In Old Latin a sicilicus is a diacritical mark, ͗, like a laterally inverted C (Ɔ) placed above a letter and evidently deriving its name from its shape like a little sickle (which is sicilis in Latin). The ancient sources say that during the time of the Republic it was placed above a geminate consonant to indicate that the consonant counted twice, although there is hardly any epigraphic and paleographic evidence available from such an early time. When such geminate consonants began to be represented during classical times by writing the letter twice, the sicilicus naturally fell into disuse in this function, but continued to be used to indicate the doubling of vowels as an indication of length in the developed form of the apex. It has been suggested that Plautus alludes to the sicilicus in the prologue to Menaechmi.
In Unicode, it is encoded as U+0357 ͗ combining right half ring above (HTML:
- Open O, although this is a full letter, and not a diacritic placed above a letter
- Antisigma, although this is a full letter, and not a diacritic placed above a letter
- Apex (diacritic), used for long vowels instead of long consonants
- Apostrophe, whose shape is derived from it
- Comma (punctuation), whose shape is similar
- Latin spelling and pronunciation
- Cf. John Edwin Sandys, A Companion to Latin Studies, Cambridge University Press 1910, §1099, p. 743, where specific instances are provided: C.I.L. v 1361, x 3743, xii 414.
- Cf. Isidore Etymologiae 1.27.29 (ubi litterae consonantes geminabantur, sicilicum superponebant, ut 'cella', 'serra', 'asseres': ueteres enim non duplicabant litteras, sed supra sicilicos adponebant; qua nota admonebatur lector geminandam esse litteram); Nisus fr. 5 Mazzarino in Velius Longus de Orthographia Keil 7.80; Gaius Marius Victorinus Ars Grammatica 4.2 Mariotti.
- Apex and Sicilicus, Revilo P. Oliver, The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 87, No. 2. (Apr., 1966), pp. 156-58. For a counter-view see Michael Fontaine, Sicilicissitat (Plautus, Menaechmi 12) and Early Geminate Writing in Latin (with an Appendix on Men. 13). Mnemosyne, Volume 59, Number 1 (2006) pp. 104-5.
- Michael Fontaine, Sicilicissitat (Plautus, Menaechmi 12) and Early Geminate Writing in Latin (with an Appendix on Men. 13). Mnemosyne, Volume 59, Number 1 (2006) pp. 95-110.