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Former Mozia

Mozia, a “archaeological miracle” !

Coming from Trapani, just before arriving in Marsala, among the low islands of the Lagoon newly emerging, if there is low tide you can walk across, above the water, the few hundred meters that separate from the mainland Mozia; Otherwise in, a boat will take you on the other side in a few minutes. Surrounded Big Island, Santa Maria Island and the islet School, opposite the white salt Marsala, Mozia is a small miracle natural and archaeological: sections of walls, of stairs, fortifications have immediate background of the sea and the heights of the other islands; on the shore, the silence broken by the slow rhythm of the waves against the rocks; the cothon, rare example of artificial harbor Punic – the only one in Sicily -, creeping flows between regular stone blocks, at whose edges are spaced patches of green mixed with sandy soil. A landscape rich and strong, neither sweet nor sour, which encompasses the remains of a Punic city never rebuilt after its end of 397 a. C.

Call in modern San Pantaleo (by a community of monks that had its headquarters in the Middle Ages), the ancient Mozia was founded by the Phoenicians of Tyre around the end of the eighth century and gained commercial wealth, also gradually accepting people of Greek origin and beating currency. The etymology could mean “spinning mill”, and in fact it seems he went famous for the production of fabrics dyed with the purple shellfish, who were there in abundance. In the sixth century, the expansion of the Carthaginian Empire and the rivalry with the Greek colonies led Mozia to establish a defense system that became gradually more and more solid. But all this was not enough to withstand the onslaught of the army of Dionysius of Syracuse, in that 397 besieged the island, using a new weapon, Catapult, capable of projecting “missiles” long-range. Defeat the Punic fleet, despite the strong defense of the inhabitants, Motya was razed to the ground. Shortly after, The Phoenicians took up the island but never rebuilt the city, transferring survivors in nearby Lilibeo. Now owned by the Whitaker Foundation, in those 45 ha there is no corner that whispers its lavish and sad events. The sanctuary in the locality Cappiddazzu, with the remains of a walled complex of worship; the left tophet, the sacred area where the Phoenicians they laid their sacrifices in honor of Baal and Astarte: it contains seven layers of urns with the remains of the victims (nella foto); we see today a part, disseminated carpet, stuck halfway into the ground, with a mixture of pity and horror into a ritual for which death seemed to enjoy greater respect for life. And then, the House of Mosaics; the remains of a pottery workshop, with wells and ovens for the manufacture of ceramics; an archaic necropolis, where the bodies were cremated. And finally, the precious museum dedicated to Joseph Whitaker, which preserves, inter alia, the most substantial collection of artifacts Phoenician-Punic Sicily: there is a superb group of stone with two lions attacking a bull; a famous grinning mask, the first of its kind found in Sicily, of meaning apotropaic; the statue clay figurine with a naked, adorned with necklaces and belt, that puts his hands on her breasts, probably a goddess of fertility; pots in polychrome glass paste, type greek and Punic, tombstones, votive inscriptions, funeral, amulets, beetles and burners. The eye that runs in front of these little masterpieces of craftsmanship and taste, even those who had only one daily use, stops in front of the famous Young elegance of Mozia,(nella foto) found in 79 near the industrial. It’ a marble statue of life-size, enigmatic but firm, andin picturesbody posed as strong sensuality; missing arms, but his hand remained resting on the hip and the other arm was raised to keep, perhaps, an object; the tunica, attillatissima, is thick folds, made with soft delicacy. Auriga, priest or magistrate, hair styling and strap on your chest there emphasize the nobility. Its refinement, almost haughty, us an idea of ​​the company you. Work of a master of the fifth century, symbol is rare – as claimed by Vincenzo Tusa – meeting between the Greek and the Phoenician-Punic.

A beacon of Phoenician civilization
The excavations on the island of Mozia brought to light various monuments which are of great interest for understanding the Phoenician and Punic civilization in the Mediterranean. The city, founded by the Phoenicians in the eighth century. C., was located in a lagoon and was defended by a boundary wall and a series of towers and ramparts, that stood around the island on the sea shore. The bulwark most impressive was the North Gate, a complex defense system consisting of two towers and advanced within a triple set of doors with two lights. The port was connected to the mainland by a road built on an artificial embankment, crossing the lagoon and allow the traffic of carts to the nearby promontory of Birgi. Another city gate, said South Gate, was flanked by a canal lined with docks that led to cothon. This was a dry dock artificial, rectangular (50 for 37 meters), where the ships were repaired damaged. Similar port facilities were discovered in Carthage and North Africa.

Along the walls, on the north side of the island, have found other monuments and ruins. The finding is the oldest archaic necropolis (VIII-VII century. C), have come to light where hundreds of burials to cremation, with rich grave goods consist of Punic pottery and proto-, weaponry, jewelery, beetles, etc.. The original urban core where they installed is the Phoenician settlers in this period was situated on a hill where stands the Museum. In the sixth century, when the city expanded and the walls were built, the old cemetery was abandoned and a new was planted in Birgi, where they were pratCcate both cremation and burial. Near the archaic necropolis was tophet, a place of worship dedicated to the Semitic god Baal Hammon where human sacrifices took place. Within this enclosure, as well as a temple for the worship, There was a range of urns containing the remains of newborn babies or animals along with hundreds of stones and stelae, sometimes decorated with scenes, deities and symbols of the Punic world. The route of the North Gate leading to a square, or agora, where stood a majestic sanctuary plan tripartite said Cappiddazzu, that in its original form had to have a frame groove Egyptian. Nearby were two industrial zones, with shops and workshops for the production of ceramics and purple. Via a ring inside the walls had to separate the industrial areas on the outskirts of the real village, according to an urban model of an oriental. But the urban and homes Mozia today little is known. The street network should be orthogonal with blocks of houses scattered along the main arteries. Remains, finally, to remember the House of Mosaics, the best example of living so far discovered, which some say dates back to a period after the destruction of the historic 397 a. C. The house had a central courtyard with a portico adorned with Doric capitals and unique mosaics with pebbles blacks and whites. The mosaic has fight scenes primordial, where lioCs and griffins assail other helpless animals, in a pattern so dear to the art of the Semitic world of the ancient East.
Gioacchino Falsone

Text taken from the brochure of the Province of Trapani