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HERACLEIA surnamed MINOA (Ἡράκλεια Μίνῳα: Eth. Ῥαχλώτης, Heracliensis), in Sicily, an ancient Greek city, situated on the south coast of the island, at the mouth of the river Halycus, between Agrigentum and Selinus. Its two names were connected with two separate mythological legends in regard to its origin. The first of these related that Hercules, having vanquished the local hero Eryx in a wrestling match, obtained thereby the right to the whole western portion of Sicily, which he expressly reserved for his descendants. (Diod. 4.23; Hdt. 5.43; Paus. 3.16.5.) He did not. however, found a town or settlement; but, somewhat later, Minos, king of Crete, having come to Sicily in pursuit of Daedalus, landed at the mouth of the river Halycus, and founded there a city, to which he gave the name of Minoa; or, according to another version of the story, the city was first established by his followers, after the death of Minos himself. Heraclides Ponticus adds, that there was previously a native city on the spot, the name of which was Macara. (Diod. 4.79, 16.9; Heracl. Pont. § 29.) The two legends are so distinct that no intimation is given by Diodorus of their relating to the same spot, and we only learn their connection from the combination in later times of the two names. The first notice of the city which we find in historical times represents it as a small town and a colony of Selinus, bearing the name of Minoa (Hdt. 5.46); but we have no account of its settlement. It was in this state when Dorieus the Spartan (brother of Cleomenes I.) came to Sicily, with a large body of followers, with the express view of reclaiming the territory which had belonged to his ancestor Hercules. But having engaged in hostilities with the Carthaginians and Segestans, he was defeated and slain in a battle in which almost all his leading companions also perished. Euryleon, the only one of the chiefs who escaped, made himself master of Minoa, which now, in all probability, obtained for the first time the name of Heracleia. (Hdt. 5.42-46.) This is not, indeed, expressly stated by Herodotus, who gives the preceding narrative, but is. evidently implied in his statement at the beginning of it, that Dorieus set out for the purpose of founding Heracleia, combined with the fact that Diodorus represents him as having been its actual founder. (Diod. 4.23.) Hence there seems no reason to suppose (as has been suggested) that Heracleia and Minoa were originally distinct cities, and that the name of the one was subsequently transferred to the other. From the period of this new settlement (B.C. 510) it seems to have commonly borne the name of Heracleia, though coupled with that of Minoa for the sake of distinction. (Ἡρακλείαν τὴν Μινώαν, Pol. 1.25; “Heraclea, quam vocant Minoa,” Liv. 24.35.)

Diodorus tells us that the newly founded city of Heracleia rose rapidly to prosperity, but was destroyed by the Carthaginians, through jealousy of its increasing power. (Id. 4.23.) The period at which this took place is uncertain. It was probably related by Diodorus in his 10th book, which is now lost: at least he makes no mention of any such event on occasion of the great expedition of Hamilcar, in B.C. 480, to which epoch we might otherwise have referred it; while, from the absence of all notice of Heracleia during the subsequent century, and the wars of Dionysius with the Carthaginians, it seems certain that it did not then exist, or must have been in a very reduced condition. Indeed, the next notice we find of it (under the name of Minoa), in B.C. 357, when Dion landed there, represents it as a small town in the Agrigentine territory, but at that time subject to Carthage. (Diod. 16.9; Plut. Dion. 25.) Hence it is probable that the treaty between Dionysius and the Carthaginians which had fixed the Halycus as the boundary of the latter, had left Heracleia, though on its left bank, still in their hands: and, in accordance with this, we find it stipulated by the similar treaty concluded with them by Agathocles (B.C. 314), that Heracleia, Selinus, and Himera should continue subject to Carthage, as they had been before. (Diod. 19.71.) From this time Heracleia reappears in history, and assumes the position of an important city; though we have no explanation of the circumstances that had raised it from its previous insignificance. Thus we find it, soon after, joining in the movement originated by Xenodicus of Agrigentum, B.C. 307, and declaring itself free both from the Carthaginians and Agathocles; though it was soon recovered by the latter, on his return from Africa. (Id. 20.56.) At the time of the expedition of Pyrrhus it was once more in the hands of the Carthaginians, and was the first city taken from them by that monarch as lie advanced westward from Agrigentum. (Diod 22.10. Exc. H. p. 497.) In like manner, in the First Punic War, it was occupied by the Carthaginian general Hanno, when advancing to the relief of Agrigentum, at that time besieged by the Roman armies, B.C. 260. (Id. 23.8. p. 502; Pol. 1.18.) Again, in B.C. 256, it was at Heracleia that the Carthaginian fleet of 350 ships was posted for the purpose of preventing the passage of the Roman fleet to Africa, and where it sustained a great defeat from the consuls Regulus and Manlius. (Pol. 1.25--28, 30; Zonar. 8.12.) It appears, indeed, at this time to have been one of the principal naval stations of the Carthaginians in Sicily; and hence in B.C. 249 we again find their admiral, Carthalo, taking his post there to watch for the Roman fleet which was approaching to the relief of Lilybaeum. (Id. 1.53.) At the close of the war Heracleia, of course, passed, with the rest of Sicily, under the Roman dominion; but in the Second Punic [p. 1.1049]War it again fell into the hands of the Carthaginians, and was one of the last places that still held out against Marcellus, even after the fall of Syracuse. (Liv. 24.35, 25.27, 40, 41.)

We hear but little of it under the Roman dominion; but it appears to have suffered severely in the Servile War (B.C. 134--132), and in consequence received a body of fresh colonists, who were established there by the praetor P. Rupilius; and at the same time the relations of the old and new citizens were regulated by a municipal law, which still subsisted in the time of Cicero. (Cic. Ver. 2.50) In the days of the great orator, Heracleia appears to have been still a flourishing place (Ib. 5.33); but it must soon after have fallen into decay, in common with most of the towns on the southern coast of Sicily. (Strab. vi. p.272.) But though not noticed by Strabo among the few places still subsisting on this coast, it is one of the three mentioned by Mela; and its continued existence is attested by Pliny and Ptolemy. The latter author is the last who mentions the name of Heracleia: it appears to have disappeared before the age of the Itineraries. (Mel. 2.7.16; Plin. Nat. 3.8. s. 14; Ptol. 3.4.6.)

The site of Heracleia is now wholly deserted, and scarcely any ruins remain to mark the spot; but the position of the ancient city may still be clearly traced. It was situated a few hundred yards to the south of the river Platani (the ancient Halycus), extending nearly from thence to the promontory of Capo Bianco. In Fazello's time the foundations of the walls could be distinctly traced, and, though no ruins remained standing, the whole site abounded with remains of pottery and brickwork. An aqueduct was then also still visible between the city and the mouth of the river; but its remains have since disappeared. The site does not appear to have been examined with care by any modern traveller. (Fazell. de Reb. Sic. 6.2; Smyth's Sicily, p. 216; Biscari, Viaggio in Sicilia, p. 188.)

The Capo Bianco, a conspicuous headland in the immediate neighbourhood of Heracleia, is evidently the one called by Strabo, in his description of the coasts of Sicily, the Heracleian promontory (vi. p. 266), which he correctly reckons 20 miles distant from the port of Agrigentum.


hide References (14 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (14):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.9
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.42
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.43
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.46
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.16.5
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 27
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 41
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 35
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 40
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 4.23
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 4.79
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 19.71
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.4
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