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SI´CULI

Eth. SI´CULI (Σικελοί), is the name given by ancient writers to an ancient race or people that formed one of the elements in the primitive population of Italy, as well as Sicily. But the accounts given of them are very confused and uncertain. We find the Siculi mentioned: 1, as among the early inhabitants of Latium; 2, in the extreme S. of Italy; 3, in Sicily; 4, on the shores of the Adriatic. It will be convenient to examine these notices separately.


1.

The Siculi are represented by Dionysius as the earliest inhabitants of the country subsequently called Latium (1.9), as well as of the southern part of Etruria; they were an indigenous race, i. e. one of whose wanderings and origin he had no account. They held the whole country till they were expelled from> it by the people whom he calls Aborigines, descending from the mountains of Central Italy [ABORIGINES], who made war upon them, in conjunction with the Pelasgians; and after a long protracted struggle, wrested from them one town after another (Id. 1.9, 16). Among the cities that are expressly mentioned by him as having once been occupied by the Siculi, are Tibur, where a part of the city was still called in the days of Dionysius Σικελιών, Ficulea, Antemnae, and Tellenae, as well as Falerii and Fescennium, in the country afterwards called Etruria (Id. 1.16, 20, 21). The Siculi being thus finally expelled from their possessions in this part of Italy, were reported to have migrated in a body to the southern extremity of the peninsula, from whence they crossed over the straits, and established themselves in the island of Sicily, to which they gave the name it has ever since borne. [SICILIA] (Id. 1.22.) Dionysius is the only author who has left us a detailed account of the conquest and expulsion of the Siculi, but they are mentioned by Pliny among the races that had successively occupied Latium (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9); and this seems to have been an established and received tradition.


2.

We find the Siculi frequently mentioned in the southernmost portion of the Italian peninsula, where they appear in close connection with the Oenotrians, Morgetes, and Itali, all of them kindred tribes, which there are good reasons for assigning to the Pelasgic race. [OENOTRIA] It is probable, as suggested by Strabo, that the Siculi, more than once, mentioned by Homer (Odyss. 20.383, 24.211, &c.), were the inhabitants of the coast of Italy opposite to Ithaca: and the traditions of the Epizephyrian Locrians, reported by Polybius, spoke of the Siculi as the people in whose territory they settled, and with whom they first found themselves engaged in war. (Plb. 12.5, 6.) Numerous traditions also, reported by Dionysius (1.22, 73) from Antiochus, Hellanicus, and others, concur in bringing the Siculi and their eponymous leader Siculus (Σικελός) into close connection with Italus and the Itali: and this is confirmed by the linguistic relation which may fairly be admitted to exist between Σικελός and Ἰταλός (Niebuhr, vol. i. p. 47) though this is not close enough to be in itself conclusive. So far as [p. 2.989]our scanty knowledge goes, therefore, we must conclude that the two shores of the Sicilian strait were at one period peopled by the same tribe, who were known to the Greeks by the name of Sicels or Siculi; and that this tribe was probably a branch of the Oenotrian or Pelasgic race. The legends which connected these Siculi with those who were expelled from Latium seem to have been a late invention, as we may infer from the circumstance that Sicelus, who is represented by Antiochus as taking refuge with Morges, king of Italia, was called a fugitive from Rome. (Dionys. A. R. 1.73.)


3.

The Siculi or Siceli were the people who occupied the greater part of the island of Sicily when the Greek colonies were first established there, and continued throughout the period of the Greek domination to occupy the greater part of the interior, especially the more rugged and mountainous tracts of the island. [SICILIA] The more westerly portions were, however, occupied by a people called Sicani. whom the Greek writers uniformly distinguish from the Siculi, notwithstanding the resemblance of the two names. These indeed would seem to have been in their origin identical, and we find Roman writers using them as such; so that Virgil more than once employs the name of Sicani, where he can only mean the ancient Latin people called by Dionysius Siculi. (Verg. A. 8.795, 11.317.)


4.

The traces of the Siculi on the western shores of the Adriatic are more uncertain. Pliny indeed tells us distinctly that Numana and Ancona were founded by the Siculi (Plin. Nat. 3.13. s. 18); but it is by no means improbable that this is a mere confusion, as we know that the latter city at least was really founded by Sicilian Greeks, as late as the time of Dionysius of Syracuse [ANCONA]. When, however, he tells us that a considerable part of this coast of Italy was held by the Siculians and Liburnians, before it was conquered by the Umbrians (Ib. 14. s. 19), it seems probable that he must have some other authority for this statement; Pliny is, however, the only author who mentions the Siculi in this part of Italy.

From these statements it is very difficult to arrive at any definite conclusion with regard to the ethnographic affinities of the Siculi. On the one hand, the notices of them in Southern Italy, as already observed, seem to bring them into close connection with the Itali and other Oenotrian tribes, and would lead us to assign them to a Pelasgic stock: but on the other it must be admitted that Dionysius distinctly separates them from the Pelasgi in Latium, and represents them as expelled from that country by the Pelasgi, in conjunction with the so-called Aborigines. Hence the opinions of modern scholars have been divided: Niebuhr distinctly receives the Siculi as a Pelasgic race, and as forming the Pelasgic or Greek element of the Latin people; the same view is adopted by O. Miller (Etrusker, pp. 10--16, &c.) and by Abeken (Mittel Italien, p. 5); while Grotefend (Alt Italien, vol. iv. pp. 4--6), followed by Forbiger and others, regards the Siculi as a Gaulish or Celtic race, who had gradually wandered southwards through the peninsula of Italy, till they finally crossed over and established themselves in the island of Sicily. This last hypothesis is, however, purely conjectural. We have at least some foundation for supposing the Siculi as well as the Oenotrians to be of Pelasgic origin: if this be rejected, we are wholly in the dark as to their origin or affinities. [E.H.B]

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