The History of Sicily

The Battle of Himera and the First Sicilian War: Greeks in the Ascendancy

For the most part, the Greek cities across Sicily were ruled by “tyrants,” or dictators. Among the most famous was Gelon (540-478 B.C.), whose ancestors founded Gela on the southern coast. In 491 B.C., Hippocrates, tyrant of Gela, was killed in battle against the Siculi, whereupon Gelon, then an army commander, took power. Several years later, taking a majority of Gela’s population with him, he moved to Siracusa, where he assumed control.

In cooperation with Theron, tyrant of Akragas, Gelon spread his influence to the west and north, over most of Greek Sicily. Feeling threatened, Anaxilus of Messina appealed to the Carthaginians in the northwest for support. Carthage raised a huge army and fleet led by Hamilcar and engaged the Greeks at Himera, near the modern city of Cefalù. It was the same day that that the Athenians defeated the Persians at Salamis (480 B.C.). Interestingly, the Greeks from Messina never arrived, and the Carthaginians were defeated.


Greek Pottery, Archaeological Museum of Agrigento