: Eth. Καταναῖος,
Catanensis or Catinensis: Catania
), a city on the E. coast of Sicily, situated about midway between Tauromenium and Syracuse, and almost immediately at the foot of Mt. Aetna. All authors agree in representing it as a Greek colony, of Chalcidic origin, but founded immediately from the neighbouring city of Naxos, under the guidance of a leader named Euarchus.
The exact date of its foundation is not recorded, but it appears from Thucydides to have followed shortly after that of Leontini, which he places in the fifth year after Syracuse, or 730 B.C. (Thuc. 6.3
; Strab. vi. p.268
; Scymn. Ch. 286
; Scyl. § 13; Steph. B. sub voce
The only event of its early history which has been transmitted to us is the legislation of Charondas, and even of this the date is wholly uncertain. (See Dict. of Biogr.
) But from the fact that his legislation was extended to the other Chalcidic cities, not only of Sicily, but of Magna Graecia also, as well as to his own country (Arist, Pol.
2.9), it is evident that Catana continued in intimate relations with these kindred cities.
It seems to have retained its independence till the time of Hieron of Syracuse, but that despot, in B.C. 476, expelled all the original inhabitants, whom he established at Leontini, while he repeopled the city with a new body of colonists, amounting, it is said, to not less than 10,000 in number, and consisting partly of Syracusans, partly of Peloponnesians.
He at the same time changed its name to Aetna, and caused himself to be proclaimed the Oekist or founder of the new city.
As such he was celebrated by Pindar, and after his death obtained heroic honours from the citizens of his new colony. (Diod. 11.49
, in 66; Strab. l.c.;
i., and Schol. ad loc.
) But this state of things was of brief duration, and a few years after the death of Hieron and the expulsion of Thrasybulus, the Syracusans combined with Ducetius, king of the Siculi, to expel the newly settled inhabitants of Catana, who were compelled to retire to the fortress of Inessa (to which they gave the name of Aetna), while the old Chalcidic citizens were reinstated in the possession of Catana, B.C. 461. (Diod. 11.76
; Strab. l.c.
The period which followed the settlement of affairs at this epoch, appears to have been one of great prosperity for Catana, as well as for the Sicilian cities in general: but we have no details of its history till the great Athenian expedition to Sicily. On that occasion the Catanaeans, notwithstanding their Chalcidic connections, at first refused to receive the Athenians into their city: but the latter having effected an entrance, they found themselves compelled to espouse the alliance of the invaders, and Catana became in consequence the headquarters of the Athenian armament throughout the first year of the expedition, and the base of their subsequent operations against Syracuse. (Thuc. 6.50
; Diod. 13.4
; Plut. Nic. 15
.) We have no information as to the fate of Catana after the close of this expedition: it is next mentioned in B.C. 403, when it fell into the power of Dionysius of Syracuse, who sold the inhabitants as slaves, and gave up the city to plunder; after which he established there a body of Campanian mercenaries.
These, however, quitted it again in B.C. 396, and retired to Aetna, on the approach of the great Carthaginian armament under Himilco and Mago.
The great sea-fight in which the latter defeated Leptines, the brother of Dionysius, was fought immediately off Catana, and that city apparently fell, in consequence, into the hands of the Carthaginians. (Diod. 14.15
But we have no account of its subsequent fortunes, nor does it appear who constituted its new population; it is only certain that it continued to exist. Callippus, the assassin of Dion, when he was expelled from Syracuse, for a time held possession of Catana (Plut. Dion.
58); and when Timoleon landed in Sicily we find it subject to a despot named Mamercus, who at first joined the Corinthian leader but afterwards abandoned his alliance for that of the Carthaginians, and was in consequence attacked and expelled by Timoleon. (Diod. 16.69
; Plut. Tim. 13
--34.) Catania was now restored to liberty, and appears to have continued to retain its independence; during the wars of Agathocles with the Carthaginians, it sided at one time with the former, at others with the latter; and when Pyrrhus landed in Sicily, was the first to open its gates to him, and received him with the greatest magnificence. (Diod. 19.110
, Exc. Hoesch. p. 496.)
In the first Punic War, Catana was one of the first among the cities of Sicily, which made their submission to the Romans, after the first successes of their arms in B.C. 263. (Eutrop. 2.19
.) The [p. 1.568]
expression of Pliny (7.60
) who represents it as having been taken
by Valerius Messala, is certainly a mistake.
It appears to have continued afterwards steadily to maintain its friendly relations with Rome, and though it did not enjoy the advantages of a confederate city (foederata civitas), like its neighbours Tauromenium and Messana, it rose to a position of great prosperity under the Roman rule. Cicero repeatedly mentions it as, in his time, a wealthy and flourishing city; it retained its ancient municipal institutions, its chief magistrate bearing the title of Proagorus; and appears to have been one of the principal ports of Sicily for the export of corn. (Cic. Ver. 3.43
; Liv. 27.8
It subsequently suffered severely from the ravages of Sextus Pompeius, and was in consequence one of the cities to which a colony was sent by Augustus; a measure that appears to have in a great degree restored its prosperity, so that in Strabo's time it was one of the few cities in the island that was in a flourishing condition. (Strab. vi. pp. 268, 270, 272; D. C. 4.7
It retained its colonial rank, as well as its prosperity, throughout the period of the Roman empire; so that in the fourth century Ausonius in his Ordo Nobilium Urbium,
notices Catana and Syracuse alone among the cities of Sicily. In B.C. 535, it was recovered by Belisarius from the Goths, and became again, under the rule of the Byzantine empire, one of the most important cities of the island. (Plin. Nat. 3.8. s. 14
; Ptol. 3.4.9
; Itin. Ant. pp. 87,90, 93, 94; Procop. B. G.
