Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/39

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

and Africa, Sicily has been the battle-field of Europe and Africa. That is to say, it has two separate periods the battle-field of Aryan and Semitic man. In the later stage of the strife it has been the battle-field of Christendom and Islam. This history Sicily shares with Spain to the west of it and with Cyprus to the east. And with Spain the island has had several direct points of connexion. There was in all likelihood a near kindred between the earliest inhabitants of the two lands. In later times Sicily was ruled by Spanish kings, both alone and in union with other kingdoms. The connexion with Africa has consisted simply in the settlement of conquerors from Africa at two periods, first Phoenician, then Saracen. On the other hand, Sicily has been more than once made the road to African conquest and settlement, both by Sicilian princes and by the Roman masters of Sicily. The connexion with Greece, the most memorable of all, has consisted in the settlement of many colonies from old Greece, which gave the island the most brilliant part of its history, and which made the greater part practically Greek. This Greek element was strengthened at a later time by the long connexion of Sicily with the Eastern, the Greek-speaking, division of the Roman empire. And the influence of Greece on Sicily has been repaid in more than one shape by Sicilian rulers who have at various times held influence and dominion in Greece and elsewhere beyond the Adriatic. The connexion between Sicily and Italy begins with the primitive kindred between some of the oldest elements in each. Then came the contemporary Greek colonization in both lands. Then came the tendency in the dominant powers in southern Italy to make their way into Sicily also. Thus the Roman occupation of Sicily ended the struggle between Greek and Phoenician. Thus the Norman occupation ended the struggle between Greek and Saracen. Of this last came the long connexion between Sicily and southern Italy under several dynasties. Lastly comes the late absorption of Sicily in the modern kingdom of Italy. The result of these various forms of Italian influence has been that all the other tongues of the island have died out before the advance of a peculiar dialect of Italian. In religion again both Islam and the Eastern form of Christianity have given way to its Italian form. Like the British Isles, Sicily came under a Norman dynasty; under Norman rule the intercourse between the two countries was extremely close, and the last time that Sicily was the seat of a separate power it was under British protection.

The Phoenician, whether from old Phoenicia or from Carthage, came from lands which were mere strips of sea-coast with a boundless continent behind them. The Greek of old Hellas came from a land of islands, peninsulas and inland seas. So did the Greek of Asia, though he had, like the Phoenician, a vast continent behind him. In Sicily they all found a strip of sea-coast with an inland region behind; but the strip of sea- coast was not like the broken coast of Greece and Greek Asia, and the inland region was not a boundless continent like Africa or Asia. In Sicily therefore the Greek became more continental, and the Phoenician became more insular. Neither people ever occupied the whole island, nor was either people ever able to spread its dominion over the earlier inhabitants very far inland. Sicily thus remained a world of its own, with interests and disputes of its own, and divided among inhabitants of various nations. The history of the Greeks of Sicily is con- stantly connected with the history of old Hellas, but it runs a separate course of its own. The Phoenician element ran an opposite course, as the independent Phoenician settlements in Sicily sank into dependencies of Carthage. The entrance of the Romans put an end to all practical independence on the part of either nation. But Roman ascendancy did not affect Greeks and Phoenicians in the same way. Phoenician life gradually died out. But Roman ascendancy nowhere crushed out Greek life where it already existed, and in some ways it strengthened it. Though the Greeks never spread their dominion over the island, they made a peaceful conquest of it. This process was in no way hindered by the Roman dominion.

The question now comes, Who were the original inhabitants of Sicily? The island itself, StwXta, Sicilia, plainly takes

its name from the Sicels (ZuceXot, Siculi), a people whom we find occupying a great part of the island, chiefly east of the river Gela. They appear also in Italy (see Siculi), in the toe of the boot, and older history or tradition P'j^ff' spoke of them as having in earlier days held a large aatSm place in Latium and elsewhere in central Italy. They were believed to have crossed the strait into the island about 300 years before the beginning of the Greek settlements, that is to say in the nth century B.C. They found in the island a people called Sicans (cf. Odyssey, xxiv. 306), who claimed to be oiiTOxOovts {i.e. to have originated in the island itself), but whose name, we are told, might pass for a dialectic form of their own, did not the ancient writers expressly affirm them to be a wholly distinct people, akin to the Iberians. Sicans also appear with the Ligurians among the early inhabitants of Italy (Virg. Aen. vii. 795, viii. 328, xi. 317, and Servius's note). That the Sicels spoke a tongue closely akin to Latin is plain from several Sicel words which crept into Sicilian Greek, and from the Siceliot system of weights and measures — utterly unlike anything in old Greece. When the Greek settlements began, the Sicans, we are told, had hardly got beyond the life of villages on hill-tops (Dion. Hal. v. 6). Hyccara, on the north coast, is the one exception; it was probably a fishing settlement. The more advanced Sicels had their hill-forts also, but they had learned the advantages of the sea, and they already had settlements on the coast when the Greeks came. As we go on, we hear of both Sicel and Sican towns; 1 but we may suspect that any approach to true city life was owing to Greek influences. Neither people grew into any form of national unity. They were there- fore partly subdued, partly assimilated, without much effort.

The investigations of Professor Orsi, director of the museum at Syracuse, have thrown much light on the primitive peoples of south-eastern Sicily. Of palaeolithic man hardly any traces are to be found; but, though western Sicily has been com- paratively little explored, and the results hardly published at all, in several localities neolithic remains, attributable to the Sicani, have been discovered. The later Siculi do not appear to be a distinct race (cf. P. Orsi in Notizie degli scavi, 1898, 223), and probably both are branches of the Libyco-Iberian stock. Whereas other remains attributable to their villages or settle- ments are rare, their rock-hewn tombs are found by the thousand in the limestone cliffs of south-eastern Sicily. Those of the earliest period, the lower limit of which is put about 1500 B.C., are aeneolithic, metal being, however, rare and only found in the form of small ornaments; pottery with linear decoration is abundant. The second period (1500-1000 B.C.) shows a great increase in the use of bronze, and the introduction of gold and silver, and of imported Mycenaean vases. The chief cemeteries of this period have been found on Plemmyrium, the promontory south of Syracuse, at Cozzo Pantano, at Thapsus, at Pant.alica near Palazzolo, at Cassibile, south of Syracuse, and at Molinello near Augusta. The third period (1000-500 B.C.) in its first phase (1000-700) shows a continual increase of the introduction of objects of Greek origin; the pottery is at first imported geometric, and then vases of local imitation appear. Typical cemeteries are those of Monte Finocchito near Noto, of Noto itself, of Pantalica and of Leontini. In the second phase (700- 500 B.C.), sometimes called the fourth period, proto-Corinthian and Attic black figured vases are sometimes, though rarely, found, while local geometric pottery develops considerably. But the form of the tombs always remains the same, a small low chamber hewn in the rock, with a rectangular opening about 2 by 25 ft., out of which open other chambers, each with its separate doorway; and inhumation is adopted without excep- tion, whereas in a Greek necropolis a low percentage of cases of

1 Leontini, Megara, Naxos, Syracuse, Zancle are all recorded as sites where the Sicel gave way to the Greek (in regard to Syracuse [q.v.] this has recently been proved to be true), while many other towns remained Sicel longer, among them Abacaenum, Agyrium, Assorus, Centuripae, Cephaloedium, Engyum, Hadranum, Halaesa, Henna, Herbessus, Herbita, Hybla Galeatis, Inessa, Kafe Akte, Menaenum, Morgantina. The sites of several of these towns are doubtful.