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celestial armour for Æneas, and gives a noble description of this gloomy habitation, * where he found the Cyclops busy forging a thunderbolt for Jupiter; the account of which is very
singular. † This island is now called Volcano,
at is recorded to have been produced by fire in the time of the republic. So that Virgil commits here a very great anachronism, in sending Vulcan to a place which at that time did not exist, nor for many ages after. But this bold poetical license he amply repays us for, by the fine description he gives of it. These islands, he says, were called Volcanian as well as Æolian :
* Amid the Hesperian and Sicilian food
All black with smoke, a rocky island stood,
† Beneath their hands, tremendous to survey!
Half rough, half formed, the dreadful engine lay.
• Volcani domus, et Volcania noinine tellus.'
So that the change of the name from Hiera to Volcano was a very natural one.
This is the island that Pliny calls Terasia ; and both Strabo and he gave an account of its productions.
19th. Found ourselves within half a mile of the coast of Sicily, which is low, but finely variegated. The opposite coast of Calabria is very high, and the mountains are covered with the finest verdure. It was almost a dead calm, our ship scarce moving half a mile in an hour, so that we had time to get a complete view of the famous rock of Scylla, on the Calabrian side, Cape Pylorus on the Sicilian, and the celebrated Straits of the Faro that runs between them. Whilst we were still some miles distant from the entry of the Straits, we heard the roaring of the current, like the noise of some large impetuous river confined between narrow banks. This increased in proportion as we advanced, till we saw the water in many places raised to a considerable height, and forming large eddies, or whirlpools. The sea in every other place was as smooth as glass. Our old pilot told us, that he had often seen ships caught in these eddies, and whirled about with
great rapidity, without obeying the helm in the smallest degree. When the weather is calm, there is little danger; but when the waves meet with this violent current, it makes a dreadful sea.
He says that there were five ships wrecked in this spot last winter. We observed that the current set exactly for the rock of Scylla, and would infallibly have carried any thing thrown into it against that point; so that it was not without reason the ancients have painted it as an object of such terror. It is about a mile from the entry of the Faro, and forms a small promontory, which runs a little out to sea, and meets the whole force of the waters, as they come out of the narrowest part of the Straits. The head of this promontory is the famous Scylla. It must be owned that it does not altogether come up to the formidable description that Homer gives of it; the reading of which (like that of Shakspeare's Cliff) almost makes one's head giddy. Neither is the passage so wonderous narrow and difficult as he makes it. Indeed it is probable that the breadth of it is greatly increased since his time by the violent impetuosity of the current. And this violence too must have always diminished, in
proportion as the breadth of the channel in. creased.
Our pilot says, there are many small rocks that shew their heads near the base of the large ones. These are probably the dogs that are described as howling round the monster Scylla. There are likewise many caverns that add greatly to the noise of the water, and tend still to increase the horror of the scene. The rock is near 200 feet high. There is a kind of castle or fort built on its summit; and the town of Scylla, or Sciglio, containing three or four hundred inhabitants, stands on its south side, and gives the title of prince to a Calabrese family.
As the current was directly against us, we were obliged to lie to, for some hours, till it turned. The motion of the water ceased for some time, but in a few minutes it began in the opposite direction, though not with such violence. We lay just opposite to Cape Pylorus, where the light-house is now built. It is said to have been thus named by Hannibal, in recompence to Pelorus, his pilot, for having put him to death on this spot, on a false suspicion of his wanting to betray him: for seeing himself landlocked on all sides, he thought there was no
escaping, and that Pelorus had been bribed to deliver him up; but as soon as he discovered the Straits, he repented of his rashness; and some years afterwards erected a statue here in atonement to the manes of Pelorus. Pomponius Mela tells this story ; from whence he draws two very wise inferences: That Hannibal must have been extremely passionate; and that he knew nothing at all of geography. Others deny this authority, and say it was named Pelorus from Ulysses' pilot, who was drowned near to this place; but there can be no sort of foundation for this conjecture; for Ulysses' whole crew were drowned at the same time, and he himself was driven through these Straits, mounted on the broken mast of his ship. It is like most disputes among antiquaries, a matter of mighty little consequence; and I leave you at full liberty to choose which of the two accounts you please.
From hence we had an opportunity of observing a pretty large portion of Calabria, which formerly constituted a considerable part of that celebrated country known by the name of Great Greece, and looked upon as one of the most fertile in the empire. These beautiful hills and mountains are covered with trees and