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HYBLA

HYBLA (Ὕβλα: Eth. Ὑβλαῖος, Eth. Hyblensis, but the adjective form is Hyblaeus), is the name of no less than three cities of Sicily, which are often confounded with each other, and which it is sometimes very difficult to distinguish.


1.

The largest and most considerable of the three, thence called for distinction's sake Hybla Major or Magna (Ὕβλα μείζων, steph. B. sub voce Paus. 5.23 § 6: on coins Ὕβλα Μεγάλη: Eckhel, vol. i. p. 216), was situated on the southern slope of Mount Aetna, not far from the river Symaethus. Hence it is described by Pausanias (in whose time it had ceased to be an independent city) as situated in the territory of Catana ἐν τἧ Καταναίἁ l.c.). In like manner, we find it noticed by Thucydides as a place between Catana and Centuripa, so that the Athenians, on their return from an expedition to the latter city, ravaged the corn fields of the Inessaeans and Hyblaeans. (Thuc. 6.96). It was clearly a Siculian city; and hence, at an earlier period, it is mentioned among the other towns of that people in the interior of the island which Ducetius sought to unite into a common league, a measure to which the Hyblaeans alone refused to accede. (Diod. 11.88). It is quite clear that, in all the above passages, the Aetnaean Hybla is the one meant: and it seems probable that the city of Hybla, which was attacked by the Athenians soon after their landing in Sicily (Thuc. 6.62), but without success, was no other, though Thucydides calls it Hybla Geleatis (Ὕβλα Γελεᾶτις), an epithet which has been generally supposed to belong to the second city of the name. (See No. 2.)

During the Second Punic War, Livy mentions Hybla as one of the towns that were induced to revolt to the Carthaginians. in B.C. 211, but were quickly recovered by the Roman praetor M. Cornelius. (Liv. 26.21.) In the time of Cicero the Hyblenses (evidently the people of the Aetnaean city) appear as a considerable municipal community, with a territory fertile in corn (Cic. Ver. 3.43): and Hybla is one of the few places in the interior of Sicily which Pomponius Mela thinks worthy of mention. Its name is also found both in Pliny, who reckons it among the “populi stipendiarii” of the island, and in Ptolemy. Hence it is strange that Pausanias appears to speak of it as in his time utterly desolate. The passage, however, is altogether so confused that it is very difficult to say of which Hybla he is there speaking. (Mel. 2.7.16; Plin. Nat. 3.8. s. 14; Ptol. 3.4.14; Paus. 5.23.6.) We find no later notice of it, though an inscription of Christian times found at Catana appears to refer to Hybla as still existing under its ancient name. (Castell. Inscr. Sicil. p. 253, no. 42.)

The site cannot be fixed with certainty: but the position suggested by Cluverius, at Paternò (about 12 miles from Catania), is probable enough, and derives strong confirmation from the discovery in that city of an altar dedicated “Veneri Victrici Hyblensi.” (Cluver. Sicil. p. 235; Castell. Num. Vet. Sicil. p. 36.) The difficulty of its determination arises from our uncertainty as to the site of the neighbouring city of Aetna. [AETNA]

COIN OF HYBLA MAJOR.


2.

Hybla, called by Stephanus “the Little” ( μικρὰ), and by Pausanias Hybla Gereātis ( Γεπεάτις, Paus. 5.23.6), was intimately connected, if not identical, with the Greek colony of MEGARA which thence derived the name of MEGARA HYBLAEA. There is considerable discrepancy between the different accounts of the foundation of that colony [MEGARA], but all agree that it was founded in the territory, if not exactly on the site, of the Siculian town of Hybla. (Thuc. 6.4; Strab. vi. p.267; Scymn. Ch. 277; Serv. ad Virg. Ecl. 1.55.) Megara was destroyed by Gelon of Syracuse after it had subsisted 245 years, and its inhabitants expelled or removed elsewhere. (Thuc. l.c.) Its territory was naturally incorporated with that of Syracuse, and the site of the city itself appears to have remained desolate till the Athenian expedition to Sicily, B.C. 415, when we find Lamachus judiciously proposing to occupy it as the naval station of the Athenian fleet. (Thuc. 6.49.) But this advice was overruled, and the next spring the Syracusans erected a fort for the protection of the site, which the Athenians repeatedly attacked, but without [p. 1.1100]success. (Id. 6.75, 94.) After this we hear nothing more either of Megara or Hybla until the Second Punic War, when the former is mentioned as a small town which was occupied by the Syracusans during their hostile operations against Marcellus, and was in consequence taken by assault, plundered, and destroyed by that general, B.C. 214. (Liv. 24.30, 35.) A small town seems, however, to have again grown up upon the site: Cicero notices it under the name of Megaris, but calls it only “a place” near Syracuse, without indicating that it was a town; but both Mela and Pliny distinctly call it such. (Cic. Ver. 5.25; Plin. Nat. 3.8. s. 14; Mel. 2.7.16.) Strabo, on the other hand, says that the city of Megara no longer existed, but the name of Hybla still remained: and Pausanias speaks of the latter as a village in the territory of Catana. (Strab. vi. p.267; Paus. 5.23.6.) The inference which we may probably draw from these contradictory statements is, that there was a small place on the spot which was sometimes known as Megara, sometimes as Hybla. The latter name, as Strabo tells us, still retained some celebrity from the fame of the Hyblaean honey, which was produced on the neighbouring hills, and the praises of which are sung by the Latin poets. (Strab. l.c.; Virg. Eel. 1.35, 7.37; Ovid, Ov. Tr. 5.13. 22, Ex. Pont. 4.15. 10; Sil. Ital. 14.199.)

