Etna Mountain Myths

Etna is a volcano in the northeastern part of the island of Sicily in Italy. Its height reaches 3323 meters with 200 craters and lava flows on its slopes. The age of the volcano is about 300 thousand years. The first historical eruption was recorded in 475 BC, and its most powerful eruption was on March 11, 1669 and lasted for four months. The volcano claimed 20,000 lives, destroying 50 cities.

Hesiod speaks of the eruptions of Mount Etna, and the Greeks Pindar and Aeschylus mention an eruption in 475 BC. An eruption in 396 BC does not allow the Carthaginian army to reach Catania, and from 1500 BC. by 1699 there were records of 71 eruptions, 14 of which were before the new era.

Perhaps the first attempt to divert a lava flow occurred in 1669, when the volcano ejected about 830 million cubic meters of lava. The eruption occurred through a fissure that opened over the city of Nicolosi, growing into a precipice from which lava flowed.

Hephaestus – Greek ancient legends about Mount Etna say that Mount Etna was the workshop of the god Hephaestus, who was the divine blacksmith of the gods who forged many gifts for them. When Zeus expelled Hephaestus from Olympus, Hephaestus literally fell on an island, where, creating a pit from the high fall, he decided to be his new workshop. (Myth of Hephaestus)

Cyclops – Legend has it that Mount Etna was Cyclops who, out of jealousy, killed the son of the god Pan Acis to take his beloved nymph Galatea. One eye of Cyclops is the throat of the volcano, which spews sulfur and ashes from its burning passion. Another version says that the Cyclops made the volcano his blacksmith workshop, where he made arrows used by the almighty Zeus.

“The Forge of Cyclops”, a 16th century print by Holland based on a painting by Titian

Typhon – Another legend says that this is the home of the great Typhon, with whom Zeus fought and defeated him in a terrible battle. As punishment, Zeus tied Typhon to the outskirts of Sicily, with his head under the throat of the volcano. He was tortured forever, and the turmoil of the volcano was his angry displeasure. (Myth of Zeus and Typhon)

Aeolus – The god of winds Aeolus, according to legend, closed his mighty winds in the caves of Mount Etna. The sun cattle, eaten by Odysseus’ men, grazed on the slopes of Mount Etna. In this regard, it is claimed that the city of Taormina is directly related to this myth because of the meaning of the name of the city, which derives from “tavros” – bull, and nearby cattle were brought to the valley and was called “Valley of the Oxen”.

Zeus defeats Typhon, 550 BC

Persephone – The goddess is also mentioned in myths as a lover of collecting flowers on the lower slopes of Mount Etna and dancing with nymphs in the plains of the volcano. When Hades kidnaps her, he opens a fissure in the volcano to the Underworld. (Myth of Persephone)

Enceladus – The wrath of the giant Enceladus, who rebelled against the gods, was broken by them by killing and burning him in the flames of Mount Etna. The terrifying volcano even has a myth that Tartarus itself, feared by both gods and titans, was under the mountain.

Saint Agatha – Later legend, 252 AD, during one of the great eruptions of the volcano, Saint Agatha died and the people of Catania in her honor wore red veils and went on pilgrimage near the lava flows.

Arthur – But there were legends not only in the ancient world. All the way to the saxons that the legendary King Arthur was said to have lived in a castle on the top of Mount Etna, and according to another Breton legend, Morgana le Fey and her brother lived there. In Welsh legends, Arthur is also portrayed as the “dwarf king of the paradise world” and Etna as the underworld. They also called Arthur “Lord of the Antipodes”, later transliterated into a Sicilian version by the Bretons, who admired the idea of ​​such a volcanic home. In medieval passages from the works of Gervasius of Tilbury and Caesar of Heisterbach (late 12th century), Arthur returns on a lost horse that had strayed into the underworld below Etna.

Morgana le Faye – In one of the Arthurian romances Jaufre, a survivor of Occitan (dated 1180-1230), Moragne le Faye is the queen of fairies in the rich underworld. Her palace was right there. She reached her kingdom not through the slopes of Mount Etna, but through a “fountain”, which confirms her illustration in Sicilian legends as a “fire queen”.

A more modern legend about the volcano is that of Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603). After her death, legend has it that she was thrown into Hell through the throat of Mount Etna and the Devil himself dragged her into the depths of the Underworld. Her tormented ghost later appeared to Admiral Nelson in 1799 and gave him a “coffin” containing the slipper that had fallen when the Devil dragged Elizabeth into Hell.

Atlit Yam and Etna

The history of the ancient Atlit Yam inspires both historians and lovers of ancient civilizations. The findings provide the earliest known evidence of an agro-pastoral-marine system for the existence of the Levantine coast. And its immersion under water is believed to be due to a tsunami caused by the eruption of Mount Etna 8500 years ago!

The underwater city is located 8-12 meters below sea level in the Mediterranean Sea in Atlit Bay and dates between 8900 and 8300 years. It covers an area of ​​about 40,000 square meters and is a city from the last period of the Neolithic before pottery. Rectangular houses, a well, a skeleton, piles of fish prepared for storage and trade were found. The discovery of the prepared fish trade suggests that the city was abandoned suddenly, precisely because of the natural disaster caused by Mount Etna. The Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Pisa testifies to a volcanic collapse on the eastern flank of Mount Etna, which caused a huge 40-meter water wall (tsunami).

But this city was not under water initially. It is assumed that the modern coastline was about 1 kilometer west of the current coast.

The city opens a door to antiquity and gives new information about the past and the dawn of mankind. The well is believed to be the oldest well ever found. A stone semicircle was also found, which contains 7 six-kilogram megaliths, and in the stones themselves are carved traces of cups and are located around a freshwater spring. This suggests a water ritual with goblets. And everything is under water because of the fearsome Mount Etna – patron of Hephaestus, Cyclops and Typhon – a truly powerful volcano shrouded in ancient myths and modern awe.

Underwater photo of Atlit Yam, Israel, Moshe Stekelis Museum of Prehistory exhibition