Ancient myth believed that beneath Mount Etna a mighty giant was buried. Who was believed to have hurled this giant from heaven?
Enceladus (like other vanquished monsters, thought to be buried under volcanos) was said to be the cause of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Mount Etna’s eruptions were said to be the breath of Enceladus, and its tremors to be caused by him rolling over from side to side beneath the mountain. So, for example Virgil:
Enceladus, his body lightning-scarred,
lies prisoned under all, so runs the tale:
o’er him gigantic Aetna breathes in fire
from crack and seam; and if he haply turn
to change his wearied side, Trinacria’s isle
trembles and moans, and thick fumes mantle heaven.
the c. 1st century poem Aetna (perhaps written by Lucilius Junior):
In Trinacrian waters Enceladus dies and is buried under Aetna by Jove’s decree; with the ponderous mountain above him he tosses restlessly, and defiantly breathes from his throat a penal fire.
In the midst of the island rise the charred cliffs of Aetna, eloquent monument of Jove’s victory over the Giants, the tomb of Enceladus, whose bound and bruisèd body breathes forth endless sulphur clouds from its burning wounds. Whene’er his rebellious shoulders shift their burden to the right or left, the island is shaken from its foundations and the walls of tottering cities sway this way and that.