Centre for Continuing Education

Ancient Sicily Course: Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

The island of Sicily preserves a rich heritage from antiquity. Inhabited from the Palaeolithic Era, the location of Sicily saw it as a crossroads of the Mediterranean and numerous colonies were established by the Greeks and Phoenicians. Superb cities developed, many preserving remarkably examples of Greek religious architecture. Conflict between the Greeks and the Carthaginians in the third Century BC saw Rome become involved and the eventual incorporation of the island into the Roman Empire.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • recognise the causes of Greek colonisation in Sicily
  • recognise what constituted a Greek polis and it’s component parts
  • describe the interactions between Greeks and Phoenicians in Sicily
  • identify the influences the Romans had on Sicilian life.


Lecture 1: Prehistory

Sicily has been occupied since the Palaeolithic era when people came from southern Italy, an event associated with the extinction of the local megafauna. Continuing incursions from Italy changed the dynamic of the island.

Lecture 2: the Greek colonies

The Greeks began arriving on Sicily around 750 BC around the same time they began colonising southern Italy. The most important new colony was Syracuse but many other settlements were also established. The infamous Sicilian Expedition by the Athenians, designed to bring the island into the Delian League ended in failure.

Lecture 3: Archaeology of the Greek cities

The ancient Greek cities on Sicily, including Akragas, Selinunte, Gela, Himera and Zancle, are remarkably well preserved and have been extensively excavated. Flourishing as a result of trade, the Greek citizens built superb religious sanctuaries.

Lecture 4: The Phoenicians and Greeks at war

The Phoenicians established colonies on the western part of Sicily including Motya from early days. The Carthaginians would incorporate the western colonies into its maritime Empire. The contest with the Greeks for control of the island during the 3rd Century BC would see the involvement of the Romans, leading to the First Punic War.

Lecture 5: The Romans

After the defeat of the Carthaginians in the Punic Wars, Sicily was incorporated into the Roman Empire, becoming one of the main sources of grain for the city of Rome. The superb Piazza Armerina Palace, constructed in the 4th Century AD, has some of the most remarkable mosaics from the period.

Intended audience

Interested members of the public.

Delivery style

Delivered as one-day interactive lecture where you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and participate in class discussion. Each topic area will be illustrated by relevant maps, plans and photographs, and Replica artefacts will be made available for handling.


Course handouts are provided in class.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Free, expert advice
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion