Trinacria

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Sicily, the three cornered shape of which gave it the Greek name Trinacria. The three principal capes are Peloro (north-east); Passero (south, at Syracuse) and Lilibeo (north-west)
Silver Drachma from Sicily, minted during the reign of Agathocles (361–289 BC), Greek tyrant of Syracuse (317–289 BC) and king of Sicily (304–289 BC). Inscription: ΣΥΡΑΚΟΣΙΩΝ ("Syrakosion") Laureate head of the youthful Ares to left; behind, Palladion. Reverse: Triskeles of three human legs with winged feet; at the center, Gorgoneion
Three-legged symbol of Sicily depicted as a proto-heraldic device on the shield of a Greek warrior. Greek Red Figure lekythos vase, c.470 BC, found in a tomb near Licata, Sicily. Archaeological Museum of Syracuse, Sicily

The Greek word Trinacria means "three pointed", from akra, "end, point, peak, headland"[1] plus treis, "three", and is the earliest known name[2] of the island of Sicily, formerly a Greek possession, so named from its triangular shape. Sicily was also later known by the Romans by its Greek name Trinacria.[3][4] The ancient symbol of Trinacria is the head of Medusa (a gorgon with a head of snakes) overlaying three legs conjoined at the hips and flexed in triangle and three stalks of wheat. The Trinacria symbol has also been adopted by the modern Sicilian government and appears at the center of Sicily's flag. The symbol (without the central Gorgon's head) was adopted as the heraldic device of the Lord of the Isle of Man (located between England, Scotland and Ireland) in the 13th century and appears on the present coat of arms of the Isle of Man.

Triskelion[edit]

The Trinacria's shape is often referred to as a triskelion, which shape has been found in many places surrounding the Mediterranean Basin and in many European countries including France, Sicily, Crete, Greece, the North African coast. The triskelions found in these locations have all dated back to after the eighth century BC.[5]

Representation of the Trinacria[edit]

Trinacria as depicted on the flag of Sicily

The three legs conjoined at the hips and flexed in triangle represent the three capes (headlands or promontories of the island of Sicily, namely: Peloro (Punta del Faro, Tip of Faro, Messina: North-East); Passero (Syracuse: South); and Lilibeo (Cape Boeo, Marsala: West), which form three points of a triangle.[6] "Native Sicilians, left breathless by the beauty of Sicily’s shores, likened and compared them to those of a woman".[7]

The three ears of wheat surrounding the head of Medusa represent the extreme fertility of the land of Sicily,[8] much valued by the Romans for whom it served as the granary of the Roman Empire.[9] The central head of Medusa, the destructive aspect of the Greek goddess Athena, signifies the protection of the island by that goddess, the patron goddess of Sicily. In early mythology, when Medusa was slain and beheaded by Perseus, the Medusa head was placed in the center of Athena's shield.[10]

History of the Trinacria[edit]

The Trinacria came to be on the Sicilian flag in 1943 during World War II when Andrea Finocchiaro Aprile led an independence movement, in collaboration with the allies. Their plan was to help Sicily become independent and form a free republic. The separatist behind the movement used a yellow and red flag with the Trinacria in the center of it. When World War II ended, Sicily was recognized as an autonomous region in the Italian Republic. Although the Trinacria was recognized worldwide on Sicily's flag in World War II, the distinct symbol had made its first debut on Syracusan coins dating back to the fourth century BC.[11]

Sicilian Mythology[edit]

Story of Colapesce[edit]

Colapesce, a boy from Messina, loved staying in the water and would spend most of his days swimming. He resided in the water for so long that he slowly started to gain fish (Pesce) like characteristics, such as being able to swim underwater for long periods of time without needing air. When King Frederick II found out about the young boy and his talent, he sailed to visit him. When he met him, he tested the boys abilities by throwing his possessions overboard for the boy to retrieve. He gradually began diving deeper into the water, always returning with the king’s possessions. However, when the boy was asked to retrieve the kings crown, he noticed a peculiar sight under the water. He saw the island of Sicily being held and supported by three columns, one intact, the second slightly chipped and scratched, and the third was crumbling away, making Colapesce uneasy at the sight of it. When King Frederick asked the boy to retrieve his ring, Colapesce was worried he might not come back. Eventually he decide to go but asked for a handful of lentils, saying “If you see the lentils float to the surface then I will not be coming back.” After waiting a few days for Colapesce to return, the king looked into the water and saw his ring and lentils float to the surface. He then knew that Colapesce had chosen to take the broken column upon his shoulders to support Sicily. Sicilians claim that when the island shakes from earthquakes it is Colapesce, moving the island on his shoulder because he is tired.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (A Lexicon Abridged from), Oxford, 1944, p.27
  2. ^ Cassell's Latin Dictionary, Marchant, J.R.V, & Charles, Joseph F., (Eds.), Revised Edition, 1928
  3. ^ Cassell's Latin Dictionary, Marchant, J.R.V, & Charles, Joseph F., (Eds.), Revised Edition, 1928
  4. ^ "Sicilian Culture: The Folklore, Legends & Traditions: Trinacria." Sicilian Culture: The Folklore, Legends & Traditions: Trinacria. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 November 2014. "Sicily." Sicily. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 November 2014.
  5. ^ "National Sicilian American Foundation." National Sicilian American Foundation. National Sicilian American Foundation, 2011. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
  6. ^ Radicini, Ninni. "The Trinacria: History and Mythology | The Symbol of the Hellenic Nature of Sicily | Article by Ninni Radicini." The Trinacria: History and Mythology | The Symbol of the Hellenic Nature of Sicily | Article by Ninni Radicini. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.
  7. ^ "Sicilian Culture: The Folklore, Legends & Traditions: Trinacria." Sicilian Culture: The Folklore, Legends & Traditions: Trinacria. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2014. "Sicily." Sicily. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
  8. ^ Radicini, Ninni. "The Trinacria: History and Mythology | The Symbol of the Hellenic Nature of Sicily | Article by Ninni Radicini." The Trinacria: History and Mythology | The Symbol of the Hellenic Nature of Sicily | Article by Ninni Radicini. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.
  9. ^ Manzetti, Tiziana. "ThatsArte.com Italian Pottery Journal." ThatsArtecom Italian Pottery Journal. N.p., 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.
  10. ^ Trabia, Carlo. "The Trinacria - Best of Sicily Magazine." The Trinacria - Best of Sicily Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.
  11. ^ http://sonsofsicily.com/id11.html
  12. ^ Manzetti, Tiziana. "ThatsArte.com Italian Pottery Journal." ThatsArtecom Italian Pottery Journal. N.p., 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.