A journey among the miths and legends of Sicily: Erice, Siracusa and Taormina

Sicily is a place where everything is at hand: history, art, sea, nature, natural beauty but is also the place where you can get lost in myths and legends. Many are in fact the seats, that are become more and more fascinating, if it is possible, if you go to the discovery of related myths and legends.

Our virtual journey starts from the city of Erice standing at the top of mountain on the western side of Sicily. Erice is a magical and mythological place and its name is linked to the intriguing and fascinating myth of the Goddess Venus, the roman Goddess of love and fertility.

The origins of the city, which according to Diodorus of Sicily was founded by Erice, the son of Aphrodite, who had erected a temple dedicated to his mother, have always been indissolubly linked to the cult of the Goddess: even before it was dedicated by the Phoenicians to Astarte, the sanctuary of Aphrodite, the temple of Venus of Erice, was already the place of the Goddess of love.

The cult of Venus foresaw that every year on 7th of August were freed a thousand pigeons sacred to the Goddess, who went towards Africa, to Kef, where it was a twin sanctuary and then they returned nine days later. During this period in Erice there were great celebrations and thousands of pilgrims came there from all over the Mediterranean.

The myth of Venus had a large circulation all over the Mediterranean Sea especially for the sacred prostitution of the Ierodule (priestesses of Venus). Traders and navigators came there to enjoy the company of the beautiful priestesses of Venus that offered the protection of the goddess in exchange for considerable offers. The navigators thought that through the direct contact with them they entered in connection with the Goddess herself.

In 1300, the Cathedral of Erice was built in order to eliminate the cult dedicated to the Goddess that despite the advent of Christianity was still very strong and heartfelt.

Through our mythological journey through Sicily, we stop in Syracuse, a city founded by the Corinthians in 754. b.C. and ancient crossroads of many civilizations, each of them  has left its own track.

There is an ancient grotto, carved into the limestone, which for its acoustics and its shape similar to a human ear, was named  “Ear of Dionysius” by the painter Caravaggio, which set there the painting “The Burial of Saint Lucy”.

According to a legend, the tyrant Dionysius imprisoned his captives in the cave and overheard due to its excellent acoustics even the slightest conversation at the other end. Even if this is certainly just a legend, the tunnel amplifies every little sound quite a bit and it is not a case that the grotto is a part of the ancient quarries (Latomie del Paradiso), that during the Greek-Roman age were used as prisons for enemies captured during wars and for political opponents as well, who were compelled to work as stone cutters.

Another little jewel of Sicily is surely Taormina, one of the most popular tourist destination of Italy. Taormina has enchanted visitors for millennia and as Guy de Maupassant wrote “it is only a landscape, but a landscape where you find everything on earth that seems made to seduce the eyes, the mind and the imagination”. Taormina is, in fact, known for its crystal clear sea and breathtaking panoramic views but in addition you can find a lot of architectural and historical beauty.

Very famous are the Norman Towers but the feader in Taormina’s cup is the Greek Theater, from where you can enjoy the stunning scenery that ranges from the Ionian Sea to the volcano Etna. This architectural jewel dating from the second century AC in Roman age was used for gladiatorial fights and naval battles and has come down to our days almost intact. For size, it is the second oldest theater in all of Sicily and is used during the summer for plays and other cultural events, offering a setting of absolute charm.

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