Heraclea Minoa

Heraclea Minoa (Greek: Ἡράκλεια Μινῴα, Hērákleia Minṓia; Italian: Eraclea Minoa) was an ancient Greek city, situated on the southern coast of Sicily at the mouth of the river Halycus (modern Platani), 25 km west of Agrigentum (Acragas, modern Agrigento). Its ruins are now found near a modern town of the same name in the comune Cattolica Eraclea in Italy. Archaeological finds suggest that it was founded in the middle of the 6th century BC, and was abandoned around the beginning of the 1st century AD.

It was at first an outpost of the Greek colony of Selinus (modern Selinunte), then overthrown by Carthage. It was later a border town of Agrigentum. It passed into Carthaginian hands by the treaty of 405 BC, was won back in 397 BC by Dionysius in his first Punic war,[1] but recovered by Carthage in 383 BC. It was here that Dion landed in 357 BC, when he attacked Syracuse. The Agrigentines won it back in 309 BC, but it soon fell under the power of Agathocles. It was temporarily recovered for Greece by Pyrrhus in 277 BC.

Heraclea Minoa
Ἡράκλεια Μινῴα (in Ancient Greek)
Eraclea Minoa (in Italian)
Ruins of a residential quarter - Heraclea Minoa - Italy 2015
The remains of a house in Heraclea Minoa
Heraclea Minoa is located in Italy
Heraclea Minoa
Shown within Italy
LocationCattolica Eraclea, Province of Agrigento, Sicily, Italy
Coordinates37°23′38″N 13°16′51″E / 37.39389°N 13.28083°ECoordinates: 37°23′38″N 13°16′51″E / 37.39389°N 13.28083°E
FoundedMiddle of the 6th century BC
AbandonedBeginning of 1st century AD
PeriodsArchaic Greek to Roman Imperial
CulturesGreek, Roman
Site notes
ManagementSoprintendenza BB.CC.AA. di Agrigento
Public accessYes
WebsiteArea Archeologia e Antiquarium Eraclea Minoa (in Italian)

Two legends

Its two names were connected with two separate mythological legends in regard to its origin. The first of these related that Heracles, having vanquished the local hero Eryx in a wrestling match, obtained thereby the right to the whole western portion of Sicily, which he expressly reserved for his descendants.[2] He did not, however, found a town or settlement; but, somewhat later, Minos, king of Crete, having come to Sicily in pursuit of Daedalus, landed at the mouth of the river Halycus, and founded there a city, to which he gave the name of Minoa; or, according to another version of the story, the city was first established by his followers, after the death of Minos himself. Heraclides Ponticus adds, that there was previously a native city on the spot, the name of which was Macara.[3] The two legends are so distinct that no intimation is given by Diodorus of their relating to the same spot, and we only learn their connection from the combination in later times of the two names.

6th century BC

There is no account of its founding, but archaeological finds suggest a date in the mid 6th century BC.[4] The first written mention of the city represents it as a small town and a colony of the Greek settlement of Selinus, bearing the name of Minoa.[5] It was in this state when (c. 510 BC) Dorieus the Spartan (brother of Cleomenes I) came to Sicily, with a large body of followers, with the intent of reclaiming the territory which had belonged to his ancestor Heracles. But having engaged in hostilities with the Carthaginians and Segestans, he was defeated and slain in a battle in which almost all his leading companions also perished. Euryleon, the only one of the chiefs who escaped, made himself master of Minoa, which now, in all probability, obtained for the first time the name of Heraclea.[6] This is not, indeed, expressly stated by Herodotus, who gives the preceding narrative, but is evidently implied in his statement at the beginning of it, that Dorieus set out for the purpose of founding Heraclea, combined with the fact that Diodorus represents him as having been its actual founder.[7] Hence there seems no reason to suppose (as has been suggested) that Heraclea and Minoa were originally distinct cities, and that the name of the one was subsequently transferred to the other. From the period of this new settlement it seems to have commonly borne the name of Heraclea, though coupled with that of Minoa for the sake of distinction.[8]

