The legend of the Gigantomachy, a frightening struggle between the rebellious giants and the gods, is a recurring motif in Greek culture. It is also depicted on the pediment of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, so that whoever stood before it would know the power of the Greek gods.
In the myths’ descriptions, giants were monstrous beings, half man and half beast, with snake-like legs.
They were mortal but endowed with superhuman strength. As part of Magna Graecia, Sicily is strongly imbued with legends and symbolisms involving it in these tales, starting with Mount Etna.
In ancient times it was thought that the eruptions of this volcano were the fiery breath of the giant Enceladus, who, during the battle between gods and giants, had tried to escape but was blocked by the goddess Athena, who trapped him by throwing the island of Sicily on top of him.
Another event from this colossal struggle is the one depicted in the central apse of the triclinium in the Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina.
An evocative and refined mosaic shows the hero who, in the battle in aid of Zeus, hurls his powerful arrows against the giants. Suffering, the giants are shown doubled over trying to remove the darts from their bodies.
Speaking of Zeus, we must also mention the grandiose temple that the Syracusans dedicated to him in the first decades of the 6th century BC. It was situated on a hill not far from Syracuse and thanks to its favourable position, visible from the sea, it was a reference point for sailors arriving at the city’s port.