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Studia Calactina I: Ricerche su una città greco-romano di Sicilia. Kalè Akté—Calacte

Studia Calactina I: Ricerche su una città greco-romano di Sicilia. Kalè Akté—Calacte

By Francesco Collura, with contributions by Sergio Cascella, Emiliano Arena, and Benedetto Carroccio (BAR-IS 2813). Pp. vii + 452, color pls. 16. British Archaeological Reports, Oxford 2016. £69. ISBN 978-1-40731-480-8 (paper).

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Only specialists in the history and archaeology of ancient Sicily have likely heard of Kale Akte (Roman Calacte), an ancient town on the northern coast of Sicily about midway between Palermo and Messina. Kale Akte is described on this volume’s back cover as a “typical ‘minor’ Greek-Roman city of Sicily.” While Kale Akte was clearly not a major player in the ancient history of Sicily, whether it can be called “typical” is less certain. Indeed, this volume largely takes for granted what is arguably the most interesting aspect of the development of the polis of Kale Akte, as demonstrated by excavations in the last three decades: the apparent shift of settlement from the original hilltop site (now occupied by the modern comune of Caronia) to a coastal location (at modern Caronia Marina) in the first century C.E.

The volume, which is composed almost entirely of contributions by its editor, Collura, is divided into two sections. Under the heading “Primi risultati delle ricerche” (First Results of the Research), the introduction and chapters 1–7 summarize recent archaeological research in the town and its territory, much of which was conducted by Collura personally. The introduction and chapter 1 provide background on the history of the town as recorded in ancient literary sources and summarize the results of previous excavations (most significantly those led by Carmela Bonanno in the 1990s and 2000s). Chapter 2 gives an overview of the history of settlement in the area, as attested by the remains of several hilltop agglomerations, in the centuries preceding the foundation of Kale Akte by the Sicel leader Ducetius in the mid fifth century B.C.E. Chapters 3 and 4 present the results of Collura’s surface surveys in several sectors of the hill town and coastal settlement. Chapter 5 examines the evidence for ancient burial areas around the hilltop and coastal sites, while chapter 6 summarizes the post-antique history of settlement in the area. Chapter 7 provides an overview of the sites that Collura has identified through surface survey in the hinterland (chora) of Kale Akte.

The first six chapters of the second section, “Approfondimenti” (Insights), explore specific aspects of the material culture of Kale Akte and the settlements in its hinterland, including ceramics, numismatics, and epigraphy. The final paper presents the results of Collura’s surface survey of the unexcavated phrourion (fort) on Pizzo Cilona, a low hill approximately 3.6 km inland from Caronia.

Although the volume as a whole is a commendable effort to elucidate the history and archaeology of a relatively obscure site, its individual contributions are a mixed bag. Unfortunately, the poorly translated English abstracts that precede each of the contributions will be of little help to scholars not fluent in Italian. Most of the chapters, especially those in the first section, will likely interest only specialists in the archaeology of ancient Sicily. Moreover, some of Collura’s assertions in the first section strain credibility. His suggestion that the hilltop town had a “pseudo-orthogonal” street plan centered on an agora is intriguing, but it relies on very limited archaeological evidence because the presence of the modern town of Caronia has prohibited extensive excavation (121–26). In chapter 4, Collura’s reconstruction of the layout of the port and town at Marina Caronia similarly stretches the available evidence (mostly scattered ancient structures found in surface survey or rescue excavations) a bit too far.

Some of the chapters in the second section that focus on material culture are potentially of broader interest. For example, Collura revisits the circumstances of the discovery of a “late Hellenistic” honorific Greek inscription in the vicinity of Caronia in 2003 (345–50). Arena offers a new edition of this highly fragmented text that departs significantly from the previous editions of Giacomo Manganaro and Filippo Battistoni (see SEG 59 1102), followed by a commentary on the governmental bodies (halia, boula, and synkletos) mentioned in the inscription (351–67).

Given the recent efflorescence of research on the ancient settlements of the northern coast of Sicily (as demonstrated, e.g., by the resumption of excavation at Halaesa, less than 20 km west of Caronia), it is surprising that Collura does not make a stronger case for why Kale Akte is particularly worthy of attention. The historical relationship between settlement on the hilltop and the coastal site is alluded to throughout the volume (most explicitly at 37–40) but deserves more detailed analysis. In addition, many of the volume’s findings raise interesting questions about the place of Kale Akte in the broader history of settlement in Sicily in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. For example, Arena’s comment on the possible use of demotics in the honorific Greek inscription raises the possibility of cultural and demographic links between Kale Akte and other Siceliot poleis such as Tauromenion, Akrai, Halaesa, Apollonia, and Kamarina in the Hellenistic era (354–56). Furthermore, the Italian terra sigillata found on the hill of Caronia, as analyzed by Collura and Cascella (393–412), suggests that the hilltop settlement of Kale Akte maintained economic links to Italy even in its final years of occupation. Collura’s overview in chapter 7 of sites detected in the territory of Caronia raises the additional question of how the apparent shift of settlement from the hilltop to the coast (and its implications for the civic institutions and community identity of Kale Akte) affected settlements in the hinterland. It is hoped that this volume will encourage further research not only on Kale Akte itself but also on its place in the ancient settlement landscape of Sicily’s northern coast. 

Laura Pfuntner
School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics
Queen’s University Belfast

Book Review of Studia Calactina I: Ricerche su una città greco-romano di Sicilia: Kalè Akté—Calacte, by Francesco Collura

Reviewed by Laura Pfuntner

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 122, No. 1 (January 2018)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1221.pfuntner

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