13 Oct 2007

Liber Linteus and religious formulae, part 1

The Liber Linteus Zagrabiensis is a long religious document written on linen sometime around the 2nd century BCE (see Rix, Etruskische Texte, page 1, for its transcription). It was discovered in the 19th century by a mummy collector, of all things, who had managed to acquire one in Egypt with curious wrappings. It turns out after a long period of ignorance that the strips contained Etruscan on them. So the story goes, it was probably a genuine Etruscan book that made it's way to Egypt somehow to be used as wrapping for a mummy. As suspect as the history of this Zagreb mummy is, let's not assume even more hoaxes and controversies in Etruscan studies than there already are. Sufficed to say, this document has never been translated to any appreciable degree despite it being a potential wealth of information.

The thing that strikes me as the most interesting puzzle to solve is one of a few repetitious phrases that gets repeated in different case forms. The pertinent phrases are as follows:

1 (sacni)2 (cilθ)3 (spur)4 (meθlum)5 (en)

We can readily observe that elements 1, 3 and 4 are nouns that agree with each other on case endings. The final noun is given the conjunctive -c meaning "and", so we can be certain that this is a list of nouns. Element 5 is a form of the verb en (encountered in the form eniaca in the Pyrgi Tablets). It ends in an aspectual marker -aś. It is an infinitive (not marked with presentive -a or preterite -e) and probably functions more like an adjective, either modifying the preceding noun or modifying the entire list of nouns. We may also note that elements 1 and 2 belong to a single unit with śacni being the head noun.

Now that we have that straightened out, what do these case suffixes mean? In instance A, the case ending of choice is the locative in -e extended with the postposition -ri which is believed to be purposive, meaning "for"[1]. In instance B, another postposition is used, namely -treś. Its meaning is unfortunately unknown but some have labeled it an enclitic demonstrative without substance to back it up. Element 4 is missing in this instance. Finally, in instance C, it appears that the genitive case is being employed and depending on the gender of the noun, either the s-genitive or the l-genitive is used. Note also that throughout all of this, element 2 is marked in the genitive. Curiously however, it alternates between both s- and l-genitives. Why?

I will discuss more on this. Stay tuned.

(Continue reading Liber Linteus and religious formulae, part 2)

See Pallottino, The Etruscans (1975). On page 215, he suggests that śpureri is "probably 'to [or for] the city'". I would assert that "for" is the most precise value for -ri, that is, a postposition specifically identifying someone or something that benefits from a specified action.


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