Why is Procida so called? Origin and legends about the name of the island

by Federico Quagliuolo

The Procida name it is as fascinating as it is the history of the island is mysterious. If in fact on the nearby Ischia we have rivers of literature, also thanks to i favors of the Bourbons, very fond of Ischia, the history of the "island of sailors" is jealously preserved by its descendants.

Just with Ischia, second Pliny the Elder, the island perhaps shared its origins. In Naturalis Historia the expert Roman naturalist hypothesized that the two islands once were connected. Then an earthquake separated it from the Green Island.
For this reason - he added - both islands were once identified with "Pithecusa“, Which later became the first name of Ischia alone.

Ischia e Procida
Ischia and Procida seen from Capo Miseno: they are very close!

The origin of the name Procida: a beautiful mystery

The theories formulated over the centuries are numerous, even with very authoritative signatures. If we have a good serenity in thinking that the first Procidan settlers were the Greeks Chalcidians around the eighth century BC, the same ones they created very numerous colonies throughout Magna Graecia, including Catania, Cuma and the neighbor Ischia.


Dionysius of Halicarnassus imagined a hypothesis as fascinating as it was probably imaginative: referring to the Aeneid of Virgil, another protagonist of the history of Campania. The nurse of Aeneasin fact, it was called Procida. He died during the hero's journey to Rome and was buried right on the beaches of the beautiful island, near Vivara.

While very poetic as a theory, it most likely isn't.

A Greek origin

If we start from the immense cultural baggage that the Greeks gave us, the name Procida could come from a Greek verb, “prokeein", Which in Latin translates as"profundere". After very violent earthquake that separated the two islands, therefore, the smaller of the two would be literally called "put out ", to indicate its origin.

Tum sonitu Prochyta alta tremit, durumque cubile
Jnarime, Jovis imperio, sets typheo
(Upper Procida trembles at the hard task
Ischia imposed on Tifeo by order of Jupiter)

Virgil, Aeneid, book IX
Procida di notte
The island at night, photo by Federico Quagliuolo

Cumae is a crippling

Abbot Marcello Scotti, philosopher born right on the island in the eighteenth century, suggests one reconstruction very interesting: the name would be a crippling Of "pro-cyma", or "Before Cuma", where by "Cuma" we should mean not the city, but the "top", the one of Capo Miseno. The name in this case could derive from theAramaic or Hebrew, where in both cases "kym”Means top.

Or, in one second hypothesis, could refer precisely to a settlement of Cumaean settlers, which in ancient times they were rulers of the whole Campania.

Giants and Gods

Greek mythology gives us a further suggestion: the Gigantomachy, a titanic battle between the giants and the gods of Olympus, who saw defeat. And so, if Ischia was the boulder thrown on Tifeo's shoulders e Vesuvius crushes Alcioneo, Mimant he was the most fortunate: he had to put up with little Procida, a feather-weight compared to his colleagues.

Procida porto
Vintage picture of the port of the island

The importance of being called "Procida"

To understand the link between the people of Procida and their island, it is interesting to note that all reconstructions and almost all the ancient texts on the history of the island were written by locals, with a romantic dedication:to my homeland“.

Precisely these words, for example, are the debut in the preface of the texts by Scotti and Parascandolo, two people separated by more than 100 years of life: one was in fact the protagonist of the events of the '700 and the other was a religious of the end of the 19th century.

We should not be surprised by these words of honey: probably really the state of necessity and extreme poverty that have always plagued the island, which it could not enjoy fertile fields of Ischia and the benefits of a connection with the mainland, they pointed ingenuity of its inhabitants. History has in fact handed down to us dozens of names who specialized in navigation and intellectual arts, often combining both for the common good.
For example there is Michele De Jorio, the creator of the first navigation code, or the first insurance company for sailors born right in the port, Without to forget the Naval Institute which still today trains navigators. Almost all the Procidans were forced to live far from their island during their career. Yet anyone, from abbot to fisherman, wherever he is in the world, he will have only that one "homeland " in which he will want to return.

In short: Procida, Greek in name and character.

-Federico Quagliuolo

Egidio Finamore, Origin and history of local Campania names, Arcolaio, Naples, 1966
Rocci, Vocabulary of Greek, ed. 1952
Carmelo Colamonico, Municipality of Procida
Michele Parascandolo, Historical Notes around the Island of Procida, Naples, 1892

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