TOURS of SICILY
Motye was founded on an island measuring about 1 square km. in the lagoon called Stagnone, a short distance from present-day Marsala. The coast, which was not faraway (in accordance with a typical Phoenician building procedure), could also be reached on a cart, at low tide, following a half-submerged track. Motye, in effect, was the only Phoenician town proper in Sicily, and it soon became one of their most florid colonies in the Mediterranean. Il was surrounded by high walls along which, at intervals, there uiere semicircular battlements, typical of Semitic architecture; in it there were also two gates which today are well preserved. Its origin was said to date back lo Hercules, w/w, having found some lost herds thanks to the help of a woman called Motye, chose to give her name to the town which shortly afterwards us founded. In the Phoenician Language, the word means spinning mill, and it seems indeed that the town was a renowned weaving centre, where cloths were also dyed purple. Apart from this, the economic} of Motye was based on the production and trading of ceramics. It was also an important naval base and a ‘cothon’ was built there, that is to say a dry dock for repairs to ships, which, apart from the big one found at Carthage, in North Africa, is the on/y one found in the western Mediterranean.
According to what we learn from Diodorus Siculus, Motye was embellished by elegant houses and sumptuous palaces. However, only a very small part of the dwelling area has been brought to light, and at present on/y two houses can be seen: one of them has floor mosaics and black and white paving stones, on which there are animal figures. Among the most interesting areas discovered there is the ‘tophet‘, a sacred area in which there were placed the remains of sacrifices offered to divinities, small animals and even children, the latter having been sacrificed during terrible calamities to placate the wrath of the gods. After Dionysos I destroyed it, the survivors moved to ihe coast, founding Lilybaeum (Marsala) and leaving the little island uninhabited. It remained so until Joseph Whitaker, at the end of the last century, bought it and carried out some diggings which led him to identify the islet with the ancient Phoenician base. The findings from the diggings were then gathered together and catalogued inside one of the storehouses of the villa, which was thus turned into a museum, In the course of his researches, Whitaker collected up some 10,000 objects: steles, terracotta objects with paintings on them, jewels, pottery,weapons, and so forth. The museum is now one of the most interesting of those which illustrate the history of Phoenician civilization. Careful restoration work carried out a few years ago maintained intact the spirit and structures of the nineteenth–century museum, though introducing some modernization making it easier to visit.
The Trojans escaping from their town , they chose such a place in Troy , on a hill between two rivers .
They also founded other towns, like Erice, which was likewise perched on a summit dominating the surrounding area but was to have a completely different destiny. Erice, for centuries the site of a much worshipped shrine, never was a mighty town and in the course of centuries was to change into a quiet village, and this is what it still is today, an unusual place, a living reliet of a past epoch, rendered ever more magic by the constant presence of little clouds conferring on the streets and houses a curious Nordic look.
By contrast, Segesta, in a few decades from its foundation, became the most important town of the Elimi and, in the fifth ceniuru B.c., was florid and powerful, with its own vast territory. Its inhabitants, not unlike the Romans, leaving aside their Middle East origins (also attested by the finding of tablets with inscriptions in a language presenting affinities with Linear B, and, like the latter, undedphered) – soon took up Hellenic customs, the most refined and admired of antiquity, making them their own.
This is the reason why, for example, the people of Segesta decided to built a magnificent temple in perfect Doric style having nothing to envy those of Akragas or Selinus – although their religion was very probably quite different from the Greek one thus giving rise to singular architectural and religious syncretism.
Despite this, the temple is absolutely perfect, above all as regards the state of preservation, and it is a must for every visitor interested in archaeology.
It was the enmity between Segesta and Selinunte for domination of the Mediterranean to unleash the conflict with the involvement of Syracuse.
In fact Segesta, by asking Athens for help against Selinus, gave Athens the opportunity to intervene in Sicily against the menacing pawer of Syracuse (which triumphed in the conflict). And it was also in order to defeat the hated neighbouring tawn that Segesta got the Carthaginians to land in Sicily, giving them too the apportunity to make the first move. And if on the one hand the Carthaginian army fulfilled the request of the people of Segesta by destroying Selinus, on the other hand it started a war which led to the destruction of the florid Punic Motya colony by the people of Syracuse and to the consequent reduction of the sphere of Carthaginian control in Sicily.Segesta then had to pay for this about a century later: in 307 B.C. Agathocles, the tyrant of Syracuse, ordered the town to be razed to the ground and, judging by the results, his soldiers made no bones about carrying out the order.
There followed a long period of abandonment until, at the end of the first Punic War, the Romans, now masters of Sicily, refounded the town, giving it vast territories and declaring it a “civitas immunis et liberu”, to commemorate and respect a supposed common descent from Aeneas. The new city was “totally re-planned, at the end of the third century B.C., on the models of the big micro-Asiatic towns articulated with big terracing on fairly impervious heights analogous to the site where Segesta stands” (R. Camerata Scouazzo).
It is from this period that there dates the building of the theatre, which the people of Segesta decided to have in pure Hellenic style, thus giving us one of the finest ancient theatres of that epoch. For it they chose a site at the back of the agora, where already centuries before there had been a place of worship, facing the soft landscape of hills sloping down towards the sea.
In the theatre, a broad semicircle with a diameter of a little over 60 metres, there are still about twenty steps hewn out in the rock; there are just a few remains of thestage. During the summer, every two years, classical plays from all over the world are done there, once again giving life, though only for the ephemeral space of a season, to the very beautiful theatre.