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ÆTNA, a burning mountain of Sicily, situated on the Recupero at a hundred and eighty-three. Mentelle ÆTNA.
ably separated from each other. At a nearer approach, Jane. Bochart derives the name of Ætna from the Hebrew it possesses a singular aspect, its surface being wildly,
word Athuna, which signifies a furnace or darkness : in but pleasingly diversified, with numbers of small coni-
with perpetual snow, and pierces the skies. The popu-
than a hundred thousand, diffused through seventy-
seven towns and villages. The toil and difficulty of the
Ætna is divided into three districts or regions, each Divisions.
however, has been divided usually according to the
diversities of its fertility, rather than the variations of Δ'ρανία συνέχει
its temperature; and accordingly we have three regions, Νιφοέσσ' Αίτια
Pyth. Od. i. v. 36. namely, Il Regione Culta, or the fertile region; il
In fact the precise height of the mountain has not Regione Sylvosa, or the woody region ; and Il Regione
ascent commences. The superficies of this region is Kircher states the height above the level of the sea, estimated by Buffon at upwards of two hundred and at 4,000 toises.*
twenty square leagues. It is encircled by the rivers Recupero.
Semetus and Alcantara, excepting on the south and
south-east, where it is bounded by the sea. Buffon
2,000 fathoms. of the mountain has always been celebrated for its Brydone
12,000 feet. extreme fertility, owing chiefly, as both ancient and Faujas de S. Fond
10,036 feet. modern writers agree, to the decomposition of the lava, Sir G. Shuckburgh.... 10,954 feet. and perhaps partly to cultivation. It abounds in Saussure
10,963 feet. pasture grounds, orchards and fruit trees, of luxuriant The circumference has also been estimated very dif- variety, particularly the vine. Where the soil is shallow, take and ferently by different authors. M. Houel considers it as sometimes pieces of lava project, and roughen the path;
no more than forty miles at the base. Some state the and in other cases the roots of trees shoot along the
The traveller here beholds around him a number of Conical A French toise is rather more than an English fathom, or six conical hills, each of which is frequently two, or even hills. feet.
three miles in circumference, and three or four hundred
ÆTNA. feet in height. Their volcanic origin is sufficiently estimated at from 70 to 80 miles in circumference, with ÆTA
obvious from their proximity to the great gulph, and a surface of about 40 or 45 square leagues, forming a
from some of them having a small crater at the summit. girdle round the mountain of vivid green, composed of Nicolosi.
After advancing about twelve miles, the traveller oaks, beeches, and other trees, in a soil of vegetable usually halts at Nicolosi, which is considered the first earth. The climate has here improved into the most station; and according to M. Houel, is two thousand four agreeable mildness, the air cool and reviving, and every hundred and ninety-six feet above the level of the sea. breeze surcharged with delicious odours. It is in fact Formerly it was a convent belonging to the Benedic a wilderness of sweets, and in many of its retreats tine friars of Catania; at present a solitary individual realizes the scenes of descriptive poetry: resides here to take care of the cultivation of the fields So pure, so fresh, the woods, the sky, the air, in the immediate neighbourhood. The heat is much It seemed a place where angels might repair;
less intense here than at Catania, and the progress of And tune their liarps, amidst those tranquil shades, Monte vegetation proportionably slower. Monte Russo, or
To morning songs, and moonlight serenades. Russo. the Red Mountain, is one of the great curiosities of Majestic forest trees presenting themselves on every
this region. Its name is derived from its general colour, side, diffuse over the whole landscape an air of the which is reddish, not however without considerable in
utmost magnificence and grandeur; the effect of which termixtures of other shades. The year 1669 was the is heightened by the inequalities of the surface. The period of its formation, when it rose from the midst of eastern side abounds particularly in chesnut trees, of à plain, and discharged a torrent of lava, which flowed the largest dimensions, which become an article of to the sea and formed a promontory, destroying many trade, and a very profitable one, by furnishing hoops vineyards and pastures in its progress. A deep bed for casks; on which account the inhabitants very careof black sand envelopes the bottom, to the breadth of fully attend to their cultivation. One tree above the Great che about two miles. The base of the lava is grey coloured rest has long been celebrated for its extraordinary size, nut tree, horn-stone, of rather a fine grain; the scoriæ of which and has acquired the epithet of Castagno di Cento the hill is composed, have a similar base, containing Cavalli, or the chesnut tree of a hundred horse, from shoerls and felspars, having a vitreous appearance, its supposed capacity of containing that number; but and more friable than the lava. The dimensions of this particularly from the story which fabulous tradition has mountain are variously reported. Spallanzani agrees transmitted, of the queen of Spain having found with Borelli, in considering its circumference at the shelter, with a hundred attendants, under this tree. foot as not exceeding two miles, and its perpendicular Carrera expresses his confidence, that there is wood elevation 150 paces. It contains a multitude of openings, enough in this tree to build a large palace; and the shaped like a funnel, which the excessive cold prevents poet Bagolini has been thought to allude particularly being explored to any considerable distance. It forms
to this tree, in the words one of the mouths, through which Ætna has in modern
Supremos inter montes monstrosior omni, times, discharged its mighty showers of lava and ashes.
