A Description of the Aetnaean Crater, or (deep and wide-mouth'd) Fire-Cup.
The Crater, or Fire-Cup of Mount Aetna, is found by different Observations to be of a different largeness and capacity. There are some, who say, they have observ'd it to be two miles, and eighty paces wide. Others thirty miles. Others, lastly, four hundred miles. (No question here must be some mistake in the Printer, ad∣ding too many Ciphers to the numbring Figures.) But it cannot be that in an Orifice, expos'd to so great tumultuations, and conti∣nually agitated and tossed, with so many assaults, fits, and convul∣sions of ferocious, and rageing Nature; it should not be found, ever and anon; sometimes larger, sometimes streighter; according to the condition of the Times. Which I my self also with greatest admiration have try'd; not in Aetna only, but also in the Lipari∣tan Mountains; yea and in Vesuvius too; sith the Mountain, even at the least more vehement eructation, is much shook; and from Page 48 its shaking, heaps off more diseasy and slippery matter being ga∣thered together, and accruing to the Mountain, fall down alwayes with the Mountains more violent jogging, and convulsion, as it were; which heaps, as they are now big, with a new birth; so they give new food and nutriment to the Fires. And so from this fall of the Mountainous parts; its necessary that the Crater be made wider; whence it comes to pass, that the interiour parts of the Mountain rise up and swell, increasing by little and little; and the empty places of the diminish'd, or lessened Crater are fill'd up. Whence of necessity likewise, the Crater of the Mountain must be rendred streighter too. Yea Histories relate, that the matter heap'd up within, from the salls, have thereupon grown to such an excres∣cency, that for the course of many years, it sent forth neither smoke nor fire; And the devouring Gulph to have yeelded access and ad∣mission, to the more curious, very far, without all hurt and dan∣ger; till the fuel of new copious matter, and now ripe and mature again to conceive fire; assaulting and setting, as it were, again upon the Mountain; and being re-kindled, having shook off its Yoak, by so much the more power powerfully wax'd fierce with horrendous burnings; by how much its supply of combustible matter was greater and more ready. And this lot all the Vulcanian Mountains undergoe; which sometimes making respits, grow unto an immense greatness, by the coacervation of matter falling in; sometimes by occult Machinations, and contrivances of Subterraneous Fires, the Fuel and Sustenance of the prepared matter being kindled; That which was in so many years exceedingly grown, is shook asunder by horrible Tempests of burnings, and vomits it out even from the low∣est * Hell of the Mountain; even as at this day is apparent. Which spectacle is so formidable, that there is none so stout-heartrd, that can look into it without fear; and, as we say, his Hairs standing an end, and his head turning round with giddiness. The devouring Gulf is so deep, that it exceeds all eye-sight; and fearful with Rocks, rising up out of the sides like Pyramides. And whereas the sides by a direct and perpendicular guidance and conduct of the Rocks verge, or bend and incline downwards, in a Parallel (and equal) descent: Yet according to the Laws of Opticks, they seem by reason of their too much distance, to meet in the Centre; which has impos'd on many Observators, deluded by this Optick Mockery, to think, the interiour sides of the Mountain to be drawn close and streight, into a Conick Surface, and outside. In the bottom (won∣derful Page 49 to be spoke!) the Mountain alwayes from continual eructa∣tion of Mineral matter, undermines and attempts, I know not what, towards the constituting and erecting a new Fabrick of a Mountain; And accordingly I remember, I alwayes observ'd (as it were) a cer∣tain Laky Pit, glistring with melted Metal. The sides up and down, by fit and correspondent passages, vomit forth perpetual Smoak in * abundance of places; which by night we understood to be an en∣kindled flame. This voraginous Gulph is never without roarings and bellowings; which now and then it utters so horrendous, that they * make the very Mountain it self to quake and tremble. In a word whosoever desires to behold the power of the only Great and Good God, let him betake himself to these kind of Mountains; and he will be so astonish'd and stupified with the ineffable effects of the Miracles of Nature, that he will be constrained ever and anon to pronounce, from the most intimate and inmost affection of his heart; O the depth of the Riches and Wisdom of God! How incomprehensible are thy Judgments, and how unsearchable thy wayes, by which thou hast constituted the World!
The Mountain is so high, that from thence all Sicily may be sur∣vey'd at once; Yea, and your sight help'd with an opportune and seasonable time, may reach even unto Africa. But if by any Tempest the Mountain be troubled and disturb'd; then you would think, that there was an end of the lives of all conversant there: All things are so involv'd with horrendous Storms and Whirlwinds, together with thick Snows and Cinders.
I said a little before, that out of the sides of the Mountain great plenty of Smoak mixt with Fires, was discovered in very many pla∣ces, * which Aestuaries or raging places, if in time they be over∣whelm'd, either with the concussion and shaking of the Mountain, or any other accident; Then the raving fury and madness, as it were, of the Mountain growing on, it has been found to prepare and get its exit and way out, even from other places, through the outmost surface of the Mountain; which when it comes to pass, it effects such horrid clefts and openings, and such wide-mouth'd divulsions, with such formidable passages of the Subterraneous Vaults and Store-houses; which astonished with admiration we beheld, even to this very day, sometimes to have been. I saw a Ca∣vern, * which would easily contain an Army of thirty thousand me; as a little before we hinted.
There is there also a most dark and Caliginous Den, which they Page 50 call, La Grotta della Palomba, of such profundity, as well as capa∣city; that the Inhabitants of the Mountain think, that therein is a passage made by some Submarine path to the Liparitan Islands. But that from these and the like Caverns, and under-ground Vaults, siery Flouds and Rivers have issued forth; The Channel hard by, sill'd and slust with Pumice and adust stones, which the Sicilians call Sciarra's, does abundantly instruct us. Which Torrents indeed of liquid and melted Fire, Histories deliver to have slown and run * down sometimes to eighteen miles in length; and sometimes, now one, then two, three, or four miles space in breadth. So that here∣upon none can sufficiently admire, from whence such an incredible sertileness of melted matter should take its original; where, and in what places it should have shops, and fusory or melting fornaces, of so great capacity, hidden and laid up underneath, to the liquefaction and melting of so many Minerals and Metals.
But as these inaccessible works of God, are most remote from all * Sense; so they can never be enough penetrated and pry'd into by any humane Understanding; And it remains only to wonder and admire at, what cannot be conceived of the incomprehensible Ma∣jesty of the Divine Works. For if you undertake an account or com∣putation of the melted matter, according to the calculation of divers times; you would find it to grow to such an extravagant heap, that it would sar exceed twenty Aetna's, in its bulk. But that we may more clearly confirm our Account and Reckoning according to Rea∣son, I will subjoyn here a brief Chronicle, of the more famous and celebrated Fires and Eruptions; wherewith the Mountain siercely raging with horrendous destructions and slaughters, has at all times exerted and discovered its Burnings.