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113 Vico Balio

Myth of Erice

Just as Adrano was the personification of Mount Etna, Erice is probably the personification of the homonymous mountain, now known as San Giuliano. The mountain, 751 meters high, overlooks the plain of Trapani and was often at the center of wars and events that took place in western Sicily. At its feet, since the Bronze Age, there was probably a town and the mountain, in popular imagination, was soon considered the protector of the town below, just as the hero Erice was probably considered. According to tradition, Erice faced Heracles in combat, and this reinforces the indigenous character of the hero who defends his land from the foreign invader.

According to tradition, Erice was the son of the goddess Aphrodite and Bute, an indigenous king and is credited with building the temple of Aphrodite on top of Mount Erice. However, it is necessary to make a distinction, as far as possible, between the cult of the hero and that of Aphrodite whose temple, also known as the temple of Venus Ericina, was also famous in Roman times.

Diodorus recounts that Erice fought against Heracles, who was passing through the region with his oxen. The fight between the two had been agreed in such a way that, if Erice had won, Heracles would have given up his oxen, if he had won Heracles, Erice would have given him his land. The winner was Heracles, who gave the conquered land to the inhabitants with the constraint that they would give it to anyone of his descendants who requested it. In fact, many generations later, the Lacedaemonian Dorieo, who proclaimed himself belonging to the Eraclidi family, organized an expedition to Sicily, arrogated to himself the right of possession of the lands near the mountain and founded a city which he gave the name of Eraclea, a city that it was later destroyed by the Punics.

Ciaceri says that, according to popular tradition, in 1342, while digging at the foot of Mount Erice, a corpse of enormous size was found, which as soon as it came to light shattered, becoming dust. It, in the opinion of most, was attributed to the body of the hero Erice.

Detailed information and bibliographic information on our page taken from the study of Ignazio Caloggero (Cults and Myths of Ancient Sicily): 

Erice

Places indicated in the IWB register of the Sicily Region (Places of Identity and Memory) - Sector "Places of gods and minor divinities:

  • Erice (province of Trapani)

Visit Sicilian Intangible Cultural Heritage database  to learn about other intangible assets

Visit Data Maps Heritage: Set of databases of the Sicilian Cultural Heritage to know other databases (nature, baroque, archeology, material assets and much more)

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