University of Leicester
2021_THOMAS_AJ_PhD.pdf (2.96 MB)

Hegemony and Empire in Ancient Sicily, c. 410-70 BC

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posted on 2022-02-10, 11:52 authored by Alexander James Thomas
This is a study of how the three powers which dominated Sicily in the period 410-70 BC – Carthage, the various rulers of Syracuse, and eventually, Rome – exercised political power over the weaker Sicilian polities and peoples. The aim is to understand whether any of these ‘supremacies’ qualified as ‘empires’, as defined by interference with local autonomy; when powers respected local autonomy, we use the term ‘hegemony’ instead. These categories frequently correspond to the Weberian ideal types of rational-legal and charismatic authority respectively, which are used as tools for explaining the basis of imperial and hegemonic power. Chapter 1 considers rational-legal authority, and demonstrates that while Carthage and Rome developed institutional frameworks to cement their positions over time, there is little evidence (with a few exceptions) that the Syracusan rulers did the same. The next three chapters turn to consider more hegemonic strategies. Chapter 2 looks at economic supremacy – the control or appropriation of material resources at the expense of other powers – which, it is argued, was primarily achieved through harbour dues and the issuing of coinage. Chapter 3 considers the charismatic authority of individual potentates: the Syracusan tyrants themselves, and the generals acting on behalf of Carthage and Rome. Chapter 4 looks at demographic strategies, including population movements and ideology. Chapter 5 takes a slightly different approach, using two Greek poleis, Akragas and Messana, as case studies to explore how hegemony and empire worked ‘on the ground’. I conclude that while the rulers of Syracuse primarily used charismatic, hegemonic strategies, and the state powers of Carthage and Rome developed rational-legal frameworks over time, the latter two also used hegemonic methods alongside these imperial strategies. Informal, hegemonic strategies were thus fundamental to political supremacy in late Classical and Hellenistic Sicily.



Graham Shipley

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Archaeology and Ancient History

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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