Civic Institutions: The Right Belice River

It’s impossible to speak of Poggioreale without mentioning the Belice River. This river has always been its passion and motif and even of its greatest activity since it bathes it for about 14 Km. at an elevation of 180, under Sepia, to the north-east, and up to the Cucca Pass, on the extreme southern end of town. It is also interesting to the town for what is planted and for the vineyards along the banks of the river. The farmer has always been near it, since he has always been obliged to cross it on the back of a mule and not without danger and mishap. Along all the Poggioreale territory, no bridge existed for secure passage during times of high water, simply to the north, distant many kilometers from the farming territory, was found the bridge of Calatrasi, in an Arab, Byzantine style, of stone wall since, and another to the south, in the territory of Santa Margherita Belice.

Now there are several important bridges in reinforced concrete, along with the new roads, for whom the high waters are no longer any worry to our farmers which now comfortably cross in order to work the formerly feudal estate lands, which they cultivate in abundance.

The Belice is one of the four great Sicilian rivers, formed by two branches which begin, and are fed, in the Palermo province. It was called flumen magnum because in ancient times it was navigable, feeding a fresh-water lake, wedged between the heights of Cusumano, Cavallaro, Cautali, Carrubelli, Carrubba; there was the confluence of the two branches. The right is longer and has a course of 45 KM., it flows under the Towns of Piana dei Greci and Santa Cristina Gela.

Its head runs between, among others, the Magazzino, Pelevel, Ginestra and La Cometa peaks and the left runs between the Zolfanello and Maganoce peaks. This right branch runs first under the name of Home, Onone or Fiume Grande [Great River] up to Monte Arcivocaloot, where it takes the name of Fiume di Pietra Lunga [Long Rock River] up to malvello and from there on, with the name of Right Belice, it continues until it rejoins its left branch. It descends a few kilometers to the east of Monte ]ato, lapping the west side of the Roccad di Maranfusa (Calatrasi), passing under that ancient Arab-Byzantine style Bridge, and from the trail of Corleone up to the confluence it turns inward to the territory east of Poggioreale, for about 10 kilometers.

Under the former Corridore estate the two arms of the river, passing separately between the two very close bridges, of very recent and modern construction, uniting in a single course forming on the first like a lake; thus, in one confluence, the Belice goes on the flow into Porto Palo.

The Belice is characteristic for the sinuosity of its course and for the fertility of its dagale (land sloping to its banks). Its waters have a certain warmth; the Mongitore calls them cold at the surface and hot underneath, which is confirmed by Gaetano: Eluvium (Belice) in superficie frigidum, infra calidum; and Massa agrees with Antigono who writes: Capaenum et Crimissum in superiori frigidos, infra calidos esse; where Di Giovanni thinks that the Belice, for reasons of warm waters that receive, could well have been called: Termesso.

Belice is the name; erroneously it is at times pronounced Belice. The original Arab name is Belik, that is a bi-syllable; in our language instead it has become trisyllabic, the accent therefore, due to the added syllable, falls on the penultimate and is pronounced Be-li-ce; the accent does not go back to the first syllable.

The right Belice is the Crimiso of the ancients. Crimisus, Virgil, Plutarch, Dioniges d’Alicamasso, Cluverius. Crimnisus, Claudiano (just Bissio and Gian Parrasio), Virgil in other Codicils, second lesson of Servio. Crinisus: Higino, Dionigi d’Alicamasso, Virgilio and Caludiano in other editions, as in Cellario, Heinsio and Calepino; Crimisius, Antigono, Goltzio. Crimisius, Antigono, Goltzio. Crimissos, Vibo. Crimisos, Vibo and Cluverio. Crinissos, Emilio, Comelio Nepote. Crimessus, Plutarch. Crimesus, Plutarch in other Codecile, cited by Cluverio.

The ancients called it Crimisus in memory of Crimisi, father of Aceste, or according to the etymology traced by the Greek language, for the heights of its banks, as Fazello claims.

The river Crimiso is famous in history for the victory at its banks obtained by Timoleone of Corinth over the Carthaginians, narrated by Plutarch.

The Belice is famous for the abundance and the tastiness of its fish, among which are the delicious eel, these are great for fishing when they break into the first strong high waters of autumn, churning the water with eddies (nachi), which make them rise to the surface where they are often carried by the current which pushes them into the fishing nets (rnanicuni) held on the bank (conzit).

De Burigni classified the river Belice: the great river teeming with fish, while Adria wrote: Palias fluvius Bilikim nunc vocant, ubi sunt alose, trocte, spinne, cepluili, cum jarrecta trnnantnr, and Caronna wrote: in the same river has always been abundant fish; trout, eel an mullet. Grayling, arborello, and the exquisite tench fish are all found here, as well as gdmmani (gammarus pulex-’mninareddm), the tiny crustacean of the antipodes, and the common crab (crostacei superiori).

[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: https://www.amazon.com/History-Poggioreale-Sicily-1640-1956/dp/1072403374/ ]