3 Mar 2012

Picking at TLE 939 some more

I feel like revisiting artifact TLE 939 (aka ET Cr 0.4). There are a lot of different versions of the story on this and translations are hampered by irritating transcription disagreements and, alas, few clear photos available to the general public. I can only suspect for now the following tentative translation until I learn more about this object and the roots of some of the hapaxes involved:
Zusa tunina atiuθ arvasa aφanuva-θi, masuve-m
The cleansed wrapped body is lifted among the families, then before the tomb.

Maniχiur ala alχuvai, sera Turannuve.
The ancestors lie with the laid, and they remain with Turaniu.

In Elusisnial, θui uria-θi.
They are of the Elysium, united in bliss.

Litil-ta lipile-ka Turanuve.
The sacrifice and this libation is with Turaniu.

Ec mimari.
They shall remember.

Matesi, ara Turanuve Velusinase χeθai.
On behalf of the gathering, (he) is raised before Turaniu of Volsinii with fish.

Ara ina asi.
He is raised by them through burning.

Ikan ziχ akarai.
This text shall be done.
The translation is amenable to change. However, if I'm not mistaken, the text is detailing a series of fascinating Etruscan rites used toward someone's burial service. The sequence is expected: a burial procession, a presentation of holy offering, a cremation of deceased and offering, then the final entombment of the urn containing the ashes. Somewhere in all of that we also expect a burial banquet, a kind of "last supper" with the dear departed.

To tackle the phrase zusa tunina atiuθ, I first assume that zusa (if properly parsed) refers to the physical 'body' of the deceased. It's interesting then to note that the Latin word tunica has an unknown etymology but is thought to be Etruscan. I wonder. Is it from a form such as *tunaχ 'wrapping, cloth'? Assuming then a native underlying verb root tun- 'to wrap', tunina could reasonably be interpreted then as an adjective in -na conveying 'wrapped'. Analysis of atiuθ points to an intransitive participle of  which I've so far attributed a transitive meaning to: 'to clean'. To be grammatically consistent, I'll have to ammend slightly to 'to be clean'. The text in the Tabula Capuana gives the sequence ita eθ aθene which could mean "that herein was made clean." The verb arvasa should be a passive derivative in -va of ar 'to lift, to raise'. It all seems to fit together coherently, if I do say so myself.

The sequence elusisnial is hard to miss and its connection with the Elysium (Ἠλύσιον), the Greek conception of the afterlife, is rather tempting considering the other burial keywords of this text. This would suggest that Elusisna was the corresponding Etruscan term for their City of the Dead. Elusisnial is its type-II genitive form.

The pronoun form ina is also interesting and I've already noted ana from TLE 27. They must be oblique forms (ie. non-nomino-accusative forms) for the third person. The use of ina for human plural agents could mean, as I've predicted for a while, that third person pronouns have a quirk such that plural 'they' was conveyed by the same pronoun as the inanimate 'it'. This isn't too far from the situation in English where our three singular choices of 'he', 'she' and 'it' collapse to the undifferentiated plural 'they'. One would need only further contemplate the result of collapsing 'it' and 'they' together and one would understand the Etruscan situation as I've suggested it.

What I still don't understand though is how I'm supposed to interpret Turaniu. In the name we have the diminutive suffix -iu and it simply means "Little Turan". The name's use on one mirror to label a cupid-like deity described as an Etruscan version of the divine boy Eros doesn't help me understand the emergence of this deity in this context. However it makes me start thinking instead of the significance of the neighbouring Kore cult of the Greeks. Kore means 'little girl' or 'maiden' in Greek and is the byname of Persephone who, among other things, was the lady of the dead, wife of none other than Hades. It makes sense if Turaniu here is functioning as a deity of rebirth and the immortal soul. A child-like deity would fit the image of eternal youth.


  1. Very interesting!
    What about litil-ta lipile-ka ? and their roots? (I guess you derive the latter from the same origin of latin verb 'libare', but what about the first term?).

    Thank you for your work.

  2. And of course, English "they" is sometimes sued in singular as well: for example, "whoever it was who took the painting, they're bound to have left some clues."

