Halaesa was an ancient city of Sicily, situated near the north coast of the island. The city was of Siculian origin; in 403 BC the tyrant Archonides of Herbita, having concluded peace with Dionysius I of Syracuse, gave the northern part of his territory to the Sicilians as well as to mercenaries and others who had helped him during the war. He named it Halaesa, to which the epithet Archonidea was frequently added for the purpose of distinction. Others attributed the foundation of the city erroneously to the Carthaginians.
It quickly rose to prosperity through maritime commerce. At the start of the First Punic War it was one of the first of the Sicilian cities to submit to the Romans to whose alliance it was always faithful. It was doubtless to this conduct and to the services that it was able to render to the Romans during their wars in Sicily that it was awarded the status of civitas libera ac immunis which gave it the privilege of retaining its own laws and independence, exempt from all taxation, an advantage enjoyed by only five cities of Sicily. In consequence of this advantageous position it rose rapidly in wealth and prosperity and became one of the most flourishing cities of Sicily.
The city appears to have subsequently declined, and had sunk in the time of Augustus to the condition of an ordinary municipal town, but was still one of the few places on the north coast of Sicily which Strabo deemed worthy of mention.
The site has been partially excavated starting in 2017. The agora and theatre are among the monuments so far been brought to light. Portions of the aqueduct can be seen and fragments of statues, as well as coins and inscriptions, have been frequently discovered on the spot.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.