Sicilian Identity in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods: Epigraphic Considerations

Jonathan R. W. Prag

in Epigraphical Approaches to the Post-classical Polis

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199652143
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745935 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Ancient Documents

Sicilian Identity in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods: Epigraphic Considerations

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This chapter starts from an Attic funerary stele recording one Sōtērēs Sikeliōtis, and the issues this text raises about regional identities. The investigation of the nature and significance of Sicilian identity in the fifth century bc has based primarily on the distinction between Sikel (‘indigenous Sicilian’) and Sikeliote (‘Greek colonist in Sicily’): considerable weight has been placed on Diodorus and the claim therein for the universalization over time of the term Sikeliote, and on more internal issues of Doric and Ionian within the Greek colonial world, on the back of Thucydides' account of the Sicilian expedition. The chapter expands the evidential and chronological scope of the relevant discussion, looking at the use of ‘Sicilian’ in public and private epigraphic sources, subverting the claim of Diodorus, but also raising questions about the existence of a regional, supra-polis identity. The form ‘Sicilian from X polis’ emerges as a regular classification, visible in Latin as well as Greek. Polis ethnics used by Sicilians abroad suggest that this ‘Sicilian’ identity was at least as dominant as that of any individual polis, other than Syracuse. This study also explores the question of whether a more general historical context can be elucidated for the development of such a seemingly unusual regional ethnic, which coincidentally became a political unit in the third century bc, in the form of a Roman provincial. The relevance of that political unit and the impact of Rome are considered as significant factors in the development of a regional identity. The concurrent development of the personification of ‘Sikelia’ is also explored, together with the apparently vital flourishing civic environment of Sicily under Roman Republican rule.

Keywords: Diodorus; ethnic; provincia; regional identity; Rome; Sicily; Sikel; Sikeliote

Chapter.  9574 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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