Song: Tarantel 

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   In the V century B.C., the Greeks, having almost exhausted their resources in that very long and famous war against Sparta, turned their attention to Sicily to refurbish their coffer. Against the best judgment of every great man of Athens and against the prediction of their gods, they put together a big fleet of one hundred and thirty ships and all kinds of arms and war machines of the time. The command of the fleet was given to three of their best generals: Alcibiades, Lamacus and Nicia. This latest was given the job of "Admiral". Nicia tried very hard to come ashore in more than one place: in Messina, the Messinensis, although they received him very well as a friend, did not let him disembark his troops. He tried at Imera, but was shown the teeth by Imera's defense commander.

   At this point Nicia turned the fleet around, doubled the strait of Messina again and started to coast down the oriental coast of the Island to attempt a surprise attack on Syracuse. Before reaching the bay of Syracuse, the fleet was overtaken by the command ship Salamina, which was ordering Alcibiades to return to Athens immediately to be put on trial for licentious sexual behavior. Alcibiades apparently obeyed the order and started to follow the Salamina with his ship. In the dark of the night Alcibiades changed route and disappeared. Nicia, with the disappearance of Alcibiades, his right arm, had to change plans once more. He came back on his tracks and with cunning and betrayal occupied Catania. From here he set forth with a patrol to Saegesta (which was seeking Nicia's help) to see for himself what kind of a problem Saegesta was having with Selenunte. It turned out that Selenunte had been taking advantage, from time to time, of Saegesta, which, because of its arrogance, had no friends. A big supporter of Selenunte was Ikkar, and the ruler of Saegesta together with Nicia made a plan of invasion of that city.

   Nicia liked the idea first because Ikkar was said to be very rich and then because Ikkar had a very small army incapable of sustaining an assault from a large one. Nicia returned to Catania and from there set sail toward the northern coast of Sicily and then to Ikkar, just west of Palermo. The attack took place at night: Nicia from the sea with his army and Saegesta from land with five hundred horsemen. Ikkar was destroyed, a great number of its inhabitants were killed the rest taken prisoners. The Greeks were boasting to be the most civilized people of the time, and boasted to be the only people to uphold human rights. In a war they will spare death to as many people as possible, only to turn around and sell them at the slave auction as slaves! Actually they would spare the lives to as many as possible, so they could get the maximum value possible out of their prisoners. A dead man is no use to anybody: a live person could be sold. Hundreds of men, women and children were taken prisoners at Ikkar, and all were sold as slaves. Among all the women taken, one in particular emerged from the crowd: a young girl of rare beauty, her name was Laide.

   In a war of that sort, anybody who captured anything, it was rightfully his. Laide was captured by a Greek soldier, who sold her to a man from Corinth, which at the time was the most corrupted city under the ionic sky. In this city her master introduced Laide to the corrupted way of life of the Eastern world. Forced to that way of life very young, by circumstances independent of her will, intelligent beside being beautiful, soon Laide came to know how to take advantage of her beauty and of the society in which she was forced to live. It was here that Laide began to put her love on the block and, made smart, at a very high price. All the men of her time fell for her, and the men of her time weren't just the public at large. She could not be had by the common public for her price was too high. She was sought after by philosophers and princes because of her intelligence and wits beside of her beauty.

   All Greece wanted her, and everybody put her as born in their own city. It is said that it was easier to have an audience with a king than one with Laide. Apellee's paintings were all inspired by the beautiful ETERA. This was the name that, at the time, was given to the ladies that today are called "Escort girls" . Then it was a great honor for a lady to be an Etera. But only in the East: in Babylonia, in Assyria, in Egypt, in Athens, in Corinth... Laide was courted by kings and princes from other lands, who came to Corinth to see her. The Philosopher Demostenes, Diogenes, Socrates and the historian Euripides were her admirers. But external beauty is not eternal, and eventually age took its toll, and Laide began to turn. (1) Her ravaging beauty started to fade. All her admirers started to fall away, and the beautiful lady grew lonelier and lonelier every day, while she became uglier and uglier. Like her beauty, her ugliness became proverbial as you could see the sin engraved on that ugly face. A monument to Laide was erected posthumously in Corinth, and an epitaph was written on it in Greek:


She who was so beautiful
and much loved by the Greeks,
was born in Esire, and was born of Love;
now in the field of Tessaly lays,
in cold stone of fine cut marble
ugly, dead, debauched and alone.


   Later Laide was recalled as the most ugly of women. For some sardonic reason, she was remembered for her old age ugliness instead of her young age beauty. Maybe she had created so many enemies that now everybody was having vengeance in recalling her as the most ugly lady of history: so much so that her name became synonym of ugly. Now while we know Laide mostly as a legend, still her name became a word of our language, of our every day vocabulary: "LAIDA" or "LAIRA" is the word that came to be used in Sicily and even in Italy to denote an ugly person, an ugly situation, a mouthful with a bad taste. In other words "LAIRA" for us is anything that we do not like. 


(1) La Barunissa di Carini. vv. 109-111