Sicily - Segesta

by Kimp 29. February 2016 21:39

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Segesta will forever be remembered as the small town, that caused the destruction of the mighty Athenian empire, without even firing a single arrow, nor slinging a single sword, nor ever setting foot in Athens.

Modern Era
Today, Segesta is a beautiful place to walk around and look at many era's of old history. Nestled in the Mountains of Western Sicily, it sports great views of the surrounding vineyards and includes one of the the best preserved Greek Temples, which was created by an Athenian architect, around 420 B.C., just a few years before they asked Athens for help.

Ancient Era

The indigenous people of Western Sicily were called Elymian. It is thought that they were descendants of refuges fleeing Troy after the Trojan war. Same as the ancient Romans. 

Around 700 B.C. the Greeks (from the mainland of Greece) were colonizing the Western part of Sicily. Athens was an independent City-State what was separate from Greece. And Ionian Greeks (Modern day Western Turkey) moved to Greece but some didn't colonize, as they preferred to live among the indigenous people.

A City-State is a city that is also an independent country. Monaco and the Vatican are two of the few surviving City-States.

Athens arch enemy was another City-State named Sparta that was located inland, in the Peloponnese Peninsula (modern day southwestern Greece). It seems like Athens and Sparta were nearly always in a heightened state of tension. They would sign 50 year peace treaties and defensive pact's, only to break them two years later and be back at war with each other. It had all of the elements that make Democracy great. Deceit, political lobbying, back stabbing, muscle flexing, jealousy, and secret pact's seemed to be the norm. 

The capital of the Elymian people was named Segesta and was composed of about even number's of indigenous people and Ionian Greeks.

A new Greek colony, attempted to start a port city named Selinuite, that was not very far from Segesta, Needless to say, the two cities were in constant conflict for about 200 years. This conflict culminated in a large battle, in which Segesta lost.

Not wanting to take that defeat in stride, they decided to mount a significant counter offensive by sending representative's to Athens, requesting both an alliance and military assistance against Selinuite.

Quite a bit is know about this next part because of an Athenian Historian named Thucydides, who was also an Athenian General. I am going to paraphrase it and use a little artistic license to fill in some cracks.

The Segesta representative's showed up in Athens, with all of the wealth that Segesta could muster up. The initial request was for twenty Trireme's of troop's. It was good timing, because Athens had just signed a truce with Sparta.

A Trireme was a very light and fast sailing vessel that held about 200 troop's, of which four or five were archer's, and included room for a few horses. To keep the weight down, it was only designed for one day movements. There weren't any sleeping quarter's, and it only had enough storage area for one day of rations. To make it fast, just about all 200 men would row it, in addition to it's sails. There were three levels of rower's on each side, each pulling one oar. If the battle was more than one day away, they would pull in somewhere, stay the night, get more provision's and move on the next morning. Twenty Trireme's would have been about 4,000 troops.

When it didn't look like the Athenian's were going to help, the representative's told the Assembly (Athenian Congress) that the gold they had brought was only a down payment. There was plenty more gold where that came from, to be dispersed after the win. Suddenly the Assembly wanted to discuss it.

At that time, there were three highly respected General's in Athens:

Nicias was the old, seasoned victor, who
had concurred many, many conquests. He earned his respect in battle and was known for bring home the gold medal. He was also a political leader and owned a very large estate with 1,000 slaves.

was Mr. Reliable. When he was given a job, he just quietly went and did it. Nothing more and nothing less. Even keeled, trustworthy and highly respected by all those who knew him.

Alcibiades as the young general (mid 30's at that time). A student of Socrates and expected by many to be the next Nicias.

The Assembly asked the wise old general what he thought about the proposal. The old general had been to Sicily before and he had done his homework. He knew how many allies there were and also how weak those alliances were. Likewise, he knew how many enemy's there were and also the strength of the enemy alliances.

