previous next


LI´PARA ( Λιπάρα: Eth. Λιπαραῖος, Eth. Liparensis: Lipari), the largest and most important of the group of the Aeolian islands, between the coast of Sicily and Italy. It had a town of the same name, and was the only one of the whole group which was inhabited, or at least that had any considerable population. Hence the other islands were always dependent on it, and were sometimes called in ancient times, as they habitually are at the present day, the Liparaean islands (αἱ Λιπαραίων νῆσοι, Strab. vi. p.275). Strabo correctly tells us that it was the largest of the seven, and the nearest to the coast of Sicily except Thermessa or Hiera (Vulcano). [p. 2.195]Both he and Pliny inform us that it was originally called Meligunis (Μελιγουνίς); a name that must probably be referred to the period before the Greek colony; although ancient writers affirm that it derived the name of Lipara from Liparus, a son of Auson, who reigned there before Aeolus, so that they must have referred the name of Meligunis to a purely fabulous age. (Plin. Nat. 3.9. s. 14; Diod. 5.7.) The name of Aeolus himself is inseparably connected with the Aeolian islands, and there can be no doubt that his abode was placed by the earliest mythological traditions in Lipara itself, though in later times this was frequently transferred to Strongyle. [AEOLIAE INSULAE, p. 52.]

In the historical period the first mention that we find of Lipara is the settlement there of a Greek colony. This is assigned by Diodorus to the 50th Olympiad (B.C. 580--577); and there seems no reason to doubt this date, though Eusebius (on what authority we know not) carries it back nearly 50 years, and places it as early as B.C. 627. (Diod. 5.9; Euseb. Arm. p. 107; Clinton, F. H. vol. i. pp. 208, 232.) The colonists were Dorians from Cnidus and Rhodes; but the former people predominated, and the leader of the colony, Pentathlus, was himself a Cnidian, so that the city was always reckoned a Cnidian colony. (Diod. l.c.; Paus. 10.11.3; Thuc. 3.88; Strab. vi. p.275; Seymn. Ch. 263.) According to some accounts Pentathlus did not himself live to reach Lipara, but the colony was founded by his sons. (Diod. l.c.) Of its history we know scarcely anything for more than a century and a half, but are told generally that it attained to considerable power and prosperity, and that the necessity of defending themselves against the Tyrrhenian pirates led the Liparaeans to establish a naval force, with which they ultimately obtained some brilliant victories over the Tyrrhenians, and commemorated these successes by costly offerings at Delphi. (Strab. l.c.; Diod. 5.9; Paus. 10.11.3, 16.7.) It appears, however, that the Liparaeans themselves were sometimes addicted to piracy, and on one occasion their corsairs intercepted a valuable offering that the Romans were sending to Delphi; but their chief magistrate, Timasitheus, immediately caused it to be restored and forwarded to its destination. (Diod. 14.93; Liv. 5.28; V. Max. 1.1.4.)

The territory of Lipara, though of small extent, was fertile, and produced abundance of fruit; but its more important resources were its mines of alum, arising from the volcanic nature of the soil, and the abundance of thermal sources proceeding from the same cause. The inhabitants of Lipara not only cultivated their own island, but the adjoining ones of Hiera, Strongyle, and Didyme as well; a proof that the population of Lipara itself must have been considerable. (Thuc. 3.88; Diod. 5.10; Paus. 10.11.4; Strab. vi. p.275.)