5th–4th century BC

Diodorus tells us that the newly founded city of Heraclea rose rapidly to prosperity, but was destroyed by the Carthaginians, through jealousy of its increasing power.[9] When this took place is uncertain. It was probably related by Diodorus in his 10th book, which is now lost. He makes no mention of any such event during the First Sicilian War (480 BC) when it might otherwise be supposed to have occurred.[10] An inscription from the temple of Athena Lindia of Lindos on Rhodes attests the dedication of an ivory palladium as spoils from an undated victory of the Agrigentines over Minoa.[11]

The absence of all notice of Heraclea during the subsequent century, and the wars of Dionysius I of Syracuse with the Carthaginians,[12] suggests that either it did not then exist, or must have been in a very reduced condition. However the territory of Heraclea Minoa fell under Carthaginian control as a result of the treaty of 405 BC.[13] The next mention of it (under the name of Minoa), when Dion landed there in 357 BC, represents it as a small town in the Agrigentine territory, but still subject to Carthage.[14] Hence it is probable that the treaty between Dionysius and the Carthaginians which had fixed the Halycus as the boundary of the latter, had left Heraclea, though on its southeast bank, still in their hands: and, in accordance with this, we find it stipulated by the similar treaty concluded with them by Agathocles (314 BC), that Heraclea, Selinus, and Himera should continue subject to Carthage, as they had been before.[15]

3rd century BC

From this time Heraclea reappears in history, and assumes the position of an important city; though we have no explanation of the circumstances that had raised it from its previous insignificance. Thus we find it, soon after, joining in the movement originated by Xenodicus of Agrigentum, 309 BC, and declaring itself free both from the Carthaginians and Agathocles; though it was soon recovered by Agathocles, on his return from Africa in 305 BC.[16]

In 278 BC, during the expedition of Pyrrhus, it was once more in the hands of the Carthaginians, and was the first city taken from them by that monarch as he advanced westward from Agrigentum.[17] In like manner, in the First Punic War, it was occupied by the Carthaginian general Hanno, when advancing to the relief of Agrigentum, at that time besieged by the Roman armies, 260 BC.[18]

Again, in 256 BC, it was at Heraclea that the Carthaginian fleet of 350 ships was posted for the purpose of preventing the passage of the Roman fleet to Africa, and where it sustained a great defeat from the Roman consuls Regulus and Manlius.[19] It appears, indeed, at this time to have been one of the principal naval stations of the Carthaginians in Sicily; and hence in 249 BC we again find their admiral, Carthalo, taking his post there to watch for the Roman fleet which was approaching to the relief of Lilybaeum.[20]

At the close of the war Heraclea, of course, passed, with the rest of Sicily, under the Roman dominion; but in the Second Punic War it again fell into the hands of the Carthaginians, and was one of the last places that still held out against Marcellus, even after the fall of Syracuse.[21]

Roman period

We hear but little of it under the Roman dominion; but it appears to have suffered severely in the First Servile War (134–132 BC), and in consequence received a body of fresh colonists, who were established there by the praetor Publius Rupilius; and at the same time the relations of the old and new citizens were regulated by a municipal law, which still subsisted in the time of Cicero.[22] In the days of the great orator, Heraclea appears to have been still a flourishing place;[23] but it must soon after have fallen into decay, in common with most of the towns on the southern coast of Sicily.[24]

It is not mentioned by Pliny.[25] However it is one of three south coastal Sicilian cities mentioned by the 1st century AD Roman geographer Mela[26] and also by the 2nd century AD Greek geographer Ptolemy.[27] The latter author is the last who mentions the name of Heraclea; it appears to have certainly disappeared before the age of the Roman Itineraries.


Ongoing excavations at the theater

The location of Heraclea Minoa was first identified by the 16th century historian Tommaso Fazello. It was situated a few hundred yards to the southeast of the mouth of the river Platani (the ancient Halycus), atop the conspicuous promontory now called Capo Bianco, with gently sloping sides down to the Platani valley to the north, and sheer white cliffs to the ocean on the south side. This is evidently the one called by Strabo, in his description of the coasts of Sicily, the Heraclean promontory[24] which he correctly gives as 20 miles distant from the port of Agrigentum.