Monstrosi fætum stipitis Ætna dedit, St. Niccolo The next station is that of St. Niccolo dell' Arena,
Castaneam genuit, cujus modo concava cortex, dell' Arena. which, like the preceding, is a decayed building, once in
Tarmam equitum haud parvam continet, &c. possession of the Benedictine friars; but long ago they Its position is singularly advantageous to the effect were compelled to forsake it in consequence of the of its general appearance, being surrounded by an open devastating effects of the lava, and many monuments pasture, and standing on a rising ground; woods and and inscriptions are found on the spot, recording the vineyards bounding the scene. At the surface of the history of its different disasters. The eruption of 1669, earth it measures 196 feet, and its height and size has, however, been the means of diffusing around con would have fully corresponded to its dimensions, but siderable fertility; the black sand thrown up at that for the practice of lopping off the branches for fuel. period having been converted readily into vegetable Some travellers have dug about it, with the view of earth, and being in consequence covered with vine- ascertaining whether it were in reality a cluster of yards. At a small distance is another of those volcanic several, or one individual tree; and the result of their hills, peculiar to Etna; in shape it is spherical, in investigation has been the discovery, that although heighth about 300 feet, and a mile in circuit; and on divided, at or near the surface, into five branches, they every side richly overspread with verdure. The eruption are all united in one root. From the main stems a which occasioned this mountainous production, ruined multitude of branches spring, each of prodigious size, the ancient region of Hybla, now called in contemp- and distinguished by this peculiarity, that there is no tuous commemoration, Mel Passi, and at present chiefly bark in the inside. “A hut is built in the hollow of the observable on account of a few scattered mounts of trunk, for the accommodation of those who are engaged vegetable beauty and abundance, rising amidst fields in collecting and preserving the fruit. Their use of of lava and barrenness.
ovens for drying the nuts, has been thought sufficiently The woody
The next advance is to the second region of Ætna, to account for the destitution of bark in the inner side region. denominated Regione Sylrosa, or the woody region; of the branches. Other vegetable wonders of a similar
which begins about three miles above the latter place, description are found in the neighbourhood, and one and extends upwards of eight or ten miles.
in particular, with an undivided trunk, measuring 57 According to Sir W. Hamilton, the vegetation of this feet at the height of 15 feet from the surface of the region decreases as you advance; the trees gradually ground. diminishing in size, till they become comparatively Another object of curiosity is the snow grotto, the Snow dwarfish and insignificant. He noticed great quantities access to which lies through a forest of pines. It is grotto. of juniper and tansy, and was informed that curious situated in a mount or hill
, called Fennochio, amidst plants abounded in all directions. This region is rocks and precipices, and consists of a cavity formed by
LINA. the waters carrying away the stratum of pozzolana under phenomenon of falling stars is observable, which Mr. ATNA.
