not expressly mentioned, it is evident that Centuripa itself must have early followed the example, as we find it admitted to peculiarly favourable terms, and Cicero speaks of it as having been the faithful ally of the Romans throughout their subsequent wars in Sicily. (Diod. xxiii. Exc. H. p. 501; Cic. Ver. 5.32) In the time of the great orator it was one of the five cities of Sicily which enjoyed the privilege of freedom and immunity from all taxation: and so much had it prospered under these advantages, that it was one of the largest and most wealthy cities in the island. Its citizens amounted to not less than 10.000 in number, and were principally occupied with agriculture ; besides the territory of the city itself which was extensive, and one of the most fertile corn-producing tracts in the whole island, they occupied and tilled a large part of the neighbouring territories of Aetna and Leontini, as well as other districts in more distant quarters of the island, so that the “aratores Centuripini” were the most numerous and wealthy body of their class in the whole province. (Cic. Ver. 2.67, 69, 3.6, 45, 48, 4.23.) They suffered severely from the exactions of Verres, and still more at a somewhat later period from those of Sex. Pompeius. Their services against the latter were rewarded by Augustus, who restored their city, and it was doubtless at this period that they obtained the Latin franchise, of which we find them in possession in the time of Pliny. (Strab. vi. p.272; Plin. Nat. 3.8. s. 14.) But it seems probable that the prosperity of the city declined under the empire, and we hear little more of Centuripa from this time, though the name is found in Ptolemy and the Itineraries, and it seems to have continued to occupy the ancient site down to the 13th century, when it was destroyed by the emperor Frederic II. The modern town of Centorbi has, however, grown up again upon the ancient site, and still presents some ruins of the Roman city, especially the remains of the walls that crowned the lofty and precipitous hill, on the summit of which it stood: as well as the ruins of cisterns, thermae, and other ancient edifices. (Ptol. 3.4.13; Itin. Ant. p. 93; Tab. Peut.; Fazell. de Reb. Sic. x. p. 429; Biscari, Viaggio per la Sicilia, p. 53.) Numerous painted vases of pure Greek style have been discovered in sepulchres in the immediate neighbourhood. (Biscari, l.c. p. 55; Ann. d. Inst. 1835, p. 27--47.)

Pliny speaks of the territory of Centuripa as producing excellent saffron, as well as salt, which last was remarkable for its purple colour. (Plin. Nat. 21.6. s. 17, 31.7. s. 41; Solin. 5. § § 13, 19.) It was the birth-place of the physician Appuleius Celsus. (Scriben. Larg. de Comp. Medic. 100.171.)



hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: