Α map in Polish, of the migrations of the Sea Peoples (Ludy Morza in Polish) in which the possible settlements of some of them on mainland Italy and the neighboring islands are noted. I do not consider possible at least the settlement of the Shekelesh in Sicily. If they were the proto-Sicels their settlement would have been in Calabria.
By Periklis Deligiannis
Many scholars believe that some groups of the ‘Sea Peoples’ of the Bronze Age mainly after their final defeat by the Egyptians, sailed to the western Mediterranean. Their numbers are unknown and cannot be calculated, but it appears to have been small. Although the presence of groups of Sea Peoples in various parts of peninsular Italy and the neighboring large islands seems to have been archaeologically detected, today there are many disagreements among the scholars on the influence that these groups had on the ethnogenesis of later historical peoples of those regions. In this article and the next one for the peninsular Italy that will follow, I will give a very brief overview of the modern theories concerning this influence: theories that however remain controversial. A much more extensive analysis of the same topic will appear in a series of texts of mine in the future, unfortunately not in my website (but only in print). I will not deal with the most known views on the possible settlements of the Sea Peoples in Italy but mostly with some less known.
The present first article of this broader topic is dealing with the presence of the Sea Peoples in Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, while the second which will follow refers to their possible presence in mainland Italy. The names of the Sea Peoples in these two articles are noted as they were read in the Egyptian records, followed by their modern verbal performance with vowels.
It has been speculated that the Sikels, the Sardi and the Corsi who in historical times lived in Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica respectively, were associated with at least two of the Sea Peoples, that is the Shklsh (Shekelesh or Shakalasha) and the Shrdn (Sherden or Shardana). These hypothetical settlements are archaeologically supported mainly in the case of Sardinia and Corsica, through the Nuragic culture (Sardinia) and the Torre culture (Corsica) which demonstrate obvious influence from maritime peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean. It seems that the Shrdn who supposedly settled in Sardinia, colonized as well Corsica (Cyrnos in ancient Greek) forming there the Corsi people (or Cyrnii). This may be also indicated by the earlier presence of a Corsi proper tribe on the northern corner of Sardinia.
The only region of Sardinia probably not colonized by the Shrdn or other Sea Peoples was the ethnic area of the Balarian tribal group (the northern part of the island except its northern corner). It is postulated that the Shrdn gave their name in Sardinia and the Sardi people who inhabited the island in the historical era and who are primarily identified with the Iolaean tribal group (Ilienses) of the island in the Roman times. The Iolaean was the larger ethnic group and lived in the southern and the central districts of the island (its ethnic region comprised around 60 % of the total area of the island). The indigenous people of Sardinia were supposedly of Iberian origin (and to a lesser extent of Ligurian origin); those of Corsica were Ligurian.
In my point of view, the ‘Iberian identity’ (attributed by the Greeks and Romans to the Sardinians and the Sikani as we shall see below) is in fact the Greco-Roman view on the ethnology of every indigenous people belonging to the Mediterranean ethnolinguistic and also anthropological substratum, of the Western European coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. That is to say, the Sardinians, the Sikani and possibly the Corsi were natives of those islands coming from the Neolithic Age and not some kind of iberian or Ligurian colonists.
The original Shrdn homeland was probably the region of later Lydia, as in the case of the Trsh (Teresh) possible ancestors of the Etruscans (see the following article). The tribal name of the former is connected with that of Sardeis, the capital of historical Lydia, and with that of the Sardonians, a people who used to live on its coast (in subsequent Ionia). However the historical Lydians were certainly not associated with the Shrdn and the Trsh, because they mainly originated from Luwian refugees who settled in the region after the migration of the Sea Peoples to Southern Anatolia, Canaan and finally Egypt.
It should also be pointed out that the Sea Peoples’ groups who settled in mainland Italy and the nearby islands did not necessarily belong just to the particular people to whom the respective settlement is attributed, but it seems that they were comprised of members of various tribes. For example, the Trsh who settled in Tuscany (if they did, see the following article) probably included people also from the other tribes (Shklsh, Eqwsh, Shrdn, Qrqsh and others) or from tribes that did not necessarily belong to the old ‘confederation’ of the Sea Peoples, but their tribal name ‘Trsh’ prevailed because most colonists or the leaders of the settlement came from this tribe.
The Shrdn who supposedly settled in the two large islands were probably scant of number and certainly did not impose their language to the natives with whom they merged: instead they adopted the native languages. In the historical times, the dialects of the Sardi were distantly related to the Iberian group (being however the dialects of a native Sardinian language) and the dialects of the Corsi-Kyrnii were associated with the Ligurian group of the nearby contemporary Franco-Italian coast (I believe mostly through cultural interaction). A brief but cogitative enough archaeological analysis of the potential colonization of the Sea Peoples in Sardinia and Corsica can be found in the book of N.K. Sandars for those peoples. Archeology generally seems to support this theory and the similarity of many elements of the later Sardinian Nuragic culture and the Torrean culture of Corsica to the respective ones of the Sea Peoples (demonstrated in the Egyptian depictions but also in the archaeology of western and southern Anatolia) is evident.
