12 Jan 2014

Boopis and Cvl Alp

In usual interpretations of the Piacenza Liver, the work of Martianus Capella is often consulted, attempting to explain one mystery with another. I continue to disagree with that method. I believe that we should look at the artifact itself long and hard, noting its symmetries and asymmetries. One would do better making appeals to ancient Near Eastern religions which are a bit more certain than a curious interpretational work that was created many centuries after the dominance of Etruria.

The sequence cvl alp (written from right-to-left in the upper left portion of the above picture) has long been assumed to be an abbreviation for a god *Culsans-Alpan although this is unpalatable to Jean-René Jannot[1]. I currently wonder if another interpretation is possible: *Cvil Alphazal 'Eye/face of the Cow'. This instead means that this area would refer to the equivalent of Greek Boopis 'Cow-faced' (an epithet of Hera) and Egyptian Hathor. The Liber Linteus makes mention of a Semitic goddess Estara Alphaza which may also be related.

[1] Jannot. Religion in Ancient Etruria (2005), p.163: "Is it Alpan who hides in the second part of the piacenza liver's inscription Cvl.alp? This seems impossible."


  1. Alp reminds me of Semitic *'alp 'bull'. Is there a connection?

  2. Yes, I think there is. In such a case, a Phoenician or Ugaritic origin could explain it. The additional ending -za is an Etruscan diminutive.

  3. Hmm...
    On the one hand, Hathor's associations are with life, (re)birth, glee (both in the modern sense of "happiness" and in the ancient sense of "music"), and on the other with Horus: etymologically, at least according to Wikipedia, her name comes from ḥwt (large stucture: mansion, temple, palace) + ḥr (Horus; face; (up)on, and, also, per, because of, originating from) — i.e. "great house of Horus"
    This almost sounds like a feminine aspect of the Sun — "the eye of heaven". Of course, I'm not sure how much of the original meaning of "Hathor" remained by the time "Cvl Alp" was inscribed in a bronze liver, so my assumption is likely rather anachronistic.

    On a related note, it just struck me how similar Horus' name (and species) is to the reconstructed PIE root *h3er- (eagle). Wanderwort, I'd imagine — but a relatively early one, since it's in Hittite too.

  4. There's also Punic Pene Baal 'Face of Baal', the epithet of Tanit.

  5. Please forgive the off-topic, but in the absence of somewhere else to post - I wonder if you have seen this?