The Tryskelion

The name of this symbol is the Tryskelion , it means an object with three legs. We have the first signs of this symbol in the prehistoric ages, when in some excavations somewhere in Asia, a vase from XII century BC., was discovered where you could clearly see two warriors, painted in the vase where one of the warriors had the symbol of the Tryskelion Painted on his shield. To be objective nobody has yet found where this symbol came from and why. Around the VII century B.C., another vase was found in Sicily with a painting of Minerva that kills the giant Enciladus and  the Tryskelion painted on her shield.

During the reign of Dionysus I, his soldiers wanted to paint the Tryskelion on their shield to show that they where Sicilians.

This Symbol seems to be very old and was found in many places of the Mediterranean countries; one was found also in the island of Man, located between England and Ireland, but in this symbol the legs are protected by armor.

The Greeks had visited Sicily at different times, and when they ascertained themselves of the fertility of the land and the possibility of developing a new mother land, they came in mass, called the island Trinacria because of its shape as a triangle, Where the three points we now know to be Cape Pachino in the South, Cape Peloro to the East and Cape Lilibeo to the West.

It was later that the Tryskelion became a symbol for Sicily and today we make one meaning of the two: Tryskelion and Trinacria, which in reality they refer to two different things: Trinacria is the name of the triangle while Tryskelion refers to the object with three legs. Later to the midle of the Triskelion was added the head of the Medusa, the most terrible of the three Gorgonis sisters, which had snakes for hair and had the power to turn in to stone anybody who would look at her. When the Romans captured Sicily and made of it a roman province, they called it Triquetra, which also means triangle. But the name of Sicily, which came from the prehistoric people of the Siculis is what prevailed against the Greeks, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the erosion of the times, as if it was written in gold and tempered by fire.

Today’s version of the head is that of a girl, maybe a goddess, at times with wings, to signify the eternal running of time, and snakes to signify wisdom. The snakes, later, were substituted by wheat blades to signify the fertility of the Island. The Tryskelion was adopted by the Greeks as symbol for Trinacria, and, later, it became and remained as synonym for Sicily. The Tryskelion (or Trinacria) has been adopted by the Sicilian Parliament as integral part of the Sicilian Flag, and is placed in the middle of the red and gold of the Flag.

Nino Russo

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  1. The Isle of Man off the coast of Britain has a very similar symbol. Giuseppe Quatriglio in his book on Sicilian Myths even mentions that the two may have a connection. Very interesting article.

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