Encyclopedia of Southern Italy – H


Hackert, Philipp: (b. Prenzlau, 1737; d. Florence, 1807). Painter. In 1782 he came to Naples where he became principal painter to his friend King Ferdinand IV. Among his works was a series of victories of the Russian navy, views of the seaports of Naples and Sicily, and several Italian landscapes.

Hades (Ades): (1)Greek god of the Underworld. He was the equivalent to the Roman god Pluto.

                (2) The ancient Greek Underworld or land of the dead.

Hadrian (Publius Aelius [H]adrianus): (b. Rome or Italica, Spain, Jan. 24, AD 76; d. Baiae, July 16, 138). Roman Emperor (rAD 117-138).

Halesa: See Alaesa.

Halesus, River: See Alaesus river.

Halex River: See Alex River.

Haluntium: See Aluntium.

Hamilcar (Abd-Melqart = “servant of Melqart”) Barca (1): (d. 480 BC). Carthaginian general. The son of Hanno Sabellus, a Carthaginian general, Hamilcar’s mother was a Greek from Syracuse. His brother, Hasdrubal, was also a well-known commander who campaigned in Sardinia. In 480 BC, Hamilcar was invited by Terillus, the deposed tyrant of Himera, to invade Greek Sicily and restore him to power. Hamilcar saw this as an opportunity for an even grander scheme and formed a large army and navy capable of conquering the entire island for Carthage. He advanced eastwards and laid siege to Himera, on the north coast of Sicily. The city was defended by Theron, the tyrant of Akragas, who appealed for help to Gelon of Syracuse. Gelon, knowing that he was no match for Hamilcar’s forces in a pitched battle, devised a ruse. Learning that Hamilcar was awaiting the arrival of Greek mercenaries, Gelon successfully pretended that his army was the awaited force. By the time the Carthaginians had discovered their mistake, Gelon men were inside the enemy camp. The surprise was total and the Carthaginians were completely routed. Hamilcar, who had been engaged in offering burnt sacrifices at a pyre when the attack took place, realized that his situation was hopeless. Rather than face capture, he threw himself into the flames and was completely comsumed.

                Hamilcar’s son, Gesco, was unable to return home in Carthage because of his father’s disgrace and took refuge in the western Greek city of Selinus where he lived as an exile. Gesco’s son, Hannibal Barca (1), later avenged his grandfather’s defeat and death by leading his own invasion of Greek Sicily in 410 BC. When he captured Himera, Hannibal had 3,000 Greek captives cruelly tortured and offered up as human sacrifices to the honor of his grandfather Hamilcar.

Hamilcar: (fl. 2nd half of 4th century BC). Carthaginian general. He was a Carthaginian commander (strategus) who was defeated by Timoleon at the battle of Crimissus in 339 BC. It is unknown whether he survived the battle but a new commander, Gisco, was appointed as the new commander soon after.

Hannibal (Hanba’al = “mercy of Baal”) Barca (1): (d. 406 BC). Carthaginian general. He was the son of Gesco, and the grandson of Hasbrubal Barca (1). Hannibal had a life-long hatred of the Greeks because of the defeat of his grandfather at Himera in 480 BC. In 410 BC, an opportunity for revenge presented itself when a war broke out between Greek Selinus and Elymian Segesta. The latter appealed for help to their ally, Carthage, while Selinus did the same with Syracuse, the most powerful Greek city in Sicily.

                In 409 or 408 BC, Hannibal arrived in Sicily with a large army and launched an attack on Selinus and captured the city. This, however, was only his first step against the Greeks. Moving eastwards, he captured Himera, the site of Hasdrubal’s defeat and death seventy-two years earlier. Hannibal then committed an act meant both to avenge the death of Hasdrubal and instill fear in his Greek enemies. Taking 3,000 Greek captives, he had them tortured and sacrificed to the spirit of his grandfather. He then returned to Carthage where he was welcomed as a hero.

                While Hannibal was in Carthage, Syracuse was torn apart by a civil war which disrupted the city and left it without effective leadership. The Carthaginians took advantage of the situation, sending Hannibal back to Sicily in 406 BC. He established a new city, Thermae, on the north coast of the island, populating it with the Greek survivors of the now-destroyed Himera. He then launched a new invasion of Greek Sicily, leading his army against Akragas. His force consisted of Carthage’s best elite troops, along with Iberian, Campanian, Baleric and Libyan mercenaries. Akragas was well-defended with a force of its own, supported by Greek Siciliot allies from Syracuse, Gela, Kamarina, Messana, and several Greek cities from Magna Graecia. They also had units of paid Greek and Campanian mercenaries. Both armies were well-matched and Hannibal was unable to break the city’s defense. As the Carthaginians laid siege to Akragas, their camp was struck with plague. As the sickness spread, it claimed many lives including Hannibal. His command was taken over by his relative, Himilco, who, in the spring of 405 BC, finally captured Akragas. The campaign which began as Hannibal’s personal vendetta against the Greeks continued on after his death. In the end, the Carthaginians failed to drive the Greeks from Sicily but secured Carthage’s hold on the western part of the island.

