Eryx (or Eryce) was a town in northern Sicily in classical times, now called Erice. It is located on high ground, and was famed for its temple dedicated to Venus (also known as Aphrodite, or sometimes called the Erycine goddess). The temple was originally build in honour of the fertility goddess Astarte, but as often happened, the Romans decided that Astarte was basically equivalent with their goddess of love, Venus, and worshipped her at the site.

The Elymi (or Elimi in Italian) were the first inhabitants. In its history, the area has belonged to the Greek civilization centred around Syracuse (a region known as Magna Graecia or Greater Greece), and to the Roman, Carthaginian and Phoenician empires. Eryx was destroyed by Carthaginians during the First Punic War in 260 BC. Later it was also captured by the Saracens, and known by them as Gebel Hamed. After that its name changed to Monte San Giuliano until 1934 when it became Erice, the Italianized version of its Latin name. A castle, Venus Castle, is now on top of the old temple of Venus, while another castle, Pepoli Castle is nearby; Eryx's hilly location making it an ideal place for fortification. There are also the remains of city walls, the Cyclopean Walls, which date back to 800 BC. ("Cyclopean" refers to a construction technique using irregular stones without mortar; Cyclopses were believed to build walls in this way. Sicily was the traditional home of the mythological one-eyed Cyclops, although Cyclopean walls are found throughout the Eastern Mediterranean region.)

It is also associated in legend with Hercules and Aeneas. Hercules is said to have defeated a hero called Eryx, after whom the town was named. Eryx was the child of Venus and Neptune, and king of the Elymi. He was known for his incredible strength, and challenged Hercules to a duel. Hercules demanded that Eryx should turn over his kingdom if he won, and when this happened, Hercules refused the throne, but prophecied that one of his descendents would later rule there. And it came to pass that Doreus founded a colony in that part of Sicily. It is also claimed that some Trojans fleeing the fallen city of Troy settled there and founded the city. According to Virgil in the Aeneid, Aeneas's father Anchises was buried there.

Eryx is also the name of a Short Range Anti-Armour Weapon. This guided missile system can be used by soldiers to destroy moving and stationary tanks, fired either from the shoulder, or mounted on a tripod. Eryx is manufactured by the French company Aerospatiale and has a maximum range of 600 metres.

And Eryx is the genus of the sand boa, which includes such species as the East African sand boa (Eryx colubrinus), Elegant sand boa (Eryx elegans) and Arabian sand boa (Eryx jayakari). Many of these snakes can be kept as pets, and they tend to be a comparatively small and easy-to-manage size.


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