Professor Sabatino Moscati

Sabatino Moscati was born in Rome on 24 November 1926. Being Jewish, his access to a university was severely restricted under Mussolini's Fascist regime and so Moscati studied Hebrew and Arabic at the Pontifical Biblical Institute of the Vatican and also Assyrian-Babylonian civilization under the German Jesuit scholar, Father Pohl. After the war Moscati gained a second degree at Rome University and taught at the Istituto Universitario Orientale of Naples and the University of Florence before being appointed Professor of Semitic Philology in the University of Rome in 1954. Moscati, still in his twenties and exhilarated by the momentous advances in Phoenician scholarship then unfolding, set about establishing his university's Institute of Studies of the Near East, albeit on the proverbial shoestring. He also founded and presided over the Institute of Phoenician and Punic Civilization and, through his teaching and research over the years, focused the attention of archaeologists on the ancient orient and the significance of Phoenician civilization alongside that of Greece and Rome. One emotional Italian obituarist went so far as to describe Moscati as `inventore dei Fenici'. On his initiative, a number of professorships for the study of the near east and the Phoenician-Punic world were instituted in Italy and are now occupied by his students. Moscati directed excavations in Palestine which led to the discovery of the citadel of the kings of Judas at Ramat Rahel; in Sicily, where the sacrificial stelae of the temple to Mozia were found; in Malta, where he located the temple of Juno and the Christian remains of St Paul; in Sardinia, where the Punic city of Mount Sirai was discovered and in Tunisia where a number of Punic forts were found near Cape Bon. Several of these projects earned him international prizes: the Lamarmora Prize for his studies of Sardinia, the Selinon Prize for Sicily, the Sybaris Magna Grecia Prize for his research in ancient Italy and the I cavalli d'oro di San Marco for his oriental work. Many other honours, both Italian and international and visiting professorships, came Moscati’s way - all a far cry from his earliest student days as a victim of discrimination. He published copiously and was a driving force behind two important archaeological exhibitions at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice: The Phoenicians and The Celts, organized jointly by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, of which he was a member and president from 1994, and the Institut de France. Both exhibitions were planned on an intercontinental scale, highly original in their concept and scope, and each accompanied by a definitive catalogue recording every aspect of the cultures portrayed. Moscati was gregarious; he wrote with great warmth of feeling and shared his scholarship with a wide audience on radio and television and through his periodical Archeo. He died on 8 September 1997.