archaeology

Elephant No. 40 – Aleria, Corsica 

On our way back to the airport in Corsica we stopped off at Aleria, which had been the biggest Roman settlement in Corsica (also known as Alalia to Herodotus and other Greeks). A quick foray to the archaeological site and museum (neither of which would be high on my list of Corsican recommendations!) yielded this fantastic elephant plate!

The plate dates to the 3rd century BC and is decorated with three colours (white, red, yellow) on a black glaze. Around the edges you can see laurel leaves, and there is also a man on the larger elephant, though very faded. It’s very similar to another elephant plate found in Capena from around the same time which has been better preserved. It’s possible that both plates refer to the victories of Pyrrhus in 280 BC, who defeated the Romans with the help of some elephants, or perhaps to his defeat in 275 BC, where elephants also had an important role. Eight of his elephants were actually captured alive and then displayed in the triumph in Rome following his defeat. A different interpretation of the plate suggests it could be depicting Dionysus returning from India on elephant, or alternatively the elephants could be simply decorative with no link to history or religion. Either way it was a great find!

All crowded round to see the exciting elephant


The other highlights of the small museum included these large Italian vases