The site of the Greek 'Leontini' has been identified to the south of present Lentini, in the valley of San Mauro and the two hills that surround it. At the southern outlet of the valley and the hill of Castellaccio the remains of a circle of walls were found , first real core of the city with some remains of a fairly late necropolis (fourth century BC) outside the heart of the city. The Lentini archaeological finds are not numerous, since much of the ancient heritage was lost in the catastrophic earthquake of 1693.
The origins of the name Lentini
The name of the city, according to ancient testimony, derives from the Greek for lion due to the conformation of the hills, which would represent this mighty animal - Lentini actually stands on three hills, which could resemble a lion. According to other etymologies, the name derives from the Greek "Laòs" ( "People") and "Tìnein" ( "to extend"), meaning a town "very populous". But it is very likely that the first derivation is correct, because the coat of arms shows ears, some fish, a palm tree, a tower embattled, and the pelt of the Nemean lion.
The ears refer to the fertility of the soil of Lentini, while the pelt of the lion refers to the legendary stay of Hercules in the city, who remained here for some time and gave the inhabitants, in recognition for honours received, his cloak of lion pelt. The fishes symbolically recall the Lake of Lentini, which Hercules himself constructed in honour of Iola. As for the tower, a legend tells that Hercules built it to mark the superiority of Lentini throughout Sicily. In fact, some old coins on the obverse show the head of a woman and on the reverse a lion next to a tree.
According to tradition, Lentini was founded simultaneously with Catania, by some Chalcidian settlers of Naxos, led by Teocle, having chased the “Siculi” from the region in 730-729 BC. It became a rich city and very populous for its fertile land, and it was occupied by the tyrant Panaetius in 609 BC; later by Hippocrates (?-491 B.C.); then by the tyrant of Gela, in 498 BC. It was taken also by Hieron (?-466) and Thrasybulus (V century B.C.), also tyrants of Syracuse.
After the fall of Syracuse to the Romans, Lentini also came under their rule - the city of Lentini was sacked by the consul Marcellus in 214 BC. In Roman times Lentini declined significantly and had little political and economic importance.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, it underwent various dominations by the Goths, Saracens and Normans. The Norman Count Roger declared Lentini a 'royal city'.
Unlike the Roman period, which saw the city in clear decline, Lentini was an Episcopal seat in the Byzantine period. In the Norman period the city developed around the old Cathedral of Santa Maria della Cava (now Piazza Oberdan). In the twelfth century, it was damaged by earthquakes, and the centre was restructured in the Swabian period, when many monasteries settled around the city (Conventual, Carmelites. Observant).
Following the earthquake of 1542, Lentini was again severely affected; for this reason, during the reign of Charles V a new centre called “Carlentini” was developed. However, many residents returned to build again on the old site, which, however, was destroyed by the earthquake of 1693.
Between the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the city had no particular developments, the economy remained predominantly agricultural; and this activity continues today, alongside the new opportunities opened up by the development of tourism.