Encyclopedia of Southern Italy – S

                Scylla’s name is related to the Greek words skyllaros (= hermit crab), skylax (= dog, dog-shark) and skyllô (= “to rend”).

Scymnus (Skymnos): (b. Tarentum; fl. late 4th century BC). Juggler. A member of Alexander the Great’s court, he was one of the performers at the mass-marriage ceremony at Susa in 324 BC.

Sea, Sicilian: See Sea of Sicily.

Sea Salt, Sicilian (Italian Sea Salt, Sale Marino or Trapani sea salt): a type of sea salt harvested along the coast of Sicily. Sea water is collected into ponds where it is allowed to evaporate in the sun, leaving behind the salt. This raw salt is then crushed, processed, and packaged for sale. This sea salt consists of several minerals including iodine, fluorine, magnesium, and potassium, and has lower sodium content than traditional table salts. These sea salts are utilized in a wide variety of different regional Italian cuisines.

Secinaro (AQ): A commune in the province of L’Aquila. Population: 441 (2006e).

Secli’ (LE): A commune in the province of Lecce. Population: 1,945 (2006e).

Secret Poisoners, Society of: A secret society of supposed ancient origins known to have existed in Italy during the 16th and 17th centuries. Its members were feared throughout Europe for their abilities to create and utilize unique poisons. One of its best-known members was Tofana, a woman from Palermo, who created the deadly liquid poison known as Aqua della Tofara. During the pontificate of Alexander VII, a faction of the society was known to be active in Rome. Its members consisted of a group of young women under the leadership of an old Sicilian woman named Hieronyma Spara, who had been a pupil of Tofana. They came under suspicion of murder when the husbands of the women all died suddenly under mysterious circumstances. The authorities arrested the women who, under tortured confessed to poisoning their husbands. Spara and four others were publicly executed.

                It is possible that Locusta, the woman who supplied the Roman empress Agrippina with the poison to murder her husband Claudius, was also a member of this society of poisoners. She also provided the poison which the Emperor Nero used to kill Britannicus, Claudius’s son. Locusta’s poisons of choice seem to have been cyanide and belladonna. She was finally executed in January AD 55 by Nero’s successor Galba.

Segesta (Acesta, Aegesta, Segeste): An ancient city of NW Sicily, situated to the SE of Eryx. Traditionally called a Trojan colony (its name deriving from its supposed founder, Aegestus), it was the longstanding and bitter rival of Selinus. Athens undertook (415-413 B.C.) the disastrous expedition against Syracuse as an ally of Segesta in troubles growing out of a quarrel with Selinus. After this failure, Segesta got the help of Carthage, and Selinus was sacked (409). Thereafter Segesta was a Carthaginian dependency with some interruptions until the First Punic War, when it surrendered to the Romans. Segesta was the setting for a story concerning Aemilius Censorinaus and a bronze horse, which was appears derive from the earlier tale of Perillus and his brazen bull. The city went into a decline in the 1st cent. B.C. from which it never recovered. Amid its ruins is a fine temple to Ceres.

                The Romans called the city “Segeste” because Segesta was too similar to the Latin word aegesta or egesta (= discharge, excrement).

According to mythology, the original city, Aegesta, was founded by Aegestus, a Trojan, who had been sent by the Greek hero Philoctetes from the area near Croton on the Italian mainland, where Philoctetes himself had settled after the fall of Troy. Soon after Aegesta had been founded, Aeneas arrived with his fleet of Trojan refugees and named two nearby rivers Scamander and Simois in memory of a pair of streams in his Troad homeland. One version of the myth names Aeneas as the actual founder of the city. In this little-known tale, Aeneas founds both Aegesta and another city, Elyma, so-named for the Trojan Elymus, a companion of Aegestus. Aegestus and Elymus were able to reach Sicily before the arrival of Aeneas in three ships which they had previously captured from Achilles before the fall of Troy.