Rebels and slaves: reinterpreting the first Sicilian slave war
Morton, Peter Charles Francis
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This thesis seeks to rethink the history of the First Sicilian Slave War in the second century B.C. by reassessing the main literary source for the conflict, Diodorus Siculus, and introducing numismatic evidence for the conflict as a corrective to his testimony. Diodorus’ narrative of the First Sicilian Slave War is discussed, and found to be a composite of two different narratives, each of which stresses different aspects about the First Sicilian Slave War. It is suggested that Diodorus combined the two narratives together in order to create his own, and that this knowledge allows us to read between the lines of his history and understand the history that lies behind it better. A case study of Diodorus’ literary skills is presented, which discusses the ancient literary stereotypes and topoi that he used to describe the two leaders of the First Sicilian Slave War: Eunus/King Antiochus and Cleon. The conclusion reached is that Diodorus’ descriptions of Eunus and Cleon, of a charlatan magician and a bandit herdsman respectively, achieved literary aims, and were not historical descriptions and cannot be used as such. As a way around the difficulties presented by Diodorus, a detailed study of the coinage of Eunus/King Antiochus is provided in order to assess how he wanted himself to be seen. This concludes that the coinage of Eunus/King Antiochus does not support the evidence of Diodorus about the First Sicilian Slave War, and that another understanding of the conflict must be considered: that it was not a slave rebellion, but a rebellion against Roman rule on Sicily.