Classical Quarterly 63 (1):237-252 (2013)

In 135b.c., unable to endure the treatment of their master Damophilus, a group of slaves, urged on by the wonder-worker Eunus, captured the city of Enna in Eastern Sicily in a night-time raid. The subsequent war, according to our sources the largest of its kind in antiquity, raged for three years, destroying the armies of Roman praetors, and engaging three consecutive consuls in its eventual suppression. The success of the rebels in holding out for years against a progression of Roman armies indicates the importance of the event, and the capabilities of their leaders. One expects the man capable of leading such a revolt to have been exceptional, and in this respect the ancient accounts do not disappoint: in a narrative replete with larger-than-life characters, ranging from the depraved slave-owner Damophilus to the restrained Roman consul Calpurnius Piso, one figure stands out in Diodorus Siculus' depiction: the leader of the slaves. This man, Eunus, whom Diodorus describes as the leader of the event he calls the Sicilian Slave War, has been variously interpreted in modern scholarship. Analyses have fallen into two categories. On the one hand, the hostile and outlandish account of Diodorus is accepted uncritically, with the details of Eunus' character understood as faithful, historical representations. On the other hand, the negative facets of Eunus' character are reinterpreted in a positive historical context, thereby outlining his suitability and capability to lead such a large and successful insurgency against Rome. Indeed, Urbainczyk recently argued that despite the difficulties in saying anything definite about the leaders of the so-called Sicilian Slave Wars ‘[Diodorus] attributed to [Eunus] all the powers, abilities, wisdom, and cunning that challenges to the status quo had to have in order to succeed’.
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DOI 10.1017/s0009838812000778
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Essays on Religion and the Ancient World.A. D. Nock & Zeph Stewart - 1973 - Religious Studies 9 (4):479-482.
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