- felsnas : la : leθes
- svalce : avil CVI
- murce : capue
- tleχe : hanipaluscle
There was a larger purpose to my rant on Enclitics and Noun Phrases in Etruscan and I'm just itching to test my new theory out on this inscription. So let's go for a ride.
We know that La in the first line is an abbreviation for the male praenomen Larth. Larissa Bonfante claims it translates as "Felsnas, son of Larth Lethe lived 106 years. (He) lived at Capua. (He) was enrolled in the army of Hannibal". Try for now to put out of your mind the astonishing fact that this man is actually inscribed to have lived to the ripe old age of 106 in pre-industrial times and how this puts your state of health to shame. We can see full well at the end of the second line the three numerals for CVI. (Note that the scribe wrote an ancient variant of upside-down upsilon for "five" which is attested elsewhere in Etruscan.) Yep, apparently he was 106... or maybe his community just lost count.
Now, let me warn readers that the last translated sentence which I mark in red is entirely mangled beyond recognition by Bonfante. One hint of her error in judgement is the consideration that if tleχe really meant "in the army", the use of the simple locative -e to convey "in" is not justified by attested examples elsewhere. The locative normally is equivalent to English "by", "at", "with" or "on". When one says "he is in the army" one is not saying someone is physically "in" an army since an army is an abstract concept. One really means that someone belongs to a group called an army. The genitive case then would be more appropriate in Etruscan, which typically conveys ownership or relationship. Bonfante, not being a linguist, isn't the first expert we should be running to in order to explain the grammar of this inscription anyways but sadly, aside from Rix, there doesn't seem to be many options for the reader who wants to bypass the mysterymongers to get at the nutritious morsels of linguistic fact.
Let me also assure you that mur, which is attested a couple of times in the Liber Linteus document (LL 11.vi, viii), does not mean "to live" given all of its contexts and in fact in all likelihood means the very opposite, "to die". If you don't believe me, please ask yourself how this verb could have possibly built a word like murs "sarcophagus" (translated this way by Massimo Pallottino himself) which conveys the complete opposite of what it supposedly means. Obviously, this contradicts Pallottino's (and Bonfante's) published belief that mur means "to live" while supporting the complete opposite translation.
(Oh-oh. I smell a historical controversy coming on!)
But this simple two-plus-two revelation would lend a completely different interpretation to the sentence, starting with a necessary, grammar-based readjustment of the translation of Tleχe Hanipalus-cle as "during the *War* of Hannibal". Maybe classicists like Bonfante should be aware of things like, say... Latin, where the equivalent phrase, Bello Hannibalis, was also used a lot by Romans like my main man, Livy? Just a teensy thought. The use of the simple locative -e to specify a point in time is securely attested in the Liber Linteus (n.b. θesane "in the morning").
Yet, after we've finished dancing around a bonfire fueled by the red herrings in Bonfante's books and break free from our naive dependence on narrow specialists to define our world for us, we might finally come to an independent realization that for Larth to have died during the War of Hannibal, his death would have to be placed between 218 and 201 BCE, not his army enrollment - a century earlier than is widely published! In other words, he would have to have been born sometime between 324 and 307 BCE and could only have been fit for the army between 304 and 287 BCE.
Quite frankly I find this whole absurdity deliciously hilarious. I hope you do too. Don't forget to pay me royalties in case you decide to publish, hehe.
Or... maybe I'm crazy. But at least I'm thinking about these nagging details about Etruscan grammar. I'm old school. I believe that a translation should be consistently applied and should follow a clear grammatical model. If that methodology had been applied throughout the 20th century, there wouldn't be people claiming that Etruscans are a mystery today.