Hannibal (Hanba’al = “mercy of Baal”) Barca (2): Carthaginian general, born in 247 BCE, son of Hamilcar Barca; traveled with his father to conquer Spain when he was nine; from age 18 to 25, Hannibal carried out his brother-in-law Hasdrubal’s plan to consolidate Carthaginian rule on the Iberian Peninsula; Hasdrubal was assassinated in 221 BCE and Hannibal was chosen to lead the Carthaginian army in Spain; by 219 BCE, Hannibal had gained control of Spain between the Tajo and Iberus rivers, with the exception of Saguntum, which he captured in 218 BCE; Hannibal had violated Carthage’s treaty with Rome and Rome declared war on Carthage, thus began the Second Punic War; in 218 BCE, Hannibal marched with 40,000 troops to Rome, allying himself with various tribes and Italian cities along the way; in 211 BCE, Hannibal attempted to take Rome but failed to breakthrough the Roman fortifications; the Romans would retake Capua and the Italian allies of Hannibal were lost to him as a result; Hannibal’s brother, Hasdrubal, was called to help Hannibal in Italy but on his march from Spain, Hasdrubal was defeated and killed by the Roman consul Gaius Claudius Nero in the Battle of the Metaurus River; Hannibal returned to Carthage to defend against the Roman invasion led by Scipio Africanus the Elder in 203 BCE; the Roman invasion was successful and the Second Punic War ended in 202 BCE; always the leader and hater of Rome, Hannibal changed the Carthaginian constitution, reduced corruption in the government, and re-financed the city so that he could fight again; the Romans took Hannibal’s actions as a break in the peace and forced Hannibal to flee to Syria and the safety the court of King Antiochus III; Hannibal fought with the Syrians against Rome, but when the Syrians signed a treaty with Rome Hannibal fled again in 195 BCE this time to King Prusias II of Bithynia, in northern Asia Minor; when the Romans demanded his surrender, Hannibal committed suicide in 183 BCE.

Hatria: Ancient name for Atri (TE).

Hauteville (Altavilla) Dynasty: The first dynasty of the Kingdom of Sicily that ruled from 1130 to 1198. Originally a family of petty nobles from lower Normandy, many attempts have been made to connect them with more ancient and royal roots. These, however, are highly suspect and their origins remain obscure. According to one story, they were descended from a Norman named Hialt, who had founded a small village called Hialtys Villa (= “High Town”), in the Cotentin region of Normandy. It is from this village, whose location remains controversial, that the family derived its name. Many scholars identify it with Hauteville-la-Guishard.

The family’s first member of any note was a minor noble named Tancred, whose children and other descendents played important roles in the formation of the kingdom of Sicily, the Crusades and ever in English history.

Heiponion: A city of ancient Bruttium. Ancient name for Vibo Valentia.

Hellenistic period: Greek chronological term; in Sicily and Southern Italy it lasted from 323 to 241 BC.

Henry VI: (b.1165; d: near Messina, 1197). Holy Roman Emperor (r1190-1197). King of Sicily (r 1194-1197). He was the son of Emperor Frederick I “Barbarossa” and Beatrice (Beatrix) of Burgundy. Elected as King of the Romans at the age of 4, he succeeded his father as Emperor in 1190. Through his wife Constance, daughter of the late Roger II, he laid claim to the throne of Sicily when William II died. In 1191, upon being crowned at Rome, Henry made an unsuccessful attempt to invade the Sicilian kingdom. In 1193, he bribed Duke Leopold of Austria to turn his famous hostage, King Richard I of England, over to him. About a year later, Richard was freed after the payment of a huge ransom. Henry used this windfall to finance the creation of a new army and launched another expedition against Sicily. This time, Henry was successful and crowned king of Sicily at Palermo in 1194. He was the father of the famous Emperor Frederick II “the Great.”

Henry VII: King of Sicily (nominally king under his father, Frederick II) (r1212-1217).

Hephaestiades: See Aeoliae Insulae.

Heraclea: ancient Greek city, in Lucania, S Italy, not far from the Gulf of Tarentum (Taranto). There Pyrrhus defeated the Romans in 280 B.C. Bronze tablets giving Roman municipal laws were found nearby.

