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Near to Centoripa is the town we have a little before mentioned, Ætna, which serves as a place for travellers about to ascend Mount Ætna, to halt and refresh themselves for the expedition. For here commences the region in which is situated the summit of the mountain. The districts above are barren and covered with ashes, which are surmounted by the snows in winter: all below it however is filled with woods and plantations of all kinds. It seems that the summits of the mountain take many changes by the ravages of the fire, which sometimes is brought together into one crater, and at another is divided; at one time again it heaves forth streams of lava, and at another flames and thick smoke: at other times again ejecting red-hot masses of fire-stone. In such violent commotions as these the subterraneous passages must necessarily undergo a corresponding change, and at times the orifices on the surface around be considerably increased. Some who have very recently ascended the mountain, reported1 to us, that they found at the top an even plain of about 20 stadia in circumference, enclosed by an overhanging ridge of ashes about the height of a wall, so that those who are desirous of proceeding further are obliged to leap down into the plain. They noticed in the midst of it a mound; it was ash-coloured, as was likewise the plain in appearance. Above the mound a column of cloud reared itself in a perpendicular line to the height of 200 stadia, and remained motionless (there being no air stirring at the time); it resembled smoke. Two of the party resolutely attempted to proceed further across this plain, but, finding the sand very hot and sinking very deep in it, they turned back, without however being able to make any more particular observations, as to what we have described, than those who beheld from a greater distance. They were, however, of opinion, from the observations they were able to make, that much exaggeration pervades the accounts we have of the volcano, and especially the tale about Empedocles, that he leaped into the crater, and left as a vestige of his folly one of the brazen sandals which he wore, it being found outside at a short distance from the lip of the crater, with the appearance of having been cast up by the violence of the flame; for neither is the place approachable nor even visible, nor yet was it likely that any thing could be cast in thither, on account of the contrary current of the vapours and other matters cast up from the lower parts of the mountain, and also on account of the overpowering excess of heat, which would most likely meet any one long before approaching the mouth of the crater; and if eventually any thing should be cast down, it would be totally decomposed before it were cast up again, what manner of form so ever it might have had at first. And again, although it is not unreasonable to suppose that the force of the vapour and fire is occasionally slackened for want of a continual supply of fuel, still we are not to conclude that it is ever possible for a man to approach it in the presence of so great an opposing power. Ætna more especially commands the shore along the Strait and Catana, but it also overlooks the sea that washes Tyrrhenia and the Lipari Islands. By night a glowing light appears on its summit, but in the day-time it is enveloped with smoke and thick darkness.

1 The French translators infer from this passage that Strabo had never visited Sicily.

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