The history of the port of Messina

porto messinaWhen examining the history of Messina (as well as Reggio) we find that is was once a thriving Greek city, long before it was taken by the Romans. Previously, the city was known as the Roman Messana, and before that as the Greek Zancle (Zànkles). According to a precise report on the history of the Sicilian metropolis, Messina was said to have been founded by the Greeks. A myth however, tells us that the city was born and developed long before the arrival of the Hellenes.

The fulcrum of the myth is the extremely famous port of Messina, then in the shape of a sickle (a farming tool with a semi-circular blade). As per the story, Cronos, the father of Zeus and husband of Gaia (rules the sky, cielo) wanted leadership of the sky. Cronos was jealous and wanted to defeat his son and take the throne, so he attempted to kill him with a sickle. Failing, and angering Zeus, he threw the sickle from the sky, hitting the strait and forming the sickle shaped port of Messina. Later, Zancle (founder of Messina, from which the city took its name according to myth and legend) commissioned the port to be adjusted so as to serve water craft and the city in a more useful fashion. He also commissioned a temple in Capo Pelaro, and better construction of the city itself. He dedicated his work to Orion, and for this we find the famous fountain of Orion in Messina’s Cathedral Square.

However, analysing the name Zancle and considering its original meaning, we must move away from myth and come to realise that the name is not of Greek origin, but indeed indigenous Sicilian. The Sicani, people of ancient Trapani originally occupied Sicily and Zancle was a word from their ancient language meaning scythe.

Once again, another important area of our Strait is rich with mythical history. The port today is a hot spot for cruise ships and ship repairs, and a major tourism and commercial centre.