Legend of the Wizard Heliodorus


The legend of the magician Eliodoro tells about bad stories made by the magician on the back of an elephant in Catania.
Heliodorus, whose name derives from the term “liotru“ which in Catania indicates the elephant symbol of the city, lived around 725 AD when Catania was a Byzantine province of the Eastern Roman Empire. Eliodoro aspired to become the bishop of Catania but was unable to assert himself. It is said that Heliodorus met a Jewish sorcerer who taught him dark arts and converted him to Judaism and that one night he went to the tomb of the heroes and began to summon the devil, thanks to a mysterious writing that had been given to him by the Jewish sorcerer. Thus it was that the devil gave him magical powers as long as he renounced faith in Christ. According to the legend, Eliodoro magically created the elephant, that today dominates the elephant fountain in Piazza Duomo in Catania, with the lava of Etna. Straddling the magical creature Eliodoro he went around the city, making jokes and teasing the population. It is said that Eliodoro was able to buy any merchandise with precious stones and gold, which however became normal stones in the hands of the poor merchants. Once he managed to persuade the bishop's nephew to aim for a horse race, making him win. At the time of the award ceremony the winning horse spoke, revealing that the devil was in the magician's service, and then disappeared. Following this episode, Heliodorus was taken to prison, but managed to escape by bribing the guards with the offer of three pounds of gold. Also this time he used a large stone with a gold appearance, which later regained its original shape. He was then sentenced to death by Constantine but before the execution he asked for a basin of water: he plunged his head into it and mysteriously disappeared saying: "Whoever wants me, look for me in Catania! ". Again brought back before the executioner for having set fire to the "behind" of the wife of Heraclius, a minister of Constantine, Heliodorus dwindled just before the execution, entered by the executioner's right sleeve and came out of the other, shouting: " I escaped the first time; this is the second. If you want me, look for me in Catania! ". He disappeared again. It was Bishop Leone called the Wonderworker who, celebrating a propitiatory mass, managed to reduce the magician Heliodorus to a pile of ashes inside the Terme Achilliane in 778 AD His elephant remained alive and is now the symbol of the city of Catania.

Share on