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History of The Peloponnesian War - Book VI   

The Sixth Book.

CHAPTER XVIII.

Seventeenth Year of the War - The Sicilian
Campaign - Affair of the Hermae -
Departure of the Expedition


THE same winter the Athenians resolved to sail again to Sicily, with
a greater armament than that under Laches and Eurymedon, and, if
possible, to conquer the island; most of them being ignorant of its
size and of the number of its inhabitants, Hellenic and barbarian, and
of the fact that they were undertaking a war not much inferior to that
against the Peloponnesians. For the voyage round Sicily in a
merchantman is not far short of eight days; and yet, large as the
island is, there are only two miles of sea to prevent its being
mainland.
It was settled originally as follows, and the peoples that
occupied it are these. The earliest inhabitants spoken of in any
part of the country are the Cyclopes and Laestrygones; but I cannot
tell of what race they were, or whence they came or whither they went,
and must leave my readers to what the poets have said of them and to
what may be generally known concerning them. The Sicanians appear to
have been the next settlers, although they pretend to have been the
first of all and aborigines; but the facts show that they were
Iberians, driven by the Ligurians from the river Sicanus in Iberia. It
was from them that the island, before called Trinacria, took its
name of Sicania, and to the present day they inhabit the west of
Sicily. On the fall of Ilium, some of the Trojans escaped from the
Achaeans, came in ships to Sicily, and settled next to the Sicanians
under the general name of Elymi; their towns being called Eryx and
Egesta. With them settled some of the Phocians carried on their way
from Troy by a storm, first to Libya, and afterwards from thence to
Sicily. The Sicels crossed over to Sicily from their first home Italy,
flying from the Opicans, as tradition says and as seems not
unlikely, upon rafts, having watched till the wind set down the strait
to effect the passage; although perhaps they may have sailed over in
some other way. Even at the present day there are still Sicels in
Italy; and the country got its name of Italy from Italus, a king of
the Sicels, so called. These went with a great host to Sicily,
defeated the Sicanians in battle and forced them to remove to the
south and west of the island, which thus came to be called Sicily
instead of Sicania, and after they crossed over continued to enjoy the
richest parts of the country for near three hundred years before any
Hellenes came to Sicily; indeed they still hold the centre and north
of the island. There were also Phoenicians living all round Sicily,
who had occupied promontories upon the sea coasts and the islets
adjacent for the purpose of trading with the Sicels. But when the
Hellenes began to arrive in considerable numbers by sea, the
Phoenicians abandoned most of their stations, and drawing together
took up their abode in Motye, Soloeis, and Panormus, near the Elymi,
partly because they confided in their alliance, and also because these
are the nearest points for the voyage between Carthage and Sicily.
These were the barbarians in Sicily, settled as I have said. Of
the Hellenes, the first to arrive were Chalcidians from Euboea with
Thucles, their founder. They founded Naxos and built the altar to
Apollo Archegetes, which now stands outside the town, and upon which
the deputies for the games sacrifice before sailing from Sicily.
Syracuse was founded the year afterwards by Archias, one of the
Heraclids from Corinth, who began by driving out the Sicels from the
island upon which the inner city now stands, though it is no longer
surrounded by water: in process of time the outer town also was
taken within the walls and became populous. Meanwhile Thucles and
the Chalcidians set out from Naxos in the fifth year after the

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