(St. Pantateo) Trapani, Sicily.
ancient Punic city on a small island (ca. 45 ha) less
than 1 km from the nearest point of Sicily (Spagnola),
but 8 km from Marsala (Capo Boeo). Historical information is slight. A well-known passage in Thucydides (6.2
) relates that when the Greeks arrived in Sicily the Phoenicians retreated to Motya, Soluntum, and Palermo.
On the basis of the foundation dates for the Greek colonies in Sicily, it can reasonably be assumed that Motya was founded between the end of the 8th and the beginning of the 7th c. B.C. We have no exact information on
the history of Motya between its foundation and its destruction in 397 B.C., which Diodoros (14:47-53) describes in great detail. It is certainly probable that Motya was involved in the major historical events that took
place around Motya itself, that is, the expeditions of
Pentathlos and Dorieus at the beginning and at the end
of the 6th c. respectively.
About the siege and consequent destruction of the city
in 397 B.C., Diodoros says that Dionysios, leaving Syracuse, moved directly against Motya because he was convinced that its conquest would be a grave blow to Carthaginian power in Sicily; from this we can infer Motya's
importance in respect to the other Punic cities in Western
Sicily. Diodoros tells us that Motya's survivors went to
found Lilybaion. On the basis of this information it had
been assumed that life ceased in Motya after its destruction, but recent excavation has shown that it continued, though on a reduced scale.
When excavation began in 1906, extensive ruins were
already visible, including the N gate. Since that time
there have been excavations at the site called Cappiddazzu, where a sacred structure was uncovered; also in the archaic necropolis, in the so-called House of the Mosaics, within the habitation center, and along certain
stretches of the walls.
The earliest evidence for the historical period has been
found in the archaic necropolis in the NW part of the
island; it is composed mostly of cremation burials within
amphoras placed in rock-cut pits or in large rectangular
cists made of stone slabs; at a higher level there are a
few inhumation burials in stone sarcophagi. Funerary
goods are mostly represented by archaic Punic pottery,
oinochoai, bottle-shaped vases with wide lip, various
types of jugs. Sometimes imported wares are found mixed
with local pottery; in the earliest phases they are mostly
E Greek cups or Corinthian Geometric skiphoi, which
can be dated to the end of the 8th c. B.C. This necropolis
was in use until the beginning of the 6th c. B.C.; after that
time, contemporary with the construction of the walls,
the burials were transferred to another cemetery in Sicily called Birgi. It is probably for this purpose that the underwater causeway, still preserved and used today, was constructed to connect Motya with Birgi.
The entire perimeter of the island (ca. 2 km) is delimited by walls which may have been constructed at the beginning of the 6th c. B.C., perhaps at the time of Pentathlos' expedition. They are built with irregular,
roughly squared blocks of local limestone, with the exception of short stretches built in Greek fashion with isodomic blocks of imported tufa. At more or less regular intervals the walls are reinforced by square towers and
probably had four gates, of which only the N and the
S gates are clearly visible; the former is flanked at the
entrance by bastions set at an angle to the line of the
walls. It contained six passageways which, in three pairs,
controlled access to the city. The two bastions of the S
gate are perfectly aligned with the course of the walls.
Near this gate is the so-called kothon, a small quadrangular bay (51 x 37 m) which has been considered the island's harbor; recent excavation has shown, however, that it is a small artificial dock.
In the NW part of the island is the sacred area of
Phoenician-Punic culture, the tophet, recently excavated
and found well preserved; several layers of deposit dating from the 6th to the 3d c. B.C. consists of urns of
different types containing the burnt remains of sacrifices.
Within the tophet ca. 700 stone stelai have been found,
mostly with figured decoration, together with some terracotta female masks perhaps depicting a divinity. Some stelai carry dedicatory inscriptions to Baal-Hammon.
The Cappiddazzu sanctuary is a rectangular enclosure
(27.4 x 35.4 m) datable to the 6th c. B.C., within which
must have stood several small shrines; inserted into one
side of this enclosure, as usual in Phoenician-Punic areas,
are the foundations of a large building with three naves,
which certainly postdates not only the precinct wall but
also the destruction of Motya in 397 B.C.
After this time also dates the section of the habitation
center so far uncovered. It is composed primarily of a
wide street and a few rooms that belong to a sacred
complex similar to some found in Selinus and Soloeis
during the 4th and 3d c. B.C.
A house which still retains the peristyle court typical
of Hellenistic-Roman houses after the 4th c. B.C. is also
reminiscent of Soloeis; in Motya, however, the house has
a feature unique in Sicily, a mosaic floor made with black
and white pebbles which, besides decorative patterns of
clear Greek derivation (such as the maeander), depicts
animal fights, a popular subject in the Middle and Near
Motya minted its own coinage as early as the 5th c.
B.C., with both Greek and Punic legends. The island has
a museum which contains, besides various finds from
Lilybaion, all the archaeological material excavated on
the island itself, and is therefore one of the indispensable
tools for our knowledge of Punic civilization in the
J. Whitaker, Motya. A Phoenician Colony in Sicily
; B. Isserlin et al., “Motya, a Phoenician-Punic site near Marsala, Sicily,” Annual of Leeds University Oriental Soc.
4 (1962-63) 84ffI
; P. Cintas, “La céramique de Motyé et la date de la fondation de Carthage,” BAC
; A. Ciasca et
, I-VII (1965-71)MPI
; A. Tusa-Cutroni, “Mozia,
monetazione e circolazione,” Mozia
, III (1967) 97ffI
Moscati, “Iconografie fenicie a Mozia,” RStO