No visit to Agnone is complete without seeing the ancient Sannite ruins at Pietrabbondante, only a short drive away. We went on a spectacular Sunday evening and had the place to ourselves. The historians of our group were amazed to hear about this tribe, considered to be the original Italians.
An Italici tribe, these powerful warriors were an Oscan speaking people, who fought a series of wars against the Romans, winning spectacular victories in the first 2, the most famous being the battle of Caudine Forks (321 B.C.) but being finally subjugated in the 3rd, the Battle of Colline Gate in 82 B.C.
Oscan is an extinct Indo-European language of southern Italy. The language is also the namesake of the language group to which it belonged. As a member and origin of the Italic languages, Oscan is therefore a sister language to Latin and Umbrian.
In 1848 in the hills outside Agnone, a bronze tablet was found by a shepherd and sold to the D’Onforio family. 20 years later, this “Tavola dei Dei” was sold to a dealer in Rome who sold it to the British Museum in London, where it is today.
Dated from around 500 B.C., the tablet enabled scholars to discover more about Sannite gods and rituals, many of their pagan beliefs are echoed in the deep religious traditions of the local contadini today, important dates and festivals, and attributes of the gods are similar to the Saints honoured today.
Incredibly, some of the words on the tablet are similar to words in the Agnonese dialetto. The study of the tablet enabled scholars to learn to read the Oscan language and to explore their history, and the origins of Italian language and culture.
When the original was sold to the Roman dealer, a copy of this bronze tablet was made and kept by the D’Onofrio family.
But, in 2013, some old files were unearthed in the Naples’ museum leading scholars to question whether the British Museum tablet really is the original . Tests are being carried out on the D’Onofrio tablet, although it seems the British Museum are not forthcoming with an analysis of theirs. Agnone waits to hear.
In August in the Palazzo Bonanni in Agnone, a beautiful and very comprehensive exhibition opened: La Tavola dei Dei. This is hoped to be the beginning of a permanent museum in Agnone. On display is the D’Onofrio Tablet. Is it the real Tavola Osca?
Visit the website and see more about our visits and learning Italian off the beaten track..
by Jenifer@ liveandlearnitalian.com
Where no one speaks English
Easter in Agnone with Jenifer: get an idea of the programme