Dibs: Farris, Hannah, Mica
Where is it located?
Leontini is a town or commune in the Province of Syracuse on Sicily, or southern Italy. It is the only Greek city-state of the time to not be built on the coast, instead it is 6 miles inland. Polybus described it as being “in a valley between 2 hills facing north. On the west side there was a river with houses nearby. It was fortified by gates on the north and south sides, and there was an acropolis on either side of the valley.”
The city of Leontini today is the area size of 215.75 kilometers cubed, or 83.30 square miles. Its elevation is 53 meters, or 174 feet. Its population size is estimated to be 24, 250 people, with 110 per kilometer squared or 290 per square mile. Today, it is a prosperous agricultural center with about 20,000 inhabitants.
According to ancient testimony, the name for the city was derived from the Greek word for “lion,” due to the conformation of the hills on which the city lies. Leontini was named by colonists from Naxos in 729 B.C., but it was actually originally founded as a Charadian colony 5 years earlier. The city-state started off under Sicelian rule until it was seized by the Greeks in 494 B.C. A man named Aenesidemus was named tyrant. In 476, the population of Leontini grew when Hieron of Syracuse moved the inhabitants of Catena and Naxos to this new city-state.
Leontini later gained their first independence through the interference of Athens. Gorgias of Leontini was instrumental aborting the Athenian Expedition of 427. In 422 all of Syracuse, with the exception of Leontini, supported the oligarchy, which led to more Athenian intervention. It was Leontini, along with Segesta, who helped to convince Athens to go on the Sicilian Expedition of 415.
However, after the Expedition’s failure, Leontini came once more under the rule of Syracuse. Their independence was again briefly won in the treaty of 405 between Dionysius I of Syracuse and the Carthiginians, but it was soon lost again. Then in 214 B.C., the city-state was stormed by Marcus Claudius Marcellus. Leontini was later destroyed by the Saracens in 847 A.D. and was almost completely ruined again by the earthquake of 1693. Until the mid-20th century, Leontini was considered a stopping point before going on to Syracuse and it had no historical importance.
There are no left over ancient ruins in the city of Leontini, due to being destroyed by the Saracens in 847 A.D. and completely ruined again by an earthquake in 1693. However, there are many famous churches built here in the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods, such as the Church of the Holy Trinity, the Church of Saint Luke, the Church of the Immaculate, and the Mother Church of St. Mary. Included in these churches are multiple famous 14th century frescoes and paintings, and even a rare organ saved from the earthquake.
Church of St. Luke
The most well known historical figure – if not the only one – to come from Ancient Leontini is the pre-socratic philosopher and famous sophist who was named Gorgias. He is estimated to have lived from around 485 to 380 BCE. He practiced most as a rhetorician outside of his home of Leontini, predominantly in the pan-Hellenic centers of Olympia and Delphi giving public exhibitions of both instruction and performance. In his work On Nonexistence, he presents an argument that nothing exists, thus he is often given the name “Gorgias the Nihilist”.