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Etna, ‘A Muntagna for Sicilian people

Origins and legends about the Volcano

Etna, for people from Catania, is ‘A Muntagna “The Mountain”. Unique, majestic, beautiful and at the same time frightening, source of life but also of destruction. Where does the name “Etna” come from? Which and how many legends did it inspire? Let’s try to discover it together!

etna
mt etna

From Aetna to Mons Gibel: the different names of Etna

We have already said, for the inhabitants of the island Etna is ‘A Muntagna, but over the centuries the different populations that have inhabited the island have given it different names. In Greek-Roman times it was called Aetna, as well as the city of Catania, and perhaps derived from the word “aitho” which means “burn”.
The volcano was then called Jabal al Jabal by the Arabs, and then be called Mons Gibel which then became, in the Middle Ages, Mongibello, a word that today indicates the top of Mt. Etna, the area of the two central craters.

The myths of the Volcano Etna

Why does the volcano often erupt? Where do the ashes and lapilli come from?
Our volcano has always fascinated the whole world: its eruptions as spectacular as dangerous and often unexplained have contributed to the birth of myths and legends.
Just think of the legend of the giant Enceladus. The giant wanted to take the place of Jupiter to rule the world, then to reach the sky, helped by his brothers, built a giant staircase formed by all the mountains of the world placed one on top of the other. But Jupiter defended himself by throwing lightning at the giants, making them fall before they could get to him: Enceladus fell and was buried under Etna and began to spit flames from the crater of the volcano. The giant is still angry with Jupiter and that’s why he occasionally manifests his anger by spitting ash and lapilli.

Another myth tells the story of the struggle between the god Zeus and Typhoeus, half man and half beast. The two fought for power and during the final battle, while about to hit Zeus, Typhoeus is subdued by his sister, the nymph Etna, who saves Zeus. Typhoeus is buried at the foot of the volcano and, locked inside it, would still be angry with Zeus. It would be precisely the wrath of Typhaeus towards the enemy to cause eruptions and earthquakes.

Etna eruption

These are just some of the legends related to our volcano, we will try to tell more in the coming weeks, but if you want to learn more about Etna take part in our excursions on Mount Etna from Catania: our guides (volcanologists, geologists, experienced guides of the territory) will guide you to discover the highest active volcano in Europe and its natural phenomena!
If after having done a trekking on our volcano you want to participate in a cultural tour in one of the beautiful Sicilian cities, contact our partner Sicily Day By Day, you will live a unique experience!