Catania (Greek: Κατάνη – Katánē; Latin: Catăna and Catĭna; Arabic: Balad-al-Fil or Medinat-al-Fil, Wadi Musa and Qataniyah) is an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea, between Messina and Syracuse. It is the capital of the eponymous province, and with 298,957 inhabitants (752,895 in the Metropolitan Area) it is the second-largest city on the island.
This term was immediately adopted by the new Greek colonists to rename the preexistent indigenous place which already had a like epithet. Further acceptations for this locution are: harsh lands, uneven ground, sharp stones, rugged or rough soil.
Such last variety of senses is easily justifiable since in the centuries the Metropolis of Etna has always been rebuilt and set inside its typical black lavic landscape.
The former has been primarily utilized for a supposed assonance with "catina", namely the Latin feminization of the vocable "catinus".
Catinus hides, in fact, two main values: "a gulf, a basin, a bay" and "a bowl, a vessel, a trough".
Both explications may be admissible thanks to the city’s distinctive trait and topography. Catania has constantly abutted on the waters of its vast homonymous Gulf, and besides she has always been reconstructed without having to fear of growing on the blackish asperities of the acuminate slopes of Etna.
The first translates "The Village or The Country of the Elephant" and the second is simply and proudly "The City of the Elephant". The Elephant is the lavic one of Piazza Duomo’s Fountain, probably just a prehistorical sculpture reforged in Byzantine Era, an idolatrised talisman that was reputed capable to protect the city from any sort of enemies and powerful enough to keep away misfortune, plagues or natural calamities.
The Moslem Conquerors accepted this pachydermical protection deciding to name after it the vanquished town.
Today's name stems from an Arab toponym.
Qatanyiah are literally "the leguminous plants" (in Arab "Qataniyy"), whose feminized collective suffix is "yiah".
Afterwards, many Islamic Agronomists will be the principal boosters and those who overcropped the citruses orchards in the greater part of Sicily's ploughlands.
Lastly, Wadi Musa intends the River or the Valley of Moses that is to say the sometime Arab name of the Symaethus River, but this denomination was rarely associated to pinpoint the seat of the then Emirate of Catania.
The exact date of its foundation is not recorded, but it appears from Thucydides to have followed shortly after that of Leontini (modern Lentini), which he places in the fifth year after Syracuse, or 730 BCE. (Thuc. vi. 3; Strabo vi. p. 268; Scymn. Ch. 286; Scyl. § 13; Steph. B. s. v.)
But from the fact that his legislation was extended to the other Chalcidic cities, not only of Sicily, but of Magna Graecia also, as well as to his own country (Arist., Pol. ii. 9), it is evident that Catania continued in intimate relations with these kindred cities.
It seems to have retained its independence till the time of Hieron of Syracuse, but that despot, in 476 BCE, expelled all the original inhabitants, whom he established at Leontini, while he repeopled the city with a new body of colonists, amounting, it is said, to not less than 10,000 in number, and consisting partly of Syracusans, partly of Peloponnesians.
He at the same time changed its name to Αἴτνη (Aítnē, Aetna or Ætna, after the nearby Mount Etna, an activevolcano), and caused himself to be proclaimed the Oekist or founder of the new city. As such he was celebrated by Pindar, and after his death obtained heroic honors from the citizens of his new colony. (Diod. xi. 49, in 66; Strab. l.c.; Pind. Pyth. i., and Schol. ad loc.)
But this state of things was of brief duration, and a few years after the death of Hieron and the expulsion of Thrasybulus, the Syracusans combined with Ducetius, king of the Siculi, to expel the newly settled inhabitants of Catania, who were compelled to retire to the fortress of Inessa (to which they gave the name of Aetna), while the old Chalcidic citizens were reinstated in the possession of Catania, 461 BCE. (Diod. xi. 76; Strab. l. c.)
The period which followed the settlement of affairs at this epoch appears to have been one of great prosperity for Catania, as well as for the Sicilian cities in general: but we have no details of its history till the great Athenian expedition to Sicily (part of the larger Peloponnesian War).