Nicias knew, if they showed up, even with all of their forces. The was a risk that the enemies would align, his alliances would
back down, and they would be stuck in a fight for survival. But he did not say that to the assembly. What he said was something to the effect of, "We would need a really big Army to take Selinunte.". Figuring that the Assembly would get the idea and decide not to go.

What the assembly heard was, "We can take Selinunte and it would be a big show of strength, that would strengthen their appliances, while weakening their opponents alliances.

What the young general heard was, "We can conquer all of Sicily for our own.".

What Lamachus what thinking was, "Wake me up when it's time to leave. I'm ready for whatever."

After Nicas left the Assembly, They talked among themselves and decided to triple the size of the Army and
send a sizable Navy along as well. That would be a good show of strength. Surely their allies would see it
as such, and jump "all in" with them.

In addition, they decided to send the old general for the wisdom and the young
general for the experience. The only problem was, that both generals hated each other,  and never saw eye to eye, The Assembly decided to solve that problem by also sending Mr. Reliable. Figuring that he could hold it all together and negotiate the peace.

Night before departure:
The young general and his cronies tied one on at the pub, in celebration of counting their chickens before they hatched. They then commenced to deface several shrines in Athens, in a drunken stupor, on the way to the ships.

After Departure:
The ships had departed before the Assembly caught word of the Shrine defacing incidents. They request a ship to catch up with the Armada and bring the young general back to Athens for a trial.

Arrival in Sicily:
The large Athenian Navy and Army show up in Catania Sicily, who was one of their allies. Catania is on the East coast of Sicily, about as far away from Selinuite as it gets. They just wanted to hang out for a few days, rest, replenish supplies, and move on. Plus the Athenian's thought catania would see the large Athenian Army and Navy and feel like it was very impressive, sealing their alliance.

The only problem was that Catina was very close to Syracuse. At that time,
Syracuse was a nearby City-State with about the same population as Athens. Catina didn't know that this Armada was there to attack Sellunite, and thought that this Army was stopping at Catina, en-route, to take Syracuse. They were like, "Dude, that's all that you brought? Look's pretty puny to me. I think we'll just sit this one out. "

Syracuse had an alliance with Sparta, Athens arch-rival. Syracuse caught wind of the ships in the Catania port and also thought they were there to mount on offensive against Syracuse. Syracuse was not going to wait for them to attack. They summoned their Army and headed to Catania, for a surprise attack.

Someone must have tipped the Athens Army off. They had no intention of taking Syracuse, but were certainly not going to back down to any aggressor. Their first battle, was fought on a river crossing near Cantinia, and it saw Athens's as the victor. 

So the three generals huddle up to try to figure out what to do next.
The old general said, "This definitely
changed our plans, but we got one in the win column anyway. Our alliances will be stronger, and the enemy alliances a little weaker.  So the best thing to do is, go back to Athens and sit tight with a smile and another notch in our belt."

The Young general says, "Dude, we just kicked their ass. We can take them. All we need to do, is set up a stronghold, wait on more reinforcements to come, then move all in. ".

Mr. Reliable says, "I am in favor of taking them, but we need to strike now, immediately, while they are back on their heels, and licking their wounds. Before they can assemble their allies and mount a significant defense or counter offensive. "

The young general must have had a trump card or what sounded like a great plan upon more discussion, because he won the argument. So they dug in, hunkered down, and awaited the arrival of more soldiers.

Meanwhile the ship that the Assembly had sent to retrieve the young general, for the shrine
defacing trial had arrived. The young general was alerted in advance, got cold feet, and defected to Sparta (the arch enemy of Athens) seeking Asylum. 

He told Sparta of the whole plan, how big the Army was, and how many reinforcements they were requesting.

This left the old general and Mr. reliable stuck in a place and with a plan they both hated, with no choice but to carry it through, because they had already committed. If they packed up now and left, it would show weakness, and they would not be able to save face, Attacking now was not possible, because Syracuse had been preparing their defense plan and winter was approaching.

