Mythological Bridge of Scylla & Charybdis Would Unite Italy with Sicily
Desperate to jump-start a stalled economy, in 2020 Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte revived a long-dormant infrastructure project. If approved, it would lead to the construction of the longest bridge in the world. Once word got out that Italy was thinking of constructing the Strait of Messina bridge, proposals began pouring in from architectural and engineering firms from around the world. One of the most unique and innovative plans has been submitted by Saverio Adriano Marchisciana, whose design takes inspiration from the mythological stories of Scylla and Charybdis.
The two 400-meter towers would allow the bridge to span the 3200-meter Strait of Messina. (Saverio Adriano Marchisciana)
Design Inspired by Mythological Sea Creatures Scylla and Charybdis
If the project were to be built, the proposed bridge would span the three-kilometer (two-mile) Strait of Messina to connect the island of Sicily with the southern tip of Italy, allowing the trip between those locations to be completed by automobile for the first time. Saverio Adriano Marchisciana is an an acclaimed architect from the Italian city of Gela who has gained attention for his imaginative designs.
Harvesting imagery from ancient mythology, Saverio Adriano’s proposed suspension bridge would be anchored in the churlish waters of the Mediterranean by a pair of 400-meter (1,300-foot) support towers that would be constructed in stylized form to represent two fearsome mythological sea creatures. “I examined the fantastic tales of this evocative place that were told by the ancient Greeks,” Saverio Adriano explained. “They believed that two enormous sea monsters lived here, Scylla and Charybdis, creatures that tormented navigators and endangered them as they navigated through the Strait of Messina.”
Saverio’s imagining of the bridge towers as monsters attacking passing ships. (Courtesy of Saverio Adriano Marchisciana)
The top of the two towers are modeled after the mythological images of Scylla and Charybdis. Saverio Adriano’s soaring structure would include space for high-end restaurants, which would be accessible via a cable car system that would traverse the sky suspended from the large steel cables that would be used to affix the bridge to its support towers. Attached to the Scylla tower would be six large wind turbines, one for each of that mythological monster’s heads. This renewable energy system would be used to power all of the bridge’s various functions, making the structure entirely self-sufficient and reducing its post-construction carbon footprint to zero.
“The Scylla and Charybdis Bridge should not be a mere bridge whose only purpose is to provide a crossing between two regions,” Saverio Adriano emphasized. “Above all it should be a recognizable marker in the landscape, one that can also become an economic attractor for the whole of southern Italy.”
Inspired by the mythological sea creatures Scylla and Charybdis, six turbines on each tower would reduce the carbon footprint of the bridge features to zero. (Courtesy of Saverio Adriano Marchisciana)
Sailors Beware: The Story of Scylla and Charybdis
The ferocious predators Scylla and Charybdis were first introduced to the world nearly 3,000 years ago by the legendary Greek poet Homer, in his literary classic the Odyssey. The nightmarish creatures were said to lie in wait on opposite sides of the Strait of Messina, waiting to devour unsuspecting ships that traveled too close to their underwater lairs.
- Sicily: Where Cultures and Histories Converge and Giants Roam
- Identity Crises of the Sirens: Wise Women, Murderesses or Singing Prostitutes?
- Eight Legendary Creatures from Greek Mythology That You Might Not Know About
Scylla was represented as a six-headed beast with a voracious appetite for human flesh, who might emerge from the Mediterranean depths at any moment to smash holes in passing ships and snatch her thrashing prey from the water after they were thrown from the decks. Charybdis, on the other hand, was a more mysterious creature that was never actually seen, but could be easily identified by the frenzied whirlpools she created to swallow boats and ships of all sizes.
When Homer’s hero Odysseus was forced to pass through the Strait of Messina during his epic journey home, he was told by the sorceress Circe that it was better to pass closer to Scylla than Charybdis, since the former would only steal some of his men while the latter would consume his whole ship and all its occupants. After encountering both monsters in succession, Odysseus managed to barely escape with his life. But like others survivors who followed the same route, he never again repeated this treacherous trip through some of the most hazardous waters on Earth.
Painting of Odysseus facing the choice between Scylla and Charybdis. (Public domain)
The Truth Behind the Myth of Scylla and Charybdis
Modern scholars have concluded that Scylla and Charybdis actually represented dangerous below-water reefs that could wreck ships in the former case, and hazardous whirlpools that sometimes developed in the rough waters that separated the Italian peninsula and Sicily in the latter. Based on current scientific understanding, this is entirely reasonable and rational.
But from the perspective of the ancient Greeks, what mattered the most was not the scientific accuracy of their stories, but the impression those stories left on the mind of the listener or reader. The Greeks lived in a world infused with spirit and meaning, and they deliberately blurred the lines separating myth, metaphor, and reality to reflect the mysterious and unfathomable forces at work in the natural world.
Even if Scylla and Charybdis didn’t exist in recognizable physical form, the dangers they represented were completely real. The stories told of their activities and exploits were terrifying and unforgettable, which meant that seafarers who’d heard them would remember that the Strait of Messina was a dangerous place that should best be avoided if at all possible. Risking the passage across those waters could very likely result in death, even if there were no sea monsters lurking beneath the waves waiting to snack on foolish humans who decided to tempt fate.
Building a Bridge from the Past to the Future
At this point, it is not known if a bridge across the Strait of Messina will ever be built. The idea has been floating around forever, but the elevated cost and the difficulty of working in harsh and dangerous seas has prevented the project from ever getting off the ground.
And unfortunately for bridge advocates, Prime Minister Conte was recently forced to resign from his post after the collapse of his ruling coalition. It is uncertain whether the next ruling coalition will be willing to support the expensive bridge project, even if Conte returns as Prime Minister (some speculate that he might).
But if the Strait of Messina bridge project ever does get off the ground, both figuratively and literally, Saverio Adriano Marchisciana has come up with an ingenious design proposal that certainly deserves strong consideration. His bridge concept would connect the past and present like no other proposal ever could. By incorporating the concepts of Scylla and Charybdis, the design melds the worlds of classical mythology and modern engineering to create a distinctive landmark that tourists from all over the planet would flock to see.
Top image: The design created by architect Saverio Adriano Marchisciana, takes inspiration from the mythological tales of Scylla and Charybdis, sea creatures said to have roamed the waters between Italy and Sicily. Source: Saverio Adriano Marchisciana
By Nathan Falde