A piece on the discovery of a vast colony of black coral in the Straits of Messina (which will, no doubt, affect Berlusconi’s bridge plans … and also makes me wonder if we’ll soon be hearing of some shipwreck discoveries), has an interesting closing bit:
The town of Scilla, near the site of the coral discovery, was described by the ancient Greek writer Homer, as being home to a six-headed sea monster named Scilla. The monster flashed three rows of sharp teeth in each of its six heads and rumbled along on 12 feet.
Not not far from Scylla’s cave, on the opposite Sicilian shore, lived another sea monster, Charybdis, who sucked passing ships into its vortex along that narrow stretch of water.
Together, Scylla and Charybdis made the Strait of Messina one of the Mediterranean’s most insidious passages: ships sailing there were almost certain to be destroyed by one of the monsters. Could the black coral have contributed to the region’s lore? Perhaps only indirectly, said Salvati.
“Indeed, there are very strong currents right where the black coral was found. I doubt there could be a direct link with the myth since the coral grows too deeply to be seen from the surface. However, many unknown marine species appear to live at that depth,” Salvati said.
Adrienne Mayor, a folklorist who authored “The First Fossil Hunters,” a book which explores the connection between Greek and Roman myths and the fossil beds around the Mediterranean, found the discovery of black coral colonies near the mythical Scylla “intriguing.”
“Ancient authors such as Aristotle, Vergil, Pliny and Pausanias described the Mediterranean as the home to many different species of sea monsters, giant octopus and squid,” Mayor told Discovery News. “Giant eels were reported by tuna fishermen between 1740 and the early 1900s — maybe they live in the deep underwater ravines lined with black coral!”