Definition: Mt. Aetna lies between the settlements of Tauromenium and Catana, in northeastern Sicily, where the volcano occasionally erupts, and did so in antiquity, producing a rich, fertile soil. It is the highest active volcano of Europe today, reaching more than 10,000 feet.
Roman myth said that Hephaestus and the Cyclops forged Zeus' thunderbolts inside Mt. Aetna.
Excerpt from Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis 46 ff
"And straightway she [Artemis] went to visit the Kyklopes. Then she found in the isle of Lipara--Lipara in later days, but at that time its name was Meligounis--at the anvils of Hephaistos, standing round a molten mass of iron. For a great work was being hastened on: they fashioned a shores-trough for Poseidon. And the Nymphai [i.e. the companions of Artemis] were affrighted when they saw the terrible monsters like unto the crags of Ossa: all had single eyes beneath their brows, like a shield of fourfold hide for size, glaring terribly from under; and when they heard the din of the anvil echoing loudly, and the great blast of the bellows and the heavy groaning of the Kyklopes themselves. For Aitna cried aloud, and Trinakie cried, the seat of the Sikanians, cried too their neighbour Italie, and Kyrnos therewithal uttered a mighty noise, when they lifted their hammers above their shoulders and smote with rhythmic swing the bronze glowing from the furnace or iron, labouring greatly....
Therefore right boldly didst thou address them then : `Kyklopes, for me too fashion ye a Kydonian bow and arrows and a hollow casket for my shafts; for I also am a child of Leto, even as Apollon. And if I with my bow shall slay some wild creature of monstrous beast, that shall the Kyklopes eat.’ So didst thou speak and they fulfilled thy words. Straightway didst thou array thee, O Goddess."
Book III of the Aeneid (lines 570-86), Vergil describes Mt. Aetna, a volcano on the east coast of Sicily. It is the largest active volcano in Europe. In this section of the Aeneid, Aeneas and his crew are trying to follow a prediction about hazards to avoid. This passage contains a visual description and a mythological explanation for the volcano.
Here is a public domain English translation:
The port capacious, and secure from wind,Here is the original Latin:
Is to the foot of thund'ring Aetna join'd.
By turns a pitchy cloud she rolls on high;
By turns hot embers from her entrails fly,
And flakes of mounting flames, that lick the sky.
Oft from her bowels massy rocks are thrown,
And, shiver'd by the force, come piecemeal down. Oft liquid lakes of burning sulphur flow, Fed from the fiery springs that boil below. Enceladus, they say, transfix'd by Jove, With blasted limbs came tumbling from above; And, where he fell, th' avenging father drew This flaming hill, and on his body threw. As often as he turns his weary sides, He shakes the solid isle, and smoke the heavens hides. In shady woods we pass the tedious night,
Where bellowing sounds and groans our souls affright,
Of which no cause is offer'd to the sight;
For not one star was kindled in the sky,
Nor could the moon her borrow'd light supply;
For misty clouds involv'd the firmament,
The stars were muffled, and the moon was pent.
Portus ab accessu uentorum immotus et ingens 570
ipse: sed horrificis iuxta tonat Aetna ruinis,
interdumque atram prorumpit ad aethera nubem
turbine fumantem piceo et candente fauilla,
attollitque globos flammarum et sidera lambit;
interdum scopulos auulsaque uiscera montis 575
erigit eructans, liquefactaque saxa sub auras
cum gemitu glomerat fundoque exaestuat imo.
fama est Enceladi semustum fulmine corpus
urgeri mole hac, ingentemque insuper Aetnam
impositam ruptis flammam exspirare caminis, 580
et fessum quotiens mutet latus, intremere omnem
murmure Trinacriam et caelum subtexere fumo.
noctem illam tecti siluis immania monstra
perferimus, nec quae sonitum det causa uidemus.
nam neque erant astrorum ignes nec lucidus aethra 585
siderea polus, obscuro sed nubila caelo,
et lunam in nimbo nox intempesta tenebat.
- Arthur Geoffrey Woodhead , Roger J. A. Wilson "Aetna" The Oxford Classical Dictionary
- Harper's dictionary of classical literature and antiquities, Volume 1 edited by Harry Thurston Peck
Go to Other Ancient / Classical History Glossary pages beginning with the lettera | b | c | d | e | f | g | h | i | j | k | l | m | n | o | p | q | r | s | t | u | v | wxyz
Alternate Spellings: Mt. Etna