the lava. The snow, which is drifted from the superior Brydone considers as a proof that these bodies move parts of the mountain, is stopped by a wall erected for in regions beyond the limits which philosophers have the purpose, a little above the grotto in question, assigned to our atmosphere. He is also of opinion, whence it is thrown down by two openings, and is that the satellites of Jupiter might be discovered, even protected from the heat of summer by a thick incrusta- with the naked eye, at least with a very small glass, tion of the superincumbent lava, which forms a natural for several clusters of stars attract the eye totally ceiling to the cave. It is exported from this receptacle invisible from the inferior regions. in large bags, into which it is put after being wrapped At no considerable distance from the foot of the Philosoin leaves. Snow, thus preserved, assumes the ap- great crater is an ancient erection, called Il Torre del pher's pearance of transparent crystal
. The knights of Malta Philosopho, or the philosopher's tower, a name which tower. hire this, and other grottos of a similar description, for has induced the opinion of its having been constructed the use of their island; hence snow becomes an im- by the philosopher Empedocles, at the time when he portant article of trade, the nature of the climate always was engaged in studying the phænomena of Ætna, occasioning a large demand.
into whose burning crater, as some authors have asGrolto of La Spelania del Capriole, or grotto of goats, so serted, and as many readers, probably more fond of
called because of its affording a convenient and fre- the marvellous than of truth, have believed, he preci-
-Deus iminortalis haberi fuel. It is about 5054 feet above the level of the sea.
Dum cupit Empedocles ardentem frigidus Ætnam There are two mountains in the vicinity, whose craters exceed in dimensions that of Vesuvius, now covered By some the philosopher's tower is considered to be with a soil rich and productive, and set with oaks. the remains of a temple of Vulcan ; while others sup
In the year 1755, part of the Regione Sylvosa was pose it to have been a watch-tower of the Normans, overflowed and desolated by a torrent of boiling water, constructed to watch their enemies, and to give notice which issued from the mouth of the great crater, of to the island, by means of signals, of their movements. about a mile and a half broad, the traces of which, M. de Non supposes it to have been erected on occahowever, the vegetative power of nature has since been sion of the emperor Adrian's visit to Ætna. Spallangradually erasing
zani examined the materials of this building, and found The barren As the Regione Deserta, or barren region, is ap- that they consisted of a cement of lime, which had berun. proached, vegetation becomes progressively thin and come a carbonate of lime, and two species of lava,
diminutive. The scene is no longer woody, and such whose base was hornstone, and emitting an argilla as to afford an agreeable shelter from the intensity of ceous smell from the fractures. Houel denies the the meridian sun, but wintry blasts sweep along a wild antiquity of this construction, upon the ground of its and desert path. Here and there, indeed, clumps of bearing no kind of resemblance to the Greek or Roman trees and tufts of herbage are to be seen; but even mode of architecture. It is now neither watch-tower these become more and more scarce, till they entirely nor temple, but a desirable place of shelter and of rest disappear: and the curious traveller must encounter a to the traveller, who, having performed some of the frigid zone of from eight to ten miles in extent, over- previous journey during the night, usually waits on spread with a flat expanse of snow and ice, and this spot for the earliest dawn, of which he avails himabounding in dangerous torrents of melted snow. self to hasten to the contemplation of that scene of Pools of water are frequently formed, and the difficul- majesty and magnificence which opens to the eye from ties of proceeding towards the summit of the moun. the summit. Every writer upon Etna has attempted View from tain, which rears its portentous looking altitude, pour- the description of this scene, and remarked upon its the summit. ing out torrents of smoke in the midst of the snowy sublime peculiarities; and each, perhaps, has added track, increase at every moment. As the crater ap some circumstance, before unnoticed, to heighten the proximates, sand and ashes deepen over the surface; picture, and to impress the reader with the conviction, but what is still more distressing, sulphureous exhala- of what is indeed the truth, that the prospect which tions issue from the crevices of the mountain, some. stretches far away in every direction is one of the most times so abundantly as to endanger the adventurer's enchanting and magnificent throughout the realms of progress to the final object of his pursuit and curiosity. nature. The writer of this article will adopt the deNor is he less annoyed by gusts of thick smoke emitted scription of Brydone, which happened first to have from the volcanic summit, accompanied with alarming attracted his attention in earlier life, and still possesses sounds, that seem to rise from the very centre, and the power of enchanting his imagination. which have been compared to the discharge of cannon, “ In about an hour's climbing we arrived at a place whose noise spreads with reverberating echo from where there was no snow; and where a warm and comcavern to cavern.