On that occasion the Catanaeans, notwithstanding their Chalcidic connections, at first refused to receive the Athenians into their city: but the latter having effected an entrance, they found themselves compelled to espouse the alliance of the invaders, and Catania became in consequence the headquarters of the Athenian armament throughout the first year of the expedition, and the base of their subsequent operations against Syracuse. (Thuc. vi. 50-52, 63, 71, 89; Diod. xiii. 4, 6, 7; Plut. Nic. 15, 16.)
We have no information as to the fate of Catania after the close of this expedition: it is next mentioned in 403 BCE, when it fell into the power of Dionysius I of Syracuse, who sold the inhabitants as slaves, and gave up the city to plunder; after which he established there a body of Campanian mercenaries.
These, however, quit it again in 396 BCE, and retired to Aetna, on the approach of the great Carthaginian armament under Himilco and Mago. The great sea-fight in which the latter defeated Leptines, the brother of Dionysius, was fought immediately off Catania, and the city apparently fell, in consequence, into the hands of the Carthaginians. (Diod. xiv. 15, 58, 60.)
But we have no account of its subsequent fortunes, nor does it appear who constituted its new population; it is only certain that it continued to exist. Callippus, the assassin of Dion, when he was expelled from Syracuse, for a time held possession of Catania (Plut. Dion. 58); and when Timoleon landed in Sicily we find it subject to a despot named Mamercus, who at first joined the Corinthian leader but afterwards abandoned his alliance for that of the Carthaginians, and was in consequence attacked and expelled by Timoleon. (Diod. xvi. 69; Plut. Timol. 13, 30-34.)
Catania was now restored to liberty, and appears to have continued to retain its independence; during the wars of Agathocles with the Carthaginians, it sided at one time with the former, at others with the latter; and when Pyrrhus landed in Sicily, Catania was the first to open its gates to him, and received him with the greatest magnificence. (Diod. xix. 110, xxii. 8, Exc. Hoesch. p. 496.)
It appears to have continued afterwards steadily to maintain its friendly relations with Rome, and though it did not enjoy the advantages of a confederate city (foederata civitas), like its neighbors Tauromenium (modern Taormina) and Messana (modern Messina), it rose to a position of great prosperity under the Roman rule.
Cicero repeatedly mentions it as, in his time, a wealthy and flourishing city; it retained its ancient municipal institutions, its chief magistrate bearing the title of Proagorus; and appears to have been one of the principal ports of Sicily for the export of corn. (Cic. Verr. iii. 4. 3, 83, iv. 23, 45; Liv. xxvii. 8.)
It subsequently suffered severely from the ravages of Sextus Pompeius, and was in consequence one of the cities to which a colony was sent by Augustus; a measure that appears to have in a great degree restored its prosperity, so that in Strabo's time it was one of the few cities in the island that was in a flourishing condition. (Strab. vi. pp. 268, 270, 272; Dion Cass. iv. 7.)
It retained its colonial rank, as well as its prosperity, throughout the period of the Roman Empire; so that in the 4th century Ausonius in his Ordo Nobilium Urbium, notices Catania and Syracuse alone among the cities of Sicily. (Plin. iii. 8. s. 14; Ptol. iii. 4. § 9; Itin. Ant. pp. 87,90, 93, 94).
Catania was in consequence exempted, for 10 years, from its usual contributions to the Roman state. (Oros. v. 13.) The greater part of the broad tract of plain to the southwest of Catania (now called the Piana di Catania, a district of great fertility), appears to have belonged, in ancient times, to Leontini or Centuripa (modern Centuripe), but that portion of it between Catana itself and the mouth of the Symaethus, was annexed to the territory of the latter city, and must have furnished abundant supplies of corn.
The port of Catania also, which was in great part filled up by the eruption of 1669, appears to have been in ancient times much frequented, and was the chief place of export for the corn of the rich neighboring plains. The little river Amenanus, or Amenas, which flowed through the city, was a very small stream, and could never have been navigable.
The first introduction of dancing to accompany the flute, was also ascribed to Andron, a citizen of Catania (Athen. i. p. 22, c.); and the first sundial that was set up in the Roman forum was carried thither by Valerius Messala from Catania, 263 BCE. (Varr. ap. Plin. vii. 60.)
