Eoliando case per vacanze alle eolie

Brief history of the Aeolian Islands

Some historical notes on the history of the Aeolian Islands.

The nature of the wonderful "seven sisters”, as the Aeolian Islands are sometimes called, facing the north-eastern coast of Sicily is wild and volcanic. According to mythology, Aeolus, the God of the Winds, lived here, and also Ulysses landed on these islands and met the monstrous Polyphemus and his companions, legendary forgers working for Vulcano, the God of the Fire, who was thought to live on the Island bearing the same name.

The Aeolian Islands were submarine volcanoes which emerged from the sea around 700.000 years ago in the following order: Panarea, Filicudi, Alicudi, Salina, Lipari, Vulcano and lastly Stromboli, which is probably 40.000 years old. Vulcanello (the small peninsula linked to Vulcano) was the last to emerge: it happened in 183 B.C., while the last flow of pumice and obsidian on the Pelato mountain in Lipari occurred around 1.500 years ago.


Eruptions and volcanic phenomena followed one another along the millennia and their diversified nature produced different phenomena: from the creation of pumice stone, so light that it floats on the water, to lava flows that produced the obsidian stone, a black and cutting glass that was used by ancient populations to produce sharp utensils.


Lipari in particular became rich thanks to the export of obsidians all over the Mediterranean Sea. Around the 2500 B.C., with the metal age, the market of obsidian lost its importance, but due to its favourable location Lipari did not suffer much from this. Around the bronze age and the beginning of the iron age Lipari was invaded by populations coming from Italy (Subappennine culture), which were later on chased away by other populations of the Italic peninsula, whose artefacts suggest they belonged to the ‘Villanovian’ civilization. During the VII and VI centuries B.C., the Aeolian Islands were weakened by the uninterrupted attacks of the Etruscans, but a real turning point in the Aeolian Islands’ history was the beginning of the Greek colonization.

In 580 B.C. some refugees and adventurers coming from the Spartan colony of Cnido, leaded by Gorgo, Testore and Episterite landed on Lipari and, together with the local population, succeeded in opposing the Etruscan raids. In 264 B.C., when the first Punic War broke out, Lipari was allied with the Carthaginians and is consequently attacked many times by the Roman fleet. In 252 B.C. the Roman Consul, Caius Aurelius, succeeds in subduing the islands to Rome.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Islands experienced a period of desolation. The Byzantine domination increased this decline. The Arab invasion from 827 to 1061 coincided with a further period of decay. Only the Norman invasion gave a new boost to the life of these Islands. The Great Earl Ruggero established here a Benedictine community. In 1131 the Episcopal palace was built in Lipari. Until 1340, with the Suevian, Angevin, and Aragonese dominations, the Aeolian Islands lived in prosperity thanks to the privileges granted by the different governments.

In 1544 a Turkish fleet, after eleven days of siege, destroyed Lipari and deported 8.000 inhabitants as slaves. Only in 1691 the population, after a slow reconstruction, increased up to 10.000 people. At the beginning of the XIX century Lipari became a port used by many shipping lines. This contributed to the great economic development of the Aeolian Islands: in 1891 there were more than 20.000 residents. But later on many problems were caused by the Phylloxera, which destroyed many vineyards and contributed to a general economic crisis and to the emigration of almost 50% of the population of these islands.

Today, mining industry, agriculture, fishery and tourism are the main elements of the Aeolian economy. The mining industry regards the pumice, while the agriculture regards the production of capers, raisins and the famous Malvasia, a wine which is well known around the world thanks to its unique features. In the last 50 years the tourism boom determined an unprecedented wealth. Maintaining the leadership in the tourism sector is the main objective of the Aeolian population. In the year 2000, the Aeolian Islands were declared by UNESCO CULTURAL PATRIMONY OF HUMANITY: the Aeolians and all those who visit these islands, even only for one day, should preserve and respect their wonders.