Lipari (Latin: Lipara; ancient Greek: Meligunis; Italian: Lipari; Sicilian: Lìpari) is the largest of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the north coast of Sicily, and the name of the island's main town. It has a permanent population of about 11,000, although during the May-September tourist season its population may reach up to 20,000.
It is generally accepted that the island was created by a succession of four volcanic movements, the most important of which was the third one, presumably lasting from 20,000 BC to 13,000 BC. A further important phenomenon should have happened around 9,000 BC (C14 exams by Keller). The last recorded eruptions occurred in the fifth century CE when the airborne pumice covered Roman villages on the island. The volcanos are considered inactive, though steaming fumaroles may still be seen. As a result of the volcanic origins, the island is covered with pumice and obsidian. Pumice mining has become a large industry on Lipari, and the pale pumice from Lipari is shipped internationally. The pumice stone from Lipari, known as rhyolite, is indigenous to only one other island in the world, Niijima, Japan.
Colonists from Cnidia under Pentathlos arrived at Lipara in 580 BC and settled on the site of the village now known as Castello or la Cittade. The colony successfully fought the Etruscans for control of the Tyrrhenian. Allied with Syracuse at the time of the fateful intervention of Athens in the west in 427, Lipara withstood the assault of Athenians and their allies. Carthaginian forces succeeded in holding the site briefly during their struggles with Dionysios I, tyrant of Syracuse, in 394, but once they were gone the polis entered a three-way alliance which included Dionysios' new colony at Tyndaris. Lipara prospered, but in 304 Agathokles took the town by treachery and is said to have lost pillage from it in a storm at sea. Many objects recovered from wrecks of antiquity are now in the Aeolian Museum at Lipari. Lipara became a Carthaginian naval base during the first Punic War, but fell to Roman forces in 252-251 BC, and again to Agrippa in Octavian's campaign against Pompey. Under the Roman Empire, it was a place of retreat, baths (the hydrothermic waters are still used as a spa) and exile.
Lipari was probably an episcopal see from the 3rd century, (first bishop was St. Agatone) and at least from the 6th century the precious relics of St. Bartholomew could be admired in its cathedral.
In the 9th century, Sicily was conquered by the Arabs, and soon Saracen pirates began to raid across the Tyrrhenian Sea, with dramatic effects for Lipari. In 839 the Saracens slaughtered much of the population, the relics of St. Bartholomew were moved to Benevento, and Lipari was eventually almost totally abandoned. The Normans conquered the Arabs throughout Sicily between 1060 and 1090, and repopulated the island once their rule was secure. The Lipari episcopal seat was reinstated in 1131.
Though still plagued by pirate raids, the island was continually populated from this point onward. Rule of the island was passed from the Normans to the Hohenstaufen Kings, followed by the Angevins, and then the Aragonese, until Carlos I, the Aragonese King became the Spanish King, and then quickly was crowned Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. In 1544, Ariadeno Barbarossa ransacked Lipari and deported the entire population. Charles V then had his Spanish subjects repopulate the island and build the massive city walls atop the walls of the ancient Greek acropolis in 1556.
The walls created a mighty fortress which still stands today. The acropolis, high above the main town, was a safe haven for the populace in the event of a raid. While these walls protected the main town, it was not safe to live on the rest of the island until Mediterranean piracy was largely eradicated, which did not truly end until the 19th century.
An interesting museum has recently been created to collect a relevant part of local archaeological retrievals; its disparate sections relating to the human history of the entire Aeolian Islands from prehistoric to classical times, also cover vulcanology, marine history, and the paleontology of the western Mediterranean.
Why the Lipari symbol? The symbol represents the island of Lipari and has been re-launched from ancient times. It is present in every nook and cranny where the Baroque taste is still popular despite the introduction of new styles. Only in the last year has a historical cultural research on the decoration been completed.
Professor Antonietta Rosa Raso provided further insight after a long dialogue at the Baroque contest and I acquired a clearer historical concept of the elements which compose the symbol. The symbol of Lipari is composed of two Norman swords which cut the four winds, characterised by curls located in the four opposite points. Another important element is the centre-piece nail. The rewarding power emphasises of protection of the symbol. Firstly signified by the aesthetic design and finally the import of the symbol. The swords which cut the four winds serve as protection from the storms represented in the cardinal points of the Arabic half moon and the centre-piece nail to protect the larger shield (embodies Baroque artistry which is equipped with the powerful Spanish shields to defend itself during the bloody battles). Given the ancient traditions and import, the symbol of Lipari is ultimately an amulet to protect from misfortune.
Historical research conducted by Francesco Bertè in conjunction with Professor Antonietta Rosa Raso. Lipari 10 February 2005