DURING the same winter the Athenians conceived a desire of sending another expedition to Sicily, larger than those commanded by Laches and Eurymedona. They hoped to conquer the island. Of its great size and numerous population, barbarian as well as Hellenic, most of them knew nothing, and they never reflected that they were entering on a struggle almost as arduous as the Peloponnesian War. The voyage in a merchant-vessel round Sicily takes up nearly eight days, and this great island is all but a part of the mainland, being divided from it by a sea not much more than two miles in width.
The Athenians, ignorant of the size and resources of the island, determine to send a great expedition to Sicily.
I will now describe the original settlement of Sicily, and enumerate the nations which it contained. Oldest of all were (1) the Cyclopes and Laestrygones, who are said to have dwelt in a district of the island; but who they were, whence they came, or whither the went, I cannot tell. We must be content with the legends of the poets, and every one must be left to form his own opinion. (2) The Sicanians appear to have succeeded these early races, although according to their own account they were still older; for they profess to have been children of the soil.
Thucydides describes the races by which the island was inhabited. 1. The mythical Cyclopes and Laestrygones. 2. The Sicanians from Spain said to be autochthons. 3. Some Trojans, and 4. some Phocians, who came to Sicily after the fall of Troy. 5. The Sicels from Italy. 6. The Phoenicians.