In Fazello's time, the foundations of the walls could be distinctly traced, and, though no ruins remained standing, the whole site abounded with remains of pottery and brickwork. An aqueduct was then also still visible between the city and the mouth of the river; but its remains have since disappeared.[28]

In the early 20th century, a mid-6th-early 5th century BC necropolis was discovered. A large-scale excavation by Professor Ernesto de Miro begun in 1950, uncovered late 4th–late 1st century BC dwellings and a late 4th century BC theater.[4] The absence of Arretine ware at the site, strongly suggests that the city was abandoned by the beginning of the 1st century AD.[29]



  1. ^ Perry, pp. 191–192.
  2. ^ Diodorus, 4.23; Herodotus, 5.43; Pausanias, 3.16.4–5.
  3. ^ Diodorus, 4.79, 16.9.4; Heraclides Ponticus, 29.
  4. ^ a b Wilson, p. 219.
  5. ^ Herodotus, 5.46.
  6. ^ Herodotus, 5.42–46.
  7. ^ Diodorus, 4.23.
  8. ^ Hêrakleian tên Minôan, Polybius, 1.25.9; Heraclea, quam vocant Minoam, Livy. 24.35.
  9. ^ Diodorus, 4.23.3.
  10. ^ Diodorus, 11.20–23.
  11. ^ Lindos Chronicle (Blinkenberg, Lindos II, Inscriptions, #2, Col C, line 56ff) [1].
  12. ^ For example Heraclea is not mentioned in Diodorus' account of the peace treaty of 405 BC, 13.114.1
  13. ^ Diodorus, 13.114.1; Perry, pp. 172–178.
  14. ^ Diodorus, 16.9; Plutarch, Dion 25.
  15. ^ Diodorus, 19.71, Booth, p. 379
  16. ^ Diodorus, 20.56, Booth, p. 457; Perry, pp. 317–319, p. 330.
  17. ^ Diodorus, 22.10, Booth, p. 516; Perry, p. 341.
  18. ^ Diodorus, 23.8, Booth, p. 520, 521.
  19. ^ Polybius, 1.25–28, 30; Zonaras, 8.12.
  20. ^ Polybius, 1.53.
  21. ^ Livy, 24.35, 25.27, 40, 41.
  22. ^ Cicero, In Verrem, 2.50 (123–125).
  23. ^ Cicero, In Verrem, 5.33 (86), 5.49 (129).
  24. ^ a b Strabo, 6.2.
  25. ^ Pliny, 3.14 (8).
  26. ^ Describing the southern coast, Mela writes: Inter Pachynum et Lilybaeum, Acragas est, et Heraclea, et Thermae, 2.7.16 Archived 2007-01-18 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ Ptolemy, 3.4.6.
  28. ^ Fazello, 6.2; William Henry Smyth Sicily, p. 216; Biscari, Viaggio in Sicilia, p. 188.
  29. ^ Wilson, p. 220.


