Morgantina - History

History

The name appears in different forms among different authors: Morgantia, Murgantia, and Morgantium in scholarship; in ancient sources: Μοργάντιον, Strabo; Μοργαντίνη, Diod.: the name is variously written by Latin writers Murgantia, Murgentia, and Morgentia; the inhabitants are called by Cicero and Pliny, Murgentini).

According to Strabo, Morgantina was founded by a pre-Roman Italian group known as the Morgeti.1 Dionysos of Halikarnassos wrote that the Morgetes were led by a king named Morges.2 The earliest historical date associated with Morgantina is 459 BCE, when Douketios, leader of the indigenous Sikel population of central Sicily, attacked the city and captured it.3 Morgantina was probably still under Douketios' control when he was defeated at Nomai by Syracuse in 449 BCE.4 No further mention of Morgantina is made until Thucydides lists it as part of the terms of a truce in the war of 427–424 BCE between Syracuse and the Dorian cities of Sicily on one side, and Kamarina, the Khalkidian cities of Sicily, the Sikels, and Athens on the other side.5 Thucydides says that Syracuse agreed at the Congress of Gela to give Morgantina to Kamarina in return for payment of an indemnity. Kamarina was destroyed in 405 by the Carthaginians. Morgantina therefore must have been independent from at least this date, although it was soon re-captured by Dionysios of Syracuse in 396.6 Syracuse retained (occasionally more nominal than actual) control of Morgantina until the Second Punic War. In 317, Morgantina received the tyrant Agathokles, then in exile, and offered him help in returning to Syracuse.7 He was elected praetor at Morgantina, and later dux. As part of the Syracusan kingdom of Hieron II, Morgantina fell under the hegemony of Rome when Hieron became a Roman vassal in 263. In 214, Morgantina switched its allegiance from Rome to Carthage.8 Morgantina remained autonomous until 211, when it became the last Sicilian town to be captured by the Romans. It was given as payment by Rome to a group of Spanish mercenaries.9 In 133, Morgantina was the place where Eunus, the leader of the slave rebellion known as the First Servile War died.10 In the Second Servile War, Morgantina was besieged and taken by slaves. The final mention of Morgantina comes again from Strabo, who notes that in his own time, the first century CE, the city had ceased to exist.11

A few literary sources describe Morgantina and its economy. Most famous of these are the references to the vitis murgentina, a strain of grape mentioned by Cato, Columella, and Pliny the Elder.12 These grapes were prized for their wine — Pliny called it "the very best among all those that come from Sicily" — and had been transplanted from Sicily to mainland Italy by the 2nd century BCE.

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