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Myth of Aci and the Nereid Galatea

The myth of Galatea is linked to that of the river god Aci. Galatea is a sea nymph, and precisely a Nereid, that is, one of the daughters of the ancient god of the sea Nereus, a deity even older than Poseidon. Aci, on the other hand, before being considered a river divinity, is considered a Sicilian shepherd, albeit with divine descent, being the son of the god Pan and the nymph Simeto, personification, this, of the Simeto river that flows near Catania. Galatea and Aci love each other but are opposed by the giant Polyphemus, in turn in love with Galatea. One day, while Galatea and Aci were resting together, Polyphemus, blinded by jealousy, takes a large rock and throws it against the two. But, before the rock hits Aci, Galatea transforms it into a river, and that's how Aci becomes the god of the river that flows at the foot of Etna.

Polyphemus throws a boulder against Aci, detail of the fresco "History of Aci, Galatea and Polyphemus" by Annibale Carracci (1597 -1600)

 

A certain similarity with the legend of Galatea and Aci can be found in the popular legend "Lu marinaru of Capu Fetu”[1] where it is said that two lovers (a friend and a wife) die crushed by a rock dropped by St. John. Anyone passing by the boulder will feel a strong stench as a reminder of the tremendous punishment suffered by the lovers. Obviously, in the legend, St. John, does not kill out of jealousy but to punish the two lovers traitors of the sacred bond of the comparator.

Antoine Jean Gros - Aci and Galatea (1833)

[1] S. Salomone Marino: Sicilian folk legends. N ° XV, page 74.

 

Places indicated in the IWB register of the Sicily Region (Places of Identity and Memory) - Sector “Places of metamorphosis:

  • Lachea Island (Aci Trezza, province of Catania)
  • Grotta delle Colombe (S. Maria La Scala, Acireale. Province of Catania
  • Spring of Capo Molini (Acireale, province of Catania)
  • Mouth of the Aci River (Port of S. Maria La Scala, Acireale, province of Catania)

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