« AnteriorContinuar »
earth. If this is true, which indeed does not appear improbable, it must have happened far beyond the reach of all historians, as none of them, at least that I have seen, pretend any thing but conjecture for the foundation of their opinion. Indeed Claudian (were credit to be given to poets) says positively,
· Trinacria quondam Italiæ pars una fuit.'
And Virgil too, in his third Æneid, tells the same story:
• Hæc loca vi quondam, et vasta convulsa ruina,' &c.
Pliny, Strabo, Diodorus, and many others, both historians and philosophers, are of the same sentiments, and pretend that the strata in the opposite sides of the Strait perfectly correspond; like the white rocks near Dover and Boulogne, which have given rise to an opinion of the same kind. However, the similarity in that case is much more striking to the eye at least than in this.
The approach to Messina is the finest that can be imagined ; it is not so grand as that of Naples, but it is much more beautiful, and
the quay exceeds any thing I have ever yet seen, even in Holland. It is built in the form of a crescent, and is surrounded by a range
magnificent buildings, four stories high, and exactly uniform, for the
of Italian mile. The street betwixt these and the sea is about an hundred feet wide, and forms one of the most delightful walks in the world. It enjoys the freest air, and commands the most beautiful prospect: it is only exposed to the morning sun, being shaded all the rest of the day by these buildings. It is besides constantly refreshed by the cooling breeze from the Straits ; for the current of the water produces likewise a current in the air, that renders this one of the coolest habitations in Sicily.
We cast anchor about four this afternoon, near the centre of this enchanted semi-circle, the beauty of which greatly delighted us; but our pleasure was soon interrupted by a discovery that the name of one of our servants had been omitted in our bills of health ; and an assurance from the captain, that if he was discovered we should certainly be obliged to perform a long quarantine. Whilst we were deliberating upon this weighty matter, we observed a boat with the people of the health-office approaching us.
We had just time to get him wrapped up in a hammock, and shut down below the hatches; with orders not to stir in case of a search, and not appear again above deck till he should be called. The poor fellow was obliged to keep in his hole till it was dark, as our consul and some people of the health-office staid on board much longer than we could have wished, and we are still obliged to conceal him ; for if he be discovered, we shall probably get into a very bad scrape. They are particularly strict here in this respect; and indeed they have great reason to be so; since this beautiful city was almost annihilated by the plague in the year 1743, when upwards of 70,000 people are said to have died in it and its district, in the space of a few months.
We have now got on shore, and are lodged in the most wretched of inns, although said to be a first-rate one for Sicily: but we are contented; for surely after bad ship-accommodation and sea-sickness, any house will appear a palace, and any bit of dry land a paradise.
I shall send this off by the post, which goes to-morrow for Naples, and shall continue from day to day to give you some account of our transactions; trifling as they are, there will
probably be something new; and it will add greatly to the pleasure of our expedition, to think that it has contributed to your entertainment. Adieu.
Ever yours, &c.
Messina, May 20.
THE harbour of Messina is formed by a small promontory or neck of land that runs off from the east end of the city, and separates that beautiful bason from the rest of the Straits. The shape of this promontory is that of a reaping hook, the curvature of which forms the harbour, and secures it from all winds. From the striking resemblance of its form, the Greeks, who never gave a name that did not either describe the object, or express some of its most remarkable properties, called this place Zankle or the Sickle, and feigned that the sickle of Saturn fell on this spot, and gave it its form. But the Latins,
who were not quite so fond of fable, changed its pame to Messina (from messis, a harvest) because of the great fertility of its fields. It certainly one of the safest harbours in the world, after ships have got in; but it is likewise one of the most difficult access. The celebrated gulf or whirlpool of Charybdis lies near to its entry, and often occasions such an intestine and irregular motion in the water, that the helm loses most of its power, and ships have great difficulty to get in, even with the fairest wind that can blow. This whirlpool, I think, is probably formed by the small promontory I have mentioned; which contracting the Straits in this spot, must necessarily increase the veloeity of the current; but no doubt other causes, of which we are ignorant, concur, for this will by no means account for all the
appearances which it has produced. The great noise occasioned by the tumultuous motion of the waters in this place, made the ancients liken it to a voracious sea-monster' perpetually roaring for its prey ; and it has been represented by their authors, as the most tremendous passage in the world. Aristotle gives a long and formidable description of it in his 125th chapter De Admirandis, which I find translated in an old Sicilian book I have