2 Aug 2012

On the 18th of Acale

In the middle of chapter 6 of the Liber Linteus (aka "The Mummy text"), it reads: eslem . zaθrumiś . acale . tinś . in . śarle // luθti . raχ . ture . acil . caticaθ . luθ . celθim // χim . scuχie . acil . hupniś . painiem // anc . martiθ . sulal .

Lacking any clear translations of this passage from other Etruscanists and online contributers, I'm left to my own judgement calls based on the data I've collected so far in my Etruscan dictionary database. I've been parsing this into sentences as follows:

Eslem zaθrumiś Acale, Tinś in, śarle luθ-ti raχ, ture acil. Caticaθ luθ cel-θi-m. Χi-m, scuχie acil hupniś. Painie-m An-c martiθ sulal.

My transation so far is "On the 18th in Acale, for the Sun, with ash in a filled egg, they gave abundance. Then this very egg [went] in the earth. Then next, abundance was dedicated to the ossuary chamber. Then He shined upon the farmer of cereal."

Certain hapaxes here are hard to decipher for lack of information. For now I understand painie to be a preterite verb borrowed from Greek φαίνω. Its connection with the overall solar theme of the passage shows promise.

The Bonfantes have given the value "liquid used in sacrifices" to a root *sul but the accompanying word martiθ appears to be built on mar which I'm pretty confident means 'to harvest', as in Mariś, the 'Harvester', the god of agriculture and the antecedent of Roman Mars. So assuming that martiθ is a derivative noun meaning 'harvester, farmer' (< marθ, an intransitive or subjective form of mar, plus  [agent]), this suggests that sulal is a type of plant, probably cereal, declined in the genitive case. Thus 'farmer of cereal', which seems to jive with a June harvest of barley in Latium and Etruscanists agree that Acale is the month of June, as per the Roman gloss: Aclus Tuscorum lingua lunius mensis dicitur. = "The month of June is called Aclus in the Etruscan language." I still search a satisfying etymology for the root *sul however and can't be certain of its exact meaning.

I find śarle most difficult to translate but I gather that it is a locative-declined form of a noun *śaril (itself presumably composed of a verb *śar plus a common noun formant -il). A tenuous connection with Ugaritic ṣḥrr 'to burn, to shine' assumes a Bronze Age borrowing back in Lydia and would support a value of "with ash", or something related to the practice of immolation appropriate for a solar rite.

In all, if my translation is on the right track, it may remind one of the story of the rebirth of the Egyptian phoenix whereby at its death it was said to be reborn fully-grown from the ashes of its old self. The newborn child then encases the ashes in an egg of myrrh to be transported to a solar temple in Heliopolis. The legend of the phoenix is of course a mythical account of the cyclical solar year and probably also of the associated yearly ritual performed by devoted priests.


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