MARSALA, a seaport of Sicily, in the province of Trapani, 19 m. by rail S. of Trapani. Pop. (1881), 19,732; (^901), 57,567. The low coast on which it is situated is the westernmost point of the island. The town is the seat of a bishop, and the cathedral contains 16 grey marble columns, which are said to have been intended for Canterbury Cathedral in England, the vessel conveying them having been wrecked here. The town owes its importance mainly to the trade in Marsala wine.
Marsala occupies the site of Lilybaeum, the principal stronghold of the Carthaginians in Sicily, founded by Himilco after the abandonment of Motya. Neither Pyrrhus nor the Romans were able to reduce it by siege, but it was surrendered to the latter in 241 B.C. at the end of the First Punic War. In the later wars it was a starting point for the Roman expeditions against Carthage; 1 Bulletin Lowell Obsy., Monthly Notices, R.A.S. (1005), 66, p. 51. * St Petersburg Memoirs, series viii., Phys. Mars-classe, vol. viii.
and under Roman rule it enjoyed considerable prosperity (C.I.L. x. p. 742). It obtained municipal rights from Augustus and became a colony under Pertinax or Septimus Severus. The Saracens gave it its present name, Marsa AH, port of Ali. The harbour, which lay on the north-east, was destroyed by Charles V. to prevent its occupation by pirates. The modern harbour lies to the south-east. In 1860 Garibaldi landed at Marsala with 1000 men and began his campaign in Sicily. Scanty remains of the ancient Lilybaeum (fragments of the city walls, of squared stones, and some foundations of buildings between the walls and the sea) are visible; and the so-called grotto and spring of the Sibyl may be mentioned. To the east of the town is a great fosse which defended it on the land side, and beyond this again are quarries like those of Syracuse on a small scale. The modern town takes the shape of the Roman camp within the earlier city, one of the gates of which still existed in 1887. The main street (the Cassaro) perpetuates the name castrum.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)