Spring comes, reinforcements arrive, and the Athenian Army carries out their initial plan, which was to attack from the North. It was mountain laden, so the enemy would never expect them to come from that direction. They get there, and find a brand new wall had been constructed on the North side (as a result of the young general revealing the plans last fall). They decide that an attack from the North would make be mass suicide.

Athens did not have a strong enough Navy to attack from the coast, which ran alone the Eastern and Southern boundary of Syracuse. Attacking from the West not an option, Because it was a marsh. That left the only option, to attack from the NorthWest. So they relocated the entire Army there, set up a new fortress and explored the details of that option in full.

While this is going on, the Sparta Army arrives and decides to get on the North side of the Athenian stronghold, thereby cutting off its replenishment supplies. With a lack of supplies, they couldn't attack and they also could not afford to wait It there for very long.

This new Athenian plan needed. A portion of the Athenian Army circles around to the SouthWest of Syracuse and cut off
all of their supplies with both the Navy and Army. The plan was to weakened them to the point of surrender.

The Syracuse Army responded by building a road and palisade (strong wooden defensive fence) across the marsh to the West, to get supplies into Syracuse from that direction.
Mr.reliable then assembled an elite force and lead it to crush the marsh road palisade. They were successful, however he was killed in the action.

This left the old general, who really wanted to just go home, all alone. To make matters worse, by this time, he was very ill. Athens's responded with more reinforcements and a new general. But they were no match for the skilled Calvary that Sparta had sent.

With Athens forces stuck in Sicily, Sparta seized the opportunity to declare war on Athens, meaning that Athens could no longer send reinforcements, for fear of losing Athens.
The Assembly sent a fleet of ships to retrieve Nicias and all of their forces. The Navy was able to defend themselves during the arrival and arrived on time. However, the night before they were to leave, a lunar eclipse had occurred and Nicias interpreted that as a sign from the God's that bad times were ahead. He decided to stay another month before leaving. 

That ended up being a fatal mistake. Syracuse enlisted their best engineer's and spent the month reinforcing their ships to take on the Athenian Navy. The Navy what annihilated on their departure and the Entire Army was captured. The general's were killed, and most of the soldiers were enslaved. Very few were able to make their escape back to Athens.

That was of basically the end of Athens as well.

Meanwhile back at Segesta.
The Athenian Army never arrived, so they went to Carthage (modern day Tunisia) and allied with them. Carthage sacked Selinus, completely crushing it. 

Sounds like a happily ever after story, until 15 years later, When Syracuse showed up at Segesta's door and singed them. ONce again, Carthage showed up causing Syracuse to back off. But 100 years later, Syracuse came back and destroyed them. Yet somehow, Segesta recovered.

Roman Era
40 yeras later (260 BC), the Romans crushed Carthage, however, they spared Segesta, because both Romans and the indigenous Elymians were thought to be decedents of people who had fled from Troy. Rome proclaimed that Segesta would be a "Free and Immune city." Under the protection of the Roman's, Segesta remained quiet and at peace with the Romans. This gave them the opportunity to gradually migrate, seeking better opportunities in other parts of Sicily.

After the Vandals (East German tribe) sacked Rome in 455 AD, they completely destroyed Segesta as well.

Moorish Era
In the 1100's the Normans (Northern France) conquered Sicily and some Muslim's probably sought refuge in Segesta. Reoccupying and constructing on it. Then in the 1200's, Christians came and evicted the Muslim's from Segeata. 

Sheppard Era
It is believe that Christian's lived there for about 50 years, then abandoned it. Leaving it to the Sheppard's, who worked the fields in area.

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Enjoy, Craig



Comments (2) -

Jim Patrick
3/13/2016 9:57:00 PM #

2 things you can count on throughout human history, the grass is always greener somewhere else, and nobody gets along with their neighbors.  Beautiful pictures, it must have been a very wealthy society who could afford to employ and feed the temple designers and builders.


6/2/2016 11:33:04 AM #

695351 513547Quite very good written post. It is going to be valuable to anybody who usess it, including myself. Maintain up the very good function - can�r wait to read far more posts. 436726


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