Geographical sites:

  • Monte Epomeus (click here to focus in map)


Text #1864

Strabo. Geography. Series: Geography. Vol. 2
[Strab. 5.4.9. Translated by Horace Leonard Jones and John Robert Sitlington. William Heinemann; G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1967. (8 Vols.) pp. 455--459]

The island of Prochyta (Procida) lies off Cape Misenum, and it is a fragment broken off of Pithecussae. Pithecussae was once settled by Eretrians and also Chalcidians, who, although they had prospered there on account of the fruitfulness of the soil and on account of the gold mines, forsook the island as the result of a quarrel; later on they were also driven out of the island by earthquakes, and by eruptions of fire, sea, and hot waters; for the island has “fistulas” of this sort, and it was these that caused also the people sent thither by Hiero,1 the tyrant of Syracuse to forsake the island and the fortress they had erected there; and then the Neapolitans came over and took possession.

Hence, also, the myth according to which Typhon lies beneath this island, and when he turns his body the flames and the waters, and sometimes even small islands containing boiling water, spout forth. But what Pindar says is more plausible, since he starts with the actual phenomena; for this whole channel, beginning at the Cumaean country and extending as far as Sicily, is full of fire, and has caverns deep down in the earth that form a single whole, connecting not only with one another but also with the mainland; and therefore, not only Aetna clearly has such a character as it is reported by all to have, but also the Lipari Islands, and the districts round about Dicaearchia, Neapolis, and Baiae, and the island of Pithecussae. This, I say, is Pindar’s thought when he says that Typhon lies beneath the whole region: “Now, however, both Sicily and the sea-fenced cliffs beyond Cumae press hard upon his shaggy breast.”

And Timaeus says, concerning Pithecusae, that many marvelous stories are told by the ancients, and that a little before his own time the crest of Epopeus, in the centre of the island, on being shaken by earthquakes, cast forth fire and shoved the part between it and the sea back to the open sea; and the part of the land that had been burned to ashes, on being lifted high in the air, crashed down again upon the island like a whirlwind; and the sea retreated for three stadia, but not long after retreating turned back and with its reverse current deluged the island; and, consequently, the fire in the island was quenched, but the noise was such that the people on the mainland fled from the coast into Campania.

  1. It appears that Hiero I of Syracuse (478-467 BC) is here alluded to.

Text #1865

"Volcanological History of Ischia Island"


The peak is now Monte Epomeo and Pliny refers to it as Mount Epopos.

Mount Epomeo (Italian: Monte Epomeo) is the highest mountain on the volcanic island of Ischia, in the Gulf of Naples, Italy. Epomeo is believed to be a volcanic horst, reaching a height of 789 metres (2,589 ft). (A horst is the raised fault block bounded by normal faults. A horst is formed from extension of the Earth’s crust. The raised block is a portion of the crust that generally remains stationary or is uplifted while the land has dropped on either side.

Strabo records that Timaeus quite clearly says that Mount Epopos disaster occurred not too long before his own time. (Possibly 474-470 BC, see below.)1

Scientific discussion:

Mount Epomeo is interpreted as an entire raised block (volcanic horst). The uplift is dated between 33000 and 28000 years ago, and was possibly due to the intrusion of magma at shallow depth. The pressure increase caused the formation of fractures representing the sliding planes along which the block was raised. The uplifting block was tilted to the south as a result of a differential movement, and, as a consequence, the northern side was raised more than the southern side. On the northern side there are several fractures feeding the thermal springs of Casamicciola and La Rita and a lineament of fumaroles along a fracture cutting Monte Cito. The southern part of Epomeo was raised less and was more affected by a sequence of landslide and mudflows occurring along the inclined surface of the block.

