The Saracens Caves
The "Saracens Caves" are one of the many traces of the existence of ancient
people (probably the Sicans) that inhabited our countryside.
There are spaces dug in the cliff, in an adjacent high sandstone cliff,
alongside the Saracens River, a Simeto’s affluent that flows for few
kilometres along the 120 state road.
Probably they are of prehistoric origin,
used in various ages, sometime as rooms and in some cases for military purposes.
The Arabs called the zone "Caves of the Flour", or of the Giants, where just in
the vicinities, in 1040, they had been defeated, after a ferocious battle, by
the Byzantine general George Maniace.
This is what writes about these caves Benedict Radice in his Historical
Memories of Bronte: «The Maniace caves that the Cavallari calls
Caves of the Giants, and the people Saracens Caves, are also remarkable.
Of these caves, about a kilometre from the Abby, at the right of the Simeto
river, the Cavallari had already given news to the Duke of Lugues
believing to be very important.
Also the Amari speaks of these caves as of a very ancient work indeed.
these and those of Rocca Calanna the Holm points out:
«Ancient caves, he writes,
dug by man, can be found between Bronte and Maletto».
There are three caves:
The one to the Rocca‘s feet is shaped as a
corridor, two meters high, and a meter and a half wide.
The second, further up, is divided in two rooms with pillars dug all around.
The third one is above; shaped nearly square with three lateral openings, facing
South; it is eight metres long and six wide.
Rather than graves they must have
been rooms for people living there: lookouts where, maybe, in the middle ages,
from the sixth to the seventh century, rustic people, dedicated to agriculture
and sheep farming, lived for the safety of the countryside; some sort of
troglodytes, descending from the ancient Siculi, of which some
semi-barbarian groups always remained.
The digging work is somewhat similar to the caves of the famous Sperlinga
Other similar testimonies to the Saracens Caves,
scattered in Bronte’s territory, are the ”burial little cells”, mostly small,
where - according to Radice - the corpses were crouched down, with
hands stretched over the knees. They appear similar to the cells of the
Pantalica necropolis, near Syracuse, rich of funeral furnishings,
showing traits of the Sicani’s society of the second period”
Bronte ones, more than to the Siculi should be attributed to the
Sicani, first uncouth inhabitants of Sicily.
Interesting and remarkable
are “the gruttitti” dug in the
Rocca Calanna and the
Contura, in the Primaria soprana, under the Colla, in
Fontanamurata, Margiogrande, others in
Placa Baiana and in
At few kilometres from the Caves, nearly adjacent to the
road 120, in district Balze-Mangiasarde, under Maletto can be
found further traces of
ancient settlings: there can be easily seen a boundary wall (winding for
nearly two kilometres) including stone rooms rectangular o circular.
They might go from the VI – V century B.C. up to the late Roman period, (III
– IV century B.C.).
The amount of wall ruins, the perfect basement and
raised realization, made with large lava stones, the proximity of other
sites of archaeological interest (Tartaraci, Saracens Caves, Santa
Venera, etc.) make of this spot an important reason of study and
analysis of the Siculi people’s presence in our country side.