Glossa and Linguaglossa

Mt. Etna from Taormina (Ταυρομένιον)

Mt. Etna from Taormina (Ταυρομένιον)


Discovered a town called Linguaglossa on a map of Sicily. It was actually discovered because of the above photo of Mt Etna as seen from Taormina. The photo indicates some distant villages at the base of the northeast slope of the volcano. The map showed Linguaglossa as one of them and I (naturally) wondered about it – a town at the base of an active volcano? C’mon! Apparently it works.

The whole 360º base of Etna has towns and farms and other signs of human habitation. Grapes are grown as well as orchards of olives, citrus and avocado. The soil is very good.

In the late Bronze Age the island of Sicily was colonized by Greek speaking peoples from Corinth and the coast of Asia Minor. Though the Phoenicians colonized western Sicily they were gradually forced out by Greek speaking people. The Greeks (Dorians, Ionians) built cities (large and small) all through the island from 750 BCE. The Greek presence (culture and language) remained in Sicily for centuries – even through the Roman period. When the Arabs arrived in 827, they conquered what was basically, in language, custom and culture, a Greek island and Greek continued as the common language of the island.

Today, along with the towns with purely Italianate names, there are many which retain some of their original Greekness (Siracusa), and some place names are combinations which reveal Greek and Italian roots. An example is the seaside town of Giardini Naxos (Naxos Garden).

Google Streetview of Linguaglossa with Etna behind.

Google Streetview of Linguaglossa with Etna behind.

The town of Linguaglossa however combines in its name the word for language and tongue in both Italian/Latin (lingua) and Greek (Γλώσσα,Glossa). Weirdly, if one were to translate the town’s name to English it should be “Tonguetongue” which gives the place a vaguely Polynesian feel. But the name isn’t transliterated as that – the town is Linguaglossa.

In turn, one wonders of the origins of the name Glossa in Skopelos. Is it an ancient name which never changed (as Peparethos/Skopelos) or was it called something else before people from Chalkida dubbed the Loutraki area Selinous (which is also the name of a very important +/- 600 BCE Greek city in Sicily (Σελινοῦς, Selinous)?

Does the name of our Glossa refer to language, tongue, or a small flatfish of the Sole family? A sister city opportunity?

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2 thoughts on “Glossa and Linguaglossa

  1. Over here, they always tell tourists that the village is so called because, by the time you have climbed up to it, your tongue is hanging out with thirst and exhaustion!

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