Motya and other Mediterranean towns

15 December 2008

A Greek-Phoenician female mask; Museum Villa Whittaker.

A Greek-Phoenician female mask; Museum Villa Whittaker.

Motya is a Phoenician city, situated on a small island in a lagoon in the west of Sicily. The city was destroyed in 396 BCE by Dionysius of Syracuse, but was not really abandoned: archaeologists have found villas from the fourth century. Still, the island had become more or less empty, and remained so until archaeologists started to dig. They found city walls, a port, sanctuaries, and tombs. The finds are now in museums on the island itself, in Marsala, and in Palermo. You can find the first of three pages devoted to Motya here; a satellite photo is here.

I was also occupied with Assos, in the west of Assos. We visited the site in 2004, and later, we saw many finds in the Paris Louvre and the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul. Everything is brought together on this page.

Slonta in Libya is one of the weirdest ancient sanctuaries, as you will see on this page; for a more regular ancient city, go to Roman Cordoba; and for the delighs of rural life, go to Suq al-Awty, which was part of the Limes Tripolitanus.

The regular reader of this blog will have noted that I am still moving pages. I still have 154 pages to go.

The Asclepium of Balagrae

16 September 2008
The Asclepium of Balagrae

The Asclepium of Balagrae

Balagrae is the ancient name of El Beida, the former capital of Libya. Except for a Byzantine fort and its adjacent church, the main ancient monument is the Asclepium. The foundations are well-preserved, and there is a delightful odeon next to it. The capitals of the Ionian columns are especially interesting, as they are decorated with silphium, a medicinal herb that was produced in this area.

As the readers of this blog know, I am slowly migrating part of my website (more…); among the articles that have recently moved are the pages on the rivers Euphrates, Marun, Pasitigris, and Sambre, together with the Roman fortress at Anreppen.

Janzur Rock Tomb

13 September 2008
A priest

A priest

The small rock tomb at Janzur, discovered by accident in 1958 near the road from modern Tripoli to Sabratha, belongs the finest monuments of Libya. It is just 2.5 x 2.2 meters, but the walls are decorated with splendid frescoes. The room was probably created in the second or third century, but was apparently never used, as the two sarcophagi were empty and two niches were never used to display urns.

The paintings can be divided into three groups: animals in the lower register, mythological scenes and human beings in the upper register (like the priest shown on the photo), and angel-like representations of the souls on the ceiling.