Throughout its history, Sicily, (situated poised between Europe, Asia and Africa) has been both the meeting point and the battlefield of different civilizations.
The first known inhabitants of the island were the Sicanians, originally an Iberian tribe, hence the ancient name of Sicania, for the island, and the Sicels, who crossed over from Italy, pushed the Sicanians inland and settled in the eastern part of the island. The western region was occupied by the Elymians, a people thought to descend from Trojan refugees fleeing from their burning town of Troy.
According to Virgil’s Aeneid, some of them refused to follow Aeneas up to Latium and decided to remain in Sicily. By the 12th century BC the Phoenicians had established trading outposts along the western coasts of Sicily and later founded the towns of Mozia, Palermo and Solunto. As Carthage grew in power these settlements came under its direct control.
From the 8th century BC the Greeks began to move in, and within 100 years had built some of the most important towns on the island: Siracusa, Catania, Messina, Lentini, Gela, Agrigento, Selinunte.
In the 5th century BC. Under the rule of the tyrants, Syracuse gained hegemony over most of Magna Grecia, (the colonies along the coast of southern Italy) and came to rival Athens as the most populous Greek city in the world, unrivalled for its wealth splendour.