Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
uses Google technology and indexes only and selectively internet - libraries having books with free public access

page 22

have been found with inscriptions round the rim in high relief; on one vessel the owner is desired to keep the maker in remembrance. The iridescence, as is well known, is produced by the gradual decomposition of glass, which occurs when the material has been covered with earth, or has contained a liquid which has afterwards hardened. In the first case, decomposition is in flakes; in the second, it is granular; the latter being of rarer occurrence, is the more prized. Vessels with granular iridescence are generally found resting on rocks, slabs, or in sarcophagi; empty vessels deposited under similar conditions become brittle, but not iridescent. With regard to examples of Greek and Roman origin, I carefully examined a site near Larnaca, yet I found with them only Ptolemaic coins, principally of the later monarchs; therefore I am inclined to think that these vessels belong to the epoch of 200 or 300 years B.c. Of the coins found in Cyprus, those in copper are most abundant, but they are generally illegible and much corroded. The series represented in this metal are coins of the Ptolemies; Roman in general, and Imperial Roman of Cyprus with Greek legends; and Byzantine. In gold we have coins of Cyprus, with Cypriote, Phœnician, or Greek letters, including staters of Philip and Alexander; scyphati of the Latin kings of the island: all these are rare; the Byzantine instances are less so. Gold solidi, which are flat or concave, were kept in families, and suspended round the necks of children, in order to bring good luck to the wearer. The silver coins found are the early ones of the island, as above, and due to Alexander, or to the Ptolemies; or they are Roman in general and Imperial of Cyprus; besants of the Latin kings of Cyprus occur; likewise Venetian coins. The early coins of Cyprus are very rare. We now and then meet with coins in billon, whichbelong almost entirely to the time of the Crusades, and are of the Lusignan dynasty. The native characters and language used by the early inhabitants of Cyprus are not yet completely understood, although much has been done to settle their position among the alphabets and dialects of the world. The first antiquary who appears to have attempted the decipherment of the Cypriote inscriptions was the Duc de Luynes, in his Numismatique et Inscriptions Cypriotes, published privately in 1852. In this work, we are told,1 he gave an elaborate account of all the then known Cypriote inscriptions, with plates of the texts, and a list of all the Cypriote forms and characters. They consist of legends on coins, bronze objects, rocks, stone slabs, and other antiquities. One group or word of very frequent occurrence on these inscriptions, especially on the coins, the Duc de Luynes proposed to identify with the name of Salamis, the name of the principal ancient city in the island; another group he identified with the name of Amathus, another city; and he proposed readings for several other words, but his attempts failed, owing to his having assumed a wrong basis in the supposed identification of Salamis and Amathus. The next attempt to read the Cypriote inscriptions was made by Professor Roth of Heidelberg, who, following in the same track as the Duc de Luynes, published a memoir, entitled Proclamation des Amasis, in 1855, under the auspices of the Duc de Luynes, who had already published a facsimile of his inscription in the work mentioned above. Professor Roth, however, unfortunately accepted as proved the identification of the words Salamis and Amathus, and, starting from this erroneous point, proposed phonetic values for all the Cypriote characters, and applied his system to the long inscription known as the "Tablet of Idalium", of the whole of which he published a supposed translation. According to the Professor, this was a decree of Amasis, King of Egypt, B.c. 571-527, addressed to the inhabitants of Cyprus. 1 English Cyclopǽdia—Arts and Sciences (supplement), col. 1369. After this attempt at decipherment of the inscriptions, a considerable number were added to the known list by Mr. R. H. Lang, formerly British Consul at Larnaca, the Comte de Vogué (in the Journal Asiatique, 1868), Helfferick in 1869, and others. To these it has been my good fortune to contribute a goodly number, sculptured, engraved, or painted, upon tablets, gems, and other objects of antiquity, as will be seen on reference to the articles described in the text of this work, on which they occur. But, just as in the case of the Egyptian language, which baffled the attempts of philologists to unravel its meaning until an ancient side-by-side translation had been discovered in the Rosetta stone, in like manner, a stone, formerly the pedestal of a statue, inscribed with a bilingual inscription, consisting of three lines of Phœnician and four lines of Cypriote, was discovered by Mr. Lang, whose collection of seven inscribed stones and a number of coins is now in the British Museum; and this discovery proved to be of the greatest importance, for it formed the key to the deciphering of the hitherto undiscovered language. To Mr. Lang belongs the honour of discovering that the group of characters, which the Duc de Luynes had read Salamis, signified

Back to Topic