Remembering the Sicani, a pre-Indo-European nation

EDIT: Found this great timeline of the Sicani. I will leave this post up because the text is still very interesting.

The Sicani people were a pre-Indo-European people and one of the original inhabitants of the island of Sicily. They were neighbors to the Siculi peoples (who were probably Indo-European) and Greek and Carthaginian traders. Little is known of the Sicani, save some scattered remnants, and the Wikipedia article on them is woefully sparse. I took the liberty of retyping the 1846 book The Topography of Rome and Its Vicinity, Vol. 1 by H.G. Bohn (pp. 400-404) which goes into greater detail.


Dionysius (who passed twenty-two years at Rome, during the reign of Augustus, for the express purpose of studying the history and antiquities of the country,) in the beginning of the second book of his History, informs us that "the first people known to have possessed the soil of Rome were certain indigenous barbarians called Siculi, who occupied also many other parts of Italy, and of whom neither few nor mean monuments remain." Even in his time several places called Sicula still existed - indicating the ancient establishments of the nation.

The Siculi were evidently a mixture of the barbarians of the country, with Greeks in the lowest state of civilization. (Vide History). Philistos of Syracuse has called the Siculi, Liguians, (and such might have been the origin of the barbarian part of the nation); but Antiochus of Syracuse, according to Dionysius, calls them Greeks, and says they were descended from the Oenotrians,, and were established in Samnium and Sabina.

According to the accounts left us by the ancients, the Siculi once extended from the valley now called Cicolani, and the neighbourhood of Reate, (from which Dionysius says the Umbrians expelled them,) to Praeneste, Aricia, and the country of the Rutuli. It might be shown that the Aequicoli were originally Aequo-Siculi, or a mixture of Opsci and Siculi, the Q and the P being frequently used in old Latin indifferently. That the name Cicolani is derived from these two tribes cannot admit of a doubt; but as we have no account of Siculian walls, the ruins now remaining in that valley must be attributed to the Pelasgians, who, united with the Casci, expelled the Siculi from those parts, and finally from the whole of Latium, three ages previous to the Trojan war.

When Dionysius says that great vestiges of the Siculi remained, as testimonies to their ancient occupation of the soil, he seems to have alluded to their walls; though it does not appear that the towns of the Siculi were regularly fortified. The walls of Corniculum, or St. Angelo, and those of the hill of Siciliano, seem, however, to have been of a more barbarous and less scientific construction than those of other places, and in their present state suggest the idea of a ruder people than the Pelasgi. The interstices between the masses of stone (though of course considerably englarged by time) seem as if they had always been great; and these, if not filled up, must have rendered the walls almost useless, affording to an enemy the means of ascent.

It might, however, be unsafe to pronounce them Siculetan remains; for as the first Pelasgians or Aborigines, lived without walls, the Siculi, a still more barbarous people, over whom they triumphed just before the arrival of the second Pelasgic colony, can hardly be supposed to have had them; and the memorials of their name, of which Dionysius speaks, may have been only the names or the sites of places.

How far the Siculi extended to the south does not seem clear. Sigonius discovers that Capua was anciently called Osca and Sicopolis, as well as Vulturnum; and perhaps there are traces of the name even among the distant Lucanians.

The Sicani, who were the same people, are said to have been chased away by the Ligurians. The Siciliotae are synonymus with the Italiotae. There is yet a place, not far from the Fucine lake, called Goriano Siculi. Near Athens there was a place called Sicelia; of which, the roughly built walls, on an eminence at the base of Hymettus, nearly in a line between its summit and the Acropolis, are probably the remains.

The celebrated Lamina Borgiana, found near Petilia in Calabria, in 1783, is of such consequence with regard to the history of the Siculi, or Sicani, that its insertion requires no apology in a work, one object of which is to afford proofs, from existing documents, of the truth of the generally received opinions, with regard to very ancient nations.

Theos tukha Saotis didoti Sikainiai tan Goikian, kai ta alla panta. Dea Fortuna Servatrix  dat Sicainiae domicilium, et alia omnia. Nothing can be more curious than such a monument; being of the highest antiuuity, as is proved by the Pelasgic letters and Pelasgic Greek; and treating of circumstances connected with the history of a people who were finally expelled from their original territory as much as eighty years previous to the war of Troy. It is now in the Borgian collection at Naples, and was accurately copied in facsimile by Mr. Laing Meason for this work.  Brozne was a metal of some value, when so small a piece was consecrated to so remarkable a service. The bronze must have been fastened, or let into a stone. That ist is no forgery is certain, for those who first attempted to explain it thought they had discovered three new letters which more recent information proves to be by no means rare.

The Siculi, when they first took possession of the soil, are said to have found in the eastern part of Italy, where it was natural they should first settle, some barbarians called Choni. These almost appear  in the light of a romance: indeed the Siculi themselves, and even those who expelled them, are generally viewed with the same scepticism; but the Chonedonas are mentioned in an inscription found near Basta, in the ancient Messapia, of which the beginning, preserved by Lanzi (p. 620) from Galateo and Justus Lipsius runs thus -


which Lanzi proposes to read - Kathitsesto ta orea Massapidas astei Basta ... In the  third line we find the Chonedonas, the people in question; so that in the seventy-fourth olympiad, when a war of limits (mentioned by Diodorus,) took place between the Tarentines and the Iapygians, the name was known. In the last line the Oenotrians also seem to be named.