Marsala occupies the site of '''Lilybaeum''', the principal stronghold of the [[Carthage|Carthaginians]] in Sicily, founded by [[Himilco]] in 396 BC after the abandonment of [[Motya]]. Neither [[Pyrrhus of Epirus|Pyrrhus]] nor the Romans were able to reduce it by siege, but it was surrendered to the latter in 241 BC at the end of the [[First Punic War]] as a condition of the [[peace treaty]]. In the later wars it was a starting point for the Roman expeditions against Carthage, and under Roman rule it enjoyed considerable prosperity. It obtained municipal rights from [[Augustus]] and became a colony under either [[Pertinax]] or [[Septimius Severus]].
The [[Arabs]] gave it its present name "Marsala," which is derived from the Arab "Marsa Allah" (port of [[Allah]]) or "Marsa Ali" ("port of [[Ali]]", intended also as "great port", as Ali in Arabian language is synonymous with "great" and the ancient harbour of Lilybaeum was enormous). The ancient harbor that lay on the northeast was destroyed by [[Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor|Charles V]] to prevent its occupation by pirates. The modern harbor lies to the southeast.
On May 11, 1860, [[Giuseppe Garibaldi]] and his "thousand" landed at Marsala and began his campaign to overthrow [[Bourbon house|Bourbon]] rule in Sicily as a step toward Italy's unification.