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AEO´LIAE, I´NSULAE (Αἰολίδες νῆσοι, Diod. Αἰόλου νῆσοι, Thuc. Strab.), a group of volcanic islands, lying in the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north of Sicily, between that island and the coast of Lucania. They derived the name of Aeolian from some fancied connection with the fabulous island of Aeolus mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey (10.1), &c.), but they were also frequently termed VULCANIAE or HEPHAESTIAE, from their volcanic character, which was ascribed to the subterranean operations of Vulcan, as well as LIPARAEAN (αἱ Λιπαραίων νῆσοι, Strab. ii. p.123), from LIPARA the largest and most important among them, from which they still derive the name of the Lipari Islands.

Ancient authors generally agree in reckoning them as seven in number (Strab. vi. p.275 ; Plin. Nat. 3.8. 14; Scymn. Ch. 255; Diod. 5.7; Mela, 2.7; Dionys. Perieget. 465; Schol. ad Apoll. Rhod. 3.41), which is correct, if the smaller islets be omitted. But there is considerable diversity with regard to their names, and the confusion has been greatly augmented by some modern geographers. They are enumerated as follows by Strabo, Diodorus, and Pliny:


LIPARA still called Lipari; the most considerable of the seven, and the only one which contained a town of any importance. [LIPARA]


HIERA situated between Lipara and the coast of Sicily. Its original name according to Strabo was Thermessa (Θέρμεσσα), or, as Pliny writes it, Therasia, but it was commonly known to the Greeks as Ἱερὰ Ἱερὰ Ἡφαίστου, being considered sacred to Vulcan on account of the volcanic phenomena which it exhibited. For the same reason it was called by the Romans VULCANI INSULA, from whence its modern appellation of Vulcano. It is the southernmost of the whole group, and is distant only 12 G. miles from Capo Calavá, the nearest point on the coast of Sicily.


STRONGYLE (Στρογγύλη, now Stromboli), so called from its general roundness of form (Strab. l.c.; Lucil. Aetna, 431): the northernmost of the islands, and like Hiera an active volcano.


DIDYME (Διδύμη), now called Salina, or Isola delle Saline, is next to Lipara the largest of the whole group. Its ancient name was derived (as Strabo expressly tells us, vi. p. 276), from its form, which circumstance leaves no doubt of its being the same with the modern Salina, that island being conspicuous for two high conical mountains which rise to a height of 3,500 feet (Smyth's Sicily, p. 272; Ferrara, Campi Flegrei della Sicilia, p. 243; Daubeny, On Volcanoes, p. 262). Groskurd (ad Strab. l.c.), Mannert, and Forbiger, have erroneously identified Didyme with Panaria, and thus thrown the whole subject into confusion. It is distant only three miles NW. from Lipara.


PHOENICUSA (Φοινικοῦσσα, Strab. Φοινικώδης, Diod.), so called from the palms (Φοινῖκες) in which it abounded, is evidently Felicudi about 12 miles W. of Salina.


ERICUSA (Ἐρικοῦσσα or Ἐρικώδης), probably named from its abundance of heath (ἐρείκη), is the little island of Alicudi, the westernmost of the whole group. These two were both very small islands and were occupied only for pasturage.


EUONYMUS (Εὐώνυμος), which we are expressly told was the smallest of the seven and uninhabited. The other six being clearly identified, there can be no doubt that this is the island now called Panaria, which is situated between Lipara and Strongyle, though it does not accord with Strabo's description that it lies the farthest out to sea (πελαγία μάλιστα). But it agrees, better at least than any other, with his statement that it lay on the left hand as one sailed from Lipara towards Sicily, from whence he supposes it to have derived its name.

Several small islets adjacent to Panaria, are now called the Dattole, the largest of which Basiluzzo, is probably the HICESIA of Ptolemy (Ἱκεσία, Ptol. 3.4.16; Ἱκέσιον, Eustath. ad Hom. Odyss. 10.1), whose list, with the exception of this addition, corresponds with that; of Strabo. That of Me]a (2.7) is very confused and erroneous: he is certainly in error in including OSTEODES in the Aeolian group.

The volcanic character of these islands was early noticed by the Greeks: and Diodorus justly remarks (5.7) that they had all been evidently at one time vents of eruptive action, as appeared from their still extant craters, though in his time two only, Hiera and Strongyle, were active volcanoes. Strabo indeed (l.c. p. 275) appears to speak of volcanic eruptions in the island of Lipara itself, but his expressions, which are not very precise, may probably refer only to outbreaks of volcanic vapours and hot springs, such as are still found there. Earlier writers, as Thucydides and Scymnus Chins, allude to the eruptions of Hiera only, and these were probably in ancient times the most frequent and violent, as they appear to have attracted much more attention than those of Strongyle, which is now by far the most active of the two. Hence arose the idea that this was the abode of Vulcan, and the peculiar sounds that accompanied its internal agitations were attributed [p. 1.52]to the hammers and forges of the god and his workmen the Cyclopes. (Thuc. 3.88; Scymn. Ch. 257-261; Schol. ad Apoll. Rhod. 3.41; Verg. A. 8.418). According to Strabo there were three craters on this island, the largest of which was in a state of the most violent eruption. Polybius (ap. Strab. vi. p.276), who appears to have visited it himself, described the principal crater as five stadia in circumference, but diminishing gradually to a width of only fifty feet, and estimated its depth at a stadium. From this crater were vomited forth sometimes flames, at others red hot stones, cinders and ashes, which were carried to a great distance. No ancient writer mentions streams of lava (πινάκες) similar to those of Aetna. The intensity and character of these eruptions was said to vary very much according to the direction of the wind, and from these indications, as well as the gathering of mists and clouds around the summit, the inhabitants of the neighbouring island of Lipara professed to foretell the winds and weather, a circumstance which was believed to have given rise to the fable of Aeolus ruling the winds. The modern Lipariots still maintain the same pretension. (Strab. l.c.; Smyth's Sicily, p. 270.) At a later period Hiera seems to have abated much of its activity, and the younger Lucilius (a contemporary of Seneca) speaks of its fires as in a great measure cooled. (Lucil. Aetn. 437.)

