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Τετάρτη, 14 Φεβρουαρίου 2018

A Tablet from Pylos-Lost at Sea


Looking to avoid the hordes to be found in restaurants, this Valentine’s Day found my girlfriend and me walking along the beach, take-away Greek souvlaki in hand, enjoying the slowly dying sun of a late summer’s day.  Treading along in the shallows, the companionship, weather, and setting combined to inspire in me a contentment and  relaxation so deep that I failed to notice a larger wave racing in,
which caught me about the knees and did its utmost to strip me of my balance; by some fe
at of unexpected athleticism I kept both my feet and my grip on my dinner.
As I steadied myself, I did a double-take at what I saw lying on the sand before me: long and narrow, baked to a pale ruddy orange that stood out against the golden sand, was unmistakably a Linear B tablet.  How it survived in the water I cannot begin to guess; and it is only because my girlfriend saw it too that I know it did not dream it, for suddenly the wave withdrew, snatching the tablet away with it.  My best efforts to search for it further from shore resulted only in a soaked pair of shorts; Poseidon only knows where it may be now.
When we finally returned home, I was still haunted by the image of the tablet, which had burned itself with remarkable clarity into my mind.  Sitting down with a pen and paper, I was able to draw what was, I knew with some strange certainty, an accurate reproduction:
Roses for Kessandra
The words themselves are straightforward, though the implications a touch puzzling:
.1 ke-sa-da-ra wo-da 12
ke-sa-da-ra: this word is known from multiple tablets at Pylos, where it represents the name Κεσσάνδρα, Kessandra, which seems to correspond to historical Κασσάνδρα.  It should probably be read with a long final-α as the dative singular, though as is so common with Linear B it is hard to rule out a nominative of rubric.  Given that all six references to a ke-sa-da-ra at Pylos are probably to the same person, the question becomes whether this should also refer to her.  Strikingly, the signs on this tablet are so alike those written by Hand 14 at Pylos that, though the body of evidence is small and diagnostic features few, it should tentatively be ascribed to that scribe.  Given that he also wrote PY Mn 1368 and PY Mb 1380, which both also reference ke-sa-da-ra, the remarkable but inescapable conclusion is that this tablet should refer to the same woman. wo-da: this should likely be read as ϝρόδα, historical ῥόδα, roses.  That these were known to the Mycenaeans is made evident by the adjective wo-do-we (*ϝορδόϝεν, “rose-scented”) applied occasionally to oil at Pylos.
The clear implication of this tablet is that some palatial administrator recorded the distribution of twelve roses to Kessandra.  Why, we cannot know; she is certainly not elsewhere connected with the production of scented oil.  One cannot, however, given the date of the tablet’s discovery, shake the feeling that this may be the world’s oldest Valentine.

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