Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 6.2.5 Str. 6.2.8 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 6.2.10


In the interior of the island a few inhabitants possess Enna, [Note] in which there is a temple of Ceres; [Note]

it is situated on

-- 412 --

a hill, and surrounded by spacious table-lands well adapted for tillage. The fugitive slaves, who placed themselves under the leading of Eunus, [Note] and sustained in this city a long siege, scarcely being reduced by the Romans, occasioned much damage to the city. The Catanæi, Tauromenitæ, and many others, suffered, much in like manner. † Eryx, [Note] a very lofty mountain, is also inhabited. It possesses a temple of Venus, which is very much esteemed; in former times it was well filled with women sacred to the goddess, whom the inhabitants of Sicily, and also many others, offered in accomplishment of their vows; but now, both is the neighbourhood much thinner of inhabitants, and the temple not near so well supplied with priestesses and female attendants. [Note] There is also an establishment of this goddess at Rome called the temple of Venus Erycina, just before the Colline Gate; in addition to the temple it has a portico well worthy of notice. † The other settlement and most of the interior have been left to the shepherds for pasturage; for we do not know that Himera is yet inhabited, [Note] or Gela, [Note] or Callipolis, or Selinus, or Eubœa, or many other places; of these the Zanclæi of Mylœ [Note] founded Himera, [Note] the people of Naxos, Callipolis, [Note] the Megaræans of Sicily, [Note] Selinus, [Note] and the Leontini [Note] Eubœa. [Note] Many too of the cities

-- 413 --

of the aboriginal inhabitants [Note] have been destroyed, as Camici, the kingdom of Cocalus, at whose house Minos is reported to have been treacherously cut off. The Romans therefore, considering the deserted condition of the country, and having got possession both of the hills and the most part of the plains, have given them over to horse-breeders, herdsmen, and shepherds, by whom the island has frequently been brought into great perils. First of all the shepherds, taking to pillage here and there in different places, and afterwards assembling in numbers and forcibly taking settlements; for instance, as those under the command of Eunus [Note] seized upon Enna. [Note] And quite recently, during the time that we were at Rome, a certain Selurus, called the son of ætna, was sent up to that city. He had been the captain of a band of robbers, and had for a long time infested the country round ætna, committing frequent depredations. We saw him torn to pieces by wild beasts in the forum after a contest of gladiators: he had been set upon a platform fashioned to represent Mount ætna, which being suddenly unfastened and falling, he was precipitated amongst certain cages of wild beasts, which had also been slightly constructed under the platform for the occasion. 6.2.7

The fertility of the country is so generally extolled by every one, as nothing inferior to Italy, that there is a question as to what we should say of it. Indeed, for wheat, honey, saffron, and some other commodities, it even surpasses that country. In addition to this, its proximity renders the island like a part of Italy itself, so that it supplies the Roman market with produce both commodiously and without trouble. Indeed they call it the granary of Rome, for all the produce of the island is carried thither, except a few things required for home consumption. It consists not only of the fruits of the earth, but of cattle, skins, wool, and the like. Posidonius says that Syracuse and Eryx are situated on the sea like two citadels, and that Enna in the midst, between Syracuse and Eryx, commands the surrounding plains. † The [Note] whole terri-

-- 414 --

tory of the Leontini, which was possessed by the people of Naxos settled in Sicily, suffered much, for they always shared in the misfortunes of Syracuse, but not always in its prosperity. † 6.2.8

Near to Centoripa is the town we have a little before mentioned, ætna, which serves as a place for travellers about to ascend Mount ætna, to halt and refresh themselves for the expedition. For here commences the region in which is situated the summit of the mountain. The districts above are barren and covered with ashes, which are surmounted by the snows in winter: all below it however is filled with woods and plantations of all kinds. It seems that the summits of the mountain take many changes by the ravages of the fire, which sometimes is brought together into one crater, and at another is divided; at one time again it heaves forth streams of lava, and at another flames and thick smoke: at other times again ejecting red-hot masses of fire-stone. In such violent commotions as these the subterraneous passages must necessarily undergo a corresponding change, and at times the orifices on the surface around be considerably increased. Some who have very recently ascended the mountain, reported [Note] to us, that they found at the top an even plain of about 20 stadia in circumference, enclosed by an overhanging ridge of ashes about the height of a wall, so that those who are desirous of proceeding further are obliged to leap down into the plain. They noticed in the midst of it a mound; it was ash-coloured, as was likewise the plain in appearance. Above the mound a column of cloud reared itself in a perpendicular line to the height of 200 stadia, and remained motionless (there being no air stirring at the time); it resembled smoke. Two of the party resolutely attempted to proceed further across this plain, but, finding the sand very hot and sinking very deep in it, they turned back, without however being able to make any more particular observations, as to what we have described, than those who beheld from a greater distance. They were, however, of opinion, from the observations they were able to make, that much exaggeration pervades the accounts we have of the volcano, and especially the tale about Empedocles, that he leaped into the

-- 415 --

crater, and left as a vestige of his folly one of the brazen sandals which he wore, it being found outside at a short distance from the lip of the crater, with the appearance of having been cast up by the violence of the flame; for neither is the place approachable nor even visible, nor yet was it likely that any thing could be cast in thither, on account of the contrary current of the vapours and other matters cast up from the lower parts of the mountain, and also on account of the overpowering excess of heat, which would most likely meet any one long before approaching the mouth of the crater; and if eventually any thing should be cast down, it would be totally decomposed before it were cast up again, what manner of form so ever it might have had at first. And again, although it is not unreasonable to suppose that the force of the vapour and fire is occasionally slackened for want of a continual supply of fuel, still we are not to conclude that it is ever possible for a man to approach it in the presence of so great an opposing power. ætna more especially commands the shore along the Strait and Catana, but it also overlooks the sea that washes Tyrrhenia and the Lipari Islands. By night a glowing light appears on its summit, but in the day-time it is enveloped with smoke and thick darkness.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 6.2.5 Str. 6.2.8 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 6.2.10

Powered by PhiloLogic