30 Aug 2010

Did the Etruscans ever speak of fair Padua?

Latest input from a commenter on the exact entry-point of the early Etrusco-Rhaetic into Italy has led me to contemplate all things Padua, an old city with a rich past located in the plains north of the Po River. By doing a quick google search on the city, one profits from some of the most paradisaic pictures one could ever behold. I'm instantly overcome with an overwhelming yearn to escape there some day and never return!

But back to reality, a simple question pops to mind in relation to the Etruscans I obsess over each day: What was Padua in Etruscan? A check in my database revealed an embarrassing blank. An embarrassing blank because the Romans knew the city well under the name Patavium. Citizens boast that it's one of the oldest cities in Italy and it was historically the most prominent of the Veneti people who lived in this region. Surely the Etruscans knew of this city and had their own name for it. So I must remedy my ignorance somehow.

Without any direct attestation of this city in any Etruscan inscription I know of, I decided to get clever by searching through my database for any last names reasonably similar to this Latin name Patavium, the reason being that there are many other Etruscan family names referring to the historical ethnicity of the people who sported them, eg. Umrina, literally 'Umbria' or 'of the Umbri' (cf. Latin name Umbricianus).

While the search-strings pat* yielded zilch, I stubbornly expanded my quest with pet*. Eureka. Now I saw a single name precisely fitting the criteria of my quest: Petui. Could this name mean 'Paduan' or '(s)he of Patavium' perchance?

In the process, I noticed that I'd incorrectly labeled this name in my online dictionary as a female praenomen (apologies!) but my recent scouring has given me confidence that this is in fact a gentilicium since it's attested in many inscriptions including CIE 3666, 3667, 3672 and 3675. Massimo Tarabella confirms that it is indeed a family name on page 372 of Prosopographia etrusca, Volume 1 (2004) where he delves into the history of the name under the heading Petui. Disappointingly, little insight is found and there is no mention of Patavium as I would have desired. However, the author fails also to reflect on one of its attested genitive forms, Petevis, which is found in CIE 3673 and which directly motivates an earlier form *Petavie with the restored second syllable.

Given these newly uncovered facts, I think I'm going in the right direction with this. As such the cityname could be expected to be *Petau and its surrounding region, *Petavina, following standard Etruscan naming practices for regions and cities paralleling the example of Capeva 'Capua' & Capevana 'Campania'. I might just dare to take it up a notch and suggest that the name is indeed Venetic, as would be expected afterall, and that the Venetic name was pronounced *Pataviom, literally meaning 'The open (land)' from a hypothetical adjective *patavos 'open, wide, vast' (cf. Lat. pateo, patulus < PIE *peth₂- 'to be spread out'). Such a meaning would be more than apt for a city lying in flatlands adjacent to the Adriatic Sea.

One final thought, this family name seems to surface mostly in the city of Perusia (ie. modern Perugia) which lies several miles due south of Patavium. Perhaps is it possible that with the constant threat of Celtic invasion, some Paduans had migrated southward for a greater feeling of safety? Alas, to every mystery solved, more questions rear their ugly heads! Not even noble Heracles could tame this enticing Hydra.

28 Aug 2010

The saga of the sea-faring house

I can't help but notice that the word for 'house' has traveled far and wide around the Eastern Mediterranean in the earliest times:
  • Egyptian par 'house' (written pr)
  • Hattic wel 'house' (< Proto-Hattic *pel ?)
  • Hittite pir 'house'
  • Luwian parnas 'house'
My spidey senses tell me that it all stems from the Egyptian language. I suspect the word also entered Proto-Aegean as *par hence some attested nouns in Etruscan that I interpret as likely temple-related derivatives: parχ (TLE 169) and parniχ (TLE 131).

One may wonder why such a word would travel so far and wide or why it would emanate specifically from the Egyptians, but 'house' may often refer also to a politico-religious building or institution, eg. a 'temple-house', 'White House', 'House of Representatives', etc. The Egyptians often used 'house' to refer to temples, as was the association among the Luwians[1]. If I interpret the historicity of this word correctly, then it emphasizes the influence of Egypt on religious faith throughout the 2nd millennium BCE. Even the name Egypt, a Greek name, was adapted (probably via Minoan *Aikupita) from the name for a prominent temple in Memphis, the *Ḥáʔat-Kuʔ-Patáḥ. 'House of the spirit of Ptah'. Note in this latter etymon, we have yet another word for 'house' being used in Egyptian to convey 'temple': *áʔat (written ḥȝ.t).

