Eunus

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A statue of Eunus at Enna, Sicily

Eunus (died 132 BC) was a slave from Apamea in Syria who became leader of the slave uprising in the First Servile War in Sicily. Eunus rose to prominence in the movement through his reputation as a wonder-worker and prophet. In addition to an alleged ability to blow fire from his mouth, Eunus claimed to receive visions and communications from the goddess Atargatis, a prominent goddess in his homeland, whom he came to identify with Sicilian Demeter. One of his prophetic predictions was that the rebel slaves would successfully capture the city of Enna.

Eunus participated in the storming of Enna, and Diodorus Siculus provides a description of him standing in the front ranks of the assault, blowing fire from his mouth. Upon the capture of Enna, Eunus was crowned king. He subsequently took the name Antiochus, a name used by the Seleucids who ruled Syria, and called his followers, who numbered around 70,000, his Syrians. After the slave army was defeated by a Roman army under the leadership of Perperna, Eunus, with members of his "court", took refuge in a cavern, where he was subsequently captured.

Most of the literary evidence for Eunus and the First Servile War comes from the writings of Diodorus Siculus, who used Posidonius as his primary source. Florus' Epitome, which provides excerpts from lost portions of Livy is the most detailed Latin account. Both Diodorus and Posidonius were sympathetic to the Romans. Diodorus lived in Rome and Cicero asked Posidonius to write an account of the former's consulate. Since Eunus was a defeated enemy of Rome, their accounts of both the slave uprising and its leader were likely biased. On the other hand, Posidonius, like Eunus, was from Syrian Apamea, and the details about Eunus' worship of Atargatis probably arise from his personal knowledge of the goddess's mendicant priests.

Archaeologists have found a small bronze coin, minted at Enna, which bears the inscription "King Antiochus". It is likely that the Antiochus in question is Eunus.

Bibliography[edit]

  • David Engels, Ein syrisches Sizilien? Seleukidische Aspekte des Ersten Sizilischen Sklavenkriegs und der Herrschaft des Eunus-Antiochos, in: Polifemo 11, 2011, pp. 233–251.

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