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Ancient Salt Flats and Carthaginian Ruins in Sicily

Mozia, Italy

On Sicily’s south coast, a shallow lagoon has for centuries hosted the salt industry — so vital to life before modern refrigeration. And in the lagoon is Mozia Island, with the ruins of a Carthaginian city, an important trading post dating from the eighth century BC.

Complete Video Script

Sicily comes with dramatic coastal scenery, and we’re heading west. Distances are short, and the island is dotted with fascinations.

The shallow lagoon surrounding the island of Mozia is ideal for extracting salt from the sea. And, for thousands of years, locals have labored in salt pools like these as part of this essential industry. A short boat ride gives us a closer look.

Rick: So, Alfio, this is, like, a mountain of salt with tile to protect it from the wind.
Alfio: It is. It is.
Rick: Salt must have been a very important industry.
Alfio: It was a vital industry. In ancient times, if you didn’t have salt, you’d die. There was no refrigeration, and the food was preserved mainly by salt.
Rick: How long did they have salt pools here?
Alfio: The Carthaginians, when they came here, they established this salt flats in the eighth century BC.
Rick: Until today — they’re still getting the salt.
Alfio: Yes, as we can see.

We’re heading for the tiny island of Mozia. Along with salt, this lagoon provided a safe haven for ancient mariners. In fact, 800 years before Christ, Carthaginians settled here. Today, this island is strewn with the scant but evocative ruins of a once-powerful trading outpost.

Rick: Why is Mozia so historic?
Alfio: Mozia was the base of the Carthaginians in western Sicily. They came in the eighth century BC and they had many trading posts around the Mediterranean, and Sicily sits in the middle. Sicily is the stepping stone.
Rick: Perfect place to establish a trade center.
Alfio: Yes.
Rick: Now, the Carthaginians came about 800 years before Christ. How long did they stay here?
Alfio: They stayed for 400 years, and eventually were destroyed by the Greeks.
Rick: We don’t know very much about Carthage — why? Because they lost all the wars?
Alfio: They lost the important wars. We often say, “The winners write history.” In this case, if you lose a war, you lose your right to say your side of the story.