The Cippus of Malta

As you enter The Snop House, your eye will undoubtedly be drawn to this astonishing sculptural piece that acts as the ball on the banister of the majestic staircase leading to the upper floors.

This is a ceramic piece by Maltese artist Paul Haber, a replica of the 2 Melqart cippus (one in the Louvre Museum in Paris, the other in the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, Malta).

Votive monuments, the two marble skullcaps were discovered at the end of the 17th century, a priori in the South of Malta, at Marsaxlokk, and they would have been made, according to tradition, in dedication to Heracles (the Phoenician god Melqart being associated with the Greek god Heracles by the Interpretatio Graeca) whose temple in Malta existed but whose location remains unknown.

In 1758, the bilingual inscription in ancient Greek and Phoenician engraved on the bases of the Melquart cippes enabled Abbé Jean-Jacques Barthélemy to identify 18 of the 22 letters of the Phoenician alphabet and thus begin deciphering the language, Barthélemy had already tried his hand at deciphering the Palmyrene alphabet, and the eminent Egyptologist Jean-François Champollion drew inspiration from this method to decipher the hieroglyphs in the 19th century. The Rosetta Stone, a fragment of an engraved stele from ancient Egypt bearing three versions of the same text that helped decipher the hieroglyphs, is thought to be the counterpart of the famous Maltese cippus!

In 1782, Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc, Grand Master of the Hospitallers, offered one of the cippus to King Louis XVI1. It joined the collections of the Musée du Louvre in 1864, where it is still on display. The second cippus is now kept at the National Archaeological Museum of Malta in Valletta.

By installing this copy at the very entrance to the hotel, the owners wish to emphasize the Phoenician origins of this archipelago, as a starting point for discovering the history of Malta, and whose language, even if it has evolved over the ages, is one of the many legacies left successively by all those who succeeded the Phoenicians.


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