But few associations connected with Catania were more celebrated in ancient times than the Legend of the Pii Fratres, Amphinomus and Anapias, who, on occasion of a great eruption of Etna, abandoned all their property, and carried off their aged parents on their shoulders, the stream of lava itself was said to have parted, and flowed aside so as not to harm them.
Statues were erected to their honor, and the place of their burial was known as the Campus Piorum; the Catanaeans even introduced the figures of the youths on their coins, and the legend became a favorite subject of allusion and declamation among the Latin poets, of whom the younger Lucilius and Claudian have dwelt upon it at considerable length.
The occurrence is referred by Hyginus to the first eruption of Etna that took place after the settlement of Catania. (Strab. vi. p. 269; Paus. x. 28. § 4; Conon, Narr. 43; Philostr. Vit. Apoll. v. 17; Solin. 5. § 15; Hygin. 254; Val. Max. v. 4. Ext. § 4; Lucil. Aetn. 602-40; Claudian. Idyll. 7; Sil. Ital. xiv. 196; Auson. Ordo Nob. Urb. 11.)
In 1693 the city was completely destroyed by earthquakes and by lava flows which ran over and around it into the sea. The city was then rebuilt in the precious baroque architecture that nowadays enjoys.
After World War II, and the constitution of Italian Republic (1946), the history of Catania is, like the history of other cities of Southern Italy, an attempt to catch up with the economic and social development of the richer Northern Italy and to solve the problems that for historic reasons plague the south of Italy, namely a heavy gap in industrial development and infrastructures, and the presence of criminal organisations.
This notwithstanding, Catania during the 60s (and partly during the 90s) enjoyed a great development and an economic, social and cultural effervescence.
In the last years, Catania economy and social development somewhat faltered and in these years the city is facing economic and social stagnation.
The Metropolitan Area of Catania is formed by the Comune of Catania (298,257 inhabitants as of Dec. 2007) and by 26 surrounding comuni forming an urban belt (453,938 inhabitants as of Dec. 2007). The total population of the Metropolitan Area of Catania is therefore 752,895. The comuni forming the Metropolitan Area are:
These comuni form a system with the centre of Catania sharing its economical and social life and forming an organic urban texture.
The Metropolitan Area of Catania has not to be confounded with the Province of Catania, a far broader area that counts 58 comuni and 1,081,915 inhabitants, but which does not form an urban system with the city.
The average age of Catania residents is 41 compared to the Italian average of 42. In the five years between 2002 and 2007, the population of Catania declined by 3.35 percent, while Italy as a whole grew by 3.85 percent. The reason of this population decline in the Comune di Catania is mainly to be attributed to population leaving the city centre to go to live in the up-town residential areas of the comuni of the Metropolitan Area. As a result of this, while the population in the comune di Catania declines, the population of the hinterland comuni increases making the overall population of the Metropolitan area of Catania increase.
The current birth rate of Catania is 10.07 births per 1,000 inhabitants compared to the Italian average of 9.45 births. As of 2006, 98.03% of the population was Italian. The largest immigrant group came from sub-saharan Africa: 0.69%, South Asia: 0.46%, and from other European countries (particularly from Ukraine and Poland): 0.33%. Catania is almost entirely Roman Catholic.
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The Sicilian name u Liotru is the deformation of the name Heliodorus who was a sorcerer and necromancer from Catania. He was a nobleman who, after trying without success to become bishop of the city, became a sorcerer and was therefore condemned to the stake. Legend has it that Heliodorus himself was the sculptor of the lava elephant and that he used to magically rode it in his travels from Catania to Costantinople. Another legend has it that Heliodorus could be capable of transforming himself into an elephant.
A similar sculpture is in Piazza Santa Maria della Minerva in Rome. Catania's coat of arms is a red elephant on a light-blue field with an "A" (Agatha's initial or the first letter of Aetna) set higher above its back.
