Trinacria [trŠ'neŠkrŠ?, traŠ-] noun
the Latin name for: Sicily

Story of the Trinacria

The Trinacria The word or term Trinacria means "triangle" as for the shape of Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean.  The Greeks called it Trinakrias, the Romans called it Trinacrium, meaning "star with 3 points".  Today its known as Sicily, or Sicilia in Italian.

The Greeks circumnavigated the island and noted the three capes, Peloro, Passero, and Lilibeo, forming three points of a triangle in the northeast, the southeast, and the west. "Taken by its beauty they likened its shores to the legs of a woman" and represented the island with the TRINAKIE.

The Sicilian Banner recently adopted by the autonomous region of Sicily has the Trinacria in its center on a shield of yellow gold and red-orange.

The head in the center was that of Medusa, whose hair was turned into snakes by the outraged goddess Athene. In their wisdom, the Sicilian parliament replaced the Medusa head with one that is less threatening to the innocent onlooker who, after all, should not be anticipating being turned to stone.


Anyone who has been to the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea will be aware of the triangular symbol of the island. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the famous 'trinacria' of Sicily. Are both derived from ancient Greek mythology? In fact, this seems to be the case. That of Sicily features a Gorgon's head whose hair is made from snakes holding ears of wheat.

According to Greek legend the Gorgon was a terrible creature made up, in part, of three daughters of the Gods of the sea. As well was a hair-do of snakes the creature possessed bronze hands, gold wings and wild boar's tusks. It lived at the ends of the earth (Sicily and the Isle of Man?) and could petrify a man with its glance, being also part Medusa.
As regards the 'trinacria' of Sicily the grain represents the fertility of the island and the three legs the extreme points of Sicily ie. Capo Pallor in the province of Messina, Capo Passer near Siracusa and Capo Lille west of Marsala.
Interestingly, the symbol of a man's leg bent at the knee was popular with Spartan warriors and represented power or force. Ancient Greek linguists will pick up on the geographical significance of the term 'triskèles' meaning 'three promontories'.

So how did it ever end up in the Isle of Man? Apparently the Normans, who had already reached Sicily by the end of the 11th century, imported the symbol following their invasion of England in 1066. The 'trinacria' replaced a previous Scandanavian symbol and must have been a political act as the culture of the island was deeply Celtic-Viking. It was only in February 2000 that the 'trinacria' as we see it above was approved for the Sicilian flag.

Isle of Man links:


In ancient times
when demigods made myth
and history together
heroic beings
moved upon this isle
in strength and beauty
and terror too
these forms pursued
each other
sometimes changing forms
one to another
or rising from
the wine-red sea
to plunge
into the fertile earth
and later
spring to life again
half human
but already mortal
interred in tombs
that still today endure
to leave behind
exotic names
that history
can never quite accept
nor can they be erased
nor overlooked

Angela Celeste