We hear much less from ancient authors of the volcanic phenomena of Strongyle than those of Hiera: but Diodorus describes them as of similar character, while Strabo tells us that the eruptions were less violent, but produced a more brilliant light. Pliny says nearly the same thing: and Mela speaks of both Hiera and Strongyle as “burning with perpetual fire.” Lucilius on the contrary (Aetna, 434) describes the latter as merely smoking, and occasionally kindled into a blaze, but for a short time. Diodorus tells us that the eruptions both of Hiera and Strongyle were observed for the most part to alternate with those of Aetna, on which account it was supposed by many that there was a subterranean communication between them.

Besides these ordinary volcanic phenomena, which appear to have been in ancient times (as they still are in the case of Stromboli) in almost constant operation, we find mention of several more remarkable and unusual outbursts. The earliest of these is the one recorded by Aristotle (Meteorol. 2.8), where he tells us that “in the island of Hiera the earth swelled up with a loud noise, and rose into the form of a considerable hillock, which at length burst and sent forth not only vapour, but hot cinders and ashes in such quantities that they covered the whole city of Lipara, and some of them were carried even to the coast of Italy.” The vent from which they issued (he adds) remained still visible: and this was probably one of the craters seen by Polybius. At a later period Posidonius described an eruption that took place in the sea between Hiera and Euonymus, which after producing a violent agitation of the waters, and destroying all the fish, continued to pour forth mud, fire and smoke for several days, and ended with giving rise to a small island of a rock like millstone (lava), on which the praetor T. Flamininus landed and offered sacrifices. (Posidon. ap. Strab. vi. p.277.) This event is mentioned by Posidonius as occurring within his own memory; and from the mention of Flamininus as praetor it is almost certain that it is the same circumstance recorded by Pliny (2.87) as occurring in Ol. 163. 3, or B.C. 126. The same phenomenon is less accurately described by Julius Obsequens (89) and Orosius (5.10), both of whom confirm the above date: but the last author narrates (4.20) at a. much earlier period (B.C. 186) the sudden emergence from the sea of an island, which he erroneously supposes to have been the Vulcani Insula itself: but which was probably no other than the rock now called Vulcanello, situated at the NE. extremity of Vulcano, and united to that island only by a narrow isthmus formed of volcanic sand and ashes. It still emits smoke and vapour and contains two small craters.1

None of the Aeolian islands, except Lipara, appear to have been inhabited in ancient times to any extent. Thucydides expressly tells us (3.88) that in his day Lipara alone was inhabited, and the other islands, Strongyle, Didyme, and Hiera, were cultivated by the Liparaeans; and this statement is confirmed by Diodorus (5.9). Strabo however speaks of Euonymus as uninhabited in a manner that seems to imply that the larger islands were not so: and the remains of ancient. buildings which have been found not only on Salina and Stromboli, but even on the little rock of Basiluzzo, prove that they were resorted to by the Romans, probably for the sake of medical baths, for which the volcanic vapours afforded every facility. Hiera on the contrary apparently remained always uninhabited, as it does at the present day. But the excellence of its port (Lucil. Aetn. 442) rendered it of importance as a naval station, and we find both Hiera and Strongyle occupied by the fleet of Augustus during the war with Sex. Pompeius in B.C. 36. (Appian. B.C. 5.105.) All the islands suffered great disadvantage, as they still do, from the want of water, consequent on the light and porous nature of the volcanic soil. (Thuc. 3.88; Smyth's Sicily, p. 249.) But though little adapted for agriculture they possessed great resources in their stores of alum, sulphur, and pumice, which were derived both from Hiera and Strongyle, and exported in large quantities. The sea also abounded in fish; and produced coral of the finest quality. (Plin. Nat. 32.2.11, 35.15. § § 50, 52, 36.21.42; Lucil. Aetn. 432.)

It is scarcely necessary to inquire which of the Aeolian islands has the most claim to be considered as the residence of Aeolus himself. Homer certainly speaks only of one island, and is followed in this respect by Virgil. But the “floating island” of the elder poet, “girt all around with a wall of brass,” is scarcely susceptible of any precise geographical determination. The common tradition among the later Greeks seems to have chosen the island of Lipara itself as the dwelling of Aeolus, and the explanation of the fable above alluded to is evidently adapted to this assumption. But Strabo and Pliny both place the abode of the ruler of the winds in Strongyle, and the latter transfers to that island what others related of Hiera. Ptolemy on the contrary, by a strange confusion, mentions the island of Aeolus (Αἰόλου νῆδος, 3.4.17) as something altogether distinct from the Aeolian islands, which he had previously enumerated separately: while Eustathius (ad Hom. Odyss. 10.1) reckons it as one of the seven, omitting Euonymus to make room for it, though in another [p. 1.53]passage (ad Dionys. Per. 461) he follows Strabo's authority, and identifies it with Strongyle.

For an account of the present state of the Lipari Islands and their volcanic phenomena the reader may consult Smyth's Sicily, chap. vii. p. 274--278; Ferrara, Campi Flegrei della Sicilia, p. 199--252; Daubeny, On Volcanoes, ch. 14, pp. 245--263, 2nd edit. The history of the islands is almost wholly dependent on that of LIPARA, and will be found in that article. [E.H.B]

1 The same event appears to be more obscurely alluded to by Livy (39.56).

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