SICULI, an ancient Sicilian tribe, which in historical times occupied the eastern half of the island to which they gave their name. It plays a large though rather shadowy part in the early traditions of pre-Roman Italy. There is abundant evidence that the Siculi once lived in Central Italy east and even north of Rome (e.g. Servius ad Aen. vii. 795; Dion. Hal. i. 9. 22; Thucydides vi. 2). Thence they were dislodged by the Umbro-Safme tribes, and finally crossed to Sicily. Archaeologists are not yet agreed as to the particular stratum of remains in Italy to which the name of the Siculi should be attached (see for instance B. Modestov, Introduction a I'histoire romaine, Paris, 1907, pp. 135 sqq.). They were distinct from the Sicani (q.v.; Virg. Aen. viii. 328) who inhabited the western half of the island, and who according to Thucydides came from Spain, but whom Virgil seems to recognize in Italy. Both traditions may be true (cf. W. Ridgeway, Who were the Romans? London, 1908, p. 23). Of the language of the Siculi we know a very little from glosses preserved to us by ancient writers, most of which were collected by E. A. Freeman (Sicily, vol. i. App. note iv.), and from an inscription upon what is presumably an ornamental earthenware wine vessel, which has very much the shape of a tea-pot, preserved and transcribed by R. S. Conway in the Collection of the Grand Duke of Baden at Karlsruhe (Winnefeld, Grossherzogl. vereinigte Sammlungen, 1887, 120), which has been discussed by R. Thurneysen (Kuhn's Zeitschrift, xxxv. 214). The inscription was found at Centuripa, and the alphabet is Greek of the sth or 6th century B.C. We have not enough evidence to make a translation possible, despite Thurneysen's valiant effort, but the recurrence of the phrase hemiton esti durom in a varied order (durom hemiton esti) presumably a drinking song or proverb, " half a cup is sorry cheer," though it is possible that the sign read as m may really denote some kind of i makes the division of these three words quite certain, and renders it highly probable that we have to do with an Indo-European language. None of the groups of sounds occurring in the rest of the inscription, nor any of the endings of words so far as they may be guessed, present any reason for doubting this hypothesis; and the glosses already mentioned can one and all be easily connected with Greek or Latin words (e.g. noirov, mutuum) ; in fact it would be difficult to rebut the contention that they should all be regarded as mere borrowings. (R. S. C.)
The towns of the Siculi, like those of the Sicani, formed no political union, but were under independent rulers. They played an important part in the history of the island after the arrival of the Greeks (see SICILY). Their agricultural pursuits and the volcanic nature of the island made them worshippers of the gods of the nether world, and they have enriched mythology with some distinctly national figures. The most important of these were the Palici, protectors of agriculture and sailors, who had a lake and temple in the neighbourhood of the river Symaethus, the chief seat of the Siceli; Adranus, father of the Palici, a god akin to Hephaestus, in whose temple a fire was always kept burning; Hybla (or Hyblaea), after whom three towns were named, whose sanctuary was at Hybla Gereatis. The connexion of Demeter and Kore with Henna (the rape of Proserpine) and of Arethusa with Syracuse is due to Greek influence. The chief Sicel towns were: Agyrium (San Filippo d' Argiro); Centuripa (or Centuripae; Centorbi)', Henna (Caslrogiovanni, a corruption of Castrum Hennae through the Arabic Casr-janni) ; Hybla, three in number, (a) Hybla Major, called Geleatis or Gereatis, on the river Symaethus, probably the Hybla famous for its honey, although according to others this was (b) Hybla Minor, on the E. coast N. of Syracuse, afterwards the site of the Dorian colony of Megara, (c) Hybla Heraea in the S. of the island.
For authorities see SICILY.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)