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ENNA or HENNA (Ἔννα, Steph. B. sub voce Pol,, Diod., &c., but in Livy, Cicero, and most Latin authors HENNA: Eth. Ἐνναῖος, Eth. Ennensis or Eth. Hennensis: [p. 1.828]Castro Giovanni), an ancient and important city of Sicily, situated as nearly as possible in the centre of the island; whence Cicero calls it “mediterranea maxime” (Verr. 3.83), and tells us that it was within a day's journey of the nearest point on all the three coasts. Hence the sacred grove of Proserpine, in its immediate neighbourhood, was often called the “umbilicus Siciliae.” (Cic. Ver. 4.48; Callim. H. in Cer. 15.) The peculiar situation of Enna is described by several ancient authors, and is indeed one of the most remarkable in Sicily. Placed on the level summit of a gigantic hill, so lofty as almost to deserve to be called a mountain, and surrounded on all sides with precipitous cliffs almost wholly inaccessible, except in a very few spots which are easily defended, abundantly supplied with water which gushes from the face of the rocks on all sides, and having a fine plain or table land of about 3 miles in circumference on the summit, it forms one of the most remarkable natural fortresses in the world. (Liv. 24.37; Cic. Ver. 4.48; Strab. vi. p.272.) Stephanus of Byzantium tells us (s. v. Ἔννα), but without citing his authority, that Enna was a colony of Syracuse, founded 80 years after the settlement of the parent city (B.C. 654): but the silence of Thucydides, where he mentions the other colonies of Syracuse founded about this period (6.2.), tells strongly against this statement. It is improbable also that the Syracusans should have established a colony so far inland at so early a period, and it is certain that when Enna first figures in history, it appears as a Siculian and not as a Greek city. Dionysius of Syracuse seems to have fully appreciated its importance, and repeatedly attempted to make himself master of the place; at first by aiding and encouraging Aeimnestus, a citizen of Enna, to seize on the sovereign power, and afterwards, failing in his object by this means, turning against him and assisting the Ennaeans to get rid of their despot. (Diod. 14.14.) He did not however at this time accomplish his purpose, and it was not till a later period that, after repeated expeditions against the neighbouring Sicilian cities, Enna also was betrayed into his hands. (Id. 14.78.) In the time of Agathocles we find Enna for a time subject to that tyrant, but when the Agrigentines under Xenodicus began to proclaim the restoration of the other cities of Sicily to freedom, the Ennaeans were the first to join their standard, and opened their gates to Xenodicus, B.C. 309. (Id. 20.31.) In the First Punic War Enna is repeatedly mentioned; it was taken first by the Carthaginians under Hamilcar, and subsequently recaptured by the Romans, but in both instances by treachery and not by force. (Diod. 23.9. p. 503; Pol. 1.24.) In the Second Punic War, while Marcellus was engaged in the siege of Syracuse B.C. 214, Enna became the scene of a fearful massacre. The defection of several Sicilian towns from Rome had alarmed Pinarius the governor of Enna, lest the citizens of that place should follow their example; and in order to forestal the apprehended treachery, he with the Roman garrison fell upon the citizens when assembled in the theatre, and put them all to the sword without distinction, after which he gave up the city to be plundered by his soldiers. (Liv. 24.37-39.) Eighty years later Enna again became conspicuous as the head-quarters of the great Servile War in Sicily (B.C. 134--132), which first broke out there under the lead of Eunus, who made himself master in the first instance of Enna, which from its central position and great natural strength became the centre of his operations, and the receptacle, of the plunder of Sicily. It was the last place that held out against the proconsul Rupilius, and was at length betrayed into his hands, its impregnable strength having defied all his efforts. (Diod. xxxiv., Exc. Phot. pp. 526--529, Exc. Vales, pp. 599, 600; Flor. 3.19.8; Oros. 5.9.; Strab. vi. p.272.) Strabo tells us (l.c.) that it suffered severely upon this occasion (which, indeed, could scarcely be otherwise), and regards this period as the commencement of its subsequent decline. Cicero, however, notices it repeatedly in a manner which seems to imply that it was still a flourishing municipal town: it had a fertile territory, well-adapted for the growth of corn, and diligently cultivated, till it was rendered almost desolate by the exactions of Verres. (Cic. Ver. 3.18, 42, 83.) From this time we hear little of Enna: Strabo speaks of it as still inhabited, though by a small population, in his time: and the name appears in Pliny among the municipal towns of Sicily, as well as in Ptolemy and the Itineraries. (Strab. l.c.; Plin. Nat. 3.8. s. 14; Ptol. 3.4.14; Itin. Ant. p. 93; Tab. Pent.) Its great natural advantages, as well as its central position, must have secured it in all times from complete decay, and it seems to have continued to exist throughout the middle ages. Its modern name of Castro Giovanni seems to be merely an Italianised form of Castro Janni, the name by which it is known in the native dialect of Sicily, and this is probably only a corruption of the name of Castrum Ennae or Castro di Enna.

