THE ISLAND OF MOTYA
“…but when the Hellenes began to find their way by sea to Sicily in greater numbers they withdrew from the larger part of the island, and forming a union established themselves in Motyè, Soloeis, and Panormus, in the neighbourhood of the Elymi, partly trusting to their alliance with them…”
Thucydides, in his work The Peloponnesian War, mentions Motya, referring to the Athenian expedition to Sicily. Motya, the most important island of Stagnone Nature Reserve , suffered the consequences of war between Greeks and Carthaginians for the domination of the Sicilian coasts.
Following its destruction, commanded by Dionysius I, tyrant of Syracuse, allied with Greeks, the ancient inhabitants of the islet of the Stagnone Lagoon moved to the promontory in front where the city of Marsala stood.
The remains of its civilization were brought to light by archaeological excavations started in 1906 by Joseph Whitaker. He was archaeologist and heir of an English family who had moved to Sicily. He prospered by producing Marsala Wine and in the early twentieth century he purchased the entire island of Motya.
The first excavations brought to light the general topography of the Phoenician-Punic city.
The town walls that enclose the entire Island and its soft limestone bed are 2.5 km long and 2 metres high.
Porta Nord (the northern gate) represented the entrance to the town, with three gates positioned at 20 meters distance from each other..
The 7 meter wide road axis from the Northern Gate continued for 1.7 km. It was built by its inhabitants in order to connect the Island to the mainland and allow the transit of carriages.
Currently the road is almost entirely submerged by the rising level of sea water throughout centuries.
Not far from the Northern Gate, inside the city walls, arises the sacred area of the Sanctuary of Cappiddazzo, which in Sicilian dialect means large brimmed hat.
In 2006 the Island of Motya became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Some private companies organize excursions within the Stagnone Lagoon of Marsala departing from the Saline Infersa.
It only takes 5 minutes to reach the Island of Motya and enjoy the extraordinarily suggestive beauty of the scenery.