Just like Romans like to get a tattoo of the Colosseum, Sicilians just have to get one dedicated to the symbol of their beloved land…
The Trinacria symbol can be found nowadays both on the flag of the Region of Siciliy (which we will talk about later) and that of the Isle of Man whose coat of arms was exported by the conquering Normans to replace their previous one – a ship, which was clearly of Viking influence.
The history of the Trinacria is associated with arcane mythology.
Let’s see how and begin with its appearance: the Trinacria, the ultimate symbol of Sicily, is composed of the head of a Gorgon whose hair is made up of snakes entwined with ears of wheat and three legs bending at the knee radiating from her head.
The head is a clear reference to the Gorgons, monsters of Greek mythology with brazen claws, boar’s tusks and – as already mentioned – snakes in the place of hair.
In ancient times, these mythological creatures were three in number and each represented a particular human perversion: Euryale sexual, Stheno moral, and Medusa, the most famous as well as the only mortal one of the three, intellectual perversion.
On a purely symbolic level, the ears of corn in the Trinacria stand for the fertility of Sicily while the three legs represent the three geographic promontories of the island: Capo Peloro (Messina, north-east), Capo Passero (Syracuse, south) and Cape Lilibeo (Marsala, west).
The origin of the word Trinacria derives from two Greek terms, “Treis” (“three”) and “Akra” (“promontories”) which subsequently gave rise to the Latin word “Triquetra” (“figure with three points”).
This symbol spread throughout the West thanks to the Greeks who often used the three-legged figure on the coins they minted. There are plenty of examples of this, from the coins discovered in Athens from the 6th century B.C. to others found in archaeological excavations in Paestum, Terina, Metaponto and Caulonia.
As regards Sicily, it seems that it was Agathocles, the famous ruler of Syracuse, who used the Trinacria on the coins in use in the region and also perhaps on his personal seal although historians are not all in agreement about this point.
Today, in 2020, the Trinacria is proudly displayed at the centre of the Sicilian flag which is red with a yellow diagonal band. According to a law passed in 2000 this flag can be flown outside the Sicilian Parliament (or Regional Assembly of Sicily) as well as in the headquarters of the regional authority and the premises of provincial councils, town halls and schools of all levels. The Trinacria also adorns the entrance of polling stations when parliamentary elections are held in Sicily.
Finally, from a historical point of view, yellow and red stand respectively for the admirable bravery of the cities of Palermo and Corleone who were the first to revolt against the French during the rebellions known as the Sicilian Vespers in the year 1282.