Elymian (Grk: Elymoi; Lat: Elymi): Name given by Greeks to the native population of NW Sicily in the sixth-fifth century BC. The origins of the Elymians is still a matter of debate. The classical Greeks and Romans believed that they were descendants of Trojans. Thucydides wrote that after the fall of Troy, and group of Trojan refugees wandered through the Mediterranean until finally landing in western Sicily. There they settled intermarrying with the native Sikans. The Roman poet Vergil wrote that the ancestors of the Elymians were led to Sicily by the Trojan hero Acestes.
The debate over the historic Elymian origins is far from settled. There is little material difference between the ancient Elymians and the neighboring Sikans to be found in excavations of sites prior to 500 BC. After that, both peoples were largely Hellenized through contacts with Greek colonists. An example of such Greek influences among the Elymians can be seen in the magnificent, although unfinished, temple at Segesta. In their oldest inscriptions the Elymians utilized the Greek alphabet to write in the own, still undeciphered language. Linguists suggest that the Elymian tongue was probably non-Indo-European and was native to the pre-Greek Sicilians.
Prior to the arrival of the Greeks and Phoenicians, the Elymians probably held most of the western portion of Sicily. They were eventually pushed back into an area of the northwestern part of the island. The principal Elymian cities and towns were Segesta, Eryx, Entella, Elima, Halyciae, Iatae, Hypana, and Drepanon.
The Elymians maintained good relations with the Phoenicians and their successors, the Carthaginians. Such could not be said for their affairs with the Greeks. There was constant hostility between Segesta and the Greek city of Selinus. A border dispute between these two cities was to have a much great effect when the Elymians sought help from Athens. This would lead to the disastrous Athenian expedition against Syracuse in 415-413 BC and the resulting defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War. A few years later, this same dispute would provide the Carthaginians an opportunity to attack Selinus and massacre its population (409 BC).
The friendship between the Elymians and Carthaginians was not to last. With the arrival of the Romans on Sicily during the First Punic War, the Elymians were quick to form a new alliance. The Romans, like the Elymians, claimed descent from the ancient Trojans, and looked upon one another as kindred peoples. On this basis alone the Romans granted the Elymians special privileges and exempted them from the taxation imposed on other Sicilians. The Elymian cult of Aphrodite, centered at Eryx, was adopted by the Romans who established it at Rome itself. The Elymians were eventually absorbed into the general population of Roman Sicily.