Summit eruptions occurred in 2006, 2007–2008, January–April 2012, and again in July–October 2012.The first known record of eruption at Etna is that of Diodorus Siculus.It is the highest active volcano in Europe outside the Caucasus. This makes it by far the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy, being about two and a half times the height of the next largest, Mount Vesuvius.
Thousands of years ago, the eastern flank of the mountain experienced a catastrophic collapse, generating an enormous landslide in an event similar to that seen in the 1980 eruption of Mount St. The landslide left a large depression in the side of the volcano, known as 'Valle del Bove' (Valley of the Ox).
Research published in 2006 suggested this occurred around 8000 years ago, and caused a huge tsunami, which left its mark in several places in the eastern Mediterranean.
In 396 BC, an eruption of Etna reportedly thwarted the Carthaginians in their attempt to advance on Syracuse during the Second Sicilian War.
A particularly violent explosive (Plinian) summit eruption occurred in 122 BC, and caused heavy tephra falls to the southeast, including the town of Catania, where many roofs collapsed.
In contrast, flank eruptions can occur down to a few hundred metres altitude, close to or even well within the inhabited areas.