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date: 26 January 2021


, volcano of Sicily
  • Arthur Geoffrey Woodhead
  •  and R. J. A. Wilson

Aetna (1), Europe's highest active volcano (3,326 m. (10,912 ft.) in 1966), lying between Tauromenium and Catana in eastern Sicily. The lower slopes are remarkably fertile, principally today in vines, olives, lemons, and oranges, and are thickly populated; woods and scrub cover the middle slopes; the upper are desolate. Eruptions were attributed to a giant (Typhon or Enceladus) beneath the mountain. The Sicans traditionally transferred westwards because of them. Few ancient eruptions are recorded, those of 475, 396, and 122 bce. being the most notable; Etna has apparently been more active in modern times. The mountain is the subject of an anonymous poem, Aetna, probably late Augustan. Ancient tourists known to have climbed the mountain include the emperors Gaius (1) and Hadrian. Etna basalt was widely used, in Sicily and further afield, for corn mills (Strabo 6. 2. 3; cf. Aetna, 400–1).


  • E. Manni, Geografia fisica e politica della Sicilia antica (1981), 79–82.
  • D. K. Chester, A. M. Duncan, J. E. Guest, and C. R. J. Kilburn, Mount Etna, The Anatomy of a Volcano (1985).
  • S. Hornblower, Thucydidean Themes (2010), 19 n. 83.