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AEGA´TES, I´NSULAE, the name given to a group of three small islands, lying off the western extremity of Sicily, nearly opposite to Drepanum and Lilybaeum. The name is supposed to be derived from the Greek Αἰγάδες, the “Goat islands;” but this form is not found in any Greek author, and the Latin writers have universally Aegates. Silius Italicus also (1.61) makes the second syllable long. 1. The westernmost of the three, which is distant about 22 G. miles from the coast of Sicily, was called HIERA (Ἱερὰ νῆσος, Ptol. Polyb. Diod.); but at a later period obtained the name of MARITIMA, from its lying so far out to sea (Itin. Marit. p. 492), and [p. 1.32]is still called Maretimo.. 2. The southernmost and nearest to Lilybaeum, is called, both by Ptolemy and Pliny, AEGUSA (Αἰγοῦσα); but the latter erroneously confounds it with Aethusa. It is the largest of the three, on which account its name was sometimes extended to the whole group (αἱ καλούμεναι Αἰγοῦδαι, Pol. 1.44); it is now called Favignana, and has a considerable population. 3. The northern-most and smallest of the group, nearly opposite to Drepanum, is called by Ptolemy PHORBANTIA (φορξαντία), but is probably the same with the BUCINNA of Pliny, a name erroneously supposed by Steph. B. sub voce (s. v. Βούκιννα) to be that of a city of Sicily. It is now called Levanzo. (Ptol. 3.4.17; Plin. Nat. 3.8.s. 14; Smyth's Sicily, pp.244--247.)

These islands derive an historical celebrity from the great naval victory obtained by C. Lutatius Catulus over the Carthaginians in B.C. 241, which put an end to the First Punic War. Hanno, the Carthaginian admiral, had previous to the battle taken up his station at the island of Hiera, and endeavoured to take advantage of a fair wind to run straight in to Drepanum, in order to relieve the army of Hamilcar Barca, then blockaded on Mount Eryx; but he was intercepted by Catulus, and compelled to engage on disadvantageous terms. The consequence was the complete defeat of the Carthaginian fleet, of which 50 ships were sunk, and 70 taken by the enemy, with nearly 10,000 prisoners. (Pol. 1. 60, 61; Diod. xxiv. Exc. H. p. 509; Liv. Epit. xix.; Oros. 4.10; Flor. 2.1; Eutrop. 2.27; Corn. Nep. Hamilc. 1; Mela, 2.7; Sil. Ital. 1.61.)

The island of Aegusa has been supposed by many writers to be the one described by Homer in the Odyssey (9.116)) as lying opposite to the land of the Cyclopes, and abounding in wild goats. But all such attempts to identify the localities described in the wanderings of Ulysses may be safely dismissed as untenable.


hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Homer, Odyssey, 9.116
    • Cornelius Nepos, Hamilcar, 1
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.8
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.4
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