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The remains of an archaic city on the plateau of Monte Casale, ca. 12 km to the W of Palazzolo (ancient Akrai). A colony of Syracuse, it was founded, according to Thucydides (6.5.3), 90 years after the mother city, ca. 643 B.C. Herodotos (7.155) reports that ca. 485 B.C. Gelon removed the Syracusan Gamoroi from this city and brought them back to their home city, from which they had been expelled by the people in league with the slaves. A fragment of Philistos (Jacoby, 3 B.559, fr. 5), as emended by Pais, affirms that Kasmenai sided with Syracuse during its struggle against the rebellious Kamarina and its Sikel allies in 553-552 B.C. And in 357 Dion, after landing at Heraklea Minoa, seems to have recruited troops at Kasmenai on his way to Syracuse (Diod.Sic. 16.9.5). Insiguificant mentions of the colony occur also in Stephanos of Byzantium and in scholia to Thucydides (ed. Didot, p. 102).

On a plateau at the edge of Monte Casale are the ruins of a circuit wall built with enormous blocks only roughly shaped. It was ca. 3400 m in length, 3 m thick, with external rectangular towers. Within the circuit the city comprised at least 38 parallel streets (ca. 3 m wide), running from NW to SE, with blocks usually no wider than 25 m. The E-W traffic utilized alleys of irregular width since the houses were aligned only along their N side. This system appears at first glance comparable to what is usually called per strigas, but it should be noted that, although stenopoi are amply attested, this settlement lacked proper orthogonal streets and especially major traffic axes, the typical plateiai of the Hippodamian cities. The four plateiai believed to have been identified through aerial photography have not yet been confirmed by systematic excavation. For the present the city must be considered, on the basis of the test excavations, pre-Hippodamian in type, with a plan that can be dated, to the second half of the 7th c. B.C.

The importance of the town's urban system for the studies of Greek and particularly Sicilian city planning lies in the very fact that it allows us to pinpoint between the end of the 7th and the first half of the 6th c., the transition, at least in the W, from the system with parallel streets to the more sophisticated Hippodamian type, such as we see it at Selinus, Akragas, Metapontion, and Poseidonia.

If in fact the Sicilian Greeks had already known the system per strigas during the second half of the 7th c., it seems logical that they would have employed it at Kasmenai, which started as a military colony and was therefore almost “prefabricated,” thus offering the most favorable conditions for realizing on the ground the ideal model for urban planning.

The colony was started here on the natural penetration route of Syracuse toward the interior of the island purely for military reasons, as is amply attested by the powerful wall circuit already mentioned and by the large quantity of iron weapons from the temenos of a temple which excavations have brought to light in the W corner of the plateau. From this early temple, part of the architectural and sculptural decoration in polychrome terracotta have been recovered and at least three inscriptions from the 6th c. In the necropolis the cist and chamber tombs are typically Greek. The city's main function as a military colony ceased rather early and it apparently ceased to exist at the end of the 4th c. B.C.


A. Di Vita, “La penetrazione siracusana nella Sicilia sud-orientale alla luce delle più recenti scoperte archeologiche,” Kokalos 2 (1956) 177ff, 186-196 with previous bibl.; id., EAA 4 (1961) 329-30; id., “Un contributo all'urbanistica greca di Sicilia: Casmene,” Atti del Settimo Congresso Internazionale di Archeologia Classica 2 (1961) 69-77; id., “Per l'architettura e l'urbanistica greca d'età arcaica: la stoa nel témenos del Tempio C e lo sviluppo programmato di Selinunte,” Palladio 17, 1-4 (1967) 46-47 and n. 183; L. H. Jeffery, The Local Scripts of Archaic Greece (1961) 268, pl. 54, n. 15; D. Adamesteanu, “Contributo della aerofototeca archeologica del Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione alla soluzione di problemi di topografia antica in Italia,” Tenth Congress of International Society of Photogrammetry, Commission VII (1964) 62-63 fig. 11; G. Voza, Kokalos 14-15 (1968-69) 359-60.


hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.9.5
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.155
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.5.3
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