Francavilla Marittima, in contrada Timpone della Motta, is the archaeological site of a large sanctuary probably dedicated to the goddess Athena, founded at the end of the 8th century B.C., the same time when Sybaris was colonized.

It stands on an indigenous settlement dating back to the Iron Age, which was abandoned following the arrival of the Greeks. While religious ceremonies of Greek origin were celebrated in the sanctuary, the indigenous population would also participate in the life of this place of worship, testifying to their survival. A plate dedicated to Athena by the Olympian athlete Kleombrotos, son of Dexilaos, was found in this site.

Five Sacred Buildings and an Enclosure Base: Discovery of Francavilla Marittima 

The archaeological area of Francavilla Marittima features at least five sacred buildings and an enclosure base: the largest one (Building III) is located on the upper part of the acropolis and is the actual temple dedicated to Athena Promachos. On the site summit there are at least five votive shrines, which have yielded many archaeological finds. Investigations conducted on these materials have shown that the cult was performed by women, as evidenced by the use of water for purification and the presence of loom weights. However, members of the Sybarite aristocracy were also involved, as evidenced by finds such as a plate dedicated to Athena by the Olympian athlete Kleombrotos, a bronze statuette of the Hoplite and weapons consecrated to the goddess. 

Statuettes and pinakes were also found referred to the Lady of Sybaris and the Goddess of the Temple, still under investigations. Other interesting finds were depictions of ritual dance scenes of both men and women, which probably referred to rites of passage to adulthood of young girls and young men. 

While the sanctuary is by definition an Athenaion, archaeologists believe that certain finds not specifically linked to the cult of Athena – especially in the earliest phases – as well as the identification of several buildings used for worship, would rather suggest that more than one god was worshipped in this sacred area. 

The Sanctuary of Timpone della Motta in Francavilla Marittima

During excavations carried out in the eastern side of the sanctuary of Timpone della Motta at the beginning of the 21st century, an altar was discovered, together with its offering surface, votive deposit, and ritual drain. In the votive deposit, numerous Greek artefacts were found; in the drain, on the other hand, archaeologists discovered ceramic materials related to the ritual consumption of wine and the remains of sacrificed animals, sheep and goats. 

More recently, another area, Contrada Rovitti, located behind the Timpone della Motta, has been investigated, where indigenous people lived between the 9th and 8th centuries B.C.. Here, archaeologists found two buildings, named A and B, and a workshop for the production of indigenous pottery, which was strongly influenced by the Euboic tradition (‘Oenotrian-Euboic’ pottery).

The Athenaion was in operation until the end of the 6th century BC, although some evidence suggests that it was still used in the early 5th century BC. In the second half of the 5th century B.C., there is evidence that worship was resumed in some sacred buildings, which lasted until the end of the 4th century B.C.. The whole site was finally abandoned around the beginning of the 3rd century B.C., in connection with the expansion of the Bruttians.