Etna, also called Mongibello, is the highest volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world. With its 3340 km high and with a diameter of 45 km it dominates, majestic over the Gulf of Catania, from which it is 30 km away.
Become a UNESCO heritage site in 2013, it represents an invaluable source of wonder and beauty for the multitude of visitors attracted by its charm and its sudden and spectacular eruptions, which over the centuries have made it the protagonist of numerous myths and legends.
Let’s find them out together!
The legend of Enceladus, the terrible giant
Greek mythology tells that the giant Enceladus, the greatest of giants and one of the most feared, son of Gea and Uranus decided to take power from Jupiter to rule the world for him. To reach the sky, helped by his brothers he put all mountains of the world one above the other.
When they were close, Jupiter very angry threw lightning on the giants destroying all the mountains, which with their remains buried the giants.
Enceladus buried under Etna, wounded, could not get out, and with his unsustainable anger, he began to spit fire and flames that rose and violently came out of the crater of the volcano destroying everything they encountered in their path.
The terrified farmers of the area fled to escape, but fortunately, Enceladus calmed his anger and thus stopped the first eruption of Etna.
Enceladus’ anger towards Jupiter still continues, and occasionally makes itself felt with new eruptions and roars.
The legend of Aci and Galatea, story of a poignant love
The myth tells of the great love of Aci, a beautiful and young shepherd, son of the god Faun and the nymph Simetide, and of Galatea, the most loved and the most beautiful of the fifty nereids (sea nymphs).
But even the cyclops Polyphemus with only one eye on his forehead had fallen in love with the young nymph, from whom he had been refused several times and, one evening while the lovers had met by the sea, blinded by jealousy, he threw a large boulder against Aci, killing him.
At the sight of the tortured body of his lover, Galatea began to cry uninterruptedly arousing the compassion of the gods, who to console her transformed Aci’s blood into a river that descended from the slopes of Etna and flowed into the stretch of beach where the two lovers met, thus giving the opportunity for the two lovers to embrace each other for eternity.
There are several places located in the province of Catania that remind us of this myth: Aci Catena, Aci Trezza, Aci San Filippo, Aci Sant’Antonio, Aci Castello, Aci Bonaccorsi.
The legend of the Pii brothers, protagonists of a miracle
The legend tells of two young farmers, Anapia and Anfinomo, who, while working together with their elderly parents, in the fields at the foot of the majestic Mount Etna, were surprised by a suddenly violent eruption.
In fear, they started running to escape the lava, but their parents, no longer young, could not keep up with him, staying far enough away.
The two young people worried about their parents taking them on their shoulders, however slowing their run, as the lava was getting closer to them.
Suddenly the miracle occurred, the lava now a step away from the brothers separated into two tongues of fire, leaving the brothers and their parents unharmed.
The people of Catania were amazed by what happened and nicknamed the two boys “Fratelli Pii” and the place where the miracle occurred, “Campi Pii”.
The myth of Typhus, the three-headed monster
The myth tells of a giant, Tifeo, son of Tartarus, a personification of the underworld, and of Gea, the Mother Earth. A bitter enemy of Zeus, guilty of defeating the Titans, also sons of Gaea, Tifeo tried to take over Olympus, and Zeus punished him by throwing him into Etna, and from then on he began to spit flames and fire.
He is thus below the island, in a decidedly uncomfortable position, on his right hand he holds Peloro, on the left Pachino, Lilibeo is on his legs, and Etna on his head.
Tifeo, still angry with Zeus, often vomits sand and flames from his mouth and when he tries to move from his position causes earthquakes.
The myth of King Arthur, ruler of Camelot
Wounded by his son and on the verge of death, the king wanted his sword broken during the duel to be repaired. The archangel Gabriel, who was passing by at that time, wanted to fulfill Arthur’s last wish and brought him to Sicily, on Etna, where he could weld his sword with lava and happily fell asleep in a cave on the volcano.
When he woke up he was struck by the beauty of the landscape, the sea that could be seen in the distance, the blue sky, the beautiful colored flowers, the scent of citrus fruits.
In love with these beauties, he pleaded with the gods to make him live again in that paradise. After fulfilling his request, the king built a cave inside Etna, where he could continue to live and watch that the volcano did not destroy that wonderful nature.
It is said today that the volcano wakes up and spits lava when King Arthur returns to England to bring the sweet fruits and flowers of Sicily to English children.
According to an English legend, the soul of Queen Elizabeth I would also reside in the volcano, after having made a pact with the devil in exchange for his help to govern the kingdom.
It is also said that, during the eruption of 252 AD one year after the martyrdom of Saint Agatha, the people of Catania took the veil of the Saint, which remained intact from the fire of her martyrdom, and invoked her help.
Immediately the eruption ceased, and the veil turned blood red. Still today the name of the saint is invoked against fire and lightning.
At fairly close periods, this magical and mysterious volcano enchants us with its spectacular eruptions, attracting the attention and curiosity of numerous tourists from all parts of the world.
We have revealed only some of the myths and legends about Etna, if you liked the article you can share it or comment on it, or if you want to know more you can contact us to book your excursion on Etna.