The island of Mozia still retains important traces of its glorious past, which ranks as the archaeological site of the highest interest in the Sicilian landscape.
Placed in the lagoon of “Lo Stagnone”, just to the north of Marsala, Mozia flourished during the Phoenician period becoming the most important town in western Sicily.
Identified in 1884 as the ancient Mozia, the excavations were delayed for dozens of years: only in 1955 the first unearthing started using scientific techniques for the excavations.
Among the most famous archaeological finds, is undoubtedly “The Young man of Mozia”, magnificent marble statue preserved in the Whithaker Museum in Mozia.
The archaeological site of Mozia
The Museum Whitaker
The Whitaker Museum collects material of considerable interest found among Mozia, Marsala and Birgi. Surely one of the richest Phoenician collections in the Mediterranean, the Museum contains several burial kits, iron and bronze weapons, pottery, terracotta masks and also a beautiful sculpture depicting two lions who hunt a bull, a quite rare reproduction for the Phoenician civilization. But the museum also exhibits artifacts of Greek origin: the dense commercial relations with the richest shores in the Mediterranean permitted the flow at Mozia of people and materials from very distant locations. Among these, the statue of the “The Young man of Mozia” deserves a particular mention.
The Young Man of Mozia, (also known as Efebo of Mozia) is a marble statue dating from the fifth century BC. Found in 1979 under a pile of rubble, it is the main attraction of Whitaker Museum. The work is probably the result of spoils of war (perhaps Selinunte) but it is possible that it was directly commissioned by some wealthy citizen of Mothya to Greek sculptors of the school of Phidias. The tunic, very close to the body of the young man, highlights the anatomical parts of the figure, showing off the beauty of the human figure, much celebrated in Greek culture. During the London Olympics it finally, was exhibited at the British Museum, representing the Olympic Games of ancient Greece.
Historical Background of Mozia
Traces of human settlement on the island of Mozia are already present from the prehistoric period of the Bronze Age. It was with the arrival of the Phoenicians, around the eighth century BC that the island was able to acquire strategic importance to the shipping lanes of the western Mediterranean, becoming a commercial port of exceptional importance. During the Carthaginian period, Mozia suffered a severe attack by Greek troops (perhaps Spartans) who tried to settle in the Punic territory.
However, it was through the work of Dionysius II of Syracuse, in 397 BC, that the city was irreparably destroyed and the population deported to Lilibeo, the current city of Marsala. The apex of the splendor of Mozia was reached right in this period, of which there are numerous references by historians of that era about the importance of the center: it was probably for this reason that the Syracusans organized an epic campaign to inflict a memorable defeat to Carthage in one of its major centers in Sicily. The city was retaken the following year, but was destined not to relive the glories of the past any longer.