Heraclettus (Heraklettos, Heraclitus): (b. Tarentum; fl. late 4th century BC). Harpist. A member of Alexander the Great’s court, he was one of the performers at the mass-marriage ceremony at Susa in 324 BC.

Heraclia: (fl. 3rd century BC). Syracusan noblewoman. A daughter of Hieron II, she was the wife of Zoippos. In 214 BC, she, along with her sister Damarata, and mother Philitis, were murdered by a mob.

Herculaneum (mod. Ercolano): An ancient city of Campania, destroyed in AD 79 by the same eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that buried Pompeii. The city lay at the W base of the volcano and was buried by the pyroclastic material discharged during the eruption. The site of the city was not rediscovered until 1709.

Herculis promontorium: (mod. Capo Spartivento). A headland of Bruttium, it is the southernmost point on mainland Italy.

Herdonia (mod. Ordona): A town in ancient Apulia. It was destroyed by Hannibal during the Second Punic War, and its inhabitants were dispersed to Thurii and Metapontum. Although it was later rebuilt by the Romans, it remained a place of no consequence.

Hereditagium: A Late Latin term used in Neapolitan and Sicilian law, referring to something that is held by hereditary right.

Herennia Gens: An ancient Roman gens (or clan). Of Samnite origins, the Herennii had established themselves in Campania prior to the Samnite/Roman wars. Immigrating to Rome, they became an influential plebian house whose members distinguished themselves during the Samnite and Punic wars. They were the hereditary patrons of the Marii.

Hermocrates: (fl. late 5th century BC). Syracusan statesman and general. At the peace conference of Gela (424 BC), he warned the Sikels about dealing with the Athenians. Later at Syracuse (418-416 BC) he issued a similar warning about Athens. During the subsequent Athenian expedition against Syracuse, he played an important role in the city’s defense, serving as advisor (415), plenipotentiary general (414), and advisor to the Spartan general Gylippus (413). In 412 BC, he was sent as admiral to Asia. Following the battle of Cyzicus (410 BC), while still serving in this post, he was exiled in absentia by the radical democracy led by his enemy Diolcles, which had taken power in Syracuse. Thanks to a financial gift from Pharnabazus, the Persian satrap of either Dascylium or Hellespontine Phrygia, Hermocrates returned to Sicily with a private army. He moved to the western part of the island, seizing control of Selinus, and using it as a base to raid Carthaginian territory. After his attempt to win amnesty from Syracuse failed in 408 BC, he attempted to seize control of that city with the help of local supporters. Among the latter was Dionysius I, the future tyrant. Hermocrates’s attack, however, failed and led to his death. It is uncertain whether he planned to set up a tyranny himself although he was known to be a strong opponent of radical democracy.

Hernici: A people of ancient Italy of Sabine origins who lived in Latium between the Lago di Fucino and River Sacco. They were bounded by the Volsci on the south and by the Aequi and Marsi on the north. They were able to maintain their independence and strength for some time, finally coming into conflict with the Romans in 362 BC. In 306 BC, their chief town Anagria (mod. Anagri) was captured by the Romans who turned it into a prefecture. The other Hernician towns of Ferentinum, Aletrium and Verulae continued to maintain their independence. The Hernici disappear as an independent people by 225 BC and it is assumed that they had been granted full Roman citizenship and had been entirely absorbed by that time.

Herodotus: historian of the Persian Wars.

hetaireia: in ancient Greek term for a club or an association of citizens.

Hiera (mod. Marettimo): The westernmost of the seven principal islands of the Aeoliae Insulae (Aeolian Islands), off the N coast of Sicily.

Hieron I: Tyrant of Syracuse (r478-467 BC). He was victor in the Horse Race at the Olympian Games in 476 BC and 472 BC. In 468 BC, he was victorious there in the Tethrippon.

Hieron II: (b. 305 BC; d. 215 BC). King of Syracuse (r270-215 BC). The illegitimate son of a Syracusan noble named Hierocles, he claimed to be a descendant of Gelon, tyrant of Syracuse (r485 BC-478 BC). After serving on the staff of Pyrrhus of Epirus, he became the commander of Syracuse’s army in 275 BC. He married the daughter of Leptines, a powerful and wealthy nobleman of the city. After defeating the Mamertines near Mylae (mod. Milazzo), he was proclaimed king by the Syracusans in 270 BC. In 264 BC, he continued his war with the Mamertines, intending to break their power in NE Sicily. The Mamertines appealed to both the Carthaginians and Romans for help to defend their base at Messana, creating a crisis that sparked off the First Punic War. The arrival of a Roman army under Appius Claudius Caudex to support the Mamertines motivated Hieron to form an alliance with the Carthaginian commander Hanno. When the latter was defeated by the Romans, Hieron withdrew back to Syracuse. In 263 BC, faced with a probable attack by the Romans, Hieron agreed to sign a treaty of alliance with Appius Claudius. In return for support against the Carthaginians, Hieron was guaranteed his throne and control over SE Sicily. Hieron thereafter remained a loyal ally of Rome throughout the remainder of his long reign.

