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Sicily is the rarest flower of the great midland sea. Built up on the North in a series of beetling cliffs, the island slopes gently down through mountain chains and undulating plains to the golden Southern shore. An enormous triangle it is, spiny with lofty peaks—Ætna towers more than ten thousand feet in the air—spangled with flowering meads and dells where Nature loads the air with fragrance; pierced with infernal caverns, whence choking workers extract a large part of the world’s sulphur from the palaces of the former gods of the nether world; and fringèd about on every side with the lace-like foam of opal waves. It is rich in beauty and desolation, rich in song and story, rich in architecture, splendid and varied. To understand the beauty and charm of Sicily, however, it is essential to know something of the island’s picturesque and vivid story. We Americans are rarely familiar with it. Strange as it may seem, considering Sicily’s importance through many centuries, its consecutive history still remains to be written. Books there are, to be sure, but none attempts to cover more than a portion of one of the most intense chronicles in the world. Thucydides, in his “Peloponessian War,” tells in glowing phrases of the débacle that wiped out the Attic forces and left Sicily supreme. Later still, in the ante-Christian era Diodorus, a native of the island, prepared a flowing story of the Sicily he knew. It has been one of our chief sources of information ever since. In modern times the historians Grote and Curtius have included in their histories of Greece such parts of the Sicilian narrative as are germane to their work; and the English historian Freeman, in a monumental unfinished work, has left us a minutely detailed account of Sicily from prehistoric times to the reign of Agathocles. The Italian Amari, to go yet farther, handles the Saracen period with care and skill, and Gally Knight tells briefly of the dashing Normans and their fanciful architecture. But of the later periods almost nothing of lasting value has been written. Moreover, the books of travel dealing with Sicily are few in comparison with those which tell of other lands, and not many Americans discover, unaided, the paradise they omit from their itineraries. The most usual mistake made regarding Sicily is that it is a little island, vaguely located in imagination somewhere near Italy and peopled by Italians—its inhabitants, Black Handers, organ-grinders, scissors-men, ditch-diggers and the rest, mala gente all. Sicily is near Italy—two miles away, in fact—and it is full of Italians, in the sense that they are Italian subjects. But by heredity, by instinct, by everything that pertains to racial culture and development, they are far from being Italians yet. The explanation is a simple one. By consulting the map you see that the triangle—with an area of some ten thousand square miles—is not only in the center of the Mediterranean from East to West, but that it is also a great stepping-stone between Europe and Africa. In ancient days, when all the civilized world bordered the Mediterranean, the geographical position of Sicily gave the island an especial political character and importance. And naturally, while it remained the very center of the civilized world, it was a rich prize to be fought for by each Nation which rose to power. Tradition—as usual—peoples the land first with gods, both beneficent and malign, and then with giants to whom Homer refers in the Odyssey: Laistrygones, Cyclops, Lotophagi. After these “poetic monsters” came the Sikans, Sikels and Elymians, genuine peoples, who may be called the prehistoric natives as distinguished from the historic foreigners. Of the three the Sikels, undoubtedly blood-brothers to the pioneers of Rome and Tuscany, are the most interesting; and a legend has it that they drifted on rafts from the Italian mainland across the channel now called the Strait of Messina, about 1100 B. C. They were permanent and important enough to give the island the name Sikelia, which is still current in our modified form, Sicily

Detalhes do Produto

    • Ano de Edição: 2015
    • Ano:  2015
    • País de Produção: Canada
    • Código de Barras:  2000307077260
    • ISBN:  9781465543981

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