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The Sicani and agriculture

The Sicani and agriculture

The Sicani, a term coming from the ancient Greek Σικανοί and Sǐcāni in Latin, were a people of Sicily settled in ancient times on a large part of the island. Following the advent of the Siculi, the Sicani occupied a central-southern region of the island, bordered by the Himera and Halykos rivers and called Sicania. The few and fragmentary historical information that has come down to us on the Sicani come mainly from Greek historiographers.
The origin of the Sicani still remains a much debated issue: according to the source of Diodoro Siculo, the Sicani who settled in Sicily determined the change of the toponym of the island from Trinacria to Sikania.
Among other things Diodorus Siculus speaking of the Sicans reports the testimonies of Philistus of Syracuse and Timaeus of Tauromenio. The Syracusan informs that the Sicani were a people of Iberian origin, while from the Thymaic fragment we learn that their origin was rather autochthonous. Diodorus seems to support Timaeus’ opinion.
According to Thucydides and, subsequently, Philistus, the Sicanians were Iberians; however it is not clear whether the Sicani, assuming that this hypothesis is verified, came from Spain to Sicily by sea or rather by land.
The hypothesis of the arrival by sea would be supported by the fact that the Sicans settled in the western part of the island: the one that overlooks Iberia. But both the testimony of Thucydides, who informs that they once were all over the island, and their expulsion from the original land because of the Ligurians, would rather lean towards reaching them by land. The Sicani, settled along the paralia that divided Iberia from Gaul and Italy, were probably driven out by the Ligurians who arrived in that place. They were therefore driven towards Sicily, where they settled.
The hypothesis of the Iberian origin is also found in Dionysius of Halicarnassus. The Roman historian, through his sources, reports how the Sicani were originally from Iberia; arrived in Sicily to escape the Ligurians.
Furthermore, the testimony of a migration of the Sicani by land is supported by Pausanias the Periegeta, who does not seem to depend on Thucydides when he asserts that three peoples arrived in Sicily (for which no autochthonous people as Timaeus would like): Sicani, Sicels and Phrygians: the first two came from Italy, while the third came from the Troas.
It should also be remembered that archeology would seem to confirm what has been handed down by the literary tradition on the anteriority of the Sicani with respect to the Sicels as well as on the contrasts and struggles between the two ethnic groups, the latter aspect probably confirmed by the violent destruction of the villages of Mokarta and Sabucina .
Even today the Sicans are a mystery because they have left no written evidence but, through the study of archaeological finds and some historical sources and between the lines of the saga of Daedalus-Cocalo-Minos, some interesting aspects can be grasped.
the Sicani lived in ancient villages and had built their cities on the strongest hills because of the pirates. They were not under the command of a single king but in each city there was a lord.
In the mountains they learned to collect and conserve water; to trace the paths to go down to the valley where they practiced agriculture, sheep farming and hunting; to build the terraces to raise the sanctuaries and the palace of the sovereign; to flatten the rock to build houses or to dig the walls of the mountains to build the cave tombs.
These needs made them extraordinarily skilled in working with stone.
In fact, it is believed that the Sicani were closely linked to the Neolithic culture of continental Europe, in particular to the culture of cardial impressed pottery.
Agriculture was a fundamental activity for the Sicans, who mainly depended on the land for their livelihoods. They grew a variety of crops for food consumption and for raising livestock. The main crops included wheat, barley, legumes, olives and vines.

The Sicani used traditional agricultural techniques to cultivate the land. They may have been involved in the practice of crop rotation, where a land was used for a crop for a certain amount of time and then left to rest to recover its fertility before being used again. This helped maintain the productivity of the land over the long term.
Furthermore, the Sicani practiced the breeding of animals such as sheep, goats and pigs. These animals provided them with meat, milk, wool and skins. Cattle raising was an important source of food and resources for the Sicans.
The agricultural tools used by the Sicani included the wooden plough, the ploughshare and the sickle. These tools were mostly made from natural materials available in the region, such as wood and stone.
It is important to note that information on the agriculture of the Sicanians is limited, as they are an ancient civilization and many of their agricultural practices have not been documented in detail. Our knowledge is based, as mentioned, mainly on archaeological discoveries and on what can be deduced from other similar Neolithic cultures of the time.
With the arrival of the Phoenicians and the Greeks, the Sican culture was gradually assimilated and supplanted. The influence of later civilizations led to significant changes in the agricultural practices of the island over the following centuries.
We also remember that the Sicani lived in places with plenty of water, in addition to the numerous natural springs; their territory was delimited by the rivers Platani (Halykos) and Belice (Hypsas) but the Magazzolo (Alba – Hisburos), the Verdura (Camico), the Tranchina-Bellapietra (Wadi Allabù), the Carabollace (Alabon) also flowed inside and the Carboj (Achates).
For this reason, in addition to the fertility of the soil, documented by today’s flourishing agriculture in these areas, it suggests an agriculture that made use of irrigation techniques and consequent crops.
This link with agriculture is confirmed, among other things by the cult that the Sicani had of the Goddess Demeter, a Greek goddess assimilated to Ceres. Demeter was the Goddess of cultivated land and, in particular, of wheat, so much so that the places where her cult is most widespread are Eleusis and Sicily.
The cult of Demeter initially spread to Enna, then to Syracuse, Mégara Hyblaea, Agrigento, Selinunte and her image was depicted on the coins of Lentini, Segesta, Panormo and Tindari but was also present in the Greek pantheon.
As far as agricultural tools are concerned, the Sicani being a prehistoric culture, specific information on these tools is limited.
However, like other agricultural cultures of the time, the Sicans are likely to have used a variety of tools to cultivate the land, sow, reap and process agricultural products. These implements would have included simple tools made from stone, wood, or bone.
Some of the agricultural implements that may have been used by the Sicans include:
– Plough: A rudimentary plow made of wood or stone, used to plow the land and prepare it for planting.
– Hoe: A sharp bladed tool used to loosen the earth and remove weeds.
– Spade: A tool similar to a hoe, but with a wider blade, used to dig holes for planting.
– Sickle: A tool with a sharp curved blade, used to reap grain and other crops.
– Rake: A tool with wooden or metal teeth, used to collect hay or level the land.
– Grain mallet: A stick or mallet used for pounding the grain and separating the grains from the chaff.
– Spindle: A tool used to spin wool or other textile fibers.
It is important to note that these are only guesses based on what is known of agricultural practices of the time and similar tools used by other ancient cultures. Since the specific tools used by the Sicani have not been conserved or documented exhaustively, there is no certain knowledge of their agricultural implements.

Guido Bissanti

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