1902 Encyclopedia > Ischia, Italy


ISCHIA, the ancient Pitleecusa, Aenaria, or Inarinie, and the mediaeval Isola, a volcanic island of Italy, is situated at the north entrance to the Bay of Naples, about 15 miles south-west of the Cape of Miseno. The circumference, omitting the irregular indentations of the coast-line, is about 19 miles, and the superficial area about 26 square miles. Monte Epomeo or San Nicola, the ancient Epoineus or Epopeus, which rises to the height of 2600 feet above sea-level, is the highest point. The principal summit is surrounded by twelve inferior volcanic cones, from one of which the last eruption in the island took place in 1302. The valleys between the mountains and the plain which occupies a part of the interior are remarkable for their luxuriant vegetation and beautiful scenery. The vegetable products of Ischia are very rich and various. Most of the cultivated land is occupied by vines, from which a somewhat acrid white wine is manufactured. Corn, oil, and southern fruits are produced in luxuriant profusion. Oak and chestnut groves, thickets of myrtle and lentiscus, cotton-trees, mulberries, and arbutus stretch up the mountain sides and along the pastures. Iron and sulphur are found on the island, and bricks, tiles, and pottery are manufactured at Casamicciola. The great sources of wealth to the island are the numerous thermal mineral springs, which are among the strongest and most efficacious in Europe. Casamicciola is the headquarters of the water, hot-air, and sand baths, but Lacco is also popular in the season. Though the nominal bathing season lasts from June to September, the exquisite climate and lovely situation of Ischia allure visitors all the year round. The island has suffered heavily from earthquakes. A very severe shock in March 1881 occasioned great loss of life and property. The inhabitants, about 25,000 in number, are distinguished by a peculiar dialect and figure, and are chiefly engaged in tillage and fishing. The chief town is Ischia (6500) on the east coast, the seat of a bishop, with an old castle of the 15th century. Other towns are Forio (6100) on the west coast, Casamicciola and Lacco on the north, Panza, and Moropano.

Ischia was first colonized by Greeks from Chalcis in Eubcea., but although the colony rose to prosperity it was driven from the island by volcanic outbreaks. Similar convulsions dispersed a second colony established by Hiero of Syracuse. From the Neapolitans, who were the next settlers, the island passed into the hands of Rome, but Suetonius infonas us that Augustus again restored it to Naples, in exchange for the inferior Caprem. The name of Ischia does not often occur in Roman history, but it seems to have been early in repute as a resort for invalids. After the fall of Rome, it suffered much and repeatedly at the hands of the successive invaders and rulers of Italy. In 1299 it was captured by Charles II. of Naples, since which time it has had a full share of the vicissitudes that are so characteristic of the history of Italian towns and provinces.

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