                In general, Hieron’s reign was a prosperous one for Syracuse. He was free to build up his kingdom’s defenses with the blessings of the Romans. His court was center for art and science. Hieron encouraged his kinsman Archimedes in his education and studies.

                When Hieron died in 215 BC at age 90, he was succeeded by grandson Hieronymus but the latter’s youth and inexperience left him vulnerable to the plots of his guardians. The peace and stability created by Hieron quickly fell into strife and chaos.

Hilarius, St.: Pope. (rNov 19, 440-Feb 29, 468).

Himera: ancient city on the north coast of Sicily, founded by Greeks in the 7th cent. B.C. Here in 480 B.C. (a traditional date) forces led by Gelon routed the Carthaginians led by Hamilcar. Years later the Carthaginians destroyed (409 B.C.) the city. The citizens moved to nearby Thermae (modern Termini). The poet Stesichorus was born in Himera.

Hipponium (mod Vibo Valentia): A colony in Bruttium founded in c600 BC by Greeks from Locri Epizephyrii. Although little is known of its history, the city attempted to resist Dionysius I of Syracuse in 388 BC but was captured and sacked. It later managed to successfully rebel against Syracuse but, in c356-4 BC, it was captured by the Bruttians.

                In 192 BC, the Romans founded the Latin colony of Vibo Valentia on the site of Hipponium. It grew into a flourishing city and attained the status of a municipium.

Hippostratos: An athlete of ancient Kroton. He was victor in the Stadion at the Olympian Games in 564 BC and 560 BC.

Histonium: Ancient name for Vasto.

Historical Periods, Sicilian: Note that certain gaps showing in the chart below were periods where there was no clear dominating culture in Sicily. Certain periods showing overlapping years were times when the island was divided or undergoing transition from one ruling culture to another.


Time Span

Bronze Age

c2500-c900 BC

Iron Age

c900-c734 BC

Archaic period

c734-c480 BC

Hellenistic period

323-241 BC

Roman period

241 BC-AD 476

Byzantine period

AD 533-902

Saracen period

AD 827-1093

Norman period


Swabian period


Angevin period


Aragonese period


Spanish period


Savoyard period


Austrian period


Bourbon period


Italian Period


Hohenstaufen Dynasty: Swabian (German) dynasty which ruled the Regno from 1194 to 1266.

Holy Father: An honorific for the Pope.

Honorius I: Pope. (rOct 27, 625-Oct 12, 638).

Honorius II: Pope. (rDec 15, 1124-Feb 13, 1130).

Honorius III: Pope. (rJuly 18, 1216-Mar 1227).

Honorius IV: Pope. (rApr 2, 1285-Apr. 3, 1287).

Horace: (full name: Quintus Horatius Flaccus). Roman satirical poet; born 65 BCE in Venusia. His father was believed to have been a manumitted slave. His family had enough wealth to allow Horace to study in Athens from 46 to 44 BCE. His “base” roots did not prevent him from joining the staff of M. Brutus in Asia (c43 BCE) and he fought at the Battle of Philippi. Following this defeat and the subsequent suicides of Cassius and Brutus, Horace left the military and began writing in 41 BCE. In c39/38 BCE he was he was already friends with fellow poets Vergil and Varius, who introduced him to C. Cilnius Maecenas, a leading patron of the arts. Horace published his first book of satires in 35 BCE and his second in 31 BCE. Horace’s Epistles 2.1 to Augustus were commissioned and published in 12 BCE. Horace died suddenly in 8 BCE.

Hormisdas, St.: Pope. (rJuly 20, 514-July 19, 523). He was the father of Pope Silverius (r536-537).

Horta: Etruscan goddess of agriculture.

Humphrey: Count of Apulia (r1051-1057).

Hyele: Original name for the ancient city of Velia (Elea).

Hyginus, St.: Pope. (rAD 136/138 – 140/142).

Hyperbios: an athlete of ancient Syracuse. He was victor in the Stadion at the Olympian Games in 420 BC.

Hyrium (or Uria): A city of ancient Apulia.