The Catanian Museum of Mineralogy, Paleonthology and Vulcanology takes care of the integral unburied skeleton of an elephas falconeri in an excellent state of conservation. The primitive inhabiters of Etna and whilom forefathers of the latter-day Catanians, molded such lavic artifact to idolize the mythical proboscidian they had considered the sole responsible of the resolutive ejection of all the vexing animals from the volcanic territories.
This venerated black sculpture survived the centuries to outlast till today. It is doubtless the most ancient Catania's monument, followed by the Syenian obelisk positioned on its spine.
In the official heraldry its scarfskin became red to recollect the colour of the ardent lava. But the most-told occurrence that will be fundamental to radicate this kind of affection for the beloved Liotru is on the other hand strictly due to the local and documented legend of the "magician" Heliodorus.
They still recite:"Melior De Cinere Surgo" (I Arise Better My From Ashes) and "Armis Decoratur, Litteris Armatur" (Adorned with Weapons, Armed with Letters).
The first underlines the interchange down the ages between its unforeseen destructions and the gradual and successive reconstructions, comparing such cyclicities of sudden ruinations and consequent rebirths to the legend of the mythical Phoenix, the fiery creature perennially fated to upspring anew from its own embers. This firebird is, in fact, sculpted atop the archway of the forenamed structure.
Several "stylized armaments" were largely reproduced and utilized as ornaments or architectural elements to bedight the fronts of the main noblemen's mansions.
The city has been buried by lava a total of seven times in recorded history, and in layers under the present day city are the Roman city that preceded it, and the Greek city before that. Many of the ancient monuments of the Roman city have been destroyed by the numerous seisms. Currently, remains of the following buildings can be seen:
The remains of the monumental complex are beneath Piazza Duomo.Its underground bounds underlie almost all the buildings established on the surface: the Cathedral Church, the former seat of the Clerics' Seminary, the Elephant's Fountain, the Archbishop's See and the bordering angles of the Senatorial Palace.They are also the place where the earthly life of the sorcerer Heliodorus was surceased by St.Leo of Catania.
The "Thaumaturgus" drew this devil's mate in its inside to jump with him into a pyre that he had ordered to prepare. Both were clutched by the flames.
But while the godless fiend began burning to ashes at once, the Wonder Worker's figure came out slowly and miraculously unharmed, with his Sacred Paraments intact and undamaged. This fact should have happened in 778 AD while Saint Leo's death will befall exactly nine years later in 787 AD.
The thermae's access is made easier by a little adit opening on the right side of Saint Agatha's front. Through the use of a modern stairs, the visitors can pass across a 2,50 m barrel-vaulted corridor . This passageway guides in its innermost part, a rectangular ample area measuring 12x13m, formed by a wide hall with four pillars bearing the overhead ceiling .In past times these old columns were bedecked with stuccoes representing handful of younkers and bacchantes, animals and clusters of grapes. The most part of these beautiful decorations have been irremediably lost along the centuries.
This has induced the local archaeologists to identify the surrounding zone with the Balnea Bacchi or Roman Baths of Bacchus. Several rooms are actually situated northward, rightward and southward the aforesaid atrium.
The adjective Achillean is attested by a Greek inscription, recovered in pieces in different epochs. It furnishes the current denomination and it describes the complessive remaking works and the contemporary repairing of the heating's distribution system. According to the appointments of the whilom consuls in charge the refurbishment is datable to the period around 434 AD.However, the exact datation of the real edification is still unknown. They were supplied by the nearby waters of the Amenanus which keeps running in the thereabouts.
With regard to the name, many scholars uphold that its main entrance contained a marble reproduction of Achilles towering above the regular patrons. But probably, the most correct explication is motivated instead for the presence along the inward perimeter of lance-armed statues of muscled nude men that were apostrophed as the Achilleae Statuae.Pliny the Elder has cited this sort of sculptures in his Natural History to refer to the idolatry and cultural habits towards the Thessalian Hero.
Immured in a school courtyard, they are located behind the Church of Saint Mary of Guidance whose entitlement is commonly adopted for their easier and generic identification.