  • Biscari, Principe di, Viaggio per le Antichità della Sicilia, Palermo, 1817
  • Cicero, The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, C. D. Yonge (translator), B. A. London. George Bell & Sons, York Street, Covent Garden. 1891. 4 volumes.
  • Diodorus Siculus. Diodorus Siculus: The Library of History. Translated by C. H. Oldfather. Twelve volumes. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. 1989. Vol. 2. Books 2.35–4.58. ISBN 0-674-99334-9. Vol. 7. Books 15.20–16.65. ISBN 0-674-99428-0. Vol. 10. Books 19.66–20. ISBN 0-674-99429-9.
  • Fazello, Tommaso, De Rebus Siculis Decades Duae, Palermo, 1558
  • Herodotus; Histories, A. D. Godley (translator), Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920; ISBN 0-674-99133-8. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Livy; History of Rome, Rev. Canon Roberts (translator), Ernest Rhys (editor); (1905) London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd.
  • Perry, Walter Copland, Sicily in Fable, History, Art, and Song Macmillan and Co., Limited. London. 1908.
  • Pomponius Mela, De situ orbis
  • Pausanias, Description of Greece. W. H. S. Jones (translator). Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. (1918). Vol. 2. Books III–V: ISBN 0-674-99207-5.
  • Pliny the Elder; The Natural History (eds. John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S. H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A.) London. Taylor and Francis, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street. (1855). Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Plutarch; Plutarch's Lives: Volume II, Arthur Hugh Clough (editor), John Dryden (translator). Modern Library; Modern Library Paperback Ed edition (April 10, 2001). ISBN 0-375-75677-9.
  • Polybius; Histories, Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (translator); London, New York. Macmillan (1889); Reprint Bloomington (1962).
  • Ptolemy, Geographia
  • Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography: "Heracleia", London (1867)
  • Strabo, Geography, translated by Horace Leonard Jones; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. (1924). Vol. 3, Books 6–7 ISBN 0-674-99201-6.
  • Wilson, R.J.A. and Leonard, A. Jr., "Field Survey at Heraclea Mino (Agrigento), Sicily", Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Summer, 1980), pp. 219–239.
  • Zonaras. Extracts of History.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Heraclea" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 308.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSmith, William, ed. (1854–1857). "article name needed. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. London: John Murray.

External links

250 BC

Year 250 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Regulus and Longus (or, less frequently, year 504 Ab urbe condita). The denomination 250 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Battle of Cape Ecnomus

The Battle of Cape Ecnomus or Eknomos (Ancient Greek: Ἔκνομος) was a naval battle, fought off Cape Ecnomus, Sicily, in 256 BC, between the fleets of Carthage and the Roman Republic, during the First Punic War (264–241 BC). The Carthaginian fleet was commanded by Hanno the Great and Hamilcar; the Roman fleet jointly by the consuls for the year, Marcus Atilius Regulus and Lucius Manlius Vulso Longus.

The Roman fleet of 330 warships plus an unknown number of transports had sailed from Ostia, the port of Rome, and had embarked approximately 26,000 picked legionaries shortly before the battle. Their plan was to cross to Africa and invade the Carthaginian homeland. The Carthaginians were apparently aware of the Romans' intentions and mustered all available warships, 350, off the south coast of Sicily to intercept them. Due to the combined total of about 680 warships carrying up to 290,000 crew and marines, the battle was possibly the largest naval battle in history by the number of combatants involved.

When they met, the Carthaginians took the initiative and the battle devolved into three separate conflicts, where they hoped that their superior ship handling skills would be decisive. After a prolonged and confused day of fighting the Carthaginians were decisively defeated, losing 30 ships sunk and 64 captured to Roman losses of 24 ships sunk.

Battle of Phintias

The naval Battle of Phintias took place in 249 BC during the First Punic War near modern Licata, southern Sicily between the fleets of Carthage under Carthalo and the Roman Republic under Lucius Junius Pullus. The Carthaginian fleet had intercepted the Roman Fleet off Phintias, and had forced it to seek shelter. Carthalo, who heeded the warning of his pilots about impending storms, retired to the east to avoid the coming weather. The Roman fleet did not take any precautions and subsequently was destroyed with the loss of all but two ships. The Carthaginians exploited their victory by raiding the coasts of Roman Italy until 243 BC. The Romans did not mount a major naval effort until 242 BC.


Casmenae or Kasmenai (Casmene in Italian) was an ancient Greek colony located on the Hyblaean Mountains, founded in 644 BC by the Syracusans at a strategic position for the control of central Sicily. It was also intended as a military forward-position on the Via Selinuntina road that connected Syracuse to Akragas (modern-day Agrigento) - also on that road were Gela and Akrillai to Casmene's west and Akrai to its east. Destroyed by the Romans in 212 BC, Casmene was abandoned during the 3rd century BC and never inhabited again.