[1] Huxley, Crete and the Luwians (1961), p.26 (see link).

27 Aug 2010

Blogger reluctantly fights spam

This past week or so, Blogger notified its users that it's finally decided to fight spam. You can read all about it here. Perhaps many of us would have found this impressive if implemented several months or, quite frankly, a few years ago but the admins seem to have only responded to this common problem now, and only after a deluge of complaints have been posted on their unresponsive feedback site (through Google), over the course of uncountable eons. Some other bloggers are mildly more hopeful than I about this banal update.

I'm one of those crabby realists who doesn't buy into the overused "better late than never" excuse that barely keeps typical bureaucracies from imploding into failure. Behind the scenes, I've been spending my precious time deleting and redeleting automatic spam from some computer-savvy psychopath writing short quips (half in Chinese & half in English, oddly enough) with a trail of elipses anchored with tags to Russian porn sites and the like, purposely designed to capitalize on accidental user click-through by bloggers trying hard to moderate their commentboxes from this very stupidity. From browsing other sites, I see I'm not the only one of his victims since his spam has successfully rooted itself in other commentboxes by more careless Blogger users. For some odd marketing reason that I can't fathom, Blogger allowed this to go on for quite a long time with no solution, no doubt driving yet more bloggers to their competitors. If I could find a Wordpress solution that was free like Blogger and matching all the capabilities of this system, I'd be gone too. Soooooo gone. But we must do with what we got and make lemonade out of the sour lemons.

After perusing Google's explanation of the new system however, I see some obvious flaws. It would make far more sense to simply allow us bloggers to individually determine for ourselves what constitutes "spam" and not force Google's comparatively blind algorithms on people. For example, I would like to specifically block a few rather dense and obsessive commenters permanently from my blog without having to go through the motion of specifically deleting their consistent nonsense in my mailbox. Can I do this in the new system? It doesn't appear so and this irritates me.

But then, as capitalistically glib as it is, they say "you get what you pay for" and Blogger is as free as they come.

22 Aug 2010

The scarab rises in Etruria

The Greek scholar Hesychios of the 5th century CE claimed that the word for the beetle (= Greek κάνθαρος) among the Tyrrhenoi (ie. Etruscans) was βύρρος (burros) in his work Glossai. This teases my curiosity for a number of reasons but I'm surprised that Etruscanists, as far as I've read, haven't picked up on what I'm about to explore here. Etruscanists will typically quote Hesychios' gloss blindly but offer no further insights.

As is well known, the beetle was a reknowned symbol of the sun god as he rose from the netherworld and, by extension, a symbol of the eternal human soul after death. This symbol was not just worshipped in Egypt, but judging by the archaeological finds, the icon had also spread into Minoan Crete[1] and even into later Etruria through the migration of the Etruscans and their culture where we find yet more scarabs[2], particularly as funerary offerings, testimony to a widespread heliocentric faith.

The beetle was a widely worshipped animal for a very specific reason that can be firmly traced back to the Egyptians and their language. The source of the symbolism was pure word-play since in Egyptian, the word for 'to become' was *ḫāpar (> Sahidic ϣⲱⲡⲉ) while the symbol for 'beetle' contained the same consonantal skeleton, ḫpr, but presumably with different vowels. The rising sun was subsequently known by his holy epithet, Khepri 'The Becoming One' (written in Egyptian only as ḫprỉ). His name came to be written by scribes with the similar-sounding 'beetle' ideogram and even envisioned by Egyptian artists as a man with a beetle's head.

Given that we can be certain of the Egyptian origin of scarab iconography, it stands to reason that Etruscans borrowed the symbolism from them somehow, probably during the 2nd millennium BCE when Proto-Etruscans were still in the environs of Cyprus and Southern Turkey. The question I must pose however is: What was the vocalism of the Egyptian word for 'beetle', and is the above gloss by Hesychios a hint to its original pronunciation?

I'll dare to offer a hypothesis for the sake of debate and to connect dots that I believe need to be connected. Is it possible that the Egyptian word for 'beetle' was pronounced *ḫapúri? (Unfortunately Coptic gives me no hints on this.) Such a term could then have entered Proto-Aegean or later dialects before 1500 BCE in the form *apúri. By way of Cyprian Syncope which crops up in many other words on a regular basis, this yields *pur with which we might assign the Etruscan name for 'beetle', thereby addressing Hesychios' claim and tying everything together into a neat package.

