The Island of Mozia: Ancient Phoenicians and Greeks in Sicily

The Phoenicians, a loose confederation of cities, largely controlled Mediterranean trade for some 2,000 years. From their major settlements on the coast of what is now Lebanon, they started the spread of grape growing and wine making that was first practiced in Georgia in the Caucasus region. Here is a Phoenician representation of an amphora: the container in which the first wines were made roughly 5,000 years ago.

On a mid-summer afternoon, I rode the ten minute ferry from the mainland out to the island. The Whittaker museum houses a remarkable collection of artifacts and models of how the island settlement evolved. (An Englishman, Joseph Whittaker, bought the island in the early 1900s. His former home houses the museum.)

This model of the Phoenician temple on the island shows both the structure and the huge reflecting pool in front of it…
pool model

Which I walked to the other side of the island to see in fifteen minutes.
corner of pool

The Phoenician civilization was highly developed. An extensive display in the museum explains all the various kinds of mineral based makeup that women used and stored in these tiny clay containers.
make up

One corner of the museum is dedicated to tiny gravestones made for first born males that according to religion and custom often had to be sacrificed.
boy gravestones

The Phoenicians were known in the Judeo-Christian Bible as the Canaanites. In an article about the Phoenicians, one scholar notes that the Phoenicians weren’t alone in this practice. The story of God asking for the sacrifice of Isaac, for example, dates to that era.
lone boy

The Phoenicians, who founded Carthage in Northern Africa, were enemies of the Greeks. Eventually, the Greeks overpowered and defeated them. Little is actually known about the Phoenicians making Mozia an especially rare remnant of their civilization.

Recently, a statue dating from the fifth century BC was unearthed on Mozia. The archeologists claim credit but local sources say the island caretaker’s shovel hit it when he went into the woods to bury his dog.
best statueKnown as “The Charioteer”, it is presumed to be Greek. It toured famous museums around the world including the Getty Villa in Los Angeles (Read more) and is thought to be one of the very earliest pieces of Greek sculpture.

The island is hauntingly beautiful with few visitors. Walking along the paths, I half expected a Phoenician to step out from among the bushes and join me.
internal path

Still, silent spots seemed to speak to me across the centuries.

This photo shows how close the island is to the mainland.

For more information about Mozia or traveling in Sicily, contact

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Tags: amphora, ancient civilizations, Carthage, Mozia, Phoenician wine, Phoenicians, Sicilian wine, Sicily
Previous Post Next Post