Messina (Messee'na), the second city of Sicily, stands on the western shore of the Strait of Messina, 110 miles E. by N. of Palermo, and 195 SSE. of Naples. It occupies a narrow strip of coast between the hills and the deep, safe harbour, whose opposite or eastern side is formed by a sickle-shaped tongue of rock, that only leaves a narrow entrance on the north. Although a very ancient city, Messina possesses few antique buildings, the greater part of it having been laid out regularly after the earthquake of 1783. The archiepiscopal cathedral was begun by Count Roger the Norman in 1098. The citadel was built by Charles II. of Spain in 1680, the Gonzaga Castle in 1540, and another castle in 1547-57. There are here a university, founded in 1549, with 45 teachers and 330 students, a college of the fine arts, etc. The industry is confined chiefly to muslin, linen, and silk goods, the working of coral, and the preparation of fruit essences. The imports include wheat, cottons, flour, hides, coals, dried fish, woollens, iron, etc. ; the exports, fruits, wine, essences, olive-oil, etc. Pop. of the commune, 150,000.
Founded in 732 b.c. by the people of CumAe, the place was first called Zancle (i.e. ' sickle') - a name changed in 495 to Messana (Messene). Held successively by Carthaginians, Mamertines, Romans, and Saracens, Messina was the scene in 1282 of the Sicilian Vespers' massacre, and from then to 1713 belonged to Spain. It revolted in 1671, but was reduced to submission in 1678. In 1743 the plague, and in 1783 an earthquake, wrought the ruin of the city. It was, moreover, bombarded by the Neapolitans in 1848, and in 1861 it was the last place in Sicily to yield to the Sardinian (Italian) troops.