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E´CNOMUS (Ἔκνομος), a hill on the S. coast of Sicily, between Agrigentum and Gela, at the mouth of the river Himera (Salso). According to Diodorus (19.108), the tyrant Phalaris had a castle on this hill, in which he kept his celebrated brazen bull; and the spot derived its name from this circumstance. The etymology is obviously fanciful; but it seems clear that the site was inhabited at an early period, though there was no city there, for Plutarch tells us that Dion, in his advance against Syracuse (B.C. 357), was joined by the Agrigentine knights who [p. 1.805]dwelt about Ecnomus. (Plut. Dion. 26.) It was subsequently occupied and fortified by the Carthaginians in their wars against Agathocles; and, in B.C. 311, witnessed a great defeat of the Syracusan tyrant by the former people. On this occasion the Carthaginians under Hamilcar had established their camp immediately adjoining Ecnomus, on the right bank of the Himera; while Agathocles occupied a hill on the opposite side of the river, where there was also a fortified post, ascribed to Phalaris, and called after him Phalarium. The details of the action, as related by Diodorus (19.107-110), entirely agree with this account of the position of the two armies, and with the actual nature of the ground: the localities have been fully described by D'Orville (Sicula, pp. 112, 113), who has clearly established the true position of Ecnomus. The hill to which the name was given is the extremity of a range of small elevation, extending between the sea, and a plain about six miles in length, which stretches from thence to the river Himera.. It was in this plain that the great slaughter of the troops of Agathocles took place; in their flight, after they were driven back from the Carthaginian camp. At the foot of the hill of Ecnomus, on a projecting tongue of land immediately W. of the mouth of the Himera, stands the modern town of Licata or Alicata, from which the hill above it derives the name of Monte di Licata. On the slope of this hill towards the sea, but above the modern town, are the ruins of an ancient city, unquestionably those of Phintias, founded by the Agrigentine despot of that name about B.C. 280; but which were regarded by Fazello and the earlier topographers as those of Gela, a mistake which threw the whole geography of this part of Sicily into confusion. (Cluver. Sicil. pp. 211, 214; D'Orville, l.c.) [GELA] The name of Ecnomus is again mentioned by Polybius (1.25) in the First Punic War, B.C. 256, when the Roman fleet under L. Manlius and M. Regulus touched there in order to: take on board the land forces destined for the African expedition: these troops were encamped apparently on the hill, which would account for the otherwise singular omission of the name of Phintias.1


1 Arnold, apparently misled by the marginal note in Schweighhäuser's Polybius (vol. i. p. 69), has given the name of “Battle of Ecnomus” to the great sea: fight in which Manlius and Regulus defeated the Carthaginian fleet on their way to Africa: but it is quite clear, both from Polybius; (1.25) and from Zonaras (8.12), that this battle took place off Heraclea Minoa, to which point the Roman fleet had proceeded from Ecnomus.

hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Polybius, Histories, 1.25
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 19.107
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 19.108
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 19.110
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