I AM TERPON – a message, 2,500 years old

He found it under the foundations of his house.  The year was 1866.  It weighed 33 kilogrammes, the weight of a heavy suitcase, a smooth piece of marble in the form of a giant cigar.  On it was a message, clearly engraved, 2,500 years old.

The finding is called the Pebble of Antibes.  The French call it “le galet” which could also be “cobblestone”.  It is regarded as the oldest Greek inscription in France.  The ancient Greeks occupied the Phonecian colonies from about the seventh century B.C.  Marsala (today Marseille) was the capital and Antipolis (today Antibes) was one of the colonies.

And the message …


                          The Pebble of Antibes

From 1866, when Dr Pierre Mougin de Rochefort found the Pebble under the foundations of his homestead, there has been speculation.  Is the “Ciprus” someone of authority?  Is it a person of high rank in the hierarchy of the cult of Aphrodite? Is it a reference to Cyprus, the island in the Mediterranean Sea? Perhaps a personification of the island.

We know that the cult of Aphrodite is old.  It probably originated in the Middle East, under other names, and gradually found its way into the Greek pantheon.  There is ongoing debate as to whether Aphrodite was born on the island of Cythera or on Cyprus itself.  The latter became the heart of the cult and then it spread further in the Mediterranean Sea and to the Greek mainland.  Not without reason.  The cult of Aphrodite was that of erotic love and beauty.

           Erotic love …

                        … and beauty

If archaeology is a sort of detective story, it is also the human factor that grabs me.  Who was Terpon?  What went through his mind the day he engraved that marble?  Who did he think would find it and read it?  After how many years?  Over how many civilizations?  For me there is another question:  What would I have engraved there?  What would I have wanted my descendants to read?  The civilizations to come.

© Willem van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2017



Eric Delaval, Robert Thernot: Objets d’Antipolis. Memoires Millénaires. 2011.

Pierre Cosson: Antibes Juan Les Pins et al. Guide Historique et Touristique. Editions Gismondi. Cypris. 1989.

Internet: Fergus Murray : The Cult of Aphrodite;  Jacqueline Karageorghis: Goddess of Cypris;  Wikipedia: Aphrodite



Pepple – Pierre Cosson

Aphrodite – Fergus Murray







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