Sikyon (Greek Σικυών) was an ancient Greek city situated in the northern Peloponnesus between Corinth and Achaea on the territory of the present-day prefecture of Corinthia. The king-list given by Pausanias comprises twenty-four kings, beginning with the autochthonous Aegialeus; the penultimate king of the list, Agamemnon, compels the submission of Sicyon to Mycenae; after him comes the Dorian usurper Phalces. Pausanias shares his source with Castor of Rhodes, who used the king-list in compiling tables of history; the common source was convincingly identified by F. Jacoby as a lost Sicyonica by the late fourth-century poet Menaechmus of Sicyon.
Sicyon was built on a low triangular plateau about two miles from the Corinthian Gulf. Between the city and its port lay a fertile plain with olive groves and orchards. After the Dorian invasion the community was divided into the ordinary three Dorian tribes and an equally privileged tribe of Ionians, besides which a class of serfs lived on and worked the land.
For some centuries, Sicyon remained subject to Argos, whence its Dorian conquerors had come; as late as 500 BC it acknowledged a certain suzerainty. However, its virtual independence was established in the 7th century BC, when a line of tyrants arose and initiated an anti-Dorian policy. Chief of these rulers was the founder's grandson Cleisthenes, the uncle of the Athenian legislator Cleisthenes. Besides reforming the city's constitution to the advantage of the Ionians and replacing Dorian cults with the worship of Dionysus, Cleisthenes gained renown as the chief instigator and general of the First Sacred War (590 BC) in the interests of the Delphians.
About this time, Sicyon developed the various industries for which it was noted in antiquity. As the abode of the sculptors Dipoenus and Scyllis it gained pre-eminence in woodcarving and bronze work such as is still to be seen in the archaic metal facings found at Olympia. Its pottery, which resembled Corinthian ware, was exported with the latter as far as Etruria. In Sicyon also the art of painting was supposed to have been invented. After the fall of the tyrants their institutions survived till the end of the 6th century BC, when Dorian supremacy was re-established, perhaps by the agency of Sparta under the ephor Chilon, and the city was enrolled in the Peloponnesian League. Henceforth, its policy was usually determined either by Sparta or Corinth.
In the 5th century BC Sicyon, like Corinth, suffered from the commercial rivalry of Athens in the western seas, and was repeatedly harassed by squadrons of Athenian ships. In the Peloponnesian War Sicyon followed the lead of Sparta and Corinth. When these two powers quarrelled after the peace of Nicias it remained loyal to the Spartans. Again in the Corinthian war, Sicyon sided with Sparta and became its base of operations against the allied troops round Corinth. In 369 it was captured and garrisoned by the Thebans in their successful attack on the Peloponnesian League. During this period Sicyon reached its zenith as a centre of art: its school of painting gained fame under Eupompus and attracted the great masters Pamphilus and Apelles as students; its sculpture was raised to a level hardly surpassed in Greece by Lysippus and his pupils.
The destruction of Corinth (146) brought Sicyon an acquisition of territory and the presidency over the Isthmian games; yet in Cicero's time it had fallen deep into debt. Under the Roman empire it was quite obscured by the restored cities of Corinth and Patrae; in Pausanias' age (A.D. 150) it was almost desolate. In Byzantine times it became a bishop's seat, and to judge by its later name Hellas it served as a refuge for the Greeks from the Slavonic immigrants of the 8th century.
The village of Vasiliko (described by the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica as "insignificant") now occupies the site.
- Butades (7th century BC) sculptor
- Canachus (6th century BC) sculptor
- Aristocles (5th century BC) sculptor
- Praxilla (5th century BC) poetess
- Eupompus (4th century BC) painter
- Melanthius (4th century BC) painter
- Pausias (4th century BC) painter
- Eutychides (4th century BC) sculptor
- Lysippos (4th century BC) sculptor
- Lysistratus (4th century BC) sculptor
- Xenokrates (3rd century BC) sculptor
- Sostrates (4th century BC) pankratiast; thrice Olympic champion
- Aratos of Sicyon (3rd century BC) Head of Achaean League
- Pausanias 2.5.6-6.7.
- F. Jacoby on Castor in Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 250 F 2, noted with approval by Robertson 1999:65 and note 36.