They lie under the street mantle of Via Etnea - the main thoroughfare of the city - in the point of intersection with the uphill Via Antonino Paternò Castello di Sangiuliano. This viary conjunction creates a scenographical and monumental quadrangle that gave rise to the name assigned to this crossroads. The exact center of convergence of these two arteries is the cradle of the city's baroque reëdification carried out by the Noble Superintendent Giuseppe Lanza, Duke of Camastra.In 1694 he was appointed by the Viceroy Juan Francisco Pacheco de Uceda,representing the Spanish Government, to accomplish the urban uprise after the apocalyptic earthquake of 1693.
The aristocratic Palace of the family Massa di San Demetrio was the first construction of Catania to be rebuilt from the smoking rubbles. Thenceforth, the four prospects designing this rhomboidal square are always the same:the aforecited abode, other two baroque dwellings and the sideward flank of a religious cloister.
The baroque city centre of Catania is a UNESCO Wold Heritage Site
The Basilica Collegiata di Santa Maria dell'Elemosina is on the Latin cross plan with a nave and two aisles. The high altar has a Madonna icon, probably of Byzantine manufacture.
Hodigitria is a Greek word meaning She who shows the Way.
This church was constructed on the Lavas of "Armisi", a shelfy locale on the seaward coast of Catania where a Sacred Monstrance with its Holy Hosts were repossessed after a sacrilegious theft occurred in 1796.
On May 29th, a pair of scoundrels entered undisturbed inside the Jesuitic Church of Saint Francis Borgia to seize without apparent hindrance the precious Ostensory. In that period the Dome of Saint Agatha was closed for repairs, so this parish was considered the most apt to assume the cathedral's functions. The two rascals were rapidly singled out and caught, but the broadmindedness of their misdeed produced a profound upset and a palpable indignation that pervaded both the civilian and religious society of the city.
The meticulous researches involved the whole citizenship that contributed with extreme participation and great affliction. Some well-grounded evidences would have led to most precise traces near a lavic expanse looking on to the sea not far from the purlieu of the current central railway station.
And moreover, the presence and the yelps of a little black mongrel, nestled by a prickly pear close to a scabrous hollow where the Holy Pyx was hidden, permitted its exact identification. Amazingly, however, the meek animal had not half a mind to stand aside from the filthy rag that wrapped the Casket.Rather than go away it kept lying down steadily for a long time. It was as though it wanted to protect and care for the mysterious and not edible result of its flair.
A few people started throwing stones toward it but this solution was completely ineffectual and incapable sending it away from its temporary dog's bed. The tries of persuasion of those present will last quite a while.
Because of such disconcerting stubbornness, the then religious authorities decided unanimously to lay the foundation stone of the new Temple of the Most Holy Retrieved Sacrament over a "forlorn and unsuited area abounding in magmatic scales".
The district, where the episode took place, will be commonly known as the Quarter of "Our Refound Lord" ("Nostru Signuri Asciatu" in local dialect and "Nostro Signore Ritrovato" in Italian).
Ognina is the maritime quarter and the main fishing pole of Catania. Many bareboats and umpteen smacks gather and crowd here all year round.
During summertime this craggy inlet becomes a sort of vacationland for many Catanians, both denizens and provincials. The little Church of Saint Mary of Ognina, with its essential façade, rises in a square that sweetly slopes against the sea.
In its close vicinities there is the cylindric merloned Saint Mary's Tower (Torre Santa Maria) which was restructured in the XVI century to prevent the frequent plunders of the Saracen pirates.
The parishional origin is the result of the gradual modification of the once Greek Temple of Athena Longatis or Parthenos Longatis that stood anciently on the steep reef. This cult was imported from a Boeotian region of Greece called Longas from where the first Hellenic settlers of this borough probably came.
Saint Mary of Lognina was already entitled this way in a few Vatican documents going back to 1308.Lognina is the dialectial version of Ognina that in Italian language has lost the initial "L" of the name.
In 1676 it was visited by the Sicilian historian Giovanni Andrea Massa who remained extremely impressed at the beauty of the building. After the earthquake of 1693 it was sobriously rebuilt on the same place but with a different orientation.
The Virgin Mary's Simulacre, venerated since 1600, was destroyed by a fire in 1885.For a period her image was exposed to the believers in the waxen features of a She-Child, the Madonna Bambina (the Child Madonna).Today's wooden statue was carved in 1889.