At the time of the first Athenian expedition to Sicily under Laches (B.C. 427) the Liparaeans were in alliance with the Syracusans, probably on account of their Dorian descent; for which reason they were attacked by the Athenian and Rhegian fleet, but with no serious result. (Thuc. 3.88; Diod. 12.54.) In B.C. 396 they again appear as in friendly relations with Syracuse, and were in consequence attacked by the Carthaginian general Himilco, who made himself master of the city and exacted a contribution of 30 talents from the inhabitants. (Diod. siv. 56.) It does not appear that the Carthaginians at this time retained possession of Lipara; and we subsequently find it in the enjoyment of independence in B.C. 304, when the island was suddenly attacked by Agathocles, in the midst of profound peace, and without even a pretext for the aggression. The invader carried off a booty of 50 talents, which was, however, lost on his voyage to Sicily in a storm, which was naturally attributed to the wrath of Aeolus. (Id. 20.101..) It could not have been long after this that Lipara fell under the yoke of Carthage, to which city it was subject at the outbreak of the First Punic War (B.C. 264), and from its excellent ports, and advantageous situation for commanding the N. coast of Sicily, became a favourite naval station with that people. (Id. 22.13, p. 500.) In the fifth year of the war (B.C. 260), the Roman consul, Cn. Cornelius, having been deceived with the hopes of making himself master of the island, was captured there, with his whole squadron (Pol. 1.21); and in B.C. 257, a battle was fought between the Carthaginian and Roman fleets in its immediate neighbourhood (Id. 25): but a few years later it was at length taken by the Romans, under C. Aurelius, and remained in their hands from this time, B.C. 251. (lb. 39; Diod. 23.20; Zonar. 8.14; Oros. 4.8; Frontin. Strat. 4.1.31.)

At the commencement of the Second Punic War a considerable Carthaginian squadron was wrecked on the shores of Lipara and the adjoining island of Vulcano (Liv. 21.49); but from this time we find no historical mention of it till the war between Octavian and Sextus Pompeius in Sicily, in B.C. 36, when Lipara and the adjoining islands once more appear as a naval station of importance. It was occupied and fortified by Pompeius, but taken by Agrippa, who afterwards established his fleets at the island of Vulcano, and from thence threatened the forces of Pompeius at Mylae and Messana. (Appian, App. BC 5.97, 105, 112 ; D. C. 49.1,7.) There seems no doubt that Lipara continued to enjoy considerable prosperity under the Roman government. Diodorus praises its fertility, as well as the excellence of its ports; and says that the Liparaeans derived a large revenue from the monopoly of the trade in alum. (Diod. 5.10.) Cicero, indeed, speaks of it in disparaging terms, as “parva civitas, in insula inculta tenuique posita” (Verr. 3.37); but this seems to be an oratorical exaggeration, and the immediate reference of the passage is to corn, for the growth of which Lipara could never have been well adapted. But though suffering severely from drought in summer (Thuc. 3.88), owing to the volcanic nature of the soil, the island is, nevertheless, one of considerable fertility, and at the present day produces abundance of fruit, wine, and oil. (Smyth's Sicily, p. 265; D'Orville, Sicula, p. 18.)

Under the Roman Empire Lipara was sometimes used as a place of exile for political offenders (D. C. 76.6); and before the fall of the Western Empire it became a favourite resort of monks. At an earlier period of the Empire it was frequented for its hot baths (Plin. Nat. 31.6. s. 32; Diod. 5.10), which are still in use at the present day, being supplied from thermal springs : some remains of ancient buildings, still visible, appear to have been connected with these establishments. A few fragments of walls may also be traced on the hill crowned by the modern castle; and many coins, fragments of sculpture, &c., have been discovered on the island. (Smyth's Sicily, p. 262.) [p. 2.196]

Strabo and some other ancient writers speak of volcanic phenomena as occurring on the island of Lipara itself (Strab. vi. p.275); but though it abounds in hot springs, and outbreaks of volcanic vapour, it does not appear probable that any volcanic eruptions on a larger scale have occurred there within the period of history. Those of the neighbouring island of Hiera (the VULCANI INSULA of the Romans, now Vulcano), from its proximity to Lipara, of which it was a mere dependency, are sometimes described as if they had occurred at Lipara itself. (Oros. 5.10; Jul. Obs. 89.) The volcanic phenomena of the Aeolian islands in general are more fully noticed under the article AEOLIAE INSULAE.



hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: