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  • Mozia

Near  the north-western tip of Sicily, south of Trapani and almost opposite Marsala, there is a laguna called the “Stagnone”, separated from the open sea to the west by an island, Isola Lunga. Situated in the centre of the laguna is the island of San Pantaleo, the Motya of Phoenician times, and two other smaller islands, Santa Maria and Scuola. The geographical situation of Motya is similar to that of many other Phoenician settlements: a small island near the coast, surrounded by shallow water, easy to defend and a safe anchorage for their ships. The city, founded at the end of the 8th century B.C., soon became one of the most important Phoenician colonies; thanks to its proximity to Africa it was one of the first obligatory transit routes towards Spain, Sardinia and Central Italy.
The Phoenicians traded with the Greek colonies present in Sicily, but not all their contacts were of a friendly nature, and a series of battles and wars eventually culminated in the destruction of Motya by Dionysius of Syracuse in 397 B.C. The survivors moved on to the nearby Sicilian coast, founding the city of Lilybeo, the present day Marsala. The island, however, was not completely abandoned, as demonstrated by numerous findings from archaeological excavations.
The most important findings from the excavations of Motya may be seen in the Archaeological Museum of the island, created by Joseph Whitaker, who, for all his life, cultivated an amateur but expert interest in the natural sciences, history and archaeology.
At the beginning of this century, Whitaker bought the island and conducted the first systematic archaeological exploration of the city. It is to this man, illustrious member of a rich English family which possessed industries and other commercial interests in Sicily, that we must give the credit for the fundamental impulse he gave towards the study and the divulgation of the archaeological heritage of Motya.

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