[1] Aruz, Marks of distinction: Seals and cultural exchange between the Aegean and the Orient (ca. 2600-1360 B.C.) (2008), p.56 (see link).
[2] Scarisbrick, Historic rings: Four thousand years of craftsmanship (2004), p.19 (see link).

19 Aug 2010

The rug that you wear

Larissa Bonfante informs us in Etruscan dress (2003), p.104 that, based on the Greek word τήβεννα (tēbenna), the toga was known to the Etruscans as *tepenna. While I gauge this to be essentially correct, it requires some ammendments to account for some minor, but important, facts that Bonfante has overlooked.

First, it must be known that Etruscan lacks geminate consonants. Putting it another way, Etruscan never distinguished between written -nn- or -n-, being pronounced exactly the same: plain old /n/. This is unlike languages like Italian where double letters in spelling can make a difference in the spoken language. Since it's unnecessary for Bonfante to be faithful to the Greek spelling with double nu (-νν-), *tepena would be a comparatively more sage reconstruction. However, a second interesting fact is that there are some dialects of Greek (like Doric) which preserve long a when other dialects have raised the vowel to long e (eta). So a meticulous linguist asks themselves whether they are to take the phonetics of this Greek word at face value or whether they should assume that eta reflects an earlier long a at the time this word entered Greek from the donor language (ie. tēbenna from earlier Greek *tābenna) . Adding these extra considerations into account, I believe that Etruscan *tapina is the most accurate reconstruction.

But now the fun's just starting. Earlier in Paleoglot: Minoan inscription HT 104, I began to realize that the Minoan word for 'carpet' or 'rug' must have been *tapia (note both Greek δάπις 'rug' and τάπης 'rug', strongly hinting at substrate influence). Through the lens of my personal view of a two-branched Aegean family, the adjacent Proto-Cyprian language should have shown *tapi by the end of the 2nd millennium BCE due to the regular syncope of all final vowels. This is precisely the form I would expect to be inherited into Etruscan too.

The exciting part is that, within the bounds of Etruscan grammar, a word like *tapi-na is a perfectly acceptable derivative of *tapi plus the very productive suffix of appurtenance, *-na. This can account for the term tēbenna morphologically and phonetically while it would just as aptly account for the attested semantics of the word as well! It might even be recommended (although not necessary to this theorized etymology) to tweak the value of the Aegean root *tapiya to a broader value of 'cloth' or 'textile' (ie. anything woven, not just rugs but also garments too). The fundamental meaning of the Etruscan tebenna then can be summed up as simply 'that from cloth'. This thought-experiment couldn't have produced a more mundane and sensible result.

16 Aug 2010

Sentina, an Etruscanized Latin name

On page 269 of Tarquinia: Archeologia e prosopografia tra ellenismo e romanizzazione, Federica Chiesa explores the history of the Etruscan gens Sentina and states in Italian:
"The brief onomastic formula of this Šethre Sentina (Ta 1.202) neither presents us with ulterior data nor relevance to our knowledge of the gens, which despite the nomen of an ethnic type, boasts exclusively Tarquinian attestation. The support is uncertain."[1]
Frankly I'm not sure what the problem is in etymologizing this name. Firstly Sentina can be securely formed from the combination of praenomen Sentiie (TLE 113: Senties 'of Sentiie') plus the suffix of appurtenance -na. This praenomen is in turn attributable to the attested Latin name Sentius.

While I haven't read this directly, I would presume that the Latin name in turn formed, as many Latin cognomina do, from a descriptive adjective. In this case, sentus 'thorny, rough, rugged' seems like a decent match. So I see nothing Etruscan in this name aside from its highly productive suffix.

[1] I've translated this from the Italian: "La brevissima formula onomastica di questo Šethre Sentina (Ta 1.202) non apporta dati ulteriori nè rilevanti alla nostra conoscenza della gens, che malgrado il nomen di tipo etnico, vanta attestazioni esclusivamente tarquiniesi. Il supporto è incerto."

13 Aug 2010

On to the kinnor

Continuing on with my unintentional yet alluring theme of "musical instruments of the ancient Mediterranean", I'm lately exploring the whole issue with the stringed instrument known as a kinnor which is variously translated as a zither or a lyre. If it's true that the name of the kithara is ultimately from a Minoan compound meaning 'three-stringed' and containing the element *ki 'three' (see Paleoglot: The kithara), then it stands to reason that the similar name, kinnor, is probably likewise Minoan in origin and containing the same petrified numeral with a different second component.

