Galatea was a beautiful nymph with milky-white skin. A character in Greek Mythology, she was one of 50 sea nymphs called the Nereidi. Together, this clan of nymphs lived at the bottom of the sea and made it their business to assist the sailors on their journeys. Polyphemus, the cyclops who lived on a nearby mountain (i.e. Mount Etna; Remember him in the Odyssey?), fancied Galatea; however she had designs on the young and handsome shepherd Aci.
Aci wooed Galatea with his virtuosic flute playing (He was half-nymph and half fawn, so because of his good genes, not only was he handsome, but he also had skills.). According to Ovid in Book XIII of Metamorphosis, Galatea disliked Polyphemus as much as she loved Aci. Well, Polyphemus was extremely jealous of Galatea’s love for Aci, and one day he came upon the lovers in the forest. Fearing Polyphemus’ jealous rage, Galatea escaped into the nearby waters, leaving Aci to be stoned to death by a boulder flung by Polyphemus from his mountain home. In her grief, using her nymph power, Galatea transformed Aci’s blood into a river and Aci into a river god. This photo, taken by our Experience Sicily guide Sebastiano Garifo at Acireale, illustrates Galatea’s grief because of the slaying of her love. This is the legend of how the Aci River and the towns nearby including Aci Trezza, Aci Castello, and Aci Catena got their names.
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Why are lost-love stories SO sad? The statues convey Galatea’s grief so acutely. Thank you for the storytelling, A.