Heraclea Minoa was an ancient Greek city situated near the mouth of the river Halycus (modern Platani). Excavations have revealed several parts of the city which are now open to the public.

Archaeological finds from the necropolis show the city was founded in the mid-6th century BC. The first written mention of the city is of a small town and a colony of the Greek settlement of Selinus. The city was only briefly under the control of the Spartans and during the whole of the 5th century BC it was under Akragan control and became very prosperous.

However it was destroyed by the Carthaginians probably in 406 BC. The territory fell under Carthaginian control as a result of the treaty of 405 BC. but the absence of all mention of Heraclea suggests that either it did not then exist or must have been in a very reduced condition. It was won back in 397 BC by Dionysius, but recovered by Carthage in 383 BC.

Little of it is recorded under Roman dominion, but Heraclea Minoa appears to have suffered severely in the First Servile War (134–132 BC) and in consequence received a body of fresh colonists, who were established there by the praetor Publius Rupilius. At the same time the relations of the old and new citizens were regulated by a municipal law, which still subsisted in the time of Cicero, when Heraclea was still flourishing. Soon afterwards it must have fallen into decay, in common with most of the towns on the southern coast of Sicily. Archaeology shows that towards the end of the first century BC the city was abandoned.

In the early 20th century, a mid-6th-early 5th century BC necropolis was discovered. A large-scale excavation by Professor Ernesto de Miro from 1950 uncovered late 4th–late 1st century BC dwellings and the late 4th century BC theatre. The absence of Arretine ware at the site strongly suggests that the city was abandoned by the beginning of the 1st century AD. Many cemeteries and tombs have been excavated in the nearby countryside and many of their grave goods are on display in the on-site museum.

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Founded: 6th century BCE
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Italy

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