fortable vapour issued from the mountain, which inIn this part of the ascent, which is generally at- duced us to make another halt. Here I found the tempted before day-break, the stars appear to be much mercury at 19° 6%. The thermometer was fallen three increased in number, and the light of each materially degrees below the point of congelation; and before enhanced in brightness; the milky way, in particular, we left the summit of Ætna, it fell two degrees more, seems like a pure flame shot across the heavens. The namely, to 27. From this spot it was only about 300
ÆTNA. yards to the highest summit of the mountain, where we islands lying round it. All these, by a kind of magic ÆTNA.
arrived in full time to see the most wonderful and most in vision, that I am at a loss to account for, seem as if sublime sight in nature.
they were brought close round the skirts of Etna; the “ But here description must ever fall short; for no distances appearing reduced to nothing. Perhaps this imagination has dared to form an idea of so glorious singular effect is produced by the rays of light passing and so magnificent a scene. Neither is there, on the from a rarer medium into a denser, which (from a well surface of this globe, any one point that unites so many known law in optics) to an observer in the rare medium awful and sublime objects. The immense elevation appears to lift up objects that are at the bottom of the from the surface of the earth, drawn as it were to a dense one, as a piece of money placed in a bason apsingle point, without any neighbouring mountain for pears lifted up as soon as the bason is filled with water. the senses and imagination to rest upon and recover “ The Regione Deserta, or the frigid zone of Ætna, from their astonishment in their way down to the world. is the first object that calls your attention. It is marked This point or pinnacle, raised on the brink of a bottom out by a circle of snow and ice, which extends on all less gulph, as old as the world, often discharging rivers sides to the distance of about eight miles. In the centre of fire, and throwing out burning rocks, with a noise of this circle, the great crater of the mountain rears its that shakes the whole island. Add to this the un burning head, and the regions of intense cold and of bounded extent of the prospect, comprehending the intense heat seem for ever to be united in the same greatest diversity and the most beautiful scenery in point..... The Regione Deserta is immediately sucnature, with the rising sun advancing in the east to ceeded by the Sylvosa, or the woody region, which forms illuminate the wondrous scene.
a circle or girdle of the most beautiful green, which sur“ The whole atmosphere by degrees kindled up, and rounds the mountain on all sides, and is certainly one shewed dimly and faintly the boundless prospect of the most delightful spots on earth. This presents a around. Both sea and land looked dark and confused, remarkable contrast with the desert region. It is not as if only emerging from their original chaos, and light smooth and even, like the greatest part of the latter; and darkness seemed still undivided; till the morning but is finely variegated by an infinite number of those by degrees advancing completed the separation. The beautiful little mountains that have heen formed by the stars are extinguished and the shades disappear. The different eruptions of Etna. All these have now acforests, which but now seemed black and bottomless quired a wonderful degree of fertility, except a very gulphs, from whence no ray was reflected to shew few that are but newly formed, that is within these five their form or colours, appear a new creation rising to or six hundred years; for it certainly requires some sight, catching life and beauty from every increasing thousands to bring them to their greatest degree of perbeam. The scene still enlarges, and the horizon seems fection. We looked down into the craters of these, to widen and expand itself on all sides; till the and attempted, but in vain, to number them. sun, like the great Creator, appears in the east, and “ This zone is every where succeeded by the vinewith his plastic ray completes the mighty scene. All yards, orchards, and corn-fields that compose the appears enchantment; and it is with difficulty we can Regione Culta, or the fertile region. This zone makes believe we are still on earth. The senses, unaccustomed a delightful contrast with the other two regions. It is to the sublimity of such a scene, are bewildered and bounded by the sea to the south and south-east, and confounded; and it is not till after some time that on all its other sides by the rivers Semetus and Alcanthey are capable of separating and judging of the tara, which run almost round it. The whole course of objects
