Why is Ischia called so?

by Federico Quagliuolo
Ischia drawing by Lisa Mocciaro

Ischia is an island with an infinite history, even in its name. We could actually also call it Pithecusa or Aenaria.

Three names? Why does the Green Island have so many?
He tells us about it Alexandre Dumas, in his newspaper “L'Indipendente”, of 1860.
An interesting book on Ischia published by Imagaenaria editore: https://amzn.to/3cHGHVI

The island of the monkeys

Pithecusa is certainly the oldest name on the island (literally "populated by monkeys“): We find it in the ancient Greek texts and derives from the belief that, in ancient times, the island was inhabited by monkeys who evolved into human beings, who then became the inhabitants of the island.
A Darwinian theory ante litteram?

Indeed, it can be said with certainty that Ischia was the first Greek settlement in Italy, dated IX century BC

Ancient Romans in Ischia

Aenariainstead, it was the name attributed to the island by Pliny the Elder. There are two ideas: it probably comes from the Greek word “oinos”, which means wine. On the other hand, even today the land of Ischia offers excellent wines such as the very famous Biancolella d'Ischia.
Others instead refer to a legendary event, given that the ships of Aeneas found shelter on the island before leaving for Lazio.

Middle Ages, French and Spanish

The current name, on the other hand, was attributed in the Early Middle Ages, although it was already known in Greek times: Ischia has a very uncertain origin and there are three theories.

The first attributes it to the Spanish and French domination: Ischia was called "La Isla”Or“ Le Isle ”, hence the Neapolitans mangled the name by passing from“ Iscla ”to a more euphonic“ Ischia ”.

The second comes from the Greek "iscos“, Which means strength. The island, in fact, was considered one impregnable fortress.

A giant basin

A third idea links the name of the Green Island to the character who, historically, is connected to its history: Typhon.

The ischium is a bone of the pelvis, already known by that name in ancient Greek times, "Ischis"(Pronounced in ancient Greek iscùs).

And here is the most fascinating theory, which comes to us from pagan myths:
in the mists of time, the world was populated by titans fighting with the Gods of Olympus. After furious battles, the strongest of the giants, Typhon, he managed to defeat the lightning bolts of Zeus, closing it in a cave for a hundred years.

It was there that, with the help of Mercury, Zeus managed to escape from the cave and, furious at the insult he had suffered, went up to heaven and threw a whole mountain at Typheus, which meanwhile rested in the Gulf of Naples.

This mountain managed to stun the giant, who was confined under the island of Ischia. The boulder thrown by Zeus then became the Mount Epomeo.
THE earthquakes, in fact, they are the attempts of Tifeo to free himself from the weight of the stone that oppresses his body.
Why Ischia then?
Why the Mount Epomeo he crushed the "ischis" of Tifeo, his pelvis.

-Federico Quagliuolo

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1 Comment

Edoardo ischia 14 April 2022 - 14:46

In the magazine (I GRECI) of 12/04 / 2022- (Heroes, Myths and daily life, the name of the Island of ISCHIA is reported, in another name, as written, (ISQUIA). two names? .I'd like to know, thanks.

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