The site was discovered by the Sicilian archeologist Paolo Orsi during the first half of the 20th century, after he had identified the most probably site at Monte Casale in Buscemi at 830m above sea level, on an extinct volcano near Monte Lauro, 7 km from Giarratana and 12 km from Palazzolo Acreide. Remains of the defensive walls, long 3.400m, are still visible with the base of one of the temples and some dwellings.

Cattolica Eraclea

Cattolica Eraclea (Italian pronunciation: [katˈtɔliːka eraˈklɛːa]; Sicilian: Catòlica) is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Agrigento in the Italian region Sicily, located about 80 kilometres (50 mi) south of Palermo and about 20 kilometres (12 mi) northwest of Agrigento nearby the Platani river valley.

The town was founded in medieval times. It received the name "Eraclea" in 1874, associating it to the ancient site of Heraclea Minoa nearby.

The economy is based on agriculture, including production of vine, olives, agrumes, fruit, almonds, cereals and wheat.

Cycladic culture

Cycladic culture (also known as Cycladic civilisation or, chronologically, as Cycladic chronology) was a Bronze Age culture (c. 3200–c. 1050 BC) found throughout the islands of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea. In chronological terms, it is a relative dating system for artefacts which broadly complements Helladic chronology (mainland Greece) and Minoan chronology (Crete) during the same period of time.

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Minoa is the name of several Bronze-Age cities on the coasts of the Aegean islands and Corfu in Greece, as well as Sicily. The original meaning of the word remains unknown, but it seems that there is a strong connection with the mythic king of Crete, Minos, during the bronze-age Minoan civilization which flourished in Crete and in the Aegean islands in Greece between 2000-1470 BC. The inhabitants of Crete were named Minoans by Arthur Evans, after the legendary king. The root min- corresponds to a group of Aegean languages, and appears also in some toponyms like Minya, Minassos and in the name of the Minyans.

The name was given to some harbours in the north coast of Crete, and it is also an older indication in the islands Paros, Siphnos, Amorgos, Corfu and Sicily.

In Gaza the name was introduced later by the Philistines in 1200 BC. These settlements appear not only in the islands but also in harbours that were specially selected as support-points for thalassocracy. This is evident for an island outside of the Laconic coast with the present name Monemvasia, and for the small island outside of the harbour of Megara in Greece.

It seems that the Minoans travelled from Crete down to Egypt, Syria and Mari of Euphrates, to Asia Minor (Anatolia) and the Black Sea through the Aegean islands,

and to the west up to Lipari (Aeolian islands) to the north of Sicily.

Approximately in 1600 BC the routes to Italy and Asia Minor were gained by the rising Myceneans. They followed the same tradition with the establishment or use of commercial and supporting settlements in the Mediterranean coasts.

Minoa (disambiguation)

Minoa is the name of bronze-age settlements in the Mediterranean coasts:

Minoa may also refer to:


Minoa (Amorgos), a town of ancient Amorgos, Greece

Minoa (eastern Crete), a city of ancient Crete, Greece

Minoa (western Crete), a town of ancient Crete, Greece

Minoa (Paros), a town of ancient Paros, Greece

Minoa (Siphnos), a town of ancient Siphnos, Greece

Heraclea Minoa, an ancient town in Sicily

Minoa, New York, a village in New York, United StatesBiology

Minoa (moth), a genus of mothOther uses

Minoa, ancient name of Paros, an island of Greece

Minoan civilization

East Syracuse-Minoa Central High School

East Syracuse-Minoa Central School District


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Opus signinum

Opus signinum ('cocciopesto' in modern Italian) is a building material used in ancient Rome. It is made of tiles broken up into very small pieces, mixed with mortar, and then beaten down with a rammer. Pliny in his Natural History describes its manufacture: "Even broken pottery has been utilized; it being found that, beaten to powder, and tempered with lime, it becomes more solid and durable than other substances of a similar nature; forming the cement known as the "Signine" composition, so extensively employed for even making the pavements of houses." Pliny's use of the term "Signine" references "Signia (modern Segni), the name of a town in Latium which was famous for its tiles."


