Selinunte was one of the most important of the Greek colonies in Sicily, situated on the southwest coast of that island, at the mouth of the small river of the same name, and 6.5 km west of that of the Hypsas (the modern Belice River). It was founded, according to the historian Thucydides, by a colony from the Sicilian city of Megara, or Megara Hyblaea, under the conduct of a leader named Pammilus, about 100 years after the settlement of that city, with the addition of a fresh body of colonists from the parent city of Megara in Greece. The date of its foundation cannot be precisely fixed, as Thucydides indicates it only by reference to that of the Sicilian Megara, which is itself not accurately known, but it may be placed about 628 BCE. Diodorus places it 22 years earlier, or 650 BCE, and Hieronymus still further back, 654 BCE. The date from Thucydides, which is probably the most likely, is incompatible with this earlier epoch. The name is supposed to have been derived from quantities of wild celery (Ancient Greek: σέλινον (selinon)) that grew on the spot. For the same reason, they adopted the celery leaf as the symbol on their coins.
In 416 BCE, a renewal of the old disputes between Selinunte and Segesta became the occasion of the great Athenian expedition to Sicily. The Selinuntines were the first to call in the powerful aid of Syracuse, and thus for a time obtained the complete advantage over their enemies, whom they were able to blockade both by sea and land; but in this extremity the Segestans had recourse to the assistance of Athens. Though the Athenians do not appear to have taken any measures for the immediate relief of Segesta, it is probable that the Selinuntines and Syracusans withdrew their forces at once, as we hear no more of their operations against Segesta. Nor does Selinunte bear any important part in the war of which it was the immediate occasion. Nicias indeed proposed, when the expedition first arrived in Sicily (415 BCE); that they should proceed at once to Selinunte and compel that city to submit on moderate terms; but this advice being overruled, the efforts of the armament were directed against Syracuse, and the Selinuntines in consequence bore but a secondary part in the subsequent operations. They are, however, mentioned on several occasions as furnishing auxiliaries to the Syracusans; and it was at Selinunte that the large Peloponnesian force sent to the support of Gylippus landed in the spring of 413 BCE, having been driven over to the coast of Africa by a tempest.
The defeat of the Athenian armament apparently left the Segestans at the mercy of their rivals. They tried in vain to ease Selinuntine hostility by ceding without further contest the frontier district that was the original subject of dispute. The Selinuntines, however, were not satisfied with this concession, and continued to press them with fresh aggressions, leading the Segestans to seek assistance from Carthage. After some hesitation, Carthage sent a small force, with the assistance of which the Segestans defeated the Selinuntines in a battle. The Carthaginians in the following spring (409 BCE) sent over a vast army amounting, according to the lowest estimate, to 100,000 men, with which Hannibal Mago (the grandson of Hamilcar that was killed at Himera) landed at Lilybaeum, and from thence marched direct to Selinunte. The city’s inhabitants had not expected such a force and were wholly unprepared to resist it. The city fortifications were, in many places, in disrepair, and the auxiliary force promised by Syracuse and Agrigentum (modern Agrigento) and Gela, was not ready and did not arrive in time. The Selinuntines defended themselves with the courage of despair, and even after the walls were breached, continued the contest from house to house. However, the enemy’s overwhelming numbers rendered resistance hopeless, and after a ten-day siege the city was taken and most of the defenders put to the sword. According to sources, of the citizens of Selinunte 16,000 were slain, 5,000 made prisoners, and 2,600 under the command of Empedion escaped to Agrigentum. Shortly after, Hannibal destroyed the city walls, but gave permission to the surviving inhabitants to return and occupy it as tributaries of Carthage, an arrangement confirmed by the treaty subsequently concluded between Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, and the Carthaginians, in 405 BCE. In the interval a considerable number of the survivors and fugitives had been brought together by Hermocrates, and established within its walls. A considerable part of the citizens of Selinunte availed themselves of this permission, and that the city continued to subsist under the Carthaginian dominion; but a fatal blow had been given to its prosperity, which it undoubtedly never recovered.
The Selinuntines are again mentioned in 397 BCE as declaring in favor of Dionysius during his war with Carthage; but both the city and territory were again given up to the Carthaginians by the peace of 383 BCE (Id. xv. 17); and though Dionysius recovered possession of it by arms shortly before his death, it is probable that it soon again lapsed under the dominion of Carthage. The Halycus, which was established as the eastern boundary of the Carthaginian dominion in Sicily by the treaty of 383 BCE, seems to have generally continued to be so recognized, notwithstanding temporary interruptions; and was again fixed as their limit by the treaty with Agathocles in 314 BCE. This last treaty expressly stipulated that Selinunte, as well as Heracleia and Himera, should continue subject to Carthage, as before. In 276 BCE, however, during the expedition of Pyrrhus to Sicily, the Selinuntines voluntarily submitted to that monarch, after the capture of Heracleia. During the First Punic War we again find Selinunte subject to Carthage, and its territory was repeatedly the theater of military operations between the contending powers. But before the close of the war (about 250 BCE), when the Carthaginians were beginning to contract their operations, and confine themselves to the defense of as few points as possible, they removed all the inhabitants of Selinunte to Lilybaeum and destroyed the city.
September 2013, Canon G1 X and Canon S95