Castle of Love

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Erice boasts a 12th century castle—Il Castello di Venere or the Castle of Venus—that was built on top of an ancient Roman temple dedicated to the goddess of love. However, before the Roman iteration and the still standing current Norman castle, centuries before, the site was dedicated to the ancient Elimi tribe’s mother goddess of fertility: Potnia. When the Phoenicians-Carthaginians ruled Erice, the sacred spot was dedicated to Astarte or Ishtar, their goddess of love, fertility, and war. Once the Greeks took power from the Phoenicians, they named the site as a temple to their goddess of love, pleasure, and beauty: Aphrodite. Priestesses who practiced the art of sacred prostitution resided here, where, for centuries until the Romans took power, they were joined by pilgrims who traveled to the summit of Erice to honor the Goddess.

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