that compose it." The body of the sun is seen these rivers is seen at once, and all their beautiful rising from the ocean, immense tracts both of sea and windings through these fertile vallies, looked upon as land intervening: the islands of Lipari, Panari, Alicudi, the favourite possession of Ceres herself, and the very Strombolo, and Volcano, with their smoking summits, scene of the rape of her daughter Proserpine. appear under your feet; and you look down on the “ Cast your eyes a little further, and you embrace whole of Sicily as on a map; and can trace every river the whole island; all its cities, rivers, and mountains, through all its windings from its source to its mouth. delineated in the great chart of nature; all the adjaThe view is absolutely boundless on every side; nor is cent islands, the whole coast of Italy, as far as your there any one object within the circle of vision to inter- eve can reach; for it is no where bounded, but every rupt it, so that the sight is every where lost in the where lost in the space.' On the sun's first rising, the immensity; and I am persuaded it is only from the shadow of the mountain extends across the whole imperfection of our organs, that the coasts of Africa, island, and makes a large track visible even in the sea and even of Greece, are not discovered, as they are and in the air. By degrees this is shortened, and in certainly above the horizon. The circumference of the a little time is contined only to the neighbourhood of visible horizon on the top of Ætna cannot be less than Ætna." 2000 miles. At Malta, which is near 200 miles distant, The great crater may be described as a cup, or The great they perceive all the eruptions from the second region; hollow, at the top of a hill of a conical figure, rising crater. and that island is often discovered from about one equally on all sides, composed chiefly of ashes and half the elevation of the mountain: so that at the sand which have been emitted from the mouth at difwhole elevation the horizon must extend to near ferent periods when eruptions occurred, which, accudouble that distance, or 400 miles, which makes 800 mulating from time to time, it has at length acquired miles for the diameter of the circle, and 2400 for the its present dimensions. It is besides covered with circumference. But this is by much too vast for our frozen snow, and the gusts of wind are so intensely senses, not intended to grasp so boundless a scene..... cold and violent as to render it extremely difficult to But the most beautiful part of the scene is certainly the preserve one's station. The south wind is most prevamountain itself, the island of Sicily, and the numerous lent. The conical hill, to which we have alluded, is
ETXI, about ten miles in circumference, and a quarter of a to warn them against indulging curiosity at such a risk ÆTNA.
mile in height, to which the depth of the crater pretty of personal safety. This was in 1727. nearly corresponds. The opinion of travellers is some Travellers differ considerably respecting the state of State of the what various respecting the dimensions of the opening, the air on the summit of Ætna; some complaining of air. which may be accounted for in two ways: the one, the a difficulty of respiration, others being insensible to extreme annoyance of the clouds of smoke, which issue any such change. Undoubted experiments have inforth so as to prevent very accurate observations; and deed demonstrated that, in consequence of the great the other, the real variations of extent to which it is rarefaction of the air in the elevated regions, this effect probably liable, from the greater or less degrees of ac must ensue; but since this mountain is inferior in cumulation of ashes and stones of which it is composed, height above the level of the sea to the lowest point proportionably to the quantities of volcanic matter at which such a sensation has been found to occur in forced up at different eruptions. Sir William Hamilton other places, it may be imputed, perhaps, to the difcalculates it, in 1769, at two miles and a half in cir- ferent constitutional temperament of men.
