Mt. Etna and Gangi
by Richard Gehlbach
Mt. Etna and Gangi
Photograph - Fine Art Photography
Numerous ethnic groups have influenced the history of Sicily. Sicily at times has been controlled by the Romans, Vandal and Ostrogoth, Byzantine and Islamic powers, but also experiencing important periods of independence, as under the Siceliotes of Greek origin and later as the autonomous Emirate then Kingdom of Sicily. Roger II, belonging to the Siculo-Norman family of Hauteville, founded the Kingdom in 1130.
Gangi's origins have been connected to the ancient Greek city of Engyon, or Herbita, but this theory remains unconfirmed. As the theory goes, Engyon was founded by Byzantines (Greeks 460-700AD) who came to Sicily. They were eventually stranded when their ships were burned during conflicts with the current occupants of Sicily. Never to return home they founded Engyon at the site where Gangi is now located. Although this theory remains unconfirmed, archaeological excavations under the Abbey of Gangivecchio in old Gangi confirm traces of a former Roman presence.
The current settlement Gangi dates to 1300, when it was rebuilt on the Monte Marone after its destruction in the course of the Sicilian Vespers War. In 1625 the Graffeo acquired Gangi and were made Princes of the settlement four years later. In 1677 the title went to the Valguarnera. In the 18th century Gangi was a flourishing cultural center, with several literary clubs and the construction of notable noble residences.
Later, after the unification of Italy, Gangi became the center for fierce suppression of brigands (criminal gangs) who lived in the area. In 1926 it was the location of one of the hardest repression of the Mafia in Italy, which was carried out by the local prefect Cesar Mori..
In 2014, the local administration under a dynamic mayor began disposing of abandoned houses with some being given away and others being sold for a nominal price. T he recipients had to agree to spend at least 35,000 Euros on restoration within five years. The giveaway was meant to stimulate tourism-related activities and diversify the local economy, which was primarily dependent on agriculture and animal husbandry. The scheme has proved a great success. Gangi is also a common Sicilian last name.
Mount Etna lies above the convergent plate margin between the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate. I t is the highest active volcano in Europe outside the Caucasus. It is currently 10,922 ft (3,329 m) high, though this varies with summit eruptions. It is the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps. Etna covers an area of 459 sq mi (1,190 km). This makes it by far the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy. It is about two and a half times the height of the next largest, Mount Vesuvius. Only Mount Tiede in Tenerife (owned by Spain) surpasses it in the whole of the European–North-African region west of the Black Sea. In Greek Mythology, Zeus, the god of the sky, thunder, and king of gods, trapped the deadly monster Typhon under this mountain.
Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity. The fertile volcanic soils support extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain and the broad Plain of Catania to the south. Due to its history of recent activity and nearby population, Mount Etna has been designated a Decade Volcano by the United Nations. In June 2013, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Mount Etna has been active for 500,000 years when the first eruption is known to have occurred until it’s latest eruption in 2015. Despite the constant activity, Etna is known as a “friendly volcano” because it is constantly expelling small amounts of steam and debris. This constant activity relieves pressure in the mountain and keeps it from becoming a more dangerous explosive volcano.
Etna’s eruptions have, for the most part, produced slow moving lava flows. The numerous eruptions in the past allowed local authorities to study how lava moves and develop plans that actually allow them to manage its course today. On the most recent eruptions they were able to develop dams that altered the course and kept the destructive lava from destroying villages. Overall they understand the lava is rich with minerals and good for agriculture. Etna produces the rich lava and now the people can direct it to locations away from settlements and into areas that in the future will assist with their agriculture.
This photograph is of Gangi with Mount Etna in the background. You can see how Gangi has spread from the small medieval town that occupies the top of the mountain, spreading downward to the more modern condos.
January 29th, 2018
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