Sicily between legends and myths: the story of Aci
In ancient times, the Greeks dominated Sicily. For this reason, Sicily has a tradition rich in old myths and legends, which spread throughout the territory since ancient Greek times. Gods of Olympus, but also young and pure girls, Cyclops and brave warriors are the protagonists of these old myths, which are set in Etna’s area.
The legend of Aci and Galatea is one of the oldest legends, told by Ovid in the Metamorphoses (book XIIII).
Sicilians will certainly know, but for those who do not know yet, there are 9 towns around Catania, whose name comes from the legend of Aci and Galatea. Some of them, such as Aci Castello, Aci Trezza and Acireale, are also well known from tourists: Aci Castello and Aci Trezza are famous for their beautiful maritime landscapes and Acireale for its Carnival, one of the most popular in Sicily.
Let’s find out why Aci, a young shepherd boy protagonist of this ancient legend, gave his name to these 9 towns and what links him to the Etna territory.
Aci and Galatea: the legend
It is said that Aci, the son of Faun and the nymph Simetide, was a young shepherd boy, in love with a beautiful nymph named Galatea. The two lovers spent unforgettable moments near the sea: the sea was Galatea’s home. In fact, Galatea was the daughter of two Sea Gods, Dorides and Nereus. Aci went there to graze his flock of sheep and in this way he knew the beautiful Galatea.
Unfortunately, Polyphemus, one of the Cyclops who lived on the Volcano, fell in love with the young nymph Galatea, but she always refused him. The evil Cyclops decided to kill the poor Aci, to take revenge for Galatea’s refusal.
One day, while Aci and Galatea were as usual near the sea, Polyphemus threw a heavy boulder of lava stone at Aci. After moments of agony, Aci died leaving Galatea in despair, who wept endless tears for the loss of her beloved. The gods of Olympus and the nymphs took pity on the two young men and transformed the blood of Aci into a river, originally called Akis, which has its source on Etna and flows into the sea, where the two lovers were used to meet.
The particular characteristic of this river is its reddish colour in some areas. In the area of Capomulini (another tourist village), this river is called U sangu di Jaci (the blood of Aci, in sicilian language).
The river Akis, later called Aci or Jaci, gave its name to 9 small towns near Catania: in addition to the already mentioned Aci Castello, Aci Trezza and Acireale, there are also the villages of Aci Bonaccorsi, Aci Catena, Aci Sant’Antonio, Aci San Filippo, Aci Santa Lucia and Aci Platani.
It is absolutely worth to visit Aci Castello and Aci Trezza, two small fishing villages. Aci Castello is famous thanks to its Norman castle built on a promontory overlooking the sea; Aci Trezza is famous for being the scene of the novel I Malavoglia written by Giovanni Verga. Moreover, Aci Trezza is beautiful thanks to the Faraglioni, big rocks of lava origins, which constitute an archipelago of small islands. In both fishing villages, the view of the sea is fabulous.
The legend of Aci and Galatea is just one of the many legends and myths set in Sicily. A lot of other legends inspired authors and poets from ancient times, who have set their stories in the breathtaking territories near Etna.