Italian edition only
The Kaminia stele, held by the National Archeological Museum in Athens, is one of the three most illustrious inscriptions of antiquity that have guided generations of Italians in exploring the history of Ancient Greece. Created in the 6th century BCE as a grave marker and unearthed between 1883 and 1885 on the island of Lemnos, the stele was originally around two metres high, but only the upper half has survived. It bears the profile of a man holding a spear and shield, who had distinguished himself in society for his prowess as a warrior. Around the figure and on the right-hand side of the stone are incised two hundred letters of the Greek alphabet: 33 words in all, on 11 lines in alternating directions – from top to bottom, then bottom to top, or from right to left and vice versa. However, the language written in Greek is neither Greek nor Indo-European; it belongs to the same family as Etruscan and Raetic – spoken and written in an area bordering on Austria, Switzerland and Germany.
Archaeologists, historians and linguists investigating the Kaminia stele and its context find themselves faced with a still unanswered question. Were the inhabitants of Lemnos, documented by the stele and other inscriptions, of the same lineage as the Etruscans who migrated from Anatolia, with one group settling on Lemnos and another arriving in Etruria? Or are we dealing with Etruscans who arrived on Lemnos from Italy to establish a colony or trading station, and with pirates in the Aegean? It is difficult to know what happened. The community that wrote on stone and terracotta in the Lemnian language is indistinguishable from other social and ethnic groups who lived on the island, with whom it may have shared the same material and figurative culture, technologies, religious and funerary rites, and ways of living. If the Tyrrhenians of Lemnos came from Etruria, the complete absence of objects made in Italy would indicate that they did not maintain much contact with their homeland. Regarding the hypothesis of migrants from Anatolia, we are completely in the dark concerning their provenance, culture and original traditions. “No one saw the truth, there is only opinion.” (Simonides of Ceos). The story of the stele and of the people of whom it was an expression, is told in this book and in the exhibition at Fondazione Luigi Rovati which runs until 18 July 2023. The show is promoted in collaboration with the Italian Archaeological School of Athens, which has been conducting excavations and research on Lemnos for a hundred years. The volume features four texts by Carlo De Domenico, Riccardo Di Cesare, Germano Sarcone and Emanuele Papi, director of the Italian Archaeological School of Athens, who also wrote the introduction.