Ancient hunting: from Homer to Polybios
In Lampedusa’s great Sicilian novel, the Leopard sets out for a morning’s hunting in a landscape which Greek historians still share on their travels.
Lampedusa’s intuition was well-grounded. Throughout antiquity, Sicily remained a sportsman’s paradise, despite the vast crops of grain which were grown in the island’s river-plains. Hunting dogs are shown on the fifth-century coinages of Panormos and Elymian Segesta in the north-west of the island;1 in the east around Enna
the fields were said to be so fair that hounds lost the scent in the sweetness of the flowers (Diodorus of Sicily, 5. 3. 2); before Timoleon took over, Plutarch (using Timaios) paints a rhetorical picture of neglected Sicilian cities given over to deer and wild boar so that people went hunting in their suburbs and beside their walls (Timoleon, 22. 5). The huge late Roman villas and hunting mosaics which are now known in the eastern end of the island were heirs to a long Sicilian tradition of the chase.