A Sicilian emblem
I’m a magpie: I can’t resist the charm of flashy and shiny objects. In particular if they are linked in some way to Sicily.
When the idea of living in Sicily was still just a dream for me, the possibility of being able to “wear Sicily” was a way to feel a little of its warmth, even on the darkest days.
One of the emblem I prefer to wear is undoubtedly the Trinacria, so unique and unmistakable, it is representative of this island.
Although it is a recognizable symbol, not everyone is aware of its origin. Now I’ll tell you a little about this special representation, so that, every time you will show it off, you can tell its story!
WHAT DOES THE TRINACRIA REPRESENTS? WHY IS IT CALLED “TRINACRIA”‘?
History and Origins of the symbol that represents Sicily
Like every icon, also the Trinacria has ancient origins that are lost in history of times, and probably it derives frome the oriental symbols depicting the Sun; the idea of circularity and movement to which the ancient spirals refer (which subsequently turned into legs representation), would refer to the apparent movement of the Sun.
In ancient representations, the Triskelion (the name of the ancient symbol), is represented in many different ways and over time, a progressive “humanization” of the emblem has been achieved attributing a female head and legs to it.
The female head, that appears in almost all the reproductions of the Trinacria, is that of a Gorgon (better known by the name of Medusa, one of the three sisters with a stone gaze). In addition to being a very popular representation in the ancient world, the choice of a Gorgon is also interesting because of the repetition of the number three within the representation (the three mythological sisters, daughter of divinities of the seas were: Medusa, Steno and Euriale).
I also find very interesting a Davide Maria Gabriele’s study in which he write about the possibility that, the decision to attribute legs to the Trinacria, may have derived from the Spartan’s custom of depicting a bent leg on the shields (symbol of strenght). Also in this study, Davide Maria Gabriele asserts that, the name Triskeles, derives from the greek Treis Akra, that means Three Capes. (At the end of the article, you will find all the links to the studies I mentioned. – they’re written in italian only – ).
With reference to this, one of the most supported hypotheses is that the three legs represents the three main promontories of the island: Pachino (now called Capo Passero), Lilibeo (now called Capo Boeo), and Peloro (now called Punta del Faro).
In addition to the Gorgon’s head and legs, in the representation of Trinacria are often present ear of wheat; in a study of coniage, Marco Vitale attributes to these symbols the function of representing the importance of Sicily as producer of wheat under in ancient roman times; this study also confirms that the legs can symbolize the different island’s city (in some coins, in fact, the legs are placed in different positions – for example under the chin of the Gorgon – depending on the geographical location to which it refers the coin).
Over the centuries, the Trinacria has become the most representative emblem of this island, so much that it is represented on the flag of the Sicilian Region, which flutters showing the charm of the history and myth that this land preserve.
Below, along with the bibliographical references, you can find some links to the studies I mentioned in the article in order to deepen the subject (all the articles are in italian).
- (Davide Maria Gabriele (2016), Dalla Trinacria alle Puglie: cartografia e mito nelle medaglie borboniche del XVIII e XIX sec., Quaderni di laMoneta.it, http://www.numismaticamente.it );
- (Solas Boncompagni (2006), Il mondo dei simboli. Numeri, lettere e figure geometriche, Edizioni Mediterranee);
- (Marco Vitale (2015), Rappresentazioni simboliche della Sicilia sulle monete greche e romane, ” Ormos. Ricerche di Storia Antica, 200-225);
- (A.Longo (1966), voce Triscele, Enciclopedia dell’arte antica, Treccani Online https://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/triscele_(Enciclopedia-dell’-Arte-Antica)).
- Link to Davide Maria Gabriele study: https://d1wqtxts1xzle7.cloudfront.net/53818089/DALLA_TRINACRIA_ALLE_PUGLIE.pdf?1499703189=&response-content-disposition=inline%3B+filename%3DDALLA_TRINACRIA_ALLE_PUGLIE_CARTOGRAFIA.pdf&Expires=1611056739&Signature=aKdEoo26TIFH12RodLh6IbZhzz1woBGZFmsf3HsnFzRoe2bTerM31uFqtXvglzd2SO0oW~O1QiY3QmepQVGsxfyQCIPLp-vPulBW7EBZtobV8KKnrOzntX1oY5tmuuWyqBRhzH0aN-IiAaiO-Bi-EUVOVIfuiBO~xLtzJf8gd3RkWtlVuX0SrgwwaSc7jF4o4gLiJ5pDnj7IxIezRCqhiJ2EFnYZV8QZr6B20je2SeiW3MWOEE5cLML3FNwY02-6U634fqglrEQnvL-8lBPhEJV9epeORdd27feYh6TgajmqhCbAtmZpqAWQ0c3n-Kp1~ljOWKrpUCLPOVWQcGR8Bg__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJLOHF5GGSLRBV4ZA
- Link to Solas Boncompagni book: https://books.google.it/books?id=nHE83Vm6DI8C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
- Link to Marco Vitale study: https://d1wqtxts1xzle7.cloudfront.net/40977234/9.Marco-Vitale-Hormos7_2015-1.pdf?1452058012=&response-content-disposition=inline%3B+filename%3DRappresentazioni_simboliche_della_Sicili.pdf&Expires=1611056913&Signature=YG6NWF7lAGxDSzsFXH~Dzx26jas0iKVnd~9xhXy-H9XALtdj~5x3OeCdlR2szsvXkKqBKUoBjcMKlLCmD-UizUmFZn51gBgddyF3j1CY43BKAer16VxEcnpux3NOPxnZDGlgayovDy4mPySdrjxfgYlxtSXTiKeJINlh27j7EJGt7DV433kjV80ZUqjbbA1YziTptZFt5tZMYkD87eEy6fmqjwQ0l6IF1cK4594srMyAn4aAK~xfadxAiUPk1MaFAE8DUqI4E-dBQz2hFGNkbqN1VnSdpM~-lHWk8cqXB6WTKShT95zlIRv9325yvZMbFjSN~pFUMRRlqkabz86eKg__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJLOHF5GGSLRBV4ZA