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







CAPE TOWN ANTIBES a homage plait

                  Les Remparts Antibes

“Everything here radiates, all blossoms, all sings. The sun, the woman, the love are there at home. I still have the resplendence in the eyes and in the soul. ” – Victor Hugo (1802-1885), poet, novelist, playwright.  Written 30 years after his stay in Antibes.

                Cape Town by Hoffnung, 1750

This cape is the most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth. From the journal of Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596), explorer, on seeing the Cape for the first time, 1580.

    Belle Epoque poster Antibes

“Astronomy teaches us that the earth is a star of heaven. The voyages show us that the Cap d’Antibes is the heaven found on earth.” – Camille Flammarion (1842-1925), scientist, mystic.

      Belle Epoque poster Cape Town

“This is a pretty and singular town; it lies at the foot of an enormous wall, which reaches into the clouds, and makes a most imposing barrier. Cape Town is a great inn, on the great highway to the east.”  −  Charles Darwin (1809-1882), naturalist, biologist, in a letter to his sister, Catherine, 1836.

                             Cap d’Antibes

“I was struck by the sort of stupor into which the grandeur of things throws us, as we go through a garden beautifully situated at the point of Antibes. One is in an Eden that seems to swim within the immensity. ” – George Sand (1804-1876), writer, dramatist, poet.

                Antibes and the Maritime Alps

“I recall that I was once seized by a stroke of lightning before the city of Antibes, and I shouted it is too much, it is too beautiful.” –  Jacques Audiberti (1899-1965), writer, poet, dramatist.

                Cape Town by Bourset, 1770

“… Antibes, a gallant little city loved by the sun … and that the Eternal Father reserves for himself one day to retire, later, when He feels old.” – Paul Arène (1843-1896), poet, writer.

“Perhaps it was history that ordained that it be here, at the Cape of Good Hope that we should lay the foundation stone of our new nation. For it was here at this Cape, over three centuries ago, that there began the fateful convergence of the peoples of Africa, Europe and Asia on these shores.”  – Former President Nelson Mandela (1919 – 2013), during his inauguration speech on May 9, 1994.

                                  Cape Point

© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2017



Pierre Cosson: Antibes Juan Les Pins Biot Vallauris.  Guide Historique et Touristique.  Editions Gismondi. Cypris. 1980.

South African quotations



Antibes – Pierre Cosson : Antibes …

Hoerikwagga – Hoffnung 1750

Belle Epoque poster Antibes – source lost

Belle Epoque poster Cape Town – Hoerikwagga

Cap d’Antibes – Pierre Cosson : Antibes …

Antibes – Claude Dronsart, Renaud Dumenil : Antibes Juan Les Pins. Editions A.R.T. 1991

Cape Point – Backpackers.com 





St Peter Enthroned, Basilica, Rome

It is years since I saw St Peter’s foot in the Basilica of Rome.  The many things I saw have become a little vague in my memory, but this one remains graphic.

For a South African the baroque cathedrals of Europe may be a little overwhelming, probably because most of us have grown up with Protestant minimalism.  What has taken place with the bronze statue of St Peter Enthroned is perhaps an example of what we would find strange.

They speculate that this iconic statue is around seven hundred years old, fashioned by Arnolfo di Cambio.  It becomes part of any pilgrimage and pilgrims touch the right foot, the one a little off the pediment.  In these seven centuries the foot has been worn smooth.  The shape of the left foot shows some smoothing but not as much.  It is estimated that with the durability of bronze that only millions upon millions of hands would have had that effect.

      Pilgrim touches the foot

It left me emotional to see the pilgrims touching that foot. It felt a bit like humanity reaching again and again for something to reassure them, for something to believe in.  And the need wears what it touches smooth.  The passion does not relent.  In the Basilica of Rome, with the statue of St Peter, the worn bronze foot leaves us a profound image of that.

                   Longing that wears smooth

© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2017



St Peters Basilica Info



St Peters Basilica








You hear the drum and the piano accordions some way off.  And then they’re there – the hubbub of kids with swinging lanterns, grownups, musicians and the dancers.  They form an arena on Place Charles Cros, the square below the apartment.  I canter down the steps with my camera.  This year I’m not missing this fête.

From a distance

The dancers, four couples, are splendid in traditional costume.  They’re ready.  And they’re off, with the music reminding me at a distance of “boeremusiek”, major-key folk dance music in South Africa.  The costumes seem to be Spanish, but they could also be Italian, but this is Occitan, the patois-culture of the Midi, southern France.  The men wore black, broad-rimmed cordobe hats, black waistcoats and trousers; the women, wide embroidered skirts with colourful scarves.

