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Region Sicily
Extinct approximately 300 BC
Language codes
ISO 639-3 sxc
Linguist list
Glottolog None
Tribes of Sicily by 11th century BC.png
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).[dubious ]

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 thought to be the oldest inhabitants of Sicily with a recorded name. The Greek historian Thucydides[2] claimed they immigrated from the Iberian Peninsula (perhaps Valencia)[3][4] driven by the Ligurians from the river Sicanus, drawing his information from the Sicilian historian Antiochus of Syracuse, but his basis for saying this is unknown.[5] Timaeus of Tauromenium considered them as aboriginal.[6] Some modern scholars think the Sicani may have been an Illyrian tribe that gained control of areas previously inhabited by native tribes.[7] Archaeological excavation has shown that they had received some Mycenaean influence.[8]

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. Historical records start with the Phoenicians, who established colonies in the 11th century BC, and especially with the Greeks, who founded the colony of Syracuse, which eventually became the largest Greek city, in 734 BC. Other Greek colonies were established around the island. The indigenous Sicilians were gradually absorbed by these colonizing peoples and finally disappeared as distinct peoples under Roman occupation.

Herodotus and King Minos

Herodotos: The History, VII.170-171 [9]

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....Men of various nations now flocked to Crete, which was stripped of its inhabitants; but none came in such numbers as the Hellenes. Three generations after the death of Minos the Trojan war took place; and the Cretans were not the least distinguished among the helpers of Menelaus. But on this account, when they came back from Troy, famine and pestilence fell upon them, and destroyed both the men and the cattle. Crete was a second time stripped of its inhabitants, a remnant only being left; who form, together with fresh settlers, the third Cretan people by whom the island has been inhabited.


A few short inscriptions using the Greek alphabet have been found in the extinct Sicanian language.[10] Except for names, they have not been translated, and the language is unclassified due to lack of data.[11]

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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Aapologetico de la literatura española contra los opiniones". Ensayo historico. 7 October 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Greek Identity in the Western Mediterranean". 2004.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Fine, p.72
  9. Herodotus, The History, George Rawlinson, trans., (New York: Dutton & Co., 1862
  10. The World's Writing Systems. 1996:301.
  11. 'Sicanian' at Linguist List

External links