Extinctapproximately 300 BCE
Language codes
ISO 639-3sxc
Sicily prehellenic topographic map.svg
Approximate locations of the Sicani and their neighbors, the Elymians and the Sicels, in Sicily around 11th century BC (before the arrival of the Phoenicians and the Greeks).
Sicilia arcaica.jpg
Tribes of Hellenic Sicily

The Sicani (Greek Σικανοί Sikanoi) or Sicanians were one of three ancient peoples of Sicily present at the time of Phoenician and Greek colonization. The Sicani dwelt east of the Elymians and west of the Sicels, having, according to Diodorus Siculus,[1] the boundary with the last in the ancient Himera river (Salso) after a series of battles between these tribes.


The Sicani are the oldest inhabitants of Sicily with a recorded name. In the 5th century BCE, the Greek historian Thucydides,[2] claims that the Sicani originated on the Iberian Peninsula, from around a river they called "Sicanus" and had migrated to Sicily following an invasion by the Ligurians.[3][4] (The name Sicanus has been linked to the modern river known in Spanish as the Júcar.) Thucydides' source is unknown, although he often draws on the Sicilian historian Antiochus of Syracuse.[5] Conversely, Timaeus of Tauromenium (writing c. 300 BCE) considers the Sicani to be indigenous to Sicily.[6] A third theory, put forward by some modern scholars, suggests that the Sicani were Illyrian émigrés, who gained control of areas previously inhabited by native tribes.[7] Archaeological research suggests that the Sicani were influenced at an early stage by the Mycenaeans (prior to the Greek colonisation of Sicily).[8]

It is generally agreed by scholars that the Sicani preceded other inhabitants of Sicily in prehistory, namely the Elymians and Sicels. The Elymians are thought to be the next recorded people to settle Sicily, perhaps from the Aegean, Anatolia, or Liguria. They settled in the north-west corner of the island, forcing the Sicanians to move across eastward. The Sicels were the next to arrive, from mainland Italy, and settled in the east. The arrival of the Sicels is thought to have occurred during the thirteenth or eleventh century BCE. The Sicanians area after this became limited to the south-western part of the island with settlements in the area of Gela and Agrigentum.[9]

The Sicani enter the historical record with the Phoenicians, who established colonies during the 11th century BCE – preceding the Greeks, who founded the colony of Syracuse. While many other Greek colonies were established around the island, by 734 BCE Syracuse had become the largest city in the Greek-speaking world. The Sicani were gradually absorbed by these colonizing peoples. They disappeared as a distinct people following the annexation of Sicily by the Roman Empire.

Herodotus and King Minos

Minos, according to tradition, went to Sicania, or Sicily, as it is now called, in search of Daedalus, and there perished by a violent death.[10]


A few short inscriptions using the Greek alphabet have been found in the extinct Sicanian language.[11] Except for names, they have not been translated, and the language is unclassified due to lack of data.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Diod., v.6.3-4
  2. ^ Thucydides, His. VI,2,3,4.
  3. ^ "Sicily: Encyclopedia II – Sicily – History". Experience Festival. 7 October 2007. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013.
  4. ^ "Aapologetico de la literatura española contra los opiniones". Ensayo historico. 7 October 2007.
  5. ^ Shefton, Brian Benjamin; Lomas, Kathryn (2004). "Greek Identity in the Western Mediterranean". ISBN 9004133003.
  6. ^ As reported in Diodorus Siculus V,6,1-3.
  7. ^ Fine, John (1985). The ancient Greeks: a critical history. Harvard University Press. p. 72. ISBN 0-674-03314-0.
  8. ^ Fine, p.72
  9. ^ Le Glay, Marcel (2009). A history of Rome. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-8327-7. OCLC 760889060.[page needed]
  10. ^ Herodotus, The History, George Rawlinson, trans., (New York: Dutton & Co., 1862
  11. ^ The World's Writing Systems. 1996:301.
  12. ^ 'Sicanian' at Linguist List

External links

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