The town of Erice (pronounced Èh-ree-chay) boasts a 12th century Norman castle, pictured, top, Il Castello di Venere or the Castle of Venus, which was built over an ancient Roman temple dedicated to the goddess of love. Those seeking romance and success with procreation would climb 2460 feet to the top of Mount Eryx’s magnificent promontory overlooking the Tyrrhenian and Mediterranean Seas with hopes of blessings. However, before the Roman iteration and the still-standing current Norman castle, centuries before, the site was dedicated to the ancient Elymi 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 Carthaginians, they dedicated 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, they were joined by pilgrims who traveled to the summit of Erice to honor the Goddess. I bet you can relate to “climbing a mountain” to find love!