Cults Myths and Legends of Ancient Sicily
 Nymphs and river gods: Ciane


Ciane was the nymph companion of Persephone (the daughter of Demeter) who, in an attempt to oppose Pluto who wanted to kidnap Persephone, was transformed into a source: the current Ciane stream which is located in Syracuse, where even a temple would have been erected[1].

The link between the cult of Ciane and that of Persephone is also derived from the story of Diodorus[2] that, speaking of the journey of Heracles to Sicily, says that the hero placed one of his bulls, in the source of Ciane in Syracuse to sacrifice it to Persephone, ordering the inhabitants to make the same sacrifice every year in honor of Persephone and Ciane. It is probable that behind the sacrifice of the bull there was, in reality, the ancient memory of human sacrifices that took place at the source, as often happened in oriental cultures. This fact and the reference to the Phoenician Hercules would give an oriental imprint to the cult of Ciane.


The other version of the Ciane myth also has human sacrifice as its argument, seen as atonement for sins committed. It is said, in fact, that in Syracuse there lived a girl named Ciane, daughter of a certain Cianippo who one night, in a state of drunkenness, raped her daughter, thus staining herself with incest. The girl, during the violence, managed to tear off the ring that her father wore on his finger, allowing her, with great pain, to recognize the author of the rape the next day. In the meantime, having struck the plague on the city, the oracle of Apollo argued that to appease the epidemic a sacrifice was needed and the victim had to be guilty of incest. Ciane saw in this the sign of his destiny, he killed his father and then followed his fate by killing himself.


In Sicily Diodorus[3] speaks of a temple dedicated to Ciane with reference to the events that saw the tyrant Dionysus oppose the Carthaginians who were at the gates of Syracuse in 396 BC From excavations carried out in 1887 near the source of the river Ciane, on the hill Cozzo Scanderra, remains of a square building were found, probably to be identified with the sanctuary mentioned by Diodorus[4].

[1] Diodorus Siculus lib. XIV.72

[2] Diodorus Siculus lib. IV.23

[3] Diodorus Siculus lib. XIV.72

[4]Biagio Bace: Art and civilization of Ancient Sicily pag. 464 vol III. 



Cults Myths and Legends of Ancient Sicily by Ignazio Caloggero



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