At the present day Catania
still ranks as the third city of Sicily, and is little inferior to Messina
The position of Catana at the foot of Mount Aetna was the source, as Strabo remarks, both of benefits and evils to the city. For on the one hand, the violent outbursts of the volcano from time to time desolated great parts of its territory; on the other, the volcanic ashes produced a soil of great fertility, adapted especially for the growth of vines. (Strab. vi. p.269
.) One of the most serious calamities of the former class, was the eruption of B.C. 121, when great part of its territory was over-whelmed by streams of lava, and the hot ashes fell in such quantities in the city itself, as to break in the roofs of the houses. Catana was in consequence xempted, for 10 years, from its usual contributions to the Roman state. (Oros. 5.13
The greater part of the broad tract of plain to the SW. of Catana (now called the Piano di Catania,
a district of great fertility), appears to have belonged, in ancient times, to Leontini or Centuripa, but that portion of it between Catana itself and the mouth of the Symaethus, was annexed to the territory of the latter city, and must have furnished abundant supplies of corn.
The port of Catana also, which is now a very small and confined one (having been in great part filled up by the eruption of 1669), appears to have been in ancient times much frequented, and was the chief place of export for the corn of the rich neighbouring plains.
The little river AMENANUS, or Amenas, which flowed through the city, was a very small stream, and could never have been navigable.
Catana was the birth-place of the philosopher and legislator Charondas, already alluded to; it was also the place of residence of the poet Stesichorus, who died there, and was buried in a magnificent sepulchre outside one of the gates, which derived from thence the nam of. Porta Stesichoreia. (Suid. s. v. Στησίχορος.
) Xenophanes, the philosopher of Elea, also spent the latter years of his life there (D. L. 9.2.1
), so that it was evidently, at an early period, a place of cultivation and refinement.
The first introduction of dancing to accompany the flute, was also ascribed to Andron, a citizen of Catana (Athen. 1.22
c.); and the first sun dial that was set up in the Roman forum was carried thither by Valerius Messala from Catana, B.C. 263. (Varr. ap. Plin. Nat. 7.60
But few associations connected with Catana were more celebrated in ancient times than the legend of the “Pii Fratres,” Amphinomus and Anapias, who, on occasion of a great eruption of Aetna, abandoned all their property, and carried off their aged parents on their shoulders, the stream of lava itself was said to have parted, and flowed aside so as not to harm them. Statues were erected to their honour, and the place of their burial was known as the “Campus Piorum;” the Catanaeans even introduced the figures of the youths on their coins, and the legend became a favourite subject of allusion and declamation among the Latin poets, of whom the younger Lucilius and Claudian have dwelt upon it at considerable length.
The occurrence is referred by Hyginus to the first eruption of Aetna, that took place after the settlement of Catana. (Strab. vi. p.269
; Paus. 10.28.4
; Conon, Narr.
43; Philostr. Vit, Apoll.
5.17; Solin. 5.15
; Hygin. 254; V. Max. 5.4
. Ext. § 4; Lucil. Aetn.
602--640; Claudian. Idyll.
7; Sil. Ital. 14.196
; Auson. Ordo Nob. Urb.
The remains of the ancient city, still visible at Catania,
are numerous and important; but it is remarkable that they belong exclusively to the Roman period, the edifices of the Greek city having probably been destroyed by some of the earthquakes to which it has been in all ages subject, or so damaged as to be entirely rebuilt.
The most important of these ruins are those of a theatre of large size and massive construction, the architecture of which is so similar to that of the amphitheatre, at no great distance from it, as to leave no doubt that they were erected at the same period,. probably not long after the establishment of the colony by Augustus.
The ruin of the latter edifice dates from the time of Theodoric, who, il A.D. 498, gave permission to the citizens of Catana to make use of its massive materials for the repair of their walls and public buildings (Cassiod. Varr.
3.49); the theatre, on the contrary, continued almost perfect till the 11th century, when it was in great part pulled down by the Norman Count Roger, is order to adorn his new cathedral. Nearly adjoining the large theatre was a smaller one, designed apparently for an odeium or music theatre. Besides these, there are numerous remains of thermae or baths, all of Roman construction, and some massive sepulchral monuments of the same period.
A few fragments only remain of a magnificent aqueduct, which was destroyed by the great eruption of Aetna
|COIN OF CATANA.|
The antiquities of Catania
are. fully de. scribed by the Principe di Biscari (Viaggio per le Antichità della Sicilia,
chap. 5) and the Duca di Serra di Falco. (Ant. della Sicilia,
vol. v. pp. 3--30.)
The coins of Catana are numerous, and many of them of very fine workmanship; some of them bear the head of the river-god Amenanus, but that of Apollo is the most frequent. We learn from Cicero that the worship of Ceres was of great antiquity here, and that she had a temple of peculiar sanctity, which was notwithstanding profaned by Verres. (Cic. Ver. 4.45