Punta del Faro

Historical significance

As the ancient Pelorus, Punta del Faro is one of the most celebrated promontories of Sicily, forming the northeastern extremity of the whole island, and one of the three promontories which were considered to give to it the triangular form from which it derived the name of "Trinacria". It was at the same time the point which projected furthest towards the opposite coast of Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

; so that the narrowest part of the Sicilian straits was that which lay between Cape Pelorus and the coast adjoining the headland of Caenys (It. Cenide, modern Punta del Pezzo) on the coast of Bruttium (modern Calabria
Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

). A strange story is told by some Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 writers that it derived its ancient name from the pilot of Hannibal, who was put to death by that general from a suspicion of treachery; thus overlooking the fact that it was known by that name to the Greeks
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 for centuries before the time of Hannibal. The actual headland of Pelorus, now called the Capo del Faro, is a low, sandy point; but about 3 km from its extremity there begins a ridge of hills which quickly rises into a range of mountains, of no great elevation, but steep and strongly marked. These continue in an unbroken range at the back of Messina, near which they attain a height of about 1000 m, and flank the east coast of the island as far as the neighborhood of Taormina
Taormina is a comune and small town on the east coast of the island of Sicily, Italy, in the Province of Messina, about midway between Messina and Catania. Taormina has been a very popular tourist destination since the 19th century...

, where they turn abruptly to the west and stretch across in that direction without any real interruption, till they join the more lofty group of the Monte Madonia. It is to this range of mountains that the name of "Mons Neptunius" is applied by Solinus, and which that author describes as separating the Tyrrhenian
Tyrrhenian Sea
The Tyrrhenian Sea is part of the Mediterranean Sea off the western coast of Italy.-Geography:The sea is bounded by Corsica and Sardinia , Tuscany, Lazio, Campania, Basilicata and Calabria and Sicily ....

 and Adriatic
Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula, and the system of the Apennine Mountains from that of the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges...

 (i. e. Sicilian) seas. But there is no real geographical line of separation between these mountains and those further west, which were known to the ancients as the "Mons Nebrodes".

The headland of Pelorus may thus be looked upon as the extremity of a great mountain promontory, formed by the range of the Mons Neptunius, and extending from the neighbourhood of Messina to that of Milazzo
Milazzo is a town and comune in the province of Messina, Sicily, Italy.The city is situated between two bays, one of Milazzo and the east to the west of Patti, in a strategic place in the north-eastern Sicily.Located 43 km from the provincial capital, is part of the metropolitan area of the Strait...

 (ancient Mylae), or, in a still wider sense, from Taormina (ancient Tauromenium) on the east coast to Tindari
Tindari, anciently Tyndaris or Tyndarion is a small city in the comune of Patti, in the Province of Messina in Sicily, between Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto and Cefalù....

 (ancient Tyndaris) on the north. Diodorus calls it 100 stadia from the promontory to Messana, and the distance is still commonly reckoned near 20 km, though it does not really exceed 13 km. (Diod. xiv. 56.)

From its proximity to Messana and its position commanding the passage of the straits, Pelorus was an important naval station, and as such its name is frequently mentioned in history. Thus, in 425 BCE
425 BC
Year 425 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Tribunate of Atratinus, Medullinus, Cincinnatus and Barbatus...

, when the Athenian fleet under Laches
Laches (person)
Laches was an Athenian aristocrat and general during the Peloponnesian War. His date of birth is unknown, but Plato asserts, not implausibly, that he was distinctly older than Socrates, who was born around 470 BC.In 427 BCE, Laches and Charoeades were sent to Sicily with a fleet of 20 ships in...

 was established at Rhegium (modern Reggio di Calabria), the Syracusans
Syracuse, Italy
Syracuse is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in...

 and their allies took post with their fleet at Pelorus, where they were supported also by a land force. In 396 BCE
396 BC
Year 396 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Tribunate of Saccus, Capitolinus, Esquilinus, Augurinus, Capitolinus and Priscus...

 the Carthaginian
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 general Himilco took post at Pelorus with his fleet and army, and, when the Messanians sallied out to attack him, by taking advantage of a north wind, sent his fleet down suddenly to Messana, which was surprised and taken before the troops could return to its defence. Again, during the siege of Messana by the Carthaginians: at the commencement of the First Punic War
First Punic War
The First Punic War was the first of three wars fought between Ancient Carthage and the Roman Republic. For 23 years, the two powers struggled for supremacy in the western Mediterranean Sea, primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters but also to a lesser extent in...

; it was at Pelorus that their fleet was stationed, with the view both of threatening the city and preventing the Romans from crossing the straits. And at a later period, during the contest between Octavian and Sextus Pompey in the neighborhood of Messana, the headland of Pelorus once more became an important post, being one of the points sedulously guarded by Pompey in order to prevent his adversary from effecting a landing.

The actual promontory of Pelorus, as already mentioned, is a low spit or point of sand, about 3 km in length, which has evidently been thrown up by the currents, which flow with great rapidity through the straits. A tradition, reported by Diodorus, but as ancient as the time of Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

, represented it as an artificial work constructed by the giant Orion
Orion (mythology)
Orion was a giant huntsman in Greek mythology whom Zeus placed among the stars as the constellation of Orion....

. Within this sandy point, between the beach and the hills, are enclosed two small lakes or pools which are famous for producing the best eels and cockles in Sicily, a reputation they already enjoyed in ancient times, as the cockles of Pelorus are repeatedly noticed by Athenaeus
Athenaeus , of Naucratis in Egypt, Greek rhetorician and grammarian, flourished about the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd century AD...

; and Solinus, who mentions the lakes in question, speaks of them as abounding in fish. There appear to have been three of them in his day, but the marvels which he relates of one of them are purely fabulous. A temple of Neptune
Neptune (mythology)
Neptune was the god of water and the sea in Roman mythology and religion. He is analogous with, but not identical to, the Greek god Poseidon. In the Greek-influenced tradition, Neptune was the brother of Jupiter and Pluto, each of them presiding over one of the three realms of the universe,...

 stood in ancient times upon the promontory, as well as a lighthouse
A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire, and used as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways....

 or Pharos, the memory of which is retained in the modern name of Punta del Faro, by which the cape is still known. This appellation seems to hare indeed come into use before the close of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, as Servius, in describing the width of the Sicilian strait, measures it a Columna usque ad Pharon. But no remains of either building are now visible.
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