Yoga curativo



Giuseppe Verde

A bilingual book, it contains 272 pages,
203 colour and black illustrations,
shape cm 21 x 29,5.

'The 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 Collection).
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.


This paper was given by Giuseppe Verde at
Cura Aquarum in Sicilia, Siracusa, May 16-22, 1998.

Proceedings of the Tenth International Congress on the History of Water Management and Hydraulic Engineering in the Mediterranean Region,

G. Jansen (red).
Babesch suppl. 6, Leiden 2000.

A 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 Minoa 1).
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 sea.
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).
In 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 and care.
Segment 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.
In 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.
From 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.
A 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.
The 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.
Upper 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.
The 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.
A 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.
Over 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. 

[This 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).
7. 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.