Professor Aurelio Burgio (Università di Palermo), The countryside in Sicily under the Roman Empire

The object of this report is to describe the current knowledge about the ancient landscape of Sicily, and the results connected to the archaeological surveys and other similar researches carried out from the eighties to the present time. Our knowledge is currently very different compared to that described by Roger Wilson (Sicily under the Roman Empire, 1990), who wrote that “the systematic exploration of Sicilian countryside is still in its infancy, and conclusions therefore premature”. Today the situation is very different: in the last 20 years have been published a lot of projects founded on systematic approach and analysis of ancient landscapes (integrated also by geo-morphological observations and Remote Sensing data). In some territories (e.g. Himera, Gela, Agrigento, Alesa and in other internal areas of Sicily) these researches reveal significant transformations, also from morphological point of view, and contribute to understand the different historical dynamics amongst the areas of the island.

Professor Lorenzo Campagna (Università di Messina), Reconsidering some issues about Roman Sicily in the light of recent research in a major town. The case of Tauromenium

For over ten years the University of Messina has been conducting archaeological research in Tauromenium (today’s Taormina), thanks to which it is now possible to better focus on the development phases of the urban centre, starting from the great monumentalisation of the III century BC to the interventions of the First and Middle Imperial age, up to the transformations in Late Antiquity. The city took a leading role from the earliest phases of the Roman province and then, from the Augustan age, as a colony, and therefore offers us a privileged observatory for reconsidering some fundamental turning points in the history of Sicily in the Roman period. Starting from the data emerging from our research, this contribution will propose a reconsideration on a larger scale of some issues relating to the life of urban centres within the province. The focus will be on the transition from the Republican province to the new Augustan order, on the phenomena of development during the Middle Imperial age as well as on times and modalities of the transformation of the cities in Late Antiquity. We will try to shed light on the political, social and economic factors that favoured these processes, analysing both the dynamics within the civic communities as well as the relations with the central power.

Professor Maria Beatriz Borba Florenzano (LABECA-MAE-USP), Greeks and non-Greeks in Central Sicily: the evidence of coins

We are all familiar with the main questions involved in the adoption and use of coined metal by the Greeks back in the 7th-6th centuries B.C.; questions such as the steps in the expansion in the Mediterranean area of the habit of coining; abstract value and concrete value; intrinsic value and “fiduciarity” of coined money and so forth. Also, the “Greekness” of this invention has been stressed by historians, archaeologists and numismatists, leading to a standard statement that the adoption of coinage by non-Greek communities meant “Hellenization”. Even considering the truth contained in this statement, there is no way to deny that many other features involved the decision to mint or to use coins as a means of exchange or payment, or even as expression of social hierarchy or as means of accumulation of wealth. Focusing the coinage of Sikel towns in Central and Eastern Sicily during the fifth century B.C., we intend to better characterize the ways of contact between the apoikiai and non-Greeks communities showing how the expansion of coinage promoted cultural change in this area and period specially as far as the notion of value goes.

Leonardo Fuduli, PhD (LABECA-MAE-USP), Late antique Halaesa: abandonment, spoliation, upcycling

The ancient Halaesa, founded in northern Sicily in the end of the 5 cen. BC was an important city during the Roman age due to its strategic position of his harbour. In new recent researches the site has returned significant parts of the urban pattern and its monuments, allowing to shed light data up to a few decades ago completely unknown. The re-emergence of the ancient city presents several problems regarding the reconstruction of the last decades of the city life before the final abandonment, certainly preceded by the institution of an episcopal seat, prove that the city is still important. The archaeological evidences show during the Late Antiquity and the Byzantine age a reshaping of the main public area, which is namely occupied by burials and other private buildings demonstrating a considerable shrinkage of the entire city. Due to the shortage of buildings materials, the abandoned monuments began to get spoiled and transformed for new functions. This practice i.e. spoliation/upcycling lasts several centuries not only during the Middle Age but also during the Modern Age.

Professor Elaine Farias Veloso Hirata (LABECA-MAE-USP), Sacred and political landscape in Archaic Sicily: religious practices and relations of power (8th to 5th centuries BC).

This presentation analyzes the connections between religious practice and the establishment political power forms, such as tyranny, in the areas of Greeks’ foundations in Sicily. In order to do so, it discusses, at the outset, the limits and possibilities of the use of material sources – especially areas of worship and their artifacts – to support hypotheses about the relations between politics and religion in the ancient Greek world. The theoretical debate follows a case study: the cult of Demeter and Kore and the cult of the oikistes as instruments of power building in apoikiai as Siracusa, Gela and Agrigento. The issue of the encounter of cultures will be highlighted because it is a region where cultural contacts are multiple and conflicting. Balkan groups that arrive sharing the opposing Doric and Ionic identities interact with local populations also diversified culturally and with Phoenician-Punic groups established in the western area of ​​the island. In this context, political and social instability is endemic and forms of tyrannical power as well. The sacred areas of the two Goddesses dominate the religious landscape especially in the southeast region of the island, which will become the epicenter of the political life of the Sikhs since the sec. V a.C. The hypothesis of overlapping an iconography of power to a sacred landscape will be discussed from the analysis of the original tyrannical form that develops on the island and which is largely inspired by the figure of the oikistes, the hero-founder.