Pausanias appears to apply to this Hybla the epithet of Gereātis (Γερεᾶτις), which must certainly be the same word with the Γελεᾶτις of Thucydides (6.62), though (as already observed) the latter author seems to give the name to the Aetnaean Hybla: the circumstances of the campaign rendering it highly improbable that the Megaraean Hybla can be there meant, even if there was any such place then in existence. But Stephanus also gives the name of Galeotae to the citizens of Megara Hyblaea (Ὕβλα μικρὰ, ἧς οἱ πολῖται Ὑβλαῖοι Γαλεῶται Μεγαρεῖς, Steph. B. sub voce v. Ὕβλα): and these Galeotae are noticed by Cicero, on the authority of Philistus, as celebrated for their skill in the interpretation of dreams (Cic. de Divin. 1.20), a quality which Pausanias expressly ascribes, on the same authority, to the inhabitants of Hybla Gereatis. (Paus. 5.23.6.) We seem, therefore, compelled to admit that these Galeotae were the native or Siculian inhabitants of the territory in which Megara was founded: and it seems at least highly probable that there always existed a Siculian town of Hybla, distinct from the Greek city of Megara, though of course dependent upon the latter in the days of its power. But the passage of Pausanias as it stands, is so confused (if not corrupt) that it is difficult to rely on it: and he himself admits the confusion that frequently existed between the two cities of the name, and which prevented him from pronouncing positively which of them it was that had dedicated offerings at Olympia. (Paus. l.c.

The site of the Megaraean Hybla appears to be clearly fixed near the mouth of the little river Cantaro, the ancient Alabus, a small stream flowing into the Sinus Megarensis: a short distance from its right bank, Fazello describes the rains of a considerable town as visible in his day, but in D'Orville's time there remained only very slight and uncertain vestiges. (Fazell. de Reb Sic. 3.4. p. 159; D'Orville, Sicula, p. 172.) Cluverius follows Fazello in regarding these as the remains of the Greek colony of Megara, but there seems much reason to suppose that that city was situated nearer to the modern Agosta. [MEGARA] The neighbouring village of Melilli is supposed by local writers to have de-rived its name from the honey of the Hyblaean hills, in the midst of which it is situated.


3.

The third city of the name, called by Stephanus “the Less” (Ὕβλα ἐλάττων), and surnamed HERA or HERAEA (Ἥρα, Ἡραία), is much the least known of the three. No allusion to it is found in Pausanias, where he is distinguishing the other two cities of the name, nor in any of the geographers: but we find in the Itineraries a town of Hybla, placed on the line of road from Syracuse to Agrigentum, which is certainly distinct from both the preceding, and can therefore be no other than the third Hybla of Stephanus.. It was situated, according to the Itineraries, 18 miles from Acrae ((Palazzolo), on the road to Agrigentum, but its precise site has not been identified. (Itin. Ant. p. 89; Tab. Peut.). A passage in which Cicero speaks of a town called Hera, in Sicily (ad Att. 2.1.5), has been thought to refer to this town; but the reading is very doubtful.

The circumstance that there were so many towns called Hybla in Sicily probably arose from the fact mentioned by Pausanias, that there was a local divinity of the name. (Paus. 5.23.6.) [E.H.B]

hide References (13 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (13):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.88
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.23
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.23.6
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.96
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.4
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.62
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 21
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 30
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 35
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.49
    • Ovid, Tristia, 5.13
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.4
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