The History of Sicily

Sicani, Siculi, and Elymians

According to the Greek historian Thucydides (460-400 B.C.), three major groups of people immigrated to Sicily during the late Bronze Age. The Sicani, he theorizes, came from the Iberian peninsula and settled in the west. However, other historians claim that they came from Illyra, across the Adriatic from Italy, while still others say they were aboriginal to the island.

The Elymians, whom Thucydides claims are of Trojan ancestry, arrived in the tenth century B.C. They pushed the Sicani eastward into the island’s interior and founded the cities of Eryx (now Erice) and Egesta (now Segesta) in the west. According to both Thucydides and Antiochus of Syracuse (fifth century B.C.), the last to arrive were the Siculi, who settled in the eastern portion of the island in about 1000 B.C. and who gave the island its name. Their necropolis at Pantalica, near Siracusa, features “beehive” tombs in which were buried their elite.

A war between the Sicani and the Siculi ended when a boundary was established at the Salso River, according to the first-century B.C. Greek historian Diodorus Siculus. Over time, however, both the Elymians and the Siculi intermarried with the Sicani, blurring the distinctions between these cultures.


Siculan Castle of Ducetius, 5th Century B.C., Mineo