22 Feb 2012

Devotions to an Etruscan deity in TLE 939

According to Helmut Rix's Etruskische Texte, an important resource that lists inscriptions on Etruscan artifacts, an inscription written on a vessel from Caere in the 7th century BCE labeled ET Cr 0.4 (aka TLE 939 in Testimoniae linguae Etruscae) is transliterated as follows:
zusatunina atiuθ: arvasa
aφanuva θi masuvem maniχiur:
ala alχuvaisera turannuve
inelusisnial θui uriaθi litilta
lipileka turanuve
ecmima-ṛịmatesi ara turanuve
velusinas eχeθai ara ina asi
ikan ziχ: akarai
It seems apparent to me that the continuous text as it's presented here demands more accurate parsing. Some of these words are just too long and are likely multiple words strung together. So I would suggest that it be parsed more like this:
zusa tunina atiuθ: arvasa
aφanuvaθi masuvem maniχiur:
ala alχuvai sera turannuve
in elusisnial θui uriaθi litilta
lipileka turanuve
ec mima-ṛị matesi ara turanuve
velusinase χeθai ara ina asi
ikan ziχ: akarai
Let's first approach this with what we know. This text is quite a few centuries older than the text of the Zagreb Mummy Text. This is Old Etruscan. The intent of the final sentence is rather apparent: Ikan ziχ akarai "This text shall be done". (We'd expect *Ecn ziχ acari in 1st-century Etruscan.) This is a commitment by the parties involved to respecting the gods by proper rite and it recalls the concluding sentence of the Cippus PerusinusIχ ca ceχa ziχuχe "Thus this rite has been written". Preceding this concluding sentence then, we expect a list of rites being performed to bless an event, most often being the passing of a loved one and their final journey to the underworld, but there are many other reasons for ritual blessings such as to honour certain deities during yearly celebrations, to solidify contracts between people, to implore the gods for aid, etc.

I find the thrice occurrence of turanuve interesting and it seems to be a locative form of Turaniu which is in turn the diminutive of the name Turan, the goddess of fertility. According to Larissa and Giuliano Bonfanteturnu on one mirror represents Eros, the child of Turan. The meaning of the name is thought to be read in that case as 'The dear (one of) Turan' rather than 'Dear Turan'. However I wonder whether in TLE 939 we're not dealing with Turan instead of the more minor deity Eros. The last occurrence of the name is suggestive of a specific epithet declined in the locative case: Turanuve Velusinase 'before Turan of Volsinii'. Volsinii is an ancient Etruscan city, modernday Bolsena. The word masuve-m refers to a burial (nb. mas 'to entomb, to inter').


  1. I've been trying my luck at some of the other words.
    /atiuθ/ - clearly related to /ati/ [mother], probably /atiu/ [nurse, mommy]. But the θ bothers me; is it denoting a collective group? Or is it the particle -θi, thus giving "in (the) nanny"?
    /arvasa/ - could it be related to *arvi [ni.(II); intestines, organs, viscera [body] (na.)] or *arvina [ni.(II) fat, grease (na.)]?
    /velusinase χeθai/ I take it you consider the /e/ in the written /eχeθai/ to have been a mistake in word dividing and actually part of /velusinase/. But the meaning of this seems strange; in the dictionary, you give /χeθai/ as "large fish [fauna] (loc.sg.)". "In the large fish of the region of Volsinii" sounds a bit odd.
    Also, /χeθa/ sounds like a reflex of κῆτος, a massive sea-monster/fish (a.k.a. Cetus), and Κητώ, mother of the Gorgons.

    I also have a couple of questions regarding other things in the dictionary.
    1) What exactly IS the aorist marking in Etruscan? Is it /s/? Is it related to the stative -as (if so, the connection's unclear to me).
    2) I came across the abbreviation "conj." What does it stand for, and what function does that which it stands for play?

  2. 'I find the thrice occurrence of turanuve interesting and it seems to be a locative form of Turaniu':

    in Northern Latium (especially near Viterbo) there are some toponyms similar to 'Turaniu', like the etruscan town of Turona, located in the region of Lake Bolsena.

  3. Excellent! You're keeping your eyes on me and keeping me in check. Thank you and great questions.

    I have trouble believing that atiuθ is related to "mother" in this context and the structure of the word using that root becomes problematic as you say. I suspect an adjective modifying the head noun zusa formed from an intransitive participle.

    I think the word arvasa is a form of the verb ar. We could then parse it as ar-va-s-a = "raise"-PASS-AOR-PRES.

    I'm currently considering Turanuve Velusinase as a single epithet in the locative meaning "Turan (or Eros?) of Volsinii" so the following word is, I suspect, to do with the offering given to the deity. Why not fish? It would be declined in the locative, implying a noun χeθ in citation form. Fish, it seems like a nice offering for the fertility goddess Turan, don't you think? Admittedly tentative considering it's a hapax but worth a shot since I haven't come across better answers yet. (And yes, I'm getting a cue from κῆτος (> cetus), Κητώ, γάδος, etc. that all seem to suggest a substrate term.)

    Admittedly I'm confused as yet on what to call the "aorist" because it's exact usage and meaning is still unclear to me. I'm going to have to sit down with these texts and stare at these -as- forms for a while to get a handle on it, and then fill in my grammar pdf some more.

    In the case of asi, I think it's a locative ending operating on the bare verb as 'to burn', perhaps meaning "(in order) to burn" or "in burning". That label probably needs to be revised too. As always, translation is a work in progress.

  4. Glen, I make a point of always keeping this website in open in one of my tabs. It's too interesting not to.

    "In the case of asi, I think it's a locative ending operating on the bare verb as 'to burn', perhaps meaning "(in order) to burn" or "in burning". That label probably needs to be revised too. As always, translation is a work in progress."

    Why can't "as" also be a noun? Other bare verbs have identical noun forms.
    Indeed, while it's admittedly a stretch, perhaps there's a reflex in "as" of an Indo-European or IE-Tyrrhenian root that appears as *HeH- (to be hot); compare Palaic ha- "to be hot". Admittedly,this is grasping at straws, but it's an interesting idea.

  5. Glad to hear, Seadog. Thanks! :o)

    Seadog Driftwood: "Why can't 'as' also be a noun?"

    Precisely. I believe these word categories are much more fluid in Etruscan than in English, more like some other languages such as Mandarin. All one has to do in order to convert a "verb" to a "noun" in Etruscan would be to take the bare root and give it nominal inflection. So we can think of asi as an unmarked deverbal noun with additional case inflection, yes.

    The similarity of the verb root as- with PIE *h₂eh₁s- 'to burn' intrigues me too but it could so easily be a product of a borrowing from a later Bronze Age Indo-European language or even just a deceptive red herring. And most fundamentally, it all depends on whether my translation of the root and its apparent derivatives (ie. asi, asil, aślaχ) stand the test of time. I haven't decided my position on its etymology yet but I'd like to hope optimistically that this is a possible Indo-Aegean root.