By  Periklis Deligiannis



Aristonothos vase 700-650 BC

The renowned “Aristonothos vase” (about 700-650 BC) manufactured in Magna Graecia by Aristonothos and discovered in Caere of Etruria (Etruscan Caisra). Its vase-painting of a naval battle (image below) provides us with a very good representation of the ships used by the Greek and the Etruscan sea-fighters (almost identical), and of naval warfare during the acme of the Aeolidae Islands (Archaic period).

The Aeolidae (Aeolian) or Liparae (Liparian) Isles is a cluster of small islands in Sicily,  northwest of the Straits of Messina. In this article I will deal with an unknown aspect of their history which is related with a very interesting episode of the ancient Greek colonization.
In Sicily, around 580 BC, the Selinuntian Greek colonists finally resigned from claiming disputed lands from their Geloan brethren (in which lands, Acragas was founded) in exchange for aid by Dorian settlers coming from Rhodes and the Anatolian Greek colony Cnidos (Knidos), who arrived in western Sicily through Gela. Pentathlos, the leader of the Rhodian and Cnidian colonists, was a Cnidian like most of his men.
The Selinuntians used the Cnidian and Rhodian reinforcements in their ongoing war against the Elymians and the Phoenicians. They helped them to establish a new Greek colony at Cape Lilybaion (Latin Lilybaeum), just 10 kilometers south of Motya. They were trying to establish a new Doric power against Motya (the main Punic colony on the island) and Carthage, while they would deal with the subjugation of the Elymian Segesta which resisted stubbornly their expansion. The Selinuntians, Cnidians and Rhodians joined forces against the Elymi, Sicilian-Phoenicians and Carthaginians.
Diodorus Siculus states that the main battle between the two blocs took place near Lilybaeum, obviously in the hinterland between Selinus (Selinunte) and Segesta. Pentathlos was killed; the Greeks were defeated (580/576 BC) and immediately after, the Elymi and the Carthaginians attacked Lilybaion and drove off from there the Cnidians and Rhodians.