Ever since I’ve been going regularly to Naples, for the last decade or so, I’ve harboured an ambition to go to Punta Campanella, on the other side of the Bay. This is a nature resort at the very tip of the Sorrentine Peninsula, with fantastic views of Capri, Ischia and other islands: it’s absolutely beautiful, especially in good weather, as it was on the 23rd, when I finally got to make it there – in fact the weather was so good, I managed to get sunburn in December. But I doubt that any readers of this blog will be surprised to hear that there was another incentive for me: an Oscan inscription waiting at the very end.
Once upon a time there was a temple of Minerva on the hilltop. To reach it from the sea you disembarked at a cave far below and climbed a long and steep stairway between the walls of a narrow cleft in the cliff. The steps are still mostly serviceable, though they’ve crumbled away in parts; a little below where the steps enter the cleft, there is an inscription carved in the rock, recording the names of the magistrates of the temple who commissioned the building of the stairs (and including our only instance of the Oscan word esskazsiúm, which presumably means ‘stairs’ or ‘disembarcation point’).
The inscription was published some decades ago, but the major editions have worked from photographs and/or the cast in Naples Museum (it’s Surrentum 1 in Imagines Italicae, ed. Crawford et al., Cm 2 in Sabellische Texte, ed. Rix). I’m not surprised, because getting there is quite a physical effort, and the inscription is very hard to see unless you’re right in front of it – which requires climbing on to a narrowish ledge, high enough to make one reluctant to fall! Photos below, starting from the sea.
Thanks very much to Giovanni Di Maio and Donatella Guida for showing us the way.