A Greek colony founded at the S edge of the Campi Leontini (modern piana di Catania). First inhabited by the Sikels, in the second half of the 8th c. B.C. (ca. 729), it was occupied by the Chalkidians of Naxos led by the Oikistes Theokles; Thucydides (6:3) mentions that the Sikels were forcibly expelled (cf. Polyaenus, Strat. 5:5.2).
For the entire archaic period Leontinoi was autonomous. It was conquered by Hippokrates in 495 B.C., and was restored to freedom only after 466 B.C. In 427 it asked for Athenian help against Syracuse (Diod. 12:53) and was Athens' ally during the Sicilian expedition. Occupied by the Syracusans in 422 B.C, it regained independence for brief intervals but was virtually dominated by the Syracusan rulers throughout the 4th and 3d c. B.C. It was conquered by the Romans in 215 B.C.
The ancient city lay beyond the hills to the S of present-day Lentini in Valle S. Mauro, which is flanked by two series of steep rises sloping from S to N. Polybios (7:6), in describing the city's topography, locates the agora within the valley with a city gate at either end, the Syracusan Gate to the S and the gate leading to the Campi Leontini to the N.
In 1950, at the far end of the Valle S. Mauro the S gate of the city was discovered. One phase dates to the beginning of the 6th c. B.C., the other to the middle of the 5th c. At the end of the century it was demolished together with the surrounding fortifications, and during the 4th and 3d c. it lay under the rising ground level and was covered by a necropolis. A third defensive work, following the plan of the earlier gate, was hastily built at the end of the 3d c. over the cemetery strata.
The gateway opened at the center of a pincer-like fortification whose projections to the E and W embraced the edges of the overhanging hills of Metapiccola and S. Mauro. The circuit wall has been uncovered for a few hundred meters and is still in an excellent state of preservation. The various chronological phases are reflected in the different construction techniques. On S. Mauro, besides the structures connected with the various phases of the gate, an earlier wall has been uncovered; it was built with large blocks set as headers, and belongs to the time when the city extended only over S. Mauro or part of it.
Some archaic houses have been identified within the walls, and the summit of the hill, near the Aletta dwelling, has yielded numerous architectural terracottas from a temple now no longer visible.
On the opposite hill (Metapiccola) remains of houses and the foundations of an archaic temple have been found. On the plateau at the summit of the hill were identified the remains of a Sikel village of the Iron Age.
Two native cemeteries have been identified and explored in the Valle S. Eligio to the E, and in the Valle Ruccia to the W. The graves are in the shape of small artificial grottos and are largely preserved.
The finds from the excavations carried out since 1950 are housed in the Archaeological Museum of Lentini, where they are arranged chronologically and with specific reference to the major phases of the city's life. (G. RIZZA)
Info: Princeton Encyclopedia
(Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, from Perseus Project)