bilingual book, it contains 272 pages,
203 colour and black illustrations,
shape cm 21 x 29,5.
book shows the result of a great deal of careful research
and yet is not pedantic. It holds one's interest and is good
reading. I learned as well as enjoyed it'.
Alice Lacy, Phd.
A past Physiotherapist in the Sciacca Spa, Giuseppe Verde has developed
a scientific interest in the spa, which led him to the publication
of Fisioterapia e Riabilitazione alle Terme (Spa Physiotherapy
and Rehabilitation) in 1998. In the same year he was a participant
of Cura Aquarum in Sicilia, an international meeting that
took place in Siracusa where he reported on 'Ancient hydrothermal
practices in the territory of Sciacca (Aquas Labodes)'.
He issued several articles on different reviews about the
history of the Sciacca Spa and its rehabilitation practice.
In 2000, he issued Il termalismo di Sciacca dalla preistoria
al XX secolo (Spa topics in Sciacca from prehistoric times
to the XX century), the result of a systematic survey on the
various spa aspects in the Sicilian town.
In 2001, together with Pino Guidi (a spelaeologist of the
Grotto Board 'E. Boegan', C.A.I. in Trieste) he issued Il
fenomeno carsico del monte Cronio (Sciacca) Saggio bibliografico
(The karst phenomenon in Mount Cronio (Sciacca) Bibliographic
The present publication confirms the capacity of the Author
to enquire into various thermal aspects of the place which
is, at the same time, internationally important, as it constitutes
an heritage for suffering people who have been reaching this
spa for cares, throughout the centuries.
An appointed Teacher in the course for the Degree of Physiotherapy
(University of Palermo), the Author is also a Translator licensed
from the Interpreter School, University of Trieste, which
allowed him to personally translate the text into English
with the aim of reaching foreign readers, which shows a special
attention in the development of a cultural text that is linked
with a necessary communication by images.
HYDROTHERMAL PRACTICES IN THE TERRITORY OF SCIACCA
paper was given by Giuseppe Verde at
Aquarum in Sicilia, Siracusa, May 16-22, 1998.
of the Tenth International Congress on the History of Water Management
and Hydraulic Engineering in the Mediterranean Region,
Babesch suppl. 6, Leiden 2000.
town on the south-western coast of Sicily, Sciacca, has developed
a peculiar history in the use of thermo-mineral waters and vapour
grottoes ever since high antiquity. Today, its geo-thermal area
(fig. 1a-1c) is still marked by two streams, namely Carabollace
on the eastern side and Carrozza on the western side, which receive
a contribution in thermal water from nearby springs.
At Carabollace (fig. 75), thermal water springs up out of the very
stream bed which can be seen during summer only, when it dries up.
The country is named Locogrande (fig. 74) here and it holds remains
dating back to the fifth century BC, when there was a settlement
that may have been related to fugitives from destroyed Selinunte
(the territory of the Greek town extended over this area up to Eraclea
Strabo also has a brief note on the salty-hot waters of
Thermai Selinuntiai 2,
identifiable in the country of Locogrande, nearby the ancient Selinùntia
odòs that linked Selinunte to Akragas.
Along the Lilybeum-Syracusis-Messana route, the Itinerarium
Antonini lists Aquis Larodes (fig. 76) - a Roman settlement
that became a mansio in the fourth century AD when a new
estate was needed less far from the coast for cereal transport by
The Bath Valley ('Valle dei Bagni', fig. 81-99), just outside the
present Sciacca, offered a good commercial opportunity as it is
situated near the sea and has different kinds of thermo-mineral
waters 3. Before winding down
to the sea, the Carrozza stream (fig. 88-99b) collectssulphur discharges
from the Bath Valley.
All this area up to the Molinelli spring (fig. 105-108) must have
been the site for a second statio in the Itinerarium
Antonini, namely Ad Aquas (fig. 76) built on the Messana-Catina-Lilybeum
route, which was 2 milia passuum from Aquis Larodes
(the difference in Roman miles will be easily gained from the Itinerary
when both stations are compared with Agrigentum).
the seventeenth century the area belonged to Baron Leofante who
had in front of his house, just aside the Bath Door of Sciacca,
a fourth century Roman inscription 4
(fig. 878) reporting the construction of a statio along
the Sicilian cursus publicus. The inscription's origin
is unknown, but a logical deduction is that it came from Mariano
Leofanti's country, neighbouring the South Bath Valley 5,
hence referring to the statio Ad Aquas. The inscription
is also an outstanding document of Roman building revival in Sicily
during the fourth century AD, most probably linked with water usage
number VII 1 of the Peutinger's Tabula (fig. 79-80) represents the
territory of Sciacca as a big square area with two towers at the
front corners and the name Aquas Labodes 6
- a huge graphic symbol of the headquarters for the transport of
goods and officials in the Sicilian province, evidently
connected with a spa. Unfortunately, systematic research for archaeological
evidence has never been carried out in this area.
the past, bathing did not necessarily imply the use of water, as
can be seen from the use of the vapour grottoes of Mount Cronio
(fig. 24a-30), 7 km far from Sciacca, where taking a bath would
consist of sitting inside a special grotto - named Daidalos' - and
waiting for abundant perspiration. This habit is described well
by Diodorus Siculus (IV. 78) who states that Daidalos adapted a
grotto from Selinunte's territory into a thermal site where Minos
subsequently found his death. Though Pausania reports a variation
of this tale (Minos' death caused by daughters of local king Kokalos)
there are good reasons to think of a death occurring during the
thermal practice inside a cave in Mount Cronio, as there is no other
vapour grotto in the territory of Selinunte.
