Cults Myths and Legends of Ancient Sicily
2.5 Ibla

Solarino [1] suggests that, in the period of the Sicani and the Siculi, there must have been many sanctuaries consecrated to the cult of the goddess Ibla and that, later on, inhabited centers gathered around some of them. In reality it must be said that, there is no certain information on the cult of a divinity named Ibla. Di Blasi [2], citing the historian Pausanias, writes that in Ibla Galeote there was a temple dedicated to the goddess Ibla, venerated by a corporation of priests, diviners and experts in interpreting dreams. These priests were nicknamed "Galeots".

A coin preserved in the monastery of the Cassinesi fathers in Catania shows on one side a veiled woman with an ornament around her neck (believed to be the goddess Ibla), behind which there is a bee, and on the other a woman leaning on a rod with a vase in his hand, a dog at his feet and the inscription ΥΒΛΛΣ ΜΕΓΑΛΑΣ [8]


Instead, there are news of various localities or cities with a similar name, even if this does not mean that there is a relationship between these places and the cult of the goddess Ibla. Stefano Bizantino and Claudiano [3] speak of an Italian Ibla different from the Sicilian ones. The Germans had a divinity named Iludona or Ibladana, guardian of the outbreaks (this Germanic deity was also known by the name of Hludana or Hluthena and was also venerated by the Roman legionaries stationed in Germany [4]); among the Gauls there was the goddess Isbel, also called Belisana or Belinuccia. An Irish locality inhabited by the Celts was called Ibla or Iblana and a very famous Ebla existed in Syria even before Sicily could speak of Sicani and Siculi.

Writers of the past have never hypothesized links between the cult of the goddess Ibla and the city of Ebla in Syria, due to the fact that the final location of Ebla took place only recently, in 1968 by the archaeologist Paolo Matthiae and that the excavations in this place they are not yet completed.

afroditeThe first settlements in Syrian Ebla are traced back to 3000/3500 BC and around 2600 BC Ebla played an important political and commercial role. It was first destroyed around 2300/2200 BC and, after a phase of regrowth, it was destroyed again in 1600 BC After the last destruction, the city was almost completely abandoned, losing its inhabitants over the course of a few centuries. .

It is probable that, among the peoples who arrived in Sicily in the second millennium BC, there were groups coming from the powerful Ebla following one of the previously reported destructions. It is also conceivable that some of these groups, once they arrived at their destination, somehow wanted to keep a memory of the powerful homeland by giving life to the cult of a divinity with the same name, then transformed into Ibla.

In ancient times it was not unusual to personify one's hometown. In Rome, for example, there was a temple built by Augustus in honor of the goddess Rome, personification and apotheosis of the city of Rome itself [5].

One could also think that the deity whose name was later transformed into Ibla, was actually worshiped by aphrodite eros and panpeople who emigrated to our island.

One of the hypotheses, which would justify the loss of traces of the existence of this goddess could depend on the fact that Ibla was a telluric deity, therefore linked to the aspects of nature as was Demeter. The affinity between the cult of Ibla and that of Demeter would later merge the cult of Ibla into that of Demeter. Another hypothesis connects the cult of Ibla with that of Aphrodite, protector of fertility as well as of beauty.

AstarteThe fact that Ibla has been associated now with Demeter, now with Aphrodite, may not be accidental, in fact
isthar a divinity which, due to its characteristics, seems to have given rise to the divinities of Demeter and Aphrodite, is the Assyrian-Babylonian goddess Isthar [6]. This goddess is, at the same time, goddess of love and fecundity, but she is also a warrior deity. Just as the god of the underworld kidnaps the daughter of Demeter, death kidnaps Isthar's son-lover, forcing her to go to the underworld to have her beloved returned. Even the Babylonians, in honor of Isthar, performed a rite similar to that performed in the Eleusine feasts in honor of Demeter: the public sexual rite between the priestess and the king. There is also no lack of elements that link Isthar to Aphrodite: the sacred prostitution of the priestesses and the dove, sacred to both divinities. Perhaps, it is not even a coincidence that the major sanctuary of the city of Ebla was dedicated to Isthar, as would suggest the discovery of a bust of a votive statue that the prince of Ebla, Ibbit-Lim dedicated to this goddess [7]. 

In reality, analyzing the aspects that characterize the cults of the Sicilian Ibla, of Demeter, of Venus Ericina, of the Carthaginian Tanit, of the phenician Astarte, of the Assyrian-Babylonian goddess Isthar, of the Sumerian Innana, of the Egyptian Isis and in general of all the "great mothers ", it is difficult not to think of all these divinities as a kind of great" syncretic river "which, starting from a single mountain on top of the world (the great mother), flows over the whole planet, changing its name in function of time and places and adapting to the psychology of the peoples who have the good fortune to live on its shores.

iblaAnother Ibla coin similar to the previous one of uncertain origin


[1] Raffaele Solarino: The County of Modica Vol. I. p.77.

[2] Giovanni E. Di-Blasi: History of the kingdom of Sicily. vol I. p.62.

[3] Giuseppe Leggio: Ibla Erea pag. 43

[4] A. Morelli: Gods and Myths pag. 272

[5] EWStoll: Handbook of Religions and Mythology of the Greeks and Romans. p.315.

[6] which in turn seems to originate from the Sumerian goddess of love Innana.

[7] Paolo Matthiae: Discoveries of oriental archeology pag. 38.

[8] Carmelo Ciccia: The myth of Ibla:

Ignazio Caloggero


Cults Myths and Legends of Ancient Sicily by Ignazio Caloggero


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