CERIGO, an island in the Mediterranean, celebrated in ancient history, from its capital Cythera dedicated to Venus.
This island, zhich is begirt with rocks and shoals, sometimes proviiig fatal to mariners, lies at the mouth of the Archipelago : it is of an oval figure, and about 50 or 60 miles in circumference. Near the coast are capa cious grottos, the roofs of which arc supported by pillars of stalactite, so regularly disposed, as at first sight to ap pear the work of art.
The climate, though temperate, is subject to sudden vicissitudes: shocks of earthquakes, generally slight and of short duration, are felt ; and sometimes violent hu•ri canes, accompanied by scorching heat, waste the vegeta tion, and root up the trees.
The soil being rooky, the crops are not abundant ; but a greater quantity of grain than is requisite for home consumption is obtained by the of the inhabitants, and its quality renders it an object of re search by the neighbouring islanders. A certain kind of small oi.ions, and olives also very small, produced here, are greatly esteemed, and reserved solely for pre sents. Such is likewise the case with two kinds of wine, one called lialico, which are too inconsiderable for ex portation.
The only indigenous quadrupeds of Cerigo are hares and rabbits : but the inhabitants possess goats, and lin port a few cattle from the Morea. Many migratory birds, particularly quails, frequent the island ; and fish are abundant on the coast, affording a constant and co pious resource. But the Neapolitans, in prosecuting the coral fishery, avail themselves more of the latter ;. and the hazard of falling into the hands of pirates is be sides a great restraint on the islanders. Scorpions of a large size are found here.
From the uncertainty of protection, the limited pro.. ductions of the island, and the want of opportunities to ameliorate the condition of the inhabitants, the popula tion is at present inconsiderable. It scarcely exceeds 8000 souls, dispersed in a town containing 1200, and in about thirty or forty villages and hamlets. Hernia is an extremely prevalent disease, insomuch that it is calcula ted a fifth part of the population labour under it. By
some this has been judged an hereditary malady ; accord ing to others, it is owing to the great consumption of oil and legumes in diet ; while the native physicians ascribe it entirely to the quality of the air.
Towards the south-west part of the island, the town of Cerigo, consisting of a confused assemblage of flat roofed edifices, is situated on a hill. It is defended by a strong fortress, which was lately taken by the British, on the expulsion of the Turks and Russians. The houses are necessarily low, to resist the effect of earthquakes, and the frequent tempests. The capacious harbours described by the ancients no longer exist, nor is there more than a confined place for the anchorage of shipping at the base of the hill.
Several monasteries and convents are on the island, one of which is held in peculiar veneration, from the inhabitants believing that St John there composed the Revelations. It is cut out of the solid rock, amidst impending cliffs which threaten to crush the spectator. The Greek cathedral, where the bishop of Cerigo officiates on solemn occasions, was built at the expellee of one of the eastern emperors in the year 1028.
An academy for the tuition of the public was recently established in Cerigo, and an old Roman Catholic mon astery converted to the more useful purpose of accom modating the pupils.
As the political state of the island must, from neces sity, be passive, the inhabitants have little inducement to action. They were deprived of the means of cultivation before the establishment of the academy ; but some repaired to Italy for the benefit of education. Living in constant insecurity from the numerous corsairs which infest the shores of the Mediterranean, is a depressing restraint to the progress of improvement, and renders the property they possess of inferior value. Sometimes their shipping is destroyed, their cattle carried away, and their own persons exposed to imminent danger.