“Trinacria” is an ancient symbol that shows the head of Medusa surrounded by three bent-running legs.
It’s difficult to say how, when and why this symbol was born.
Example of triskelions have been found in many locations on the shore of the Mediterranean sea: in Crete, Sicily, Greece, France, Asia Minor, North African coastline, Island of Man. All of them are dated after VIII century BC.
The name “Trinacria” comes from the word “trinacrios” that in Greek means triangle. The Romans used to called it “Triquetra” (triangle) referring to the shape of the island, while the Greek used the name “Triskelion” (three legs).
Regarding the meaning of the legs represented in the symbol there are different hypotheses.
The first is that it is a Phoenician derivation, of religious significance, related to the semitic god Baal (a trinity, god of time): the three legs in running position meant the racing of time in the cycle of nature.
The second hypothesis refers to the Spartans (Laecedemons) that used to carry on their shield a bent leg to represent an “L” (the letter Lambda), the initial of their name. The soldiers of Dionysos I (a Greek tyrant) wanted to be recognized as Sicilians, so they put three legs on their shields to symbolize the three promontories of Sicily: Pachinu, Peloru and Lilibeu.
An important element in the symbol is the head of Medusa, and to understand who she was we have to talk about Gorgons.
Gorgon was a terrible creature made up, in part, of the three daughters of the Gods of the sea (Medusa was the most powerful and famous); as well was a hair-do of snakes the creature possessed bronze hands, gold wings and wild boar’s tusks; Gorgon lived at the ends of the earth and could petrify a man with its glance.
In the representation of the Sicilian triskelion the terrifying aspect of this feminine monster was reduced to a sweet-looking young maiden. The version proposed for the official banner of Sicily shows the image of a benevolent nature goddess rather than a fearful monster.
In February 2000, after reviewing different options of the banner, the Sicilian Parliament decided to adopt as symbol of the island the design that contains the “Trinacria”, the colors of Sicily (gold and orange) and the name “Regione Siciliana” on top.
Copyright © 2011 National Sicilian American Foundation