Douketios and the end of the first city

Douketios was a Sikel (i.e. native Sicilian, non-Greek) leader who captured Morgantina in 459 BCE and held it until his exile ten years later (according to Diodorus Siculus). He may, then, be responsible for the orthogonal plan of the second city, founded on Serra Orlando around 450 BCE.

Douketios is called hegemon, then king, basileus, by Diodorus and said to have been a member of a renowned family and someone of power or strength among his contemporaries (11.76; 11.78). He was from Menai, close enough to Morgantina to be visible on a clear day, and he united all the Sikel communities in Sicily into a synteleia – except for Hybla, according to Diodocus (11.88). Having created this federation, he raised a large force from this koinon Sikelon, and moved his native town (called a polis) into the plain from its original location. He also founded a sanctuary of the Palikoi, local divinities associated with a bubbling spring, and a city to go with it, called Palike. Diodorus also says he distributed the land at Menai (which he perhaps re-founded)  to his followers and in 459, campaigned against Morgantina, called a city ‘worth talking about’, thereby gaining honor, doxa, among his people when it fell to him. There is clear evidence in the excavations of the buildings on the upper plateau for a destruction of the Archaic town by fire, though the settlement was not totally destroyed, nor abandoned, in 459. 

From this account it would seem that Morgantina, in the mid-fifth c., was not considered a Sikel town, or perhaps that it refused to join the Sikel sunteleia. There is good evidence for a hybrid culture at Archaic Morgantina, with a strong presence of Sikel traditional forms (pottery, burial, jewelry) and Greek (architecture, pottery, and some burial customs). There is evidence for the use of both the  Greek and Sikel languages on the site from the graffiti on pottery as well. But Douketios and his allied town may have regarded it as an alien or hostile community.

Douketios, despite his efforts on behalf of his ethnos, behaves much like a Greek tyrant and or founder of colonies, moving and founding cities and distributing the land. He was ultimately defeated, and exiled by the Syracusans to Corinth, but returned in 448 and founded a final community, Kale Akte, on the north coast of Sicily, with both Sikel and Greek settle.He died there in 440.

It seems reasonable to think that the second city at Morgantina, on the Serra Orlando ridge, would have been founded by Douketios since he may have controlled Morgantina for ten years. The written sources are silent on this issue, but the Greek plan of the second city is in keeping with Douketios’s other foundations and distributions of land in this period. Bell has also suggested that the plan of Morgantina bears strong enough resemblance to that of Camarina to consider the possibility that Camarineans were involved in the founding, and it should be kept in mind that Morgantina passed to the control of Camarina at the Congress of Gela in 424. On the other hand, there is clear evidence for some kind of activity on Serra Orlando, certainly ritual activity, already in the 6th c., including the sanctuary in San Francesco which produced the acroliths, tombs probably to be associated with this chthonic sanctuary outside the walls, and another naiskos on the opposite side of the San Francesco ravine dating to the mid 6th c. BCE.

Finally, there is also clear evidence for the reoccupation of Cittadella in the 4th c. BCE, as well as the use of the Farmhouse Hill naiskos until the early 4th c. An extensive occupation of the 3rd c. is also attested. But the laying out of the city plan on Serra Orlando marks a definitive change in the status and identity of Morgantina, which unfolded until 211 BCE.

– Carla M. Antonaccio, June 2012 –