Reggio Calabria – The legends of Scilla

Scilla, in the province of Reggio Calabria, is one of the most beautiful and characteristic villages in Italy, destination of artists in every age and of every nationality. The origins are ancient, confused between mythology, history, legend and poetic images fed for millennia by the natural environment.

It is said that the beautiful nymph Scilla, daughter of Typhon and Echidna (or according to others of Forco and Crateis) once lived in the present city of Reggio Calabria. Scilla, to whom nature had given an incredible grace, used to go to the rocks of Zancle to walk barefoot on the beach and bathe in the clear waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. One evening, while lying on the sand, she heard a noise coming from the sea and noticed a wave going towards her. Petrified by fear, she saw a half-man and half-fish with a blue body appear from the waves. He was a marine god who had once been a fisherman named Glauco whom a prodigy had transformed into a being of divine nature. Scilla, terrified at the sight because she could not understood what kind of creature he was, took refugee on the summit of a mountain that stood nearby. The marine god began to scream his love and tell her his dramatic story. In fact, Glaucus was once a fisherman from Boeotia and precisely from Antedone, a man like everyone else, who spent his long days fishing. One day, after a more fortunate fishing than usual, he had spread the nets to dry on a lawn adjacent to the beach and lined up the fish on the grass to count them when, as soon as they were in contact with the grass, they started to move, they took vigor, lined up in packs as if they were in the water and hopping they returned to the sea. Glaucus, stunned by this prodigy, did not know whether to think of a miracle or a strange whim of a god. Since he assumed that a god could not have spent time with a humble fisherman like him, he thought that the phenomenon depended on the grass and tried to swallow some fish. As he had eaten it, he felt a new being born inside him that fought his human nature. This new being was irresistibly attracted to the water. The gods of the sea welcomed him benevolently so much that they prayed to Ocean and Thetis to free him from the last appearances of human and earthly nature and to make him a divine being. Accepted their prayer, Glaucus was transformed into a god and from the waist down he was changed into a fish. Scilla, after listening to the story of Glaucus, regardless of his pain, went away leaving him alone and desperate. Then Glaucus thought of going to palace of the sorceress Circe, hoping that she could make a spell to make Scilla fall in love with him. Circe, after Glaucus had told her about his love for Scilla, admonished him harshly, reminding him that he was a god and therefore he did not need to implore a mortal woman to make himself loved. Circe then suggested to Glaucus to join her, but Glaucus refused to betray his love for Scilla and did it in such a passionate way that Circe, furious at having been refused because of a mortal, decided to take revenge. As soon as Glaucus was gone, she prepared a filter and went to the Zancle beach, where Scilla used to go. She poured the filter into the sea and then returned to her island. When Scilla arrived, warmed by the great heat of the day, she decided to dive into the crystal clear waters. After getting wet, she saw monstrous, angry and growling dog heads around her. Frightened she tried to chase them away but, once out of the water, she noticed that those muzzles were attached to her legs through a long serpentine neck. Then she realized that up to the hips she was still a nymph but from the hips down there were six fierce dog heads, each with three rows of sharp teeth. Such was the horror that Scylla had of herself that she threw herself into the sea and took up residence in the hollow of a rock near the cave where Charybdis lived. Charybdis was the daughter of Forco (or Poseidone) and of Gea and for having stolen the oxen of Gerione from Heracles, Zeus electrocuted her and turned her into a terrible sea monster, destined to swallow and reject the sea water three times a day. Glaucus cried the fate touched to Scylla and was forever in love with the image of grace and sweetness that the nymph once represented.   

Scylla and Charybdis, both frightening sea monsters, were therefore close to each other to form what modern people call “The Strait of Messina” and while Charybdis swallows and rejects the sea water three times a day creating gigantic eddies, Scilla attentive to the life of sailors with her six heads tries to catch as many sailors.

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