    This Kore cult connection is a very sensible one. How would this then affect the meaning of "Turan"?

    I've also been looking at REE 52 n72 on http://www.etruscaphilologia.eu/caere3a.htm . Some of the assumed word divisions don't make sense, and an "i" is inexplicably interpreted as an "r".

    Here's what I've got so far:
    mini kakana hiziu ana ceia quvupivis θinas θahna

    The main difference from version on the linked site is that I've separated a clear example of "ana ceia". I'm still unsure about possible divisions in "hiziu" and "quvupivis".

  3. Vel: "What about litil-ta lipile-ka ? and their roots?"

    When I looked at this sequence, I immediately saw the contrast between the modifying demonstratives -(i)ca and -(i)ta as we also see in the Liber Linteus (nb. celu-cn aθumi-tn 'the earth and the sky', declined in the accusative). This leaves the almost-identical roots litil and lipil. As you already see, if this meaning is correct, Latin lībāre 'to pour out' is a reasonable source for the latter (but also don't forget Greek λείβειν 'to pour').

    Amazingly though, for the sake of argument at least, if we dare to further connect litil with Latin litāre 'to make an acceptable sacrifice', we now have a *VERY* tight symmetry of grammar AND semantics. The sequence then describes a balanced ritual offering of food and drink. Christians are still harking back to this pagan symmetry when they say "the body and blood of Christ" where Christ is quite literally the anthropomorphic representation of the general concept of "sacrifice" itself.

    So this idea necessitates the pre-existence of verbs *liφ 'to libate, to pour' and *liθ 'to sacrifice' with the productive nominal ending -il attached.

  4. Seadog: "This Kore cult connection is a very sensible one. How would this then affect the meaning of 'Turan'?"

    Turan herself is decidedly female and there's no question that she's the Etruscan answer to Aphrodite and Venus.

    As for the diminutive Turaniu, I gather that a child deity of any sex was meant fundamentally to give a human face to the "youthful" time of year (ie. springtime). Whether a boy Apollo (Eros) or a girl Aphrodite (Kore), the natural connections to spring and to the reemergence of life are the same. This is then secondarily linked with the immortality of soul which is certainly a central hope that the Etruscan religion offered.

    So I'm not terribly concerned about the sex of Turaniu and considering the myths of Hermaphroditus and Agdistis, perhaps we're being too fussy about the gender of the child incarnation.

  5. I just tripped over a pertinent link from Judith Swaddling and Larissa Bonfante's book Etruscan myths (p.49): "Both the Eros figure and an attendant on a mirror in a private collection are called Turnu, a name that must mean 'related to Turan'." (Oh boy, don't get me started about the evils of private artifact collections...!!!)

    Anyways, she's effectively raising the question here of How do we define the core meaning of the ending -iu? Is the diminutive usage related to adjectives in -iu like hinθiu 'beneath', perhaps through the notion of partitiveness? Perhaps this is what Bonfante and Swaddling are thinking.

  6. Seadog: "Here's what I've got so far: mini kakana hiziu ana ceia quvupivis θinas θahna"

    Have you tried copy-and-pasting the entire inscription into my Etruscan dictionary? That's what it's there for. It recognizes Kakana as a misspelling of Karkana (a family name) and θahna is likely for θapuna (> θafna), a vessel. A word θina means 'water cup' but I would expect the l-genitive with it because it's a type-II noun as far as I know.

  7. Apologies in advance that this comment has little to do with the post - and feel free to remove it once you've responded - but I was just wondering if you were involved with any online communities (e-lists, forums, etc.) for Etruscan studies. I've just recently found this blog, and highly value all the work you're doing; but I'd love to be able to talk with you (and others) in a setting of more active discussion.

  8. I'm sure many others would too. So would I! :o)

    For whatever reason, an obsessive minority of griefers in every forum, on whatever topic, derive a deranged thrill out of interfering with strict logical debate by accosting a forum with views most untenable. This explains the paucity of active debate. If you find such a forum and it stands to reasonable scrutiny, I'd be more than happy to endorse it on this blog.