Sicilian Slave Rebellions

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sicilian Slave Rebellions


(also Slave Wars or Servile Wars), rebellions that took place in ancient Rome during the second half of the second century B.C.. on the island of Sicily.

The first rebellion flared up in the city of Enna and lasted from 136 B.C.. (according to some sources, 138 or 137) to 132 B.C.. It was led by the Syrian slave Eunus, who was proclaimed by the insurgents as king under the name of Antiochus. Another center of rebellion was the city of Agrigentum, where the movement was led by the Cilician slave Cleon. Under Eunus’ leadership, the insurgent armies captured the cities of Tauromenium, Catana, Messana, and possibly Syracuse; the number of rebels grew to 200,000. Only in 132 did the consul P. Rupilius succeed in recapturing Tauromenium and Enna and in suppressing the rebellion.

Unlike the first rebellion, the second rebellion (104–99 B.C.) began in the rural areas of Sicily. In the southwest and in the center of the island it was headed by Salvius, a slave from one of the Italici tribes, who proclaimed himself king under the name Tryphon. In the west (the regions around Segesta and Lilybae-um), the rebellion was led by the Cilician slave Athenion. The insurgent armies united near the city of Triocala under the leadership of Tryphon, after whose death the leadership passed to Athenion. The rebels gradually captured the entire island with the exception of a few isolated cities, such as Murgantia and Lilybaeum.

The slaves did not harm the small landowners, and the rural poor supported the insurgents. The Roman army, led by the praetors Lucullus and later Gaius Servilius in 103 and 102, were unable to defeat the rebels. It took a consular army, sent to the island in 101 under the command of Manius Aquilinus, to suppress the uprising in 99. Classical authors wrote of the terrible devastation of the island and of the mass of corpses that long remained unburied.


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D’iakonov, A. P. “O khronologii pervogo vosstaniia rabov ν Sitsilii vo II v. do n. e.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1940, nos. 3–4.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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