Whether based on history or myth, such stories suggest the interest
of ancient people (Mino' death conventionally dates back to the
thirteenth century BC) into thermal resources and they give rise
to the hypothesis of a civilizing culture brought by Daidalos among
the Sikans. Moreover, the reports may hide an expansionist attempt
in south-western Sicily by Cretan people who suffered defeat, symbolized
by Minos' death.
a geological point of view, since the Quaternary age a karst complex
of galleries developed inside Mount Cronio (fig. 4a-4b) which made
superficial cavities practicable from Palaeolithic times until the
end of the third millennium BC, when life became impossible inside
them because of vapour onset.
few prehistoric jars from the final stage of the Neolithic age were
accidentally found in 1957 in the deeper galleries of the karst
complex, which had been studied by spelaeologists since 1942. That
made it possible to date the geologic event that connected the karst
galleries with the thermal basin underneath, thus causing the vapour
flux to be driven outwards.
important archaeological findings consist of jars of almost one
meter high, for an amount of more than fourty pithoi in
the Style of Malpasso (fig. 2-3), which had been deposited in the
womb of the mountain as part of a cult of an unknown prehistoric
deity in connection with the geo-thermal phenomenon dating back
to 2000 BC.
grottoes were abandoned until the fifth century BC when Greek settlers
started to visit them for religious purposes again, as proved by
statues of Demeter and lamps (fig. 18b) in the local Antiquarium
(fig. 21a, 50). Also, half a meter below the present floor, a continuous
series of cooked clay slabs develops inside the upper grottoes.
They were placed there between the third and the first century BC
and constitute the floor of an unusual classical sanctuary to cthonian
forces set up in the vapour cavities.
religious attitude towards vapour from the mountain had much to
do with cults of the mother earth, both in prehistoric and classical
times, and it is unlikely that upper cavities were used for proper
therapy, as vapour would scatter in large grottoes. Only thermal
water is likely to have been used therapeutically in Sciacca during
the Greek-Roman period.
new mind and body practice started in the fifth century AD when
the area was chosen for evangelization by the Christian hermit Calogero.
The adaptation of Daidalos' Grotto into a therapeutic environment
dates back to that time and it is archaeologically ascertained -
several stone chairs were placed inside the grotto and some walls
were built to concentrate vapour in it (fig. 24b). As the hermit
knew the medical value of thermal resources, he must have suggested
the correct use of the vapour grottoes and thermal waters, while
taking care of people who turned to him for help, both spiritually
and bodily. This spa new culture during the fifth century freed
the territory of Sciacca from ancient beliefs and pagan culture,
as well as spreading over different thermal centres in western Sicily
such as Termini Imerese and Lipari, where other spas are dedicated
to the Saint.
the centuries, Saint Calogero's monks handed down his spirituality
on Mount Cronio and cultivated a phenomenon that we call religious
thermal attitude - the faith that a disease can be spiritually cured
by means of natural resorts. Owing to this, the therapeutic use
of the grottoes and thermal waters was not interrupted in Sciacca
during the Middle Ages, hydro-thermal practices being well documented
there, during the Arab domination and the subsequent restoration
of Christianity by count Roger 7.
paper constitutes also the first chapter of the 'Historiography
of the Sciacca Spa' (see home page). Numbers of figures cited into
brackets should be referred to this book]
1. Hdt. V 46.2.
2. Str. VI275; cf. K. Ziegler, col. 2387-2388.
3. Besides Solfurea Water, up to the last century the stream would also collect the Ferrata Water that disappeared together with the so called Santa Water and the Palme Water. On the eastern side of the Bath Valley is the Molinelli Water, which is still used for open air baths.
4. Listed by T. Mommsen, CIL X2, n. 7200.
5. G.A. Granone, cit.:135; cf. V. Palermo, notarial act, aug. 2nd 1599, State Archive ofSciacca, vol. 902, f. 616v.
6. Aquas Labodes is a compound name from Ad Aquas and a variation of Aquis Larodes, such as Iabodes in Ravennas (seventh century) and Labodes in Guido (twelfth century).
The use of vapour grottoes in the ninth century is stressed in the
Hymns of Sergio, a monk in the monastery of Saint Calogero. In the
twelfth century countess Judith, the Norman count Roger's daughter,
was given the territory of Sciacca as a dowry, and Consuetudines
of the town started. The chapter De Balneis in Libro
Rosso contains access regulations to water and vapour baths,
Jewish people were allowed on Fridays only, while prostitutes had
access on Saturdays only.