: Eth. Πανορμίτης
, Eth. Panorinitanus
), one of the most important cities of Sicily, situated on the N. coast of the island, about 50 miles from its NW. extremity, on an extensive bay, which is now known as the Gulf of Palermo.
The name is evidently Greek, and derived from the excellence of its port, or, more strictly speaking, of the anchorage in its spacious bay. (Diod. 22.10
.) But Panormus was not a Greek colony; it was undoubtedly of Phoenician origin, and appears to have been one of the earliest settlements of that people in Sicily. Hence, when the increasing power of the Greek colonies in the island compelled the Phoenicians to concentrate themselves in its more westerly portion, Panormus, together with Motya and Solus, became one of the chief seats of their power. (Thuc. 6.2
.) We find no mention of the Phoenician name of Panormus, though it may fairly be presumed that this Greek appellation was not that used by the colonists themselves.
It would be natural enough to suppose that the Greek name was only a translation of the Phoenician one ; but the Punic form of the name, which is found on coins, is read “Machanath,” which signifies “a camp,” like the Roman Castra, and has no reference to the port. (Gesenius, Monum. Phoen.
p. 288; Mover's Phönizier,
vol. iii. p. 335.)
We have no account of the early history of any of these Phoenician colonies in Sicily, or of the process by which they were detached from the dependence of the another country and became dependencies of Carthage; though it is probable that the change took place when Phoenicia itself became subject to the Persian monarchy.
But it is certain that Carthage already held this kind of supremacy over the Sicilian colonies when we first meet with the name of Panormus in history.
This is not till B.C. 480, when the great Carthaginian armament under Hamilcar landed there and made it their head-quarters before advancing against Himera. (Diod. 11.20
.) From this time it bore an important part in the wars of the Carthaginians in Sicily, and seems to have gradually become the acknowledged capital of their [p. 2.544]
dominion in the island. (Plb. 1.38
.) Thus, it is mentioned in the war of B.C. 406 as one of their principal naval stations (Diod. 13.88
); and again in B.C. 397 it was one of the few cities which remained faithful to the Carthaginians at the time of the siege of Motya. (Id. 14.48.) In B.C. 383 it is again noticed as the head-quarters of the Carthaginians in the island (Id. 15.17); and it is certain that it was never taken, either by Dionysius or by the still more powerful Agathocles.
But in B.C. 276, Pyrrhus, after having subdued all the other cities in Sicily held by the Carthaginians, except Lilybaeum and Panormus, attacked and made himself master of the latter city also. (Id. 22.10. p. 498.)
It, however, soon fell again into the hands of the Carthaginians, who held it at the outbreak of the First Punic War, B.C. 264.
It was at this time the most important city of their dominions in the island, and generally made the head-quarters both of their armies and fleets; but was nevertheless taken with but little difficulty by the Roman consuls Atilius Calatinus and Cn. Cornelius Scipio in B.C. 254. (Plb. 1.21
; Zonar. 8.14
; Diod. 23.18
After this it became one of the principal naval stations of the Romans throughout the remainder of the war, and for the same reason became a point of the utmost importance for their strategic operations. (Diod. 23.19
; Plb. 1.39
It was-immediately under the walls of Panormus that the Carthaginians under Hasdrubal were defeated by L. Caecilius Metellus in B.C. 250, in one of the most decisive battles of the whole war. (Plb. 1.40
: Zonar. 8.14
; Oros. 4.9
It was here, also that the Romans had to maintain a long-continued struggle with Hamilcar Barca, who had seized on the remarkable isolated mountain called Ercta, forming a kind of natural fortress only about a mile and a half from Panormus [ERCTA
], and succeeded in maintaining himself there for the space of three years, notwithstanding all the efforts of the Romans to dislodge him. They were in consequence compelled to maintain an intrenched camp in front of Panormus, at a distance of only five stadia from the foot of the mountain, throughout this protracted contest. (Plb. 1.56
After the Roman conquest of Sicily, Panormus became a municipal town, but enjoyed a privileged condition, retaining its nominal freedom, and immunity from the ordinary burdens imposed on other towns of the province. (Cic. Ver. 3.6
) It was in consequence a flourishing and populous town, and the place where the courts of law were held for the whole surrounding district. (Id. ib. 2.26, 5.7.) Cicero notices it at this time as one of the principal maritime and commercial cities of the island. (Ib.
In the settlement of the affairs of Sicily which seems to have followed the war with Sextus Pompeius, Panormus lost its liberty, but received a Roman colony (Strab. vi. p.272
), whence we find it bearing in inscriptions the title of “Colonia Augusta Panormitanorum.” It would seem from Dio Cassius that it received this colony in B.C. 20; and coins, as well as the testimony of Strabo, prove incontestably that it became a colony under Augustus.
It is strange, therefore, that Pliny, who notices all the other colonies founded by that emperor in Sicily, has omitted all mention of Panornus as such, and ranks it merely as an ordinary municipal town. (Plin. Nat. 3.8. s. 14
; D. C. 54.7
; Eckhel, vol. i. p. 232 ; Orell. Inscr.
It subsequently received an accession of military colonists under Vespasian, and again under Hadrian. (Lib. Colon.
p. 211; Zumpt, de Colon.
p. 410.) Numerous inscriptions prove that it continued to be a flourishing provincial town throughout the period of the Roman empire ; and its name is repeatedly mentioned in the Itineraries (Itin. Ant.
pp. 91, 97; Tab. Peut.;
Castell. Inscr. Sicil.
pp. 26, 27, &c.); but it is certain that it did not attain in ancient times to the predominant position which it now enjoys.
It fell into the hands of the Goths, together with the rest of Sicily, and was the last city of the island that was wrested from them by Belisarius in A.D. 535. (Procop. B. G.
After this it continued subject to the Byzantine empire till 835, when it was taken by the Saracens, who selected it as the capital of their dominions in the land.
It retained this position under the Norman kings, and is still the capital of Sicily, and by far the most populous city in the island, containing above 160,000 inhabitants.
The situation of Palermo
almost vies in beauty with that of Naples. Its beautiful bay affords an excellent roadstead, from whence it doubtless derived its name; and the inner or proper harbour, though not large, is well sheltered and secure.
The ancient city probably occupied the site immediately around the port, but there are no means of tracing its topography, as the ground is perfectly level, without any natural features, and all ancient remains have disappeared, or are covered by modern buildings. We learn that it consisted of an outer and inner city; the former, as might be supposed, being the more recent of the two, and thence called the New City (ἡ νέα πόλις
). Each had its separate enclosure of walls, so that when the outer city was taken by the Romans, the inner was still able for some time to withstand their efforts. (Plb. 1.38
; Diod. 23.18
The only ancient remains now visible at Palermo
are some slight vestiges of an amphitheatre near the Royal Palace; but numerous inscriptions, as well as fragments of sculpture and other objects of antiquity, have been discovered on the site, and are preserved in the museum at Palermo.
The coins of Panormus are numerous: the more ancient ones have Punic inscriptions, and belong to the period when the city was subject to the Carthaginians, but the beauty of their workmanship shows the unequivocal influence of Greek art.
The later ones (struck after the Roman conquest, but while the city still enjoyed nominal freedom) have the legend in Greek letters ΠΑΝΟΠΜΙΤΑΝ.
Still later are those of the Roman colony, with Latin legends. On these, as well as in inscriptions, the name is frequently written Panhormitanorum; and this orthography, which is found also in the best MSS. of Cicero, seems to have been the usual one in Roman times. (Eckhel, vol. i. p. 232; Zumpt, ad Cic. Verr.
|COIN OF PANORMUS.|
] [p. 2.545]