|The three legs of the ,
the heraldic symbol of Sicily, are said to represent the island's three
points. The head depicted in the center is that of Medusa. The Trinacria
is quite similar to the three-legged heraldic symbol of the Isle of
Man,another medieval Norman dominion.
The largest island in the Mediterranean. It is triangular in shape and was on that account called Trinacria by the ancients; it is separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina, rather less than two miles wide. Its area, including the adjacent islands, is 9935 square miles. The northern chain of mountains, running from Cape Peloro (Messina) to Lilibeo (Marsala), is only a continuation of the Calabrian Appenines. The most elevated peaks are the Pizzo dell' Antenna (6478 feet), near the middle of the range, and Monte S. Salvatore (6265 feet); the remainder of the island is an undulating inclined plain sloping to the Ionian and Mediterranean Seas. Near the middle of the eastern side rises the majestic volcano Etna, still active, 10,865 feet high, formed by successive eruptions and having a circumference of 87 miles at its base; it is covered with perpetual snow; on its slopes there are rich pastures, vineyards, gardens, arable lands, and forests; and vegetation flourishes up to an altitude of about 8200 feet. The chief Sicilian rivers are the Giarretta falling into the sea near Catania; the Anopo, flowing for a short distance underground and emptying into the sea near Syracuse; the Salso; the Platani. The two principal lakes are those of Lentini and Pergusa; on the southern coast there are very many lagoons and unhealthy marshes. Among the adjacent islands are the Lipari group (Aeolian Islands) and Ustica in the Tyrrhenian sea; the Egadi (Favignana, Marittimo, Levanzo) and the Formiche (Ants) near the western extremity; Pantelleria (the ancient Corcyra) between Malta and Tunisia. The northern and eastern coasts are generally steep, and the adjacent waters deep; the southern is shallow and has many sandbanks (Pesci, Porcelli, State, Madrepore). Considering the size of the island, it has many good harbours: Messina is the most important for commerce; Empedocle, the sulphur-exporting centre; Palermo, for oranges and lemons; Trapani, wines. Besides these there are Syracuse, Augusta, Catania, Milazzo, Licata, and Lipari. The climate is temperate, the mean summer maximum being 93.2 Fahrenheit; but Sicily suffers considerably from the sirocco.
The wealth of the country is chiefly dependent on agriculture, maritime trade, and mining, especially sulphur. Though in antiquity Sicily was the granary of Rome, the production of grain (22,275,000 bushels) is not sufficient for the home consumption, a fact to be explained either by the increase of population, or by the system of large estates, or by the primitive methods employed. The vintage amounts to about 6,325,000 bushels. There is a large export of fruits, including oranges and lemons, and of carob beans. Sicily produces three-quarters of the world's sulphur: in 1905 it amounted to 3,049,864 tons, of which 1,629,344 came from Caltanisetta, and 1,039,005 from Girgenti. Among the other mineral products are: antimony and lignite from Messina (61 and 70 tons); asphalt from Syracuse (105,217 tons); rock-salt (12,730 tons). Fishing, especially tunny-fishing, is very profitable; but the sponge trade is decreasing (1980 tons in 1899, but only 172 in 1909).
At the census of 1901 the population was 3,568,124, or 350 persons to the square mile; allowing for a mean increase of 1.3 per cent; the island probably contains 4,200,000 inhabitants at present (1911). The percentages of illiterates are 70.9, under 21 years of age, and 73.2, over 21 years, so that Sicily is more backward than Sardinia, Abruzzo, and the Apulias. However, this is not due to a great lack of schools, as there are 4156 elementary public, 563 private, and 310 evening schools; 4 training colleges for teachers; 44 royal gymnasia (2 pareggiati, 27 non pareggiati); 14 royal lyceums (2 pareggiati, 8 non pareggiati); 34 technical schools besides 6 non pareggiati; 7 technical institutes; 3 universities (Palermo, Messina, Catania); and 1 conservatory of music (Palermo). Sicily is divided civilly into 7 provinces, with 24 circondarii, 179 mandamienti, and 357 communes. It has 5 archbishoprics and 12 bishoprics: Catania, without any suffragans; Monreale, with Caltamisetta and Girgenti; Palermo, with Cefalù, Mazzara, and Trapani; Syracuse, with Caltagirone, Notto, Piazza Armerina. The Bishop of Acireale and the Prelate of S. Lucia del Mela are immediately subject to the Holy See. The parishes in Sicily are few in number and consequently very large. While in the Marches and Umbria the average number of persons in a parish is 600, in the Sicilian dioceses it is 7000 (9000 in Syracuse and 8000 in Palermo).