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Roman Roamin

Roman Roamin > The historical truth about the sheets of gold at Pyrgi

The historical truth about the sheets of gold at Pyrgi

In the novel Marcus, Cneve and Demaratus visit the shrine of Pyrgi to look at the proclamation written on sheets of pure gold. This occurs in Chapter 2, on their journey up the coast from Caere to Tarquinii.

In terms of history, this is a little out of order. Marcus met Cneve and Demaratus in 628 BCE. But these sheets were put up to celebrate the victory of the combined fleets of Carthage and Caere over the Greek colony of Alalia. This sea battle took place in 536 BCE, and is the first great fleet battle in recorded history.

Therefore, Demaratus took Marcus and Cneve to look at gold sheets that would not actually be erected for another 90 years.

The battle is described in detail in Chapter 21: "The Great Fleet Battle." We know from the historical record that 60 Greek penteconters fought 120 biremes and triremes of the allied Punic and Etruscan navy off the coast of Sardinia. The specific maneuvers of the battle were not recorded, but it is certain that the Greeks suffered a mortal defeat, and I describe the battle using strategies recorded elsewhere in history for ships of the same designs.

To celebrate the defeat of their common enemy, and their alliance, three sheets of gold were etched with proclamations and nailed to boards attached to the walls of the shrine. The boards were surrounded by a circle of bronze stars, as described in the novel.

Today these gold tablets are secure in a museum, one sheet in the Punic language and two sheets in the Etruscan language, and the sheet in the Punic language specifically mentions the Zilach (leader) of Caere: Thefaries Velianas.

It was hoped that these sheets would serve as a "Rosetta Stone" to crack the code of the Etruscan language, but unfortunately the text on the Punic sheet (which we can read) is not the same as the text on the two Etruscan sheets (and remain illegible to modern scholars).

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