I racked my brain on this one, looking at all the available comparanda I could amass this past few days and my findings can be summarized as follows:
  1. Greek κινύρα (kinúra) 'lyre'
  2. Mycenaean ki-nu-ra = *Kinúras [PY Qa 1301]
  3. Hebrew כִּנּוֹר (kinnōr)
  4. Hittite kinartallas ~ kinirtallas 'singer, musician'
  5. Akkadian kinnāru 'lyre'
After reflecting today, I believe however that in the above pile that there are subtle red herrings lurking about, veering us away from the most rational solution. Although I was reluctant at first to accept it, Beekes' conclusion that Greek kinúra is loaned from Hebrew kinnōr now appears sensible to me. However his online commentary in his database is much too brief for a labyrinthine etymology such as this because the direction of borrowing implies that we must then reject the connection often cited between kinúra and an earlier Mycenaean name *Kinúras which therefore cannot mean 'kinyrist' but rather 'lamenter' (via an unrelated Greek word, kinurós 'wailing') in contradiction to, for example, John Franklin's suggestions in his elaborate article Kinyras at Pylos (see online pdf) that there is a connection.

From the Hebrew reflex, the famous Canaanite Shift of *ā > *ō by the close of the 2nd millennium BCE brings us back to an earlier form reflected directly in Akkadian as kinnāru. This same form explains the derivative in Hittite, kinartállas, whose accent I presume lies on the syllable just after the foreign stem kinar- in order to explain the alternation of a and i in spelling (ie. a reduced pretonic vowel perhaps?).

This all means that, to update the form I offered in a recent comment, the compound we're looking for in Minoan is precisely *ki-naro. I will withhold my analysis of the second component for a future entry.

7 Aug 2010

The kithara

Let's talk some more about some wandering instrument terms in the Mediterranean. That of the kithara (ie. the classical lyre) is an interesting case.

In January, I explained my refined etymology for the mythic creature known to the Greeks as the Chimaira. I've been suggesting since then that it originally came from a Minoan compound *Ki-Amária meaning literally 'Three-Face' which subsequently, following the traditional etymology usually given, the name would have been corrupted by native Greek words χίμαρος 'he-goat' and χεῖμα 'winter' after being loaned from the Minoan language. The Chimaira afterall is a symbol of the seasons of the year, commonly three in number in Greek, Egyptian and (presumably) Minoan culture. This could confirm that *ki is the common Aegean word for 'three' since it's well attested in Etruscan as ci.

So am I pushing it too far to extend this further and suspect that the κιθάρα 'lyre' may likewise be a Minoan compound *ki-θiara meaning 'three-string'? This hypothesis has a clear precedent in the native name of the haunting Chinese lute, the san-xian (三弦), likewise meaning precisely 'three-string'.[1] The classical Mediterranean lyre came in different shapes, with different numbers of strings, but indeed including the 3-stringed variety.[2]

If we take my Minoan compound for granted for a second, it would also imply a word *θiara 'string', relating nicely to Egyptian *sīra 'hair, string, thread', written only as [sr] (> Sahidic Coptic sir 'hair, line, stripe'). The last thing for me to figure out however is whether [sr] is from earlier Old Egyptian *zīra /θiːrə/[3], matching the expected Minoan form best as well as suggesting a reasonably early entry point of the name for the lyre into the Aegean linguistic sphere.

[1] The Persian seh-tār (سه تار) is another example.
[2] Bamford, Homage to Pythagoras: Rediscovering sacred science (1994), p.251 (see link): "What is the historical position of the Greek cithara? The Greeks believed that the cithara had come into Greece as a three-stringed lyre in the ninth century and that it had been developed in Greece itself. This is one of the many fallacies that must be abandoned, because of the pictorial evidence the seven-stringed lyre can be traced back to Minoan Crete, c. 1450 BCE." However, in light of my Minoan musings above, I wonder if this classical Greek stance is possibly due merely to a faulty historical recollection of timeline sullying an otherwise fundamentally correct etymology.
[3] Woodard, The Ancient Languages of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Aksum (2008), p.164 (see link) confirms that the Egyptian z was a voiceless interdental fricative /θ/, merging with s at a quite early date.