History of Sicily
2 The First Peoples: 2.2 The Sicans

I Sicani, who lived in Sicily at least since the third millennium BC, were probably of Mediterranean descent. Some writers of the past, such as Solarino and Di-Blasi [1], considered this people as distinct from the Iberians, while other writers, especially the ancient ones, indicated the Sicani population with the name of Iberi.

Thucydides (lib VI.2), speaking of the Sicans, considers them Iberi driven out by the Ligurians from the Sicano river in Spanish Iberia. However, even when we wanted to distinguish the Sicans and the Iberians as distinct ethnic entities, what characterized the two peoples is their common origin, that is, their origin from Iberia (Spain) (14.16.I) (5.47.I) . It could be hypothesized that there have been successive migrations of groups belonging to the same ethnic group, thus favoring the idea of ​​two distinct ethnic entities. It is known that as early as 3000 BC Sicily had contacts with the nomadic people called the "people of bell-shaped glasses" from Spain.

Flow of movements of the "people of bell-shaped glasses"

The Sicans can be considered as belonging to the so-called Mediterranean lineage, they were part of those populations from Asia Minor and who settled, in the Eneolithic period, in Iberia, in southern France and in much of Italy up to the western coasts of Sicily. . These populations formed what some call the Ibero-Ligure-Sicana breed [2]. They are therefore seen as the southern branch of the Ligurian people, considered by the Pais [3] to be the oldest people in Western Europe. As proof that the Ligurians occupied the western areas of Sicily, the Pais points out the similarity of the names of Sicilian places such as Eryx (Erice) Entella e Segesta, with those of Eryx (Lerici) in the gulf of La Spezia, Segesta (Sestri), and in the nearby river Entella quoted by the poet Dante.

The fact that upon the arrival of the Celts (population belonging to the Indo-European family) the union between them and the Iberian population then formed a population group known as Celtiberi, prompted some writers including Solarino [4] to say that the Sicans were a Celtic branch and therefore of Indo-European race. Solarino brings in his favor philological arguments according to which there are analogies between the Sican language and those belonging to Indo-European families; currently there is a tendency instead to accept the Sican language (as well as the Ligurian one) as not belonging to any language of the Indo-European stock.

The Sicans buried their dead, but this cannot be taken as proof of belonging to one or the other race, as it was seen that sometimes even peoples of Indo-European lineage used this funerary rite (just think of the first Italics who came to the Italian peninsula).

Mazzarrino: Sican necropolis

Among the ancient writers there are those who, like Diodorus Siculus (lib. V.6), want the Sicans to be native to Sicily, he states that the Sicans originally lived in villages built on well defended hills for fear of pirates, each village had its head, and initially occupied the whole island, but then due to the increasing volcanic eruptions of Etna which made much of the land uncultivated, they retreated to the western part of the island.

On the other hand, it is probable that the Sicans were driven to the western parts of the island by the coming of the Sicilians.

There are even those like Di-Blasi who want the Sicans to be descendants of the ancient people of the Cyclops [5] and that they then took the name from Sicano, their king.

From the stories of Diodorus Siculus it can be deduced that the Sicans were not united under a single state, but rather constituted an aggregation of villages each governed by its own king, but that in case of external danger they gathered in federative aggregations. The only king we know of is the legendary Cocalo [6], whose myth is linked to that of two other important characters belonging to Greek mythology, the king of Crete MinosDedalo. There were many ancient writers who spoke of the arrival of Daedalus and Minos in Sicily, Herodotus (Lib. VII.170) speaks of it and a detailed account was given by Diodorus Siculus [7].


The legend of Daedalus and Minos in Sicily is somehow the myth of a colonizing phenomenon that had some Cretans as its architects, long before the eighth century BC in which we want to place the arrival of the first Greek colonists, the hypothesis could be strengthened by the fact that the Cretan regime was monarchic and Minos was probably not the name of a king, but the title that was assigned to the king of Crete, moreover Crete had for many years the maritime supremacy of the Mediterranean, it is therefore probable that one of the lords the island wanted to extend its influence also on Sicily.

In addition to practicing agriculture, the Sicans had to be devoted to trade since it is thought that they had commercial relations with the Phoenicians who had commercial bases on the island.

[1] Giovanni E. Di-Blasi: History of the Kingdom of Sicily. Raffaele Solarino: The County of Modica

[2] Giuseppe Leggio: Ibla Erea

[3] Ettore Pais: History of Ancient Italy

[4] Raffaele Solarino: The County of Modica

[5] Giovanni E. Di-Blasi: History of the Kingdom of Sicily.

[6] Diodorus Siculus Lib. XII.71



The legendary populations of Sicily

History of Sicily by Ignazio Caloggero

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