The mount Echia and the origins of the myth of Parthenope - Gran Caffè Gambrinus

Every Italian city hides in itself myths and legends that tell the true or presumed history on its foundation and also the city of Naples possesses one of its own, an enchanting and fascinating story that is worth knowing.

The myth of Parthenope

The foundation of the city of Naples begins with the myth of the Sirena Parthenope, which together with the two sirens Ligeia, Leucosia, wanted to tempt the hero Ulysses. The episode that we will tell you is in fact narrated in the Canto XII of the Odyssey, the great epic poem, which recounts the return home of Odysseus (in Latin Ulisse), which features the three sirens with their song and their rare beauty wanted to stop the journey by ship of this famous hero. According to the story, Odysseus informed by the sorceress Circe of the power of the sirens that he would have met along his way, decides to be tied to the mast of the ship and to have the ears of travel companions covered, with the promise that none of them will untie during the crossing. When the three sisters, in spite of their song, see the ship of the hero pass unscathed, struck by the pain and above all by shame for not succeeding in their intent, they let themselves fall from the rocks where they usually ensnared the sailors, and they let themselves die in the sea.

All three disappeared at a different point and legend has it that the mermaid Parthenope was found on the island of Megaride and buried by the locals. Someone thinks that his remains rest in the depths that mark the precise point where Castel Dell’Ovo was built, and that from that moment on he was watching over the inhabitants of Naples who for a long time was called Parthenope in honor of the legend of this siren.

Between myths and history

Beyond the myths we can say that historically the city of Parthenope, was born around the seventh century BC and included not only the islet of Megaride but also the hill of Pizzofalcone, so called because of its shape that resembles a hawk’s beak and where during the Angioino period falcon hunting was practiced.

This hill, together with the islet of Megaride, represented the remains of the ancient crater of Mount Echia, where the sumptuous Villa di Lucullo was established, whose gardens reached the sea.

Parthenope, however, suffered a slow decline due to the commercial and military dominance of the Etruscans in the area was arrested only a few centuries later when the Greeks of Cuma could repopulate the old village that assumed the name of Palepolis (old city), while a few kilometers from the distance, towards the east, Neapolis was founded (new city), a new and larger center, fortified and equipped with a large port.