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VASSALLAGGI (“Motyon”) Sicily.

An ancient Sikel-Greek settlement near San Cataldo on a group of five small hills. Excavation has clarified the history of this unknown city which, as some evidence indicates, should perhaps be identified with Motyon, the Akragan fortified site destroyed by the Sicilian leader Ducetius in 451 B.C. and immediately reconquered by the Greeks the following year. Excavation has indicated a phase in the Early Bronze Age. The first Greek vases appear around the second quarter of the 6th c., perhaps after contact with Akragan colonists. During the 5th c. B.C. the village assumed the appearance of a small Greek polis, with houses on terraces, streets on a grid plan, and a sanctuary with a small temple decorated by painted antefixes of Geloan-Akragan type.

Shortly after mid 5th c. destruction, the city recovered with great vigor; houses and sanctuary were rebuilt, and the small temple received a new decoration with molded antefixes. Coins of this period are exclusively Akragan and the graves of men in the necropolis invariably produce the same funerary gifts: one krater and one pelike of Attic red-figure ware, an iron dagger, and a bronze strigil. The city appears to have been repopulated mainly for military reasons since it was located on the Akragan border; this fact could validate its identification as Motyon. Excavation has also shown that the city, like others in the same area, was abandoned at the end of the 5th c. B.C., probably at the time of the Carthaginian invasion, and was rebuilt in the second half of the 4th c. B.C. as part of the general program of Sicilian recolonization promoted by Timoleon. Even this city, however, like the neighboring centers of Gibil Gabib, Sabucina, and Capodarso, was completely destroyed ca. 311-310 B.C., probably by Agathokles, tyrant of Syracuse.

At the end of the 4th c. A.D., it was again inhabited by a small Christian community, as shown by the discovery of cist and arched tombs containing lamps of African type. Of the excavated areas, only the sanctuary has been left uncovered in the single-level area within the center of the city. It includes a small temple with temenos and altar, and it is surrounded by rectangular structures, some of which contained votive offerings. The archaeological finds (vases, bronzes, statuettes, architectural terracottas) are displayed in the museums of Gela and Agrigento.


D. Adamesteanu, RA 49 (1957) 174; E. De Miro, Kokalos 8 (1962) 143; P. Orlandini, FA 16 (1964) n. 2247; id., Cronache di Archeologia e Storia dell'Arte (1964) 20ff; id., “Vassallaggi I,” NSc Suppl. (1971).


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