Α Shklsh warrior in an Egyptian relief.
The theory of the settlement of the Shklsh in Sicily in which island supposedly gave their name, as well as in the Sikel or Siculi people, do not seem to be archaeologically supported and it is generally problematic.
The historical peoples of Sicily included the Sicels or Sikels or Siculi in the eastern part of the island, the Sikani in the central part and the Elymi in the western one. The Sikani seem to have been the indigenous people of Sicily belonging to the Mediterranean ethnolinguistic substratum (Neolithic origins), and they originally lived probably throughout the island. The Sicels were a people of invaders coming from the mainland where they were formed and from there settled to Sicily. The original name of the island is unknown (maybe Sikania or Trinakria) while the name ‘Sicily’ was given to it by the Greek colonists because the first people that they encountered there were the Sicels. Concerning the ethnogenesis of the Sicels, the older theory that they originated from someplace in central Italy and from there later settled in Bruttium (modern Calabria) and eastern Sicily, has no longer many supporters among the scholars. Most probably they were formed in Bruttium as a particular local civilization which evolved into an ethno-linguistic group, as happened with their neighboring Oenotrians, Morgetes and others. From there they first invaded northeastern Sicily and from there they marched in the eastern part of the island in which they were finally consolidated. Archaeology indicates after the collapse of the Mycenaean world and the migrations of the Sea Peoples, the settlement in northern Sicily of a people with an Urnfield-group culture, who is considered to have been the Sicels. A massive abandonment of settlements οf the natives (rather Sikani) takes place almost simultaneously in Eastern Sicily, who began fleeing to the interior of the island because of some also newcomers who were possibly attacking them. The latter were probably either Mycenaean refugees or slavers (an older Mycenaean commercial post was founded in Thapsos near Syracuse), or also Sicels from Calabria or even Shklsh or other Sea Peoples. The Italian archaeologists believe that the replacement of the Sikani by the Sicels in the eastern part of the island took place without serious confrontations, but the flight of the former to the interior demonstrates their fear for some seaborne raiders or invaders.
Archaeology does not appear to support an identification of the proto-Sicels with the Shklsh. However (to name one of its renowned supporters) the archaeologist D. Redford who had dedicated his life to the study of the ancient Near East peoples considered this identification to be very likely and even today this view has a good number of supporters. My view is that if indeed the Shklsh are to be identified with the proto-Sicels, the formation of the people who later became known as the ‘Sicels’ did not take place in Sicily but in Calabria. The ethnic name of the Sicels survived in the latter even in historical times, which means that Calabria was the ‘primordial Sicily’, a kind of Sicily proper. Furthermore, the Sikani of eastern Sicily (the island) were alarmed by the attacks of a seaborne enemy. If this enemy was the Sicels of Calabria (or of northeastern Sicily), it is strange that they had enough knowledge of shipping to circumnavigate so easily a great part of this large island’s extended coastline. The Italic peoples of this period generally did not possess considerable navigation skills. A reasonable explanation is that the Sicels of Calabria used the navigation expertise of members of a people of mariners who settled among them, being originally their allies.
This maritime people could be a group of Mycenaean refugees, many of whom were dispersed throughout the Mediterranean in those troubled times, but it could also be a Shklsh group (it should be noted that a Mycenaean post was established in Scolio den Tonno near Taranto). If they were Shklsh, they originally settled in Calabria where they joined the native Italians giving them their ethnic name and thus forming the Sicel tribe. This hypothetical fusion could have happened peacefully or by force. The Sicels of the historical times spoke an Italic language (probably related to the Oenotrian group instead of the Latin one as it was thought some decades earlier), an indication that if the Shklsh were the ‘founders’ of their people, they adopted the language of the local Italics of Calabria, possibly Oenotrians. Maybe this hypothetical colonization diversified ethnically the Sicels of Calabria from their Italian (Oenotrian) kinsmen in the north.
However, the identification of the Shklsh to the Sicels remains much problematic and archeology do not indicate some considerable settlement of Anatolian or Aegean groups in Calabria, with the exception of some limited cultural influence. The Shklsh are generally a people with a past full of mysteries: sometimes Classical Sagalassos of Pisidia in Anatolia (Luwian Salagissa or maybe Salawassa ) is considered to have been their homeland on the basis of the similarity of their names (Sh-k-l-sh <S-g-l-ss) but this is also doubtful.
The Elymi (Elymians) of western Sicily have been considered by several scholars as the descendants of other Sea Peoples because the former had traditions of origins from Asia Minor and their culture had some elements of the eastern Mediterranean. It is probable that some colonists from Asia Minor had settled in their area during the Sea Peoples’ migrations, long before the Phoenicians and Greeks of the historical times. However, my opinion is that the Elymi were formed mainly from a local Sikanian group which was differentiated from the other Sikani due to the strong cultural influence that it received first by the Phoenicians and later by the Greeks.