21 Jul 2012

The Pagan Sites of Europe Remembered (18): The Temple of Adranus, Adrano, Sicily

Adranus was a fire god of the Sicels, the original inhabitants of Sicily at the time when the island was colonized by the Greeks and Carthaginians. He was associated with the great volcano of Mount Etna, and had a temple on the West side of the volcano in the interior of the island at what is now the modern town of Adrano. His cult was popular throughout Sicily.

He also seems to have been a war god, and, according to the third-century Roman writer Claudius Aelianus, the temple of Adranus was guarded by a thousand dogs.

Around 400BC the Syracusan tyrant Dionysius the Elder built a fortified town around the temple to extend his power in the interior of the island. The town was named after the god and still retains that name. The modern town now occupies a site centered slightly towards the North East of the ancient site. Based on archaeological remains and the Christian practice of constructing churches on pagan sites, the church of San Francesco is the most probable location of the ancient temple, and should therefore be de-Christianized as soon as political authority has been secured.

The temple was at its most influential in the mid 4th century BC, when the town served as the centre of the campaign led by the Corinthian general Timoleon to liberate Sicily from tyrants and the Carthaginians.

In his life of Timoleon, Plutarch mentions a remarkable stroke of good fortune that benefited Timoleon when two secret assassins were sent to the town to murder him.
"That general who never kept any regular guards about him, lived then with the Adranites without any sort of precaution or suspicion, by reason of his confidence in their tutelary god. The assassins being informed that he was going to sacrifice, went into the temple with their poniards under their clothes and mixing with those that stood around the altar, got nearer to him by little and little. They were just going to give each other the signal to begin, when somebody struck one of them on the head with his sword, and laid him at his feet."
The man who thus saved Timoleon had no knowledge that the two assassins were there to assassinate him, but had merely acted out of motive of personal vengeance, recognizing one of the assassins as the man who had killed his own father.

The highly fortuitous nature of this event convinced the Sicilians that Timoleon was a sacred person sent by the gods to avenge and deliver them from their tyrants and greatly added to his popular support and ultimate success in restoring true democracy and local autonomy to the towns and cities of Sicily.

1 comment:

  1. Gongrats for you work! I ever read this blog, is wonderful. Hugs!