25 Apr 2011

What's the deal with Svutaf?

Who is the young, winged Svutaph or Svutaf in the above drawing of mirror ET Vs S.15?[1] Many attempts have been made to explain it. Some consider it a transcription error or the real name in reverse. No one has clear answers and the mystery lingers like locker-room odour.

It turns out that Vesuna is an Umbrian goddess.[2] Giuliano and Larissa Bonfante suggested an "Umbrian influence" on the subject matter of this mirror.[3] Since word-final -f or is uncommon in Etruscan, it seems likely to me that Svutaφ is Umbrian too. Proto-Italic *-ns became Umbrian -f.[4] So this fricative occurs in word-final positions quite a lot in that language and can help explain the unexpected spelling in this name.

If we consider an Umbrian origin, it's interesting to note the common comparison of this name with Latin suādēre 'to persuade'. So is this all suggesting an underlying Umbrian deity named something like *Svādaf? On that note, we should recall a Roman goddess of persuasion named Suāda.

[1] This rough illustration was published in De Grummond, Etruscan myth, sacred history, and legend (2006), p.120.
[2] Opuscula romana, vol 31-32 (2008), p.22; Iguvine Tablets, 4.11-12: Vesune Puemunes Pupřikes 'To Vesona of Pomonus Poplicus'.
[3] Bonfante/Bonfante, The Etruscan language: An introduction, 2nd ed. (2002), p.210.
[4] Schwartz/Arbeitman, A Linguistic happening in memory of Ben Schwartz: Studies in Anatolian, Italic, and other Indo-European languages (1988), p.389: "Parallels exist for the change of final *-ns to -f, e.g. Umbrian sif ACC PL 'pigs' < *sūns."


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