The historical testimonies indicate that where today stands the Norman castle once there was a Sican-Elymian temple on which superimposed, in Roman times, a small temple dedicated to Venus Ericina.
The cult of the goddess was begun by the Sicans, who raised a small open-air “ara (altar)” in the middle of the “thèmenos”, namely a sacred enclosure.
Later the Elymians, Phoenicians and Carthaginians kept the worship of the goddess and increased the fame of the sanctuary, which became famous among all the Mediterranean peoples.
The Carthaginians identified the goddess with their Astarte and introduced uses and oriental rites such as the sacred prostitution and rearing of doves which flew around the sanctuary walls throughout the year: towards the end of August, guided by one of them with red feathers, symbolising Venus, took place the departure – anagogia – to Libia (or to Colombaia). During their absence, the sanctuary was decorated and after their return – katagogia – the celebrations began, while the doves took a break on the wall of the sacred building.
After the Romans the temple rapidly declined, until the advent of the Normans who made it one of the most important strongholds of Sicily.