Mozia Island is the most important Phoenician colony in Sicily – an enchanting little spot in the Mediterranean, just 400,000 sq.m. size, that was used as a staging port for ships thanks to its small distance from the coast. The water level was once very low, and it was possible to reach the island by sea or by feet (or horse). Mozia is part of the Riserva Naturale Regionale delle Isole dello Stagnone, in Marsala.
The first inhabitants of the island of Mozia were Phoenician merchants, who transformed an actually inhospitable land into one of the most lively and important Mediterranean cities of that age; huge walls and a natural lagoon made it also very hard to conquer – nevertheless, it was destroyed in 379 b.C. by Dyonisus the Elder, the Syracuse tyrant, during the struggles between Carthage and ancient Greece.
During the Middle Ages the island was a settlement for Basilican monks, who renamed it “San Pantaleo”; in the year 1888 Joseph Whitaker, a famous archaeologist and ornithologist, rediscovered Mozia, bought it and organized plenty of excavations and researches that brought a wide number of monuments and archaeological finds to light.
Visiting Mozia Island means getting to know a really ancient part of the history of Sicily. From the necropolis to the Tophet, a Phoenician sanctuary built during the foundation of the city, and from the “House of the mosaic”, displaying scenes of animal fight, to the Northern Door (Porta Nord) and the fortifications made with limestone, surrounding the whole territory: there really are lots of secrets to discover here.
In the inward area near Porta Nord, the sacred zone of the “Cappiddazzu” (a Sicilian idiomatic word for “large hat”) Sanctuary is still well-preserved and open to visitors. The complex was probably realized during the 6th Century b.C. and eventually destroyed during the Syracuse invasion. Here, in 1979, an ancient, precious marble statue was found: the “Giovane di Mozia” statue is now preserved in the Whitaker Museum, and was probably brought to the island by the Carthaginians from Selinunte.
Nowadays, Mozia is still owned by the Whitaker Foundation (from Palermo): the Whitaker Museum on the island displays a wide range of artifacts showing evidence of Egyptian, Punic, Roman, Corinthian, Attic and Hellenic presence and influence. A wonderful mix of cultures and arts – as the whole region of Sicily is. The Museum can be visited with an English guide; tours of the island are also available both in Italian and in English.