Viviana Lo Monaco, PhD (LABECA-MAE-USP), Greek and non-Greek entanglement in Central Sicily (7th-4th cent. BC)

In the first half of the 6th century BC, the region of central Sicily (known in antiquity as Sicania) entered the orbit of interest of the Rhodian-Cretan component. In line with the new political reality, indigenous cities played specific roles that were based upon their location and the cultural factors that distinguished them. It can be observed that the choice of settlement location, the organization of urban space, and the natives’ relationship with the new monetary economy, are eloquent expressions of the new cultural reality which begun from the first moment of contact with the Greeks. While still adopting, in some cases, Hellenic architectural forms, local populations organized the land differently to the typical orthogonal scheme of the Apokiai. Equally, the monetary system as a barter vehicle was accepted with difficulty, indeed, people continued to prefer weighted metal.  Native settlements continued to be located on top of hills until the end of the 5th century, and it is proposed here that this trend started to change only from the 4th century onwards, when local citizens joined with mercenaries of largely peninsular origin.

Professor Maria Cristina Nicolau Kormikiari Passos (LABECA-MAE-USP), Carthaginian monetary circulation and production in Sicily: the beginning of an economic domination process in central-Mediterranean Punic eparchia

The late fifth century BC is marked by the resounding resumption of a Carthaginian expansion program in the Central Mediterranean. Sicily will be the scene of some of the main events related to this program. These include the initiation of a process, the establishment of an own coinage, which, in the last instance, will lead to the monetization of the Punic economy under Carthaginian rule. Because Carthage decided to struck coins and what would have been the main characteristics of this process, notably in relation to Sicily, will be the main points addressed in our speech.

Ferdinando Maurici, PhD (Dipartimento dei Beni Culturali e dell’Identità Siciliana), Early Christian and Medieval Archaeology of Sicily

Middle Ages in Sicily conventionally ends in 1492. During this period, the Island was subjected to various dominations: Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Arab Normans, Angevins, Aragoneses. The Early Christian and Medieval archaeological studies of Sicily began with Paolo Orsi at the first half of the last century. This contribution aims to provide an overview of the peculiarities of each period in the light of recent archaeological researches, following the evolution of urban spaces and fortification systems. It will be worth noting that, in some period, important archaeological evidences of religious and defensive architecture remain (Early Christian, Byzantine, Normand), while others (Barbarian, Islamic) almost or completely disappeared. This can be explained considering the historical dynamics which involved the Island. After Normand period, the archaeological evidence from the reign of Frederick II includes fortifications, such as in Iato and in Entella, both rebuilt during the Middle Ages upon the ruins of Greek cities. The Sicilian archaeology between the last times of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Modern Age reflects the acculturation processes that are the Leitmotiv of the Medieval history of the biggest Mediterranean Island.

Francesco Muscolino, PhD (Parco Archeologico di Pompei), Late Hellenistic Sicily in the Mediterranean context

Throughout its millenarian history, Sicily has alternated between moments in which it has played a central role in the Mediterranean area, and moments in which it had a relatively marginal position. The period conventionally defined as “Hellenistic” is a moment of great centrality of Sicily in the Mediterranean network. If, on the one hand, Sicily looked to the Hellenistic kingdoms as a precise political and cultural model, on the other it soon became the object of the expansionist aims of Rome that, on the island, expanded to the detriment of Carthage, which for centuries had dominated the Western Mediterranean. These complex socio-political dynamics are reflected, with interesting outcomes, in the artistic forms and in valuable and common objects both imported to the island and exported from it. The paper will focus in particular on these aspects, presenting some significant examples, with the aim of offering an overall synthesis of late Hellenistic Sicily, a period which still has various little-known aspects that deserve a deeper scrutiny.

Professor Monika Trümper-Ritter (Freie Universität of Berlin), Gymnasia in Hellenistic and Roman Sicily – A Critical Reassessment of Typology and Function

Hellenistic-Roman Sicily (3rd-1st century BC) has recently received increasing attention in scholarship. In comparative approaches, scholars attempt to assess standards and idiosyncrasies of Sicilian urbanism and architecture as well as cultural influences that shaped material culture particularly in the period of Roman rule. While many building types were studied comprehensively, among them theaters, bouleuteria, and baths, gymnasia attracted little attention. Literary sources and inscriptions testify to the existence of gymnasia in the 4th century BC and to their increasing importance from the 3rd century BC onwards. Archaeological remains are scarce and hard to assess, however, including only one fully excavated example in Solunto. Consequently, identifications and reconstructions are debated. This paper focuses on the archaeological remains of examples identified in scholarship based on inscriptions and architectural features, notably structures in Solunto, Akrai, Agrigento, Neaiton, and Cava d’Ispica. It critically discusses the urban context, identification, reconstruction, typology, and function of these structures. Given the remarkable uniformity of some building types throughout Hellenistic Sicily (e.g. bouleuteria, baths, peristyle houses) it will be assessed whether gymnasia in Sicily ever conformed to a clearly definable building type as well as when and in which socio-cultural and historical contexts this type would have been introduced.