With marvelously complex steps, arms high, swinging circles, radiant faces, they had the crowd clapping and yelling their wonder and appreciation.  I looked on, drifting into ecstasy.

And they danced

What I was looking at is old, as the books will tell you, older than Christianity and probably celebrated by the ur-Celts and, who knows, those before them.  The Catholic Church, wary of anything heathen, soon appropriated the feast, naming it after John the Baptist who was born, according to tradition, six months before Christ.  It is then, a midsummers night festival.

She who dances

On either side of the arena of people two men held up flaming torches, a reminder of how the festival had been celebrated in centuries past – giant bonfires through which the dare-devils of the community would leap.  Next to the piano accordions and the lady beating the drum were two girls holding colourful maypoles which also have distant echoes in history.  This feast is celebrated each year in different ways from Eastern Europe to Ireland, and it is enormously popular in francophone Canada.

The maypole, echoing over             millennia

I think of other folk dancing that I have seen, of my intense joy, especially too, as this is an experience that is not mediated – the Klopse of the Western Cape, Bulgarian and Russian folk dancing, Zulu dancing and the sacred folk dances of Korea.   That stays with me.

Under the harvest moon

Can you believe it?  At the height of the festivity, the evening clouds thinned and a full harvest moon glowed over us.

©  Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

8th July, 2017


Wikipedia :  Feast of St John


Photographs and drawings – mine






THREE DAYS AT A TEMPLE – a visit to Yuongpyeongsa

[The third in a series of three postings]

The last morning I photographed the gardens, the temple, the main figure of the Buddha.

Buddha in leaves

The nun came to chat again and pointed out an old monk engrossed in a meditation on the periphery of the temple grounds.  He’s over ninety, she said.  I watched him and felt the centuries of Buddhism in the course of his meditation, a history from 300 a.d. when Buddhism was initially brought from India.

Meditation course for an old monk

Walking centuries

I came upon a Tao rock which belongs to a spiritual belief far older than Buddhism or Confucianism.  This kind of rock is a symbol of Chaos Becoming and is central to Taoism practised in China, probably from prehistoric times.

Chaos Becomes

My visit to Yuongpyeongsa was a kind of farewell to my stay and teaching in South Korea.  This visit was in May when spring is rising and nature is at its most beautiful.  For Buddhists, nature is at the heart of their spirituality, the reconciliation of Earth and Spirit, of soul and body.  They see the world in a grain of sand and the universe in a drop of dew.  For this reason everything is sacred and part of the spirit, of healing and growth.

These days burgeon in me.  Years later.

The universe in a drop of dew


© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

May, 2017


My photographs








Table Bay, etching 1683

For me Table Bay is a Cape Malay bredie* of images and thoughts.  Table Bay and, of course, the Table Rock, were what magnetized me from the rural landscape to become a Capetonian.  And this bredie … Table Bay calls up for me the desire for a bigger world, a refusal to settle for suburban answers.  These Westerners … was the bad they brought in equal measure to the good?  In the shimmer on Table Bay history clashes swords with the sun … Wolraad Woltemade and his horse in the curve of a wave; the postal stones; ships sinking, ships arriving; the noon cannon;  bearded sailors staring at the Table Rock; Adamastor that you hear in storms if you listen; the Castle, the Amsterdam battery, the Chavonnes battery; the pain and anger of the Flying Dutchman …

The Flying Dutchman, ghost ship

… the murmur of the beach-combers; gulls; Robben Island, smear on the ocean;  musicians on the deck of a ship full of freed slaves dancing and playing the banjo, bringing the blues back to Africa …

Then the second bay, the Bay of Angels.  This Bay, the Côte d’Azur in France, stretches from Menton, near the Italian border and ends near Cannes.  They tell me there were human beings here four-hundred thousand years ago.  I smile.  Where I come from, South Africa, we start at two million years.  Still, history hums in the Maritime Alps that guard the Bay.  Here the Celt-Ligurians, a civilization of thousands of years, erected their forts and grunted under monoliths.  In Antibes (then Antipolis), where I find myself, their remains from 600 b.c. have been brushed open from under the Cathedral with its proto-Christian history.