The barocumference; Mr. Brydone, in 1770, at three miles and meter, however, indicates some considerable alteration a half; M. D'Orville, in 1727, at three or four miles. of weight and rarity. The crater presents the appearance of an inverted Differences also occur with regard to the appear Eminences cone, shelving down from the aperture, and the inside ances from the summit. Strabo represents the top of at the
sumimit. is encrusted with variously coloured salts and sulphur. Etna as a level plain, with a smoking hill in the centre. The upper edges of the crater are much broken and in- Spallanzani's account implies that it is bifurcated, as deuted; its general figure is oval; and its greatest he saw another eminence from that on which he stood diameter, from east to west. Spallanzani, who visited to the northward, about a quarter of a mile distant, Etna in 1788, represents the inner sides as terminating with a much smaller crater and an inferior issue of in a plain of more than half a mile in circumference, in smoke. M. Houel, in 1782, speaks of three eminences, the centre of which is a circular aperture, of the diame- which are placed as in an isosceles triangle, only two ter of five poles; from which issued a large column of of which are visible at any considerable distance; and smoke, ascending perpendicularly, and of a white co- in the midst of these is the principal mouth, having a lour. He observed within the cavity a liquid matter, diameter of sixty feet, and lying somewhat to the apparently in a state of ebullition, without spreading northward. Fazello describes a little hill which had itself over the bottom, which he considered to be been produced in 1444, and appeared in the mouth of melted lava. To ascertain, however, the reality of this the crater in his time, of a conical shape, which fell appearance, several stones were thrown into it
, which into the crater after a tremendous eruption, and was seemed to fall flat as into a thick paste or pitch; but absorbed. Borelli also relates, that the summit of those which did not descend into the boiling matter ftna rose like a tower, but was engulphed in the crater rebounded, with quite a different sound, which led to in the conflagration of 1669. These, and other acthe conclusion that the bottom must be compact, and counts, tend to prove the changes to which the top of possess great solidity. Baron Reidsdel, on the con the mountain is perpetually exposed, and which might trary, whose visit preceded that of Spallanzani by be naturally expected from its containing such an imtwenty years, states, that no sound whatever was re mense caldron of boiling matter, so often driven about turned on throwing stones into the crater, but that he with eruptic violence. heard a noise from the gulph resembling that of the Ætna is extremely productive in vegetable variety. Vegetable sea when agitated by a tempest. He gives no intima. We have already spoken of its large species of trees, production of the bottom to which the former traveller refers; particularly the oak and the chesnut. It furnishes tions. but the crater was then extended towards the east, also an abundant botanical garden, consisting of plants with an opening which no longer exists. Sir William and flowers, the cinnamon, sarsaparilla, sassafras, and Hamilton and Brydone were unable to explore this others. Diodorus Siculus, Plutarch, and Aristotle curious hollow, from the intensity of the heat; but celebrate its odoriferous productions; the latter deD'Orville and his companion were more adventurous. clares the smell of the plants was so strong as to Having fastened themselves to ropes, which were each render hunting impracticable. held at their extremities by two or three men, to pre Its animals are considerably reduced.
Wild beasts Animals. rent accidents, threy descended to the very brink of the at one time pervaded the woody regions, but they awful abyss, but they were prevented from a very close are much degenerated; the wild boar, the goat, and inspection by the sulphureous fames and smoke that the roebuck remain, but stags are no longer to be issued from the burning aperture. They beheld, how- found. The horses of Ætna were once esteemed the ever, a mass of matter in the middle, which rose in the best in Sicily, but they cannot now boast of such shape of a cone to the height of about sixty feet, with pre-eminence: the other cattle are, however, still a circumference of from six to eight hundred feet at valued highly. Spallanzani mentions that he found no the base, or as far down as they could trace it. Small other animals in the more elevated regions than a few lambent flames, and offensive vapour and smoke, lion-ants (Myrmelion formicarum), which made their issued forth in every direction. They were soon, how- pit-falls in the dust of the lava; in the upper part of ever, induced to hasten back to a less precarious stand- the middle region he met with partridges, jays, ing, from perceiving on the northern side, opposite to thrushes, kites, ravens, and crows. that where they were making their observations, a con There exists considerable disagreement upon the Springs, siderable commotion and a fresh issue of smoke and subject of the scarcity of water in Etna, and it is not ashes, accompanied with a portentous noise. Though easy to reconcile these contradictions. Some assert these were of temporary duration, they were sufficient that this mountain has always been extremely deficient