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Gaia Cecilia M. Servadio(born 1938) is an Italian writer. Servadio was born in Padua, the daughter of Bianca Prinzi and Luxardo Servadio. Her father was Jewish and her mother was Sicilian and Catholic. She received a bachelor's degree from London's Camberwell School of Art. Her first novel Tanto gentile e tanto onesta, aka Melinda, was published in 1967 by Feltrinelli in Italy and Weidenfeld & Nicolson in the UK, and was a "a runaway success".

Motya is a tiny island, scarcely larger than one kilometre square, the site of one the major cities of the Phoenicians, destroyed by the Greeks after an extended siege in 397 BC.

It is also a story of how Gaia Servadio herself fell under the island's spell.

Motya is a lovely, melancholy book' Independent 'In its richness of detail, anecdote and political intrigue, Motya has something in common with Peter Robb's superb Midnight in Sicily

Motya is a lovely, melancholy book' Independent 'In its richness of detail, anecdote and political intrigue, Motya has something in common with Peter Robb's superb Midnight in Sicily. Both authors are infatuated with the island, its tortuous history, its confusions of light and dark, of beauty and ugliness. she makes you long to visit Motya, and to look again at the Sicily that she loves' Sunday Times.

Author of Tanto gentile e tanto onesta, Mafioso, Rossini, Mozia, Traviata, Motya, Renaissance woman, The Real Traviata.

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Motya is a tiny, perfectly round island no more than a mile wide, off Sicily. It lies in a lagoon, surrounded by white salt pans and is very eerie because the only people who live there are the custodians and the archeologists working on the excavations of a Phoenician city. I first heard of it in the 1960s and was taken around by an archeologist. Then, four years ago, I went back to Sicily and made a point of returning to Motya because I remembered.

'Written with infectious verve, [this] book provides a fascinating account of the vanished Anglo-Sicilian Marsala merchants ... a complex and exciting book ... a wide-ranging account ...'

Comments: (2)

very , very good book
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While there is much to like in Gaia Servadio's "Motya," there are important points to dislike, or at least be suspicious of.

Motya deserves to be better known, but it is remote and dangerous, which no doubt reduces the incentive for writing popular books about it for visitors. Servadio's seems to be the only one in English. Technical publications are scarce, too.

It is perhaps the most intact Phoenician settlement, although Servadio calls the residents "Punics." It was destroyed by Dionysus the Tyrant and the survivors moved to a more defensible spot, so that what was left, was left.

The rediscovery of Motya, as related by Servadio, is as romantic and thrilling as any other of the more famous classical and preclassical ruins. She first visited the place in the 1960s but waited four decades to write her book. Frequent revisits gave her insights to the place and its story that no merely reportorial account could have achieved. It also made her a partisan.

That story involves English wine merchants in Marsala, notably Joseph "Pip" Whitaker, who managed to purchase the entire island of Motya from suspicious peasants. He then resurrected an important chapter in Sicily's history, for which the Italians were not only not grateful but also unpleasantly vengeful.

The combination of fascism, Catholic obscurantism, Sicilian poverty, the mafia and general Italian sloth and slovenliness has not been kind to Motya, another reason why it is less known than it should be.

Although the Phoenicians gave us writing as we know it, they did not give us many writings, so what we know of them is skimpy. Thus archaeology at Motya is relatively even more important than at Greek or Latin sites.

The results are not showy but interesting all the same.

As a sensitive account of what the stones say -- they never speak distinctly -- Servadio's book is superior and beautifully written. There are, however, some odd things in it.

The most sensational and controversial is the question of child sacrifice, particularly of the first born.

As we know from other cultures (Hawaii, for example), human sacrifice did not necessarily involve murder. Sometimes the gods were offered the already dead.

Phoenician graveyards give special prominence to neonates, but exactly what this indicates is uncertain. One theory is that they were stillbirths. The Hebrews, bitter enemies of the Phoenicians, labeled them baby-destroyers, but despite Servadio's touching faith in the historicity of the historical books of the Old Testament, they are no more reliable a guide to what the neighbors of Israel were like than, say, "Doonesbury" is to what George Bush is like.

The particularly gruesome way the prophets said the Phoenicians roasted their first-born is a confabulation, written by perverts to impose on the gullibility of people like Gaia Servadio.

Her theory about why a people might sacrifice its first-born is internally incoherent. She relates it back to sacred prostitution (the status of which in the Near East she mischaracterizes). In her view, since men did not marry girls until they had served their temple duty, they would not have been sure of the parentage of the girls' first children, so less interested in preserving them. However, since Servadio says (based on what evidence she does not say) that the girls were usually prepubescent when deflowered, that cannot be it.

Her suggestion that interest in the Phoenicians has been slighted because of an anti-Semitic bias among Europeans seems to be mere petulance. Anti-Semitism is universal in Europe, though that did not prevent historians and prehistorians from becoming enthusiastic about other Semites. The lack of material about the Phoenicians is more easily explained by a lack of material to work with. The corpus of Latin inscriptions has occupied hundreds of paleographers for centuries. The corpus of Phoenician inscriptions could be comfortably reprinted in a book smaller than Servadio's.

Since "Motya" was published in 2000, resumed excavations have disproven her belief that the site was never reoccupied after its sack in the 5th century BC. No surprise there.
Motya download epub
ISBN: 0575402180
Category: History
Subcategory: Europe
Language: English
Publisher: PHOENIX; New Ed edition (2001)
Pages: 254 pages