Nomade sculpture ponders the Bay of Angels

Then came colonial masters, the Phonecians.  For them, the Bay of Angels was a lesser part of the larger establishment of Massala (today Marseille).  The Greeks arrive with an It’s our turn.  Monaco, Nice and Antibes all had Greek names originally.  Whether there were epic battles after some hundreds of years when the Romans marched in is uncertain.  Another handful of centuries.

In this time Roman soldiers regarded the mists of Scottish mountains and the rivers of Northern Europe.  After the assassination of Julius Caesar the coastal town along the Bay, Fréjus (the Forum of Julius), was honoured with his name.  His descendant Augustus had La Trophée built, today a sad, proud ruin, above Monaco. He instituted a census in the Empire, even to the far-flung town of Bethlehem in the Middle East.

Trophée of Augustus at La Turbie

Antibes has a legend that Paul came to the city.  Not unlikely when one thinks that Rome is but two or three days by boat.  Somewhere in the hills here there is a cave, its entrance collapsed and hidden.  In that cave is the Letter to the People of Antipolis written by Paul.  How would that be, if it were true?

At Juan-Les-Pins, the coastal town adjoining Antibes, there are few waves.  Here the Bay of Angels, or the Mediterranean Sea, often feels like a lake.  Over the shimmer on the water you see two islands, Ste Marguerite and St Honoré.  These islands, closer to Cannes, were occupied by the Romans and four hundred years after Christ, St Honoré and his following landed here, to establish one of Europe’s first Christian cloisters.

The islands of St Honoré and Ste Marguerite

These whispers across the water, music from distant times; strange instruments, lyrics unknown … they move over the creased sea … Table Bay and the Bay of Angels, two worlds, people who went before me, some of whose genes I carry … they saw what I now see and, perhaps, felt what I now feel.


© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2017

 *bredie – A Cape Malay dish of spiced curry, dangerously addictive



Pierre Tosan (ed.) : Dictionnaire D’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins (Hepta, Antibes. 1998)


Flying Dutchman – paulthomasonwriter.com

Table Bay – etching by Allain Mallet in 1683, from “Hoerikwaggo”

Nomade, sculpture on the ramparts of St Jaumes, Antibes –  my photo

Trophée d’August – Côte d’Azur Tourism 

View of islands – my photo







As a post-WW2 baby boomer, I was familiar with songs that grew out of the war.  In France, the war is no longer merely stories for me, fragments from books, movies.  Now I’ve stood where Hitler stood, saw what he saw.  In Nice I’ve visited the streets where the heaviest fighting took place at its liberation.  The war, what is left from it, is closer and its agony, for me, is also distilled in four songs.

“…some sunny day …”

We’ll meet again composed by Ross Parker (music) and Hughie Charles (lyrics) and sung by Vera Lynn.

” …. it’s a long long way …”

It’s a long way to Tipperary was composed by Jack Judge in 1912.

” … Underneath the lamplight…”

Lili Marlene was inspired by an earlier poem, composed by Norbert Schulze in 1939 and sung by Marlene Dietrich.

                                   Herm Niel

Erika was composed by Herm Niel in 1939.  It is interesting that each of these songs is a love song.  Is it that men fighting a war are more motivated to hate when they think of their loved one?

In We’ll meet again, the hope is expressed in sadness, a longing for “some sunny day” from under the dark clouds of war.   Tipperary is closer to the battlefront.  I hear boots marching between the lines, with the recurring longing in the words “it’s a long, long way …”  Lili Marlene was popular on both sides of the enemy lines.  I remember 15 years after the war when our family was listening to a long-playing record for the first time, the track came up unexpectedly and my father who seldom, if ever, spoke of his experiences in the war, suddenly left the room, deeply emotional.  With Erika (“Auf der Heide blűht eine kleines Blűmelein”) I have different feelings.  The song was belted out as the German troops marched under the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs d’Elysées, jubilant conquerors.  Later it was lovingly translated into Afrikaans and sung by the tenor Gé Korsten in a movie in the 1960s.  As a German marching song, it struck a particular note with people whose parents regretted that the Nazis lost the war.  I feel a cold breeze when I hear it.

Music makes war easier

I can’t hear any of these songs without sensing words from the poet when he speaks of “the still sad music of humanity”.

© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2017



Quotation from William Wordsworth :  “Lines written above Tintern Abbey”

 Wikipedia, for biographical details.  


Vera Lynn – dailymail.co.uk

Jack Judge – History of Oldbury

Marlene Dietrich  –  andBerlin.com

Herm Niel – You Tube

Marschlieder – amazon.com





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