, or MORGA´NTIUM (Μοργάντιον,
Diod.: Eth. Μοργαντῖνος.
The name is variously written by Latin writers Murgantia, Murgentia, and Morgentia; the inhabitants are called by Cicero and Pliny, Murgentini), a city of Sicily, in the interior of the island, to the SW. of Catana.
It was a city of the Siculi, though Strabo assigns its foundation to the Morgetes, whom he supposes to have crossed over from the southern part of Italy. (Strab. vi. pp. 257, 270.)
But this was probably a mere inference from the resemblance of name; Stephanus of Byzantium (s. v.), who is evidently alluding to the same tradition, calls Morgentium, or Morgentia (as he writes the name), a city of Italy,
but no such place is known. [MORGETES
] Strabo is the only author who notices the existence of the Morgetes in Sicily; and it is certain that when Morgantium first appears in history it is as a Siculian town.
It is first mentioned by Diodorus in B.C. 459, when he calls it a considerable city (πόλιν ἀξιόλογον, Diod. 11.78
): it was at this time taken by Ducetius, who is said to have added greatly to his power and fame by the conquest; but after the fall of that leader, it became again independent. We next hear of it in B.C. 424, when, according to Thucydides, it was stipulated, at the peace concluded by Hermocrates, that Morgantia (or Morgantina, as he writes the name) should belong to the Camarinaeans, they paying for it a fixed sum to the Syracusans. (Thuc. 4.65
It is impossible to understand this arrangement between two cities at such a distance from one another, and there is probably some mistake in the names.1
It is certain that in B.C. 396, Morgantia again appears as an independent city of the Siculi, and was one of those which fell under the arms of Dionysius of Syracuse, at the same time with Agyrium, Menaenum, and other places. (Diod. 14.78
At a later period it afforded a refuge to Agathocles, when driven into exile from Syracuse, [p. 2.371]
and it was in great part by the assistance of a body of mercenary troops from Morgantia and other towns of the interior, that that tyrant succeeded in establishing his despotic power at Syracuse, B.C. 317. (Just. 22.2
; Diod. 19.6
.) Morgantia is repeatedly mentioned during the Second Punic War. During the siege of Syracuse by Marcellus it was occupied by a Roman garrison, and great magazines of corn collected there; but the place was betrayed by the inhabitants to the Carthaginian general Himilco, and was for some time occupied by the Syracusan leader Hippocrates, who from thence watched the proceedings of the siege. (Liv. 24.36
It was ultimately recovered by the Roman general, but revolted again after the departure of Marcellus from Sicily, B.C. 211; and being retaken by the praetor M. Cornelius, both the town and its territory were assigned to a body of Spanish mercenaries, who had deserted to the Romans under Mericus. (Id. 26.21.)
Morgantia appears to have still continued to be a considerable town under the Roman dominion.
In the great Servile insurrection of B.C. 102 it was besieged by the leaders of the insurgents, Tryphon and Athenion; but being a strong place and well fortified, offered a vigorous resistance; and it is not clear whether it ultimately fell into their hands or not. (Diod. 36.4
. Exc. Phot. pp. 533, 534.) Cicero repeatedly mentions its territory as one fertile in corn and well cultivated, though it suffered severely from the exactions of Verres. (Cic. Ver. 3.18. 43
) It was therefore in his time still a municipal town, and we find it again mentioned as such by Pliny (3.8. s. 14
); so that it must be an error on the part of Strabo, that he speaks of Morgantium as a city that no longer existed. (Strab. vi. p.270
It may, however, very probably have been in a state of great decay, as the notice of Pliny is the only subsequent mention of its name, and from this time all trace of it is lost.
The position of Morgantia is a subject of great uncertainty, and it is impossible to reconcile the conflicting statements of ancient writers. Most authorities, however, concur in associating it with the Siculian towns of the interior, that border on the valleys of the Symaethus and its tributaries, Menaenum, Agyrium, Assorus, &c. (Diod. 11.78
; Cic. Verr. l.c.
; Sil. Ital. 14.265
); and a more precise testimony to the same effect is found in the statement that the Carthaginian general Mago encamped in the territory of Agyrium, by the river Chrysas, on the road leading to Morgantia.
The account of its siege during the Servile War also indicates it as a place of. natural strength, built on a lofty hill. (Diod. xxxvi. l.c.
) Hence it is very strange that Livy in one passage speaks of the Roman fleet as lying at Morgantia,
as if it were a place on the sea-coast ; a statement wholly at variance with all other accounts
|COIN OF MOIGANTIA.|
of its position, and in which there must probably be some mistake. (Liv. 24.27
.) On the whole we may safely place Morgantia somewhere on the borders of the fertile tract of plain that extends from Catania
inland along the Simeto
and its tributaries; and probably on the hills between the Dittaino
and the Gurna Longa,
two of the principal of those tributaries; but any attempt at a nearer determination must be purely conjectural.
There exist coins of Morgantia, which have the name of the city at full, ΜΟΠΦΑΝΤΙΝΩΝ
this is unfortunately effaced on the one figured in the preceding column.