Sicilian Ears of Wheat

Reverse of RRC 69/6c. 1969.83.264
Reverse of RRC 69/6c. ΑΝS 1969.83.264

“The issue with com-ear occurs in the Serra Orlando hoard; here as on the denarius and bronze the com-ear is a symbole parlant for Sicily.”  (Crawford 1974: 16)  Clearly, the ear of wheat is a symbol of Sicily (Hersh 1993: 141).  But there is some difference between the selection of the symbol because of a canting pun or because already by the Hannibalic War the Romans were thinking of Sicily as a ‘bread-basket’. See, for example, this discussion of the symbol in a chapter on Sicilian identity. Crawford doesn’t explain how he thinks the visual pun works and so what follows is only speculation.

The Latin word for wheat is triticum.  

There is a tradition that the ‘original’ name of Sicily was Trinacria.  “(Τρινακρία/Trinakría, Hellanicus FGrH 51 F 79b), later Sicania (Σικανίη/Sikaníē, Hdt. 7,170; Σικανία/Sikanía, Thuc. 6,2,2) and only then Sicelia (Σικελία). The change of name reflects the successive immigration of the Sicani and Siculi; however, Trinacria is probably an unhistorical construction from the Homeric Thrinacia (Hom. Od. 11,107; 12,127; 12,135; 19,275), taking into account the triangular shape (tría ákra) of the island.” (So Olshausen in Brill’s New Pauly).

Maybe the adjectival form of triticum in the feminine, triticia, is close enough for a canting pun, but I’m not one hundred percent convinced.

Would the name Trinacria be widely known?  Jacoby’ collection of the fragments of Timaeus suggests it was in use in the West (FGrH vol. 3b.566, F164 ln.4)  But when we go to the source text, Diodorus, it’s hard to be sure that particular word was actually Timaeus’ contribution.  [I give the big block quote at the end of this post.]

In Latin authors its mostly used in poetic authors, and not before Catullus.  By contrast the early poets Ennius, Naevius, and Plautus all just use the name Sicilia.

But perhaps Crawford has a different Latin or Greek near homophone in mind which I just have yet realized.

An aside. One of my favorite Turkish phrases is jeton düştü!  The penny dropped!  In this case, perhaps I should say, jeton düşmedi. The penny has not dropped.  I’m not really sure the idiomatic phrase really carries over from English to Turkish but my Turkish teacher seemed to suggest as much and as a numismatist how can I resist using it.

Timaeus, for example, bestowed, it is true, the greatest attention upon the precision of his chronology and had due regard for the breadth of knowledge gained through experience, but he is criticized with good reason for his untimely and lengthy censures, and because of the excess to which he went in censuring he historian given by some men the name Epitimaeus or Censurer. Ephorus, on the other hand, in the universal history which he composed has achieved success, not alone in the style of his composition, but also as regards the arrangement of his work; for each one of his Books is so constructed as to embrace events which fall under a single topic.Consequently we also have given our preference to this method of handling our material, and, in so far as it is possible, are adhering to this general principle. And since we have given this Book the title “On the Islands,”in accordance with this heading the first island we shall speak about will be Sicily, since it is both the richest of the islands and holds first place in respect of the great age of the myths related concerning it.

The island in ancient times was called, after its shape, Trinacria,then Sicania after the Sicani who made their home there, and finally it has been given the name Sicily after the Siceli who crossed over in a body to it from Italy. …



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