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Ancient Steles: Korean and Greek

Ancient steles gave royal family members a chance to commemorate their loved ones, especially when they were a successful ruler and leader. In this article, you will encounter steles dating back to Korean and Greek history with one highlighting the achievements of a patriarch.

Gwanggaeto Stele , Korean

Erected in 414 by King Jangsu, the Gwanggaeto Stele paid homage to the death of his father. Goguryeo was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, but not much is left behind to tell the tale of the culture. The stele is one of the most important links to the Goguryeo past, as it offers priceless details about the history of the people, especially regarding the reign of the king. Historians have also been able to understand some of the themed of Goguryeo mythology by studying the stele.

Today, the stele is found close to the tomb of Gwanggaeto in what we now know as the city of Ji’an , located along the Yalu River in present-day northeast China. In the past, this region served as the capital of Goguryeo. The stele is comprised of one single piece of granite and reaches about 7 meters into the sky. An inscription on the stele is written in the classical style of the Chinese language , 1802 characters in total.

The grounds of the War Memorial of Seoul offer an exact replica of the Gwanggaeto Stele. The National Museum of Japan has rubbed copies of the stele that date back to 1883. It plays an important role in the  history of Korea and other cultures. On the stele, there is a record of all the battles that Gwanggeto participated in and claimed victory during his reign. For example, article of the year 395 states ” The King led troops to defeat Paryeo tribe and acquired their livestock. He inspected the state and returned in triumph.”

Lemnos Stele, Greek

Dating back to the 6th century BC, the proof that the Lemnian language ever existed was found on an inscription of a funerary stele dubbed the Lemnos Stele. The language represents a people that once lived on the island of Lemnos. Its existence surfaced when the stele was uncovered in 1885. In academic circles, the people of Lemnos are believed to be in close relation to the Etruscans. Following the conquering of their island by the Athenians, Attic Greek soon replaced the people of Lemnos.

Constructed into the wall of a church in Kaminia, the stele was discovered to have a history traced back to the 6th century , primarily because in 510 BC, an Athenian named Miltiades invaded Lemnos. A low-relief bust of a helmeted man is found on the stele along with an inscription using an alphabet likened to the style of the western Greek alphabet.

To date, the only phrase that has been deciphered out of the 198 characters of the inscription are consists of 198 characters avis sialchvis (“aged sixty”, B.3), which is similar to the Etruscan avils maÏ”¡s Ã…”ºealÏ”¡isc which translates into “and aged sixty-five”. Altogether, there are 33 to 40 words on the stele with some words separated with one to three dots. Today, the stele has found a home at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.