In the culture of ancient Greece, the term paideia (also spelled paedeia) (; Greek: παιδεία, paideía) referred to the rearing and education of the ideal member of the polis. It incorporated both practical, subject-based schooling and a focus upon the socialization of individuals within the aristocratic order of the polis. The practical aspects of this education included subjects subsumed under the modern designation of the liberal arts (rhetoric, grammar, and philosophy are examples), as well as scientific disciplines like arithmetic and medicine. An ideal and successful member of the polis would possess intellectual, moral and physical refinement, so training in gymnastics and wrestling was valued for its effect on the body alongside the moral education which the Greeks believed was imparted by the study of music, poetry, and philosophy. This approach to the rearing of a well-rounded Greek male was common to the Greek-speaking world, with the exception of Sparta where a rigid and militaristic form of education known as the agoge was practiced.

Platani (river)

The Platani (Sicilian: Plàtani), known in ancient Greek as the Λύκος (Lykos, "wolf") or Ἁλυκός (Halykos, "Salty"), is a river in southern Sicily, Italy. It is the fifth longest in the island after Imera Meridionale, Simeto, Belice and Dittaino, with a course of 103 km, and the third for drainage basin with 1,785 km², after the Simeto and Imera Meridionale. It flows through the provinces of Palermo and Agrigento, marking the boundary between the latter and that of Caltanissetta.

The river generates at the confluence of Platani di Lercara and Platani di Castronuovo, which, respectively, springs in the comuni of Lercara Friddi (under the Pizzo Lanzone mountain) and Santo Stefano Quisquina (between the Serra della Moneta and Pizzo della Rondine mountains). From the confluence to the mouth it runs for c. 83 km; including the branch of Castronuovo the total length is 103 km. Along its course the Platani receives the waters of several affluents, including the Gallo d'Oro, Turvoli, Vallone Morella, Vallone Tumarrano and Vallone di Aragona.

The river flows into the Strait of Sicily, near Capo Bianco, on the boundary of the comuni of Ribera and Cattolica Eraclea.

Sa Caleta Phoenician Settlement

Sa Caleta Phoenician Settlement can be found on a rocky headland about 10 kilometers west of Ibiza Town. The Phoenicians established a foothold around 650 BC. On this site archaeologists have discovered the remains of simple stone buildings. The discovery is so important that the site has been designated a World Heritage Site.


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Tommaso Fazello

Tommaso Fazello (New Latin Fazellus, 1498 – 8 April 1570) was an Italian Dominican friar, historian and antiquarian. He is known as the father of Sicilian history. He is the author of the first printed history of Sicily: De Rebus Siculis Decades Duae, published in Palermo in 1558 in Latin. He was born in Sciacca, Sicily and died in Palermo, Sicily.He rediscovered the ruins of the ancient Sicilian towns of Akrai (modern Palazzolo Acreide), Selinus (modern Selinunte) and Heraclea Minoa. He also rediscovered the Temple of Olympian Zeus at Akragas (modern Agrigento).In 1555, he taught at the Convent of San Domenico, Palermo, which later became the University of Palermo.


The Zanclean is the lowest stage or earliest age on the geologic time scale of the Pliocene. It spans the time between 5.332 ± 0.005 Ma and 3.6 ± 0.005 Ma (million years ago). It is preceded by the Messinian age of the Miocene epoch, and followed by the Piacenzian age.

The Zanclean can be correlated with regionally used stages, such as the Tabianian or Dacian of Central Europe. It also corresponds to the late Hemphillian to mid-Blancan North American Land Mammal Ages. In California, the Zanclean roughly corresponds to the mid-Delmontian Californian Stage of from 7.5 To 2.9 Ma ago.

Archaeological sites in Sicily
Province of Agrigento
Province of Caltanissetta
Province of Catania
Province of Enna
Province of Messina
Province of Palermo
Province of Ragusa
Province of Syracuse
Province of Trapani

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