Are you filling your bucket list?
Hopefully we’ll be able to travel again soon, and in that moment, Sicily can be your first destination. Do you know what are the elements that make a place special? Monuments for sure, traditions…but also legends! Let’s discover together three iconic Sicilian towns that became famous even thanks to some old myths and Odyssey above all.
The Odyssey by Homer describes the journey Odysseus and his men undertook to reach their home island of Ithaca following the Greek victory in the Trojan War. The work serves as a chronicle of their journey around the Mediterranean Sea. There are fourteen important stops which Odysseus makes on his way back to Ithaca however the events that take place on Sicily are some of the most important.
When Odysseus and his men make their first stop on what was likely modern-day Sicily, it was when they became captive in the cave of Polyphemus. Polyphemus is a cyclops and the son of Poseidon.
Polyphemus, who is far larger than Odysseus and his men, rolls a large stone in front of the entrance to the cave thus preventing escape. When Polyphemus asks Odysseus his name, he responds by saying his name is Nobody. Odysseus and his men then proceed to fashion a large spear with which they strike Polyphemus in his eye. When the other cyclopes nearby investigate Polyphemus tells them "Nobody is attacking me" and therefore have no reason to suspect Odysseus and his mens' actions.
Polyphemus later opens the entrance to his cave in order to allow for his flock of sheep to exit, feeling the tops of each sheep as they exit. Odysseus and his men then hold onto the bottoms of the sheep in order to escape from the cave and thus return the their ships.
Odysseus, however, mocks Polyphemus once they reach the ships and tells the cyclopes his real name. Polyphemus then prays to his father, Poseidon, to which Poseidon decrees that Odysseus will wander the sea for ten years and lose every member of his crew. Additionally he pulls a large boulder out of the side of a hill and throws it towards the ships.
Several stops after the encounter between Odysseus and Polyphemus, the vessels must pass by Scylla, a six-headed monster, and Charybdis, a massive whirlpool. The journey past these two creatures ultimately claims the lives of several of Odysseus's men.
Homer describes these creatures to be found in a narrow set of straits which is likely the Strait of Messina found between Northeastern Sicily and Southwestern Calabria.
Immediately following the journey past Scylla and Charybdis, Odysseus and his men come upon the island of Thrinacia. It is on this island that the Sun God Helios keeps his cattle. When Odysseus and his men visit the Land of The Dead, he speaks with the prophet Tiresias. Tiresias informed Odysseus that him and his men would return safely to Ithaca if they did not kill and eat any of the cattle.
The men become trapped on the island for sometime because of a storm sent by Zeus and as a result food begins to run out. In desperation, the men capture and eat the cattle belonging to Helios.
As a punishment, Zeus sends the ship to be swallowed by Charybdis which results in the death of all except for Odysseus.
What all three of these events have in common is that they took place on or just off of the island of Sicily. These events are fundamentally influenced by the climate and geographic nature of Sicily as well as the lifestyles of the inhabitants of the island during the time in which Homer wrote The Odyssey.
What does Odyssey mean for Sicily? Many towns many legends. We can describe Sicily in this way, since everybody knows that this magical island inspired writers, poets, etc. If we look back to the past, we can immediately find a lot of myths connected to this Italian region. Tour of Sicily-Palermo Excursions shows you where you should go to know more and live in person some chapters of the adventurous epic poem by Homer…take note!
Messina is the first stop of our journey. Everybody is enchanted by the sunset on the Strait of Messina while looking at Calabria, right on the other side of the coast. One of the most popular Sicilian legends concerns something happened in this strip of sea many centuries ago.
The starting point is piazza San Papino, in Milazzo. You will reach the imposing Milazzo Castle. At the foot of the fortress, there is a cave. Legend says that it is the cave of Polyphemus, the Cyclops, where he was blinded by Odysseus and his companions.
Polyphemus's herd of sheep along with the contents of the cave in which he lived are quite reflective of the ways of life the Greek settlers on the island lived.
Additionally, when Odysseus mocks Polyphemus once he and his men have returned to their ships, Polyphemus throws a massive boulder at the vessels. This could be an allusion to Mount Etna. Mount Etna is a major volcano located on the coast of Sicily
Scylla and Charybdis
Scylla and Charybdis are described as being located in narrow straits. These straits are likely the Strait of Messina between Sicily and mainland Italy. This strait is also home to a natural whirlpool, reminiscent of Charybdis.
Aeolus, the God of the Winds, gave hospitality to Odysseus and his companions. On the day of the departure, he gave them a bag containing all winds, to be used to return home. But the companions of Ulysses opened the bag unleashing a terrible storm. That brought them back to the island of the god.
Today, the Aeolian Islands are dream tourist destinations. It seems that the abode of the god of the winds, hence the name of the archipelago, was in Stromboli.
Helios and His Cattle
The climate of Sicily is described as "Mediterranean". This means that the weather and temperatures on the island remain quite hot and dry throughout much of the year. Temperatures during the coldest times of the year will rarely drop below 50 Degrees Fahrenheit and the island sees an average precipitation of only 23 inches. This would be the weather exactly expected of a place in which the sun god, Helios, would keep his cattle.
Aci Trezza and The Rocks of the Cyclops
The last stop of our virtual itinerary through the Odyssey is Aci Trezza, one of the most important places where you can discover some incredible legends. You will immediately notice the so-called Rocks of the Cyclops or Cyclopean Islands, located in front of the town. According to mythology, a cyclops called Polyphemus used to live there. This time, we won’t tell you about the romantic story between the shepherd Aci and the nymph Galatea but about the origin of these islands. We can find everything in the Odyssey, of course.
«These words the Cyclops’ burning rage provoke: From the tall hill he rends a pointed rock; High o’er the billows flew the massy load, And near the ship came thund’ring on the flood. It almost brushed the helm, and fell before: The whole sea shook, and refluent beat the shore».
Homer wrote that Odysseus met Polyphemus on his journey back to Ithaca. This monster killed two of Odysseus’s fellowmen, so he wanted his revenge. Odysseus made the cyclops drunk and tired using some wine and when Polyphemus fell asleep, he blinded him putting a wooden stick in his big eye. As you can imagine, the monster was not happy at all, and full of anger invoked the help of his father Poseidon, so:
«A larger rock then heaving from the plain, He whirled it round–it rung across the main: It fell and brushed the stern: the billows roar, Shake at the weight, and refluent beat the shore».
If you wish assistance to plan your Sicilian Vacation feel free to surf into the following web-sites:
#1 www.PalermoExcursions.com (here you can find Palermo Regular Day Tours and Palermo Walking Tours)
#2 www.TourofSicily.com (here you can find private day tours, multidays tour and more)
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