Sicily: Culture and Conquest | SC Exhibitions
|Quadrilingual tombstone. A tombstone in four languages, |
Marble, Palermo, Sicily, 1149 AD.
Soprintendenza di Palermo © Regione Siciliana.
In AD 1149, a Christian priest in Sicily erected a tombstone for his deceased mother. To many from the outside world, and even many living today, its inscription would come as a surprise. It was written in four languages: Judeo-Arabic, Latin, Greek and Arabic. Even more intriguingly, the date of his mother's death was given according to the calendar of each faith represented. To Jewish readers, she died in the year 4909. To Muslim readers, it was 544.
This tombstone is a symbol of the multiculturalism that flourished in Sicily after the coronation of King Roger II in AD 1105. Roger encouraged people from all over the world to settle in his kingdom. Jews, Muslims, Orthodox Greek Byzantines, and Christian Normans and Italians all shared this same small island, working together to advance our understanding of the world, art and architecture.
You can see this tombstone in the exhibition "Sicily: Culture and Conquest" at the British Museum. Featuring over 200 objects, created between 2200 BC and AD 1250, the exhibition primarily focuses on the Greeks in Sicily from 734 BC, and the reign of King Roger II from AD 1105. Throughout, it highlights Sicily's central place in the Mediterranean world. This is neatly emphasized right after you enter the exhibition space, where at the centre of a map, the island is encircled by Europe, Asia and North Africa.