The Child Madonna is the Patroness of the Fishermen of Ognina where every year on September 8 a Processional Feast betides on the sea involving lots of Catanians coming even from abroad.
Along Ognina's coastline are visible the spectacular natural Grottos of Ulysses (le Grotte d'Ulisse).
Owing to this reason the charming seaway of the Gulf of Ognina (Golfo di Ognina) or "Porticciolo di Ognina" is still identified with the dual names of "Porto Ulisse" (Port Ulysses ) or "Baia d'Ulisse" (Ulysses' Bay ).
This church was entitled this way, since prior to its construction in that very place there was a little devotional altar with a hand painted icon of the Crucifix. The anonymous pious author depictured the tablet obtaining a coloured substance from the leaves of the marjoram.
La Mecca is not the Saudiarabian Holy City, but a vernacular Catanian word that identifies a "silk mill" that existed, in effect, in its vicinity.
The ancient presence of a palm (nowadays disappeared) in the nearby forechurch justifies its second name.
The city of Catania is divided in ten administrative areas called Municipalità (Municipalities). The current administrative set-up was established in 1995, modifying previous set-ups dating back to 1971 and 1978.
The ten Municipalities of Catania are:
The University of Catania dates back to 1434 and it is the oldest university in Sicily. Its academic nicknames are: Siculorum Gymnasium and Siciliae Studium Generale. Nowadays it hosts 12 faculties and over 62,000 students, and it offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs.
Catania hosts the Scuola Superiore, an academic institution linked to the University of Catania, aimed at the excellence in education. The Scuola Superiore di Catania offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs too.
Apart from the University and the Scuola Superiore Catania is base of the prestigious Istituto Musicale Vincenzo Bellini an advanced institute of musical studies (Conservatory) and the Accademia di Belle Arti an advanced institute of artistic studies. Both institutions offer programs of university level for musical and artistic education.
The opera composer Vincenzo Bellini was born in Catania, and a museum exists at his birthplace. The Teatro Massimo "Vincenzo Bellini", which opened in 1890, is named after the composer. The opera house presents a variety of operas through a season, which run from December to May, many of which are the work of Bellini.
Giovanni Verga was born in Catania in 1840. He became the greatest writer of Verismo, an Italian literary movement akin to Naturalism. His novels portray life among the lower levels of Sicilan society, such as fishermen and stone-masons, and were written in a mixture of both literary language and local dialect.
The city is base of the newspaper La Sicilia and of the TV-channel Antenna Sicilia also known as Sicilia Channel. Several others local television channels and free-press magazines have their headquarters in Catania. Noted Italian Tv host Pippo Baudo is from Catania.
In the late 1980s and during the 1990s Catania had a sparkling and unique popular music scene. Indie pop and indie rock bands, local radio station and dynamic independent music record labels sprung. As a result, in those years the city experienced a vital and effervescent cultural period. Artists like Carmen Consoli and Mario Venuti and international known indie rock bands like Uzeda came out of this cultural milieu.
The city is the home of Amatori Catania rugby union team, Calcio Catania football team and Orizzonte Catania, the latter being a brilliant women's water polo club, winning eight European Champions Cup titles from 1994 to 2008. Noted Italian basketball coach Ettore Messina is a native of Catania.
The Circumetnea is a small-gauge railway which runs for 110 km from Catania round the base of Mount Etna. It attains the height of 976 m above sea level before descending to rejoin the coast at Giarre-Riposto to the North.
In the late 1990s the first line of an underground railway (Metropolitana di Catania) was built. The underground service started in 1999 and it is currently active on a route of 3.8 km, from the station Borgo (North of town) to the seaport, passing through the stations of Giuffrida, Italia, Galatea, and Central Station. First line is planned to extend from the satellite city of Paternò to Fontanarossa Airport. Segments Borgo-Nesima (extending the underground railway from the station Borgo to the suburban area of Nesima) and Galatea-Stesicoro (extending the underground railway from the station Galatea to Piazza Stesicoro, in the heart of town) are currently under construction.