The Cave of Euripides on Salamis

Short report on the results of the 1996 campaign

In August and September 1996, systematic archaeological excavation was continued, for a third consecutive year, at a cave above the Bay of Peristeria on the southern coast of Salamis, in conjunction with a survey in the vicinity.

The excavation was conducted by a 15-member scientific team under the direction of Yannos G. Lolos, Assistant Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Ioannina, Epirus, in collaboration with the Department of Palaeoanthropology of the Greek ministry of Culture. The main sponsor of the 1996 excavation was the Community of Aianteion, Salamis.

The exceptional finds from the 1996 excavation as well as those from excavations in previous years have revealed the different functions of the cave in the course of the centuries, from the Late Neolithic period (ca 5300 - 4500 B. C.) to the period of Frankish rule in Greece (end of the 13h century / beginning of the 14th century A. D.).

Among the material recovered during the 1996 campaign are numerous Neolithic finds including hundreds of fragments of clay vases, stone implements, five arrow heads (one of red flint, four of Melian obsidian) and a half - complete female figurine of white marble.

The pottery of the classical period consists of a relatively small number of black - glazed and other vases, three of which bear inscriptions (graffiti). A fine red - figure lekythos of the late 5th century B. C. is decorated with a winged Nike.

The cave appears to have been used as a cult - place in the Roman period (2nd - 3rf century A. D.). To this period belong large quantities of pottery, fragments of clay figurines and votive plaques, jewellery (bronze and iron rings, earrings, glass beads), an intact hoard of 39 silver coins (Antoniani) of the time of Emperor Gallienus (260 - 268 A. D.) and other coins of the 3rd century A. D.

Among the fragmentary inscribed vases of the classical period recovered from Chamber IV C-D, a find of major importance is a partly preserved black - glazed cup - skyphos of the finest quality, with the name of Euripides (E?????), half - complete, on its outer surface. Although the cup is attributable to the late 5th century B. C. (ca 430 - 420 B. C.) on the basis of its close parallels from the Athenian Agora and other places, the inscription on it. Apparently of dedicatory character, is to be dated to Hellenistic or early Roman times. It may best be interpreted within the context of a local hero - cult in honour of Euripides (485 / 480 - 406 B. C,), comparable to the worship of Archilochos on Paros and of Sophokles (Dexion) at Athens.

This crucial piece of evidence, taken together with the descriptions of Euripides ‘ cave contained in ancient literary sources, offers the final proof for the identification of the Cave at Peristeria with the playwright’s famous den on Salamis; references to it are made by Philochoros, Satyros, the Anonymous Biographer of the poet and Aulus Gellius, the Roman writer of the 2nd century A. D.
      Yannos Lolos
  Assistant professor of

Prehistoric Archaeology

  University of Ioannina
  Epirus, Greece

Caption to illustration :
Fragmentary Attic black-glazed cup-skyphos inscribed with the name of Euripides. Although the cup belongs the late 5th century B. C., the dedicatory inscription on it should be assigned to Hellenistic or early Greco-Roman times.

(Archaeological Museum of Piraeus; photo by K. Xenikakis, 1996)

Main Page