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ERYX (Erice) Sicily.

Remains of an ancient site on Monte San Giuliano at Erice 12 km NE of Trapani. Fragments of Neolithic and Bronze Age objects have been found at the foot of the mountain and at its summit a sanctuary dedicated first to the Phoenician Astarte and then to Aphrodite and Venus, whom the Romans called “Erycina ridens.” Ancient sources differ on the origins of the cult (Diod. 4.78; Dion. Hal. 1.53) but all agree that Eryx was founded by the Elymians of W Sicily, who were centered at Segesta. The Elymians, especially those of Eryx, always maintained close relations with the Punic Phoenicians both during the various wars against the Greeks and in peace. The Spartan Dorieus at the end of the 6th c. B.C. managed to found a Greek center, Heraklea, at the foot of Eryx, but the site was immediately destroyed by a coalition of Elymians and Phoenicians. During the first Punic war, in 249 B.C., Eryx was occupied by the Romans for the first time, reconquered by Hamilcar in 244 B.C. but lost by the Phoenicians after the battle of the Egadi islands in 241 B.C. when almost all of Sicily passed under Roman domination. Rome always looked on Eryx with favor since it, like Rome, traced its origin back to Troy through Aphrodite and Aeneas.

The few remains of the sanctuary, with the exception of sporadic fragments of the 6th-5th c. B.C., belong to the Roman Imperial period, perhaps when the temple was rebuilt under the emperor Claudius. Long stretches of the city walls are well preserved though full of restorations and rebuildings of various periods, including some of recent date. Recent excavations have revealed that this circuit of fortifications with its towers and gates, had two distinct building phases. During the first (8th-mid 6th B.C.) the lower courses were built in the megalithic technique; to this phase must be attributed the many sherds of painted pottery typical of various Elymian centers in W Sicily, and specifically of Segesta. During the second (mid 6th-mid 3d B.C.), that is, from the period of greatest Punic influence on Eryx to the Roman conquest, the upper courses were built. Punic influence is well attested by the numerous Phoenician characters inscribed on many blocks of the walls.

The small Museo Civico houses various objects, almost all found at Eryx, which attest ot the presence of non-Greek peoples at the site; they consist mostly of statuettes, amulets, scarabs, terracotta vases which reflect a Cypro-Phoenician influence during the 6th c. B.C. as well as a persistence of Punic culture until the Hellenistic-Roman period.


M. G. Guzzo-Amadasi, Le iscrizioni fenicie e puniche delle colonie in Occidente (1967) 53, 58, 77-79; A. M. Bisi, “Catalogo del materiale archeologico del Museo A. Cordici in Erice,” Sicilia Archeologica 8 (1969) 7ff; id., “Una necropoli punica recentemente scoperta ad Erice,” Sicilia Archeologica 11 (1970) 5ff, with previous bibliographyPI; A. Tusa-Cutroni “La collezione numismatica del Museo Cordici de Erice,” Sicilia Archeologica 12 (1970) 49ff; id., “Anelli argentei e tipi monetali di Erice,” Sicilia Archeologica 13 (1971) 43ff.


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    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 4.78
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