Etna: The Volcano of Europe.

Il monte Etna è il più grande vulcano attivo dell'Europa, con la sua altezza attuale di 3329 metri, sebbene essa vari con le eruzioni sulla cima: curiosamente, la montagna è più bassa di 21 metri rispetto a com'era nel 1981. E' il monte più alto dell'Italia a sud delle Alpi, e in tutta Europa è superato solamente dal Monte Teide a Tenerife. L'Etna deve il proprio nome al greco aitne ("brucio"), nonostante alcuni studiosi pensino che il nome Etna derivi dalla parola fenicia attuna ("fornace"). I latini lo chiamavano Aetna, mentre per gli arabi il suo nome era Jebel Utlamat ("la Montagna di Fuoco")- da qui anche il nome dialettale locale Muncibeddu (bel monte) e l'Italiano Mongibello. Il monte Etna è uno dei più attivi vulcani del mondo ed è in stato di attività quasi costante. I fertili suoli vulcanici favoriscono l'agricoltura estensiva, con vigneti e frutteti estesi sulle basse pendici della montagna e l'ampia Piana di Catania a sud.

The Sacred Mountain Of The Mediterranean Area

Mount Etna is the closest thing that ancient Europe ever had to a sacred mountain. Etna, with its mystical legacy, enjoys a special place in classical literature and mythology. Homer's Odyssey is the source of some legends, but more of them probably evolved much earlier, perhaps before the arrival of the Greeks. Vulcan, the god of the forge and fire, was told to be living inside it. That's not surprising: it's easy to imagine Etna as a giant forge - actually, it is one, releasing molten rock which cools into a hard substance. In classical mythology, Vulcan was one of the most important figures: besides that, his torrid realm, in recent times, have also been the main inspiration for a planet and race in the Star Trek television series. Vulcan aside, legend has it that the one-eyed Cyclops was living there, too: it could have been an allusion to the "eye" of the volcano. The giant Cyclops, of course, is best known fo r m enacing Odysseus and his men.

Eruptions: The Story So Far

Etna's volcanic activity first took place about half a million years ago, with eruptions occurring beneath the sea off the ancient coastline of Sicily: back then Etna experienced some highly explosive eruptions – impressively enough, ashes from these eruptions has been found as far away as Rome, 800 km to the north. Through the ages, Mount Etna's geological features have undergone several changes: according to many, the large depression in the side of the volcano, known as Valle del Bove ("Valley of the Ox") was caused by a catastrophic collapse of the volcano itself, occurring around 6000 BC, producing a huge tsunami which left its mark in several places in the eastern Mediterranean. Eruptions have obviously always occurred: the great Virgil gave a majestic, probably first-hand description of an eruption in his Aeneid. A particularly violent explosive summit eruption occurred in 122 BC, and caused severe damages in Catania: as a consequence, to help with reconstruction and dealing with the devastating effects of the eruption, the Roman government exempted the city's population from paying taxes for ten years. But the most violent eruption was yet to come: it happened back in 1669, during which lava flows destroyed villages around its base and submerged part of the city. Since the year 1600 A.D., there have been at least 60 flank eruptions and countless summit eruptions; nearly half of these have occurred since the start of the 20th century: in 1928, a large lava flow led to the first (and only) destruction of a population centre since 1669: the village of Mascali was destroyed in just two days. From then on, small towns ain the Etna area have been threatened but never seriously damaged by eruptions. In 2003 a larger eruption threw up a huge column of ash that could be seen from space and fell as far away as Libya, 600 km south. Footage of the event was recorded by LucasFilm, and integrated into the landscape of the planet Mustafar in the 2005 film Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.