Cyrenaica, part 3: Slonta

12 April 2015
The snake of Slonta

The snake of Slonta

The day before yesterday, Edwin wrote about the Psylloi, and mentioned, at the end of his article, that several ancient authors attribute to the Libyan tribe a remarkable resilience to snake-venoms. That would be one of those countless ancient ethnographic stories which, back then, sounded plausible and were repeated by even the most intelligent writers, but fail to convince us. We wonder what on earth made a talented man like the elder Pliny believe that it was the custom of the Psylloi “to expose children at birth to extremely fiery snakes, and to use these snakes to test to faithfulness of their wives, since snakes do not flee people born of adulterous blood” (Natural History 7.12).

We will never understand the reality behind these stories, even though we know an archaeological site that may somehow support the stories about the Psylloi and the snakes: Slonta. It is hard to date precisely, but a Ionian column base proves that the site was in use in Antiquity. The main relief represents a big snake.

[Read more – and the other pars of this series – on the blog of Ancient History Magazine]

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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.