The natural history of Ischia island has been characterized, since long time, by natural catastrophes caused by eruptions and earthquakes. A pre-historical site of iron-age is buried under the ashes of an eruption occurred in the area between Ischia Porto and Casamicciola. The first greek colony of southern Italy (called Pithecusa) was settled in Ischia in the VIII century BC. The greek colonists arrived around 770 BC from Eubea and settled on the Promontory of Mount Vico at the north-western side of the island. Earthquakes and eruptions compelled the colonists to leave the island and settle on the coast of Campania where they founded the colony of Cuma which caused the economic decline of the island. Around 600 BC, the eruption of Monte Rotaro caused the final decline of the colony in Ischia. In 476 BC the island is occupied by the Syracusans, which were driven off the island by a new eruption occurred between 474 and 470 BC. This eruption possibly occured where now is sited the Porto d’Ischia. After some time the island was occupied again by colonists coming from Naples (possibly the same that left the island before).

Volcanic activity occurred also during roman time. There are evidences of an eruption occurred in 91 BC and another one during the emperorship of Augustus who gave back the island to the neapolitans and got in change Capri! There are other evidences of eruptions under the emperors Titus, Antoninus and Diocletian.

The last eruption occurred in 1302 when a vent opened in the area of Flaiano and emitted a lava flow which lasted for two months. The lava flow is between 500 and 100 m wide and is presently called Arso (once it was called “Le Cremate”). It reached the beach between Porto d’Ischia and Ischia Ponte and destroyed the old village of Geronda. The eruption caused much panic and compelled the escape of many people to the nearby islands and continental coast. Since then, the only volcanic activity are the fumarolic emissions all over the island.

Numerous detructive earthquakes occurred on the Island. In the last period we recall those of 1881 and 1883. The quake of 1881 was felt for 7 seconds and had an highr intensity in the territory of Casamicciola. There were 129 casualties (124 in Casamicciola and 5 in Lacco Ameno). The wounded were 100 in Casamicciola. 290 buildings were destroyed in Casamicciola and 159 were damaged. In Lacco Ameno there was the destruction of 194 buildings (among these the church of S.Giuseppe al Fango). Also most of the buildings of Forio were damaged.

The earthquake of 28 July 1883 was felt for 16 seconds and was localyzed in Casamicciola where there were 1784 casualties over 4300 inhabitants. 448 people were wounded. Of the 672 buildings of the village, 572 collapsed and 134 were damaged. In Lacco Ameno there were 146 dead and 93 wounded over 1800 inhabitants. 269 buildings collapsed and 102 were damaged out of 389. The church of Santa maria del Rosario was destroyed. In Forio there were 345 casualties and 190 wounded , out of 6800 inhabitants.1344 buildings were destroyed and 977 damaged out of a total 2713. The church of S. Sebastiano also was destroyed. At Serrara-Fontana there were 28 dead and 21 wounded . At Barano there were 10 dead and 10 wounded. At Ischia the quake was barely felt and a few buildings were damaged. The quake caused a total of 2313 casualties.

  1. Timaeus of Tauromenium (350–260 BC) wrote the authoritative work on the Greeks in the Western Mediterranean and was important through his research into chronology and his influence on Roman historiography. Like almost all the Hellenistic historians, however, his work survives only in fragments. For Timaeus, much of our evidence is preserved in the polemical context of Polybius’ Book 12.

Text #9076

Pliny. Natural History. Series: Natural History. Vol. 1
[Plin. Nat. 2. Translated by H. Rackham. Harvard University Press. 1967. (10 Vols.) p. 335]

Before our time also among the Aeolian Islands near Italy, as well as near Crete, there emerged from the sea one island 2500 paces long, with hot springs, and another in the 3rd year of Olympiad 163 in the Bay of Tuscany, this one burning with a violent blast of air; and it is recorded that a great quantity of fish were floating round it, and that people who ate of them immediately expired. So also the Monkey Islands are said to have risen in the bay of Campania, and later one among them, Mount Epopos, is said to have suddenly shot up a great flame and then to have been levelled with the surface of the plain. In the same plain also a town was sucked down into the depths, and another earthquake caused a swamp to emerge, and another overturned mountains and threw up the island of Procida.

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