The neighbourhood of Enna is celebrated in mythological story as the place from whence Proserpine was carried off by Pluto. (Ovid, Ov. Met. 5.385-408; Claudian, de Rapt. Proserp. ii.; Diod. 5.3.) The exact spot assigned by local tradition as the scene of this event was a small lake surrounded by lofty and precipitous hills, about 5 miles from Enna, the meadows on the banks of which abounded in flowers, while a cavern or grotto hard by was shown as that from which the infernal king suddenly emerged. This lake is called Pergus by Ovid (Ov. Met. 5.386) and Claudian (l.c. 2.112), but it is remarkable that neither Cicero nor Diodorus speaks of any lake in particular as the scene of the occurrence: the former however says, that around Enna were “lacus lucique plurimi, et laetissimi flores omni tempore anni.” (Verr. 4.48.) Diodorus, on the contrary, describes the spot from whence Proserpine was carried off as a meadow abounding in flowers, especially odoriferous ones, to such a degree that it was impossible for hounds to follow their prey by the scent across this tract: he speaks of it as enclosed on all sides by steep cliffs, and having groves and marshes in the neighbourhood, but makes no mention of a lake (5.3). The cavern however is alluded to by him as well as by Cicero, and would seem to point to a definite locality. At the present day there still remains a small lake in a basin-shaped hollow surrounded by great hills, and a cavern near it is still pointed out as that described by Cicero and Diodorus, but the flowers have in great measure disappeared, as well as the groves and woods which formerly surrounded the spot, and the scene is described by modern travellers as bare and desolate. (Hoare's Classical Tour, vol. ii. p. 252; Parthey, Wanderungen d. Sicilien, p. 135; Marquis of Ormonde, Autumn in Sicily, p. 106, who has given a view of the lake.)

The connection of this myth with Enna naturally [p. 1.829]led to (if it did not rather arise from) the peculiar worship of the two goddesses Ceres and Proserpine in that city: and we learn from Cicero that there was a temple of Ceres of such great antiquity and sanctity that the Sicilians repaired thither with a feeling of religious awe, as if it was the goddess herself rather than her sanctuary that they were about to visit. Yet this did not preserve it from the sacrilegious hands of Verres, who carried off from thence a bronze image of the deity herself, the most ancient as well as the most venerated in Sicily. (Cic. Ver. 4.48) No remains of this temple are now visible: according to Fazello it stood on the brink of the precipice, and has been wholly carried away by. the falling down of great masses of rock from the edge of the cliff. (Fazell. 10.2. p. 444; M. of Ormonde, p. 92.) Nor are there any other vestiges of antiquity still remaining at Castro Giovanni: they were probably destroyed by the Saracens, who erected the castle and several other of the most prominent buildings of the modern city. (Hoare, l.c. p. 249.) There exist coins of Enna under the Roman dominion, with the legend MUN. (Municipium) HENNA thus confirming the authority of Cicero, all the best MSS. of which have the aspirated form of the name. (Zumpt, ad Verr. p. 392.) The most ancient Greek coin of the city also gives the name ΗΕΝΝΑΙΟΝ (Eckhel, vol. i. p. 206): there is therefore little doubt that this form is the more correct, though Enna is the more usual.



hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.14
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 5.385
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 5.386
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 5.408
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 37
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 39
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.3
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.4
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