|Pithecusae: Greeks between 8th and 2nd century B.C.|
Around 770 B.C. Greek colonisers coming from Calcide and Eretria in the island of Eubea, settled in Ischia, named it Pithecusae and founded there their town. For a long time the etymology of the toponym deriving from the term "Pithekos", monkey, was supposed to be due to the presence of this animal on the island. This could confirm this hypothesis by considering the other name of the island, Inarime, a word used by Tyrrhenians to indicate the monkey. Certainly, the idea to ascribe the etymon to Pithos (jar), is much more reliable. In this case the term could indicate the commercial nature of the settlement. Therefore, colonisers knew by intuition the safest side where to settle. As matter of fact, the acropolis on the headland of Monte di Vico (Rif. 3) on the north-western end of the island, together with the adjacent area including the suburban centres of Mezzavia's hill, the harbour area and the necropolis in S. Montano's valley, was no longer effected by volcanic phenomena. Even if historical sources remind us of three or four eruptions between 770 and 350 B.C., excavations carried out both in the necropolis and on the acropolis of Monte di Vico, proved that the living on the island was never interrupted.
There are many elements attesting the culture of the first colonial period. Some small exotic objects, such as scarab seals and scarab jewels and different types of ceramics, part of the stocks found in a few tombs, remind us of the flourishing trade between the Near East and the East Mediterranean. There are also a lot of findings coming in particular from Corinth and Eubea, in Greece. Moreover, there are different economic classes proving the relations between Pithecusae and some Italian regions, such as Puglia, Ionic Calabria, Sardinia and, most of all, with southern Etruria, Latium and the closest Campania. In Pithecusae, the ceramic industry was not the only one: there are many evidences which prove the existence of metallurgical industry, one of the main activity, together with commerce, that contributed to the flourishing of the island during the second half of 8th century B.C. In fact, on the hill of Mezzavia, Mazzola Locality (Rif. 6), ), the ruins of dry stonework prove the existence of smitheries used to process bronze and iron, as well as silver and gold.
Actually the most famous find is, without any doubt, "Nestor's cup", coming from a tomb of the necropolis of Rhodes, on which it has been engraved in Euboean alphabet, in the town of Pithecusae, a three verses epigraph alluding to the famous Nestor's cup described by the Iliad. This is the only example of poetic passage we have, written in a language that is contemporary to the Iliad. The transcription of the text, made by three verses, with some missing in the first one, says: "This is Nestor's cup where it is pleasant to drink. But the one who drinks from this cup, will suddenly fall in love with Aphrodite with her beautiful crown"
The progressive decline of the Pithecusae prestige, which was soon under authority of Cumae, started at the beginning of 7th century B.C., and was due to the development of this opposite town. The necropolis stocks in Pithecusae were, at that moment, poorer than before, even though meagre funeral equipment do not always mean poverty, while it could demonstrate a change in funeral customs. In this era they are represented by Attic ceramic, which, from the beginning of 6th century onwards, asserted itself for its technical and artistic quality, surpassing all the other Greek ceramics. Between all the materials of this period, there are many fragments of architectural terra cotta, that is the coating of wood constructions in temples and other buildings.
In 474 B.C., Ierone, tyrant of Syracuse, entered into an alliance with Cumaeans, during the war against Etruscans. Defeated them, he occupied Pithecusae in order to better control and prevent the attack of defeated enemies. Between 450 and 420 B.C., Campania was occupied by the Sabellian populations (this was the name the Romans gave to the Italic osca-language populations) coming from the Abruzzi-Molise Apennines. Around 420 B.C. also Cumae fell within their jurisdiction and became an osca town. Only Neapolis saved itself from invaders and occupied Pithecusae, which kept its Greek civilisation for another three centuries. Although the island depended on Naples, the ceramic industry preserved a remarkable importance. Table ceramics painted in black and known as "Campana A" type, characterised this period, as well as common ceramics and commercial "pointed" amphora, used to import and export wine.
A cura della dr.ssa Nicoletta Manzi -
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