17 Feb 2010

Apollo's Etruscan father

Lately I haven't been thinking about anything too deeply. I'm in my 'light' mode, I guess. I've updated my Etruscan dictionary to handle asterisks (ie. wildcard searches) but Actionscript is a bastardly programming language so it's not perfect yet until I get around some technical issues.

Yesterday I bumped up the number of entries to a golden 3,749 after poring over some more inscriptions and adding in more forms that I didn't knew I was lacking until I made this dictionary that searches by individual variations of words rather than merely header entries. So my applet ROCKS! In the process of adding in words, I noticed some other inscriptions and controversies. One popped up that really piqued my interest:

CII 2502: aplu tikuśne[ś] clan

We're told that this was inscribed on a statue and some think the second item might be rather tikumne[ś] since shan and mu look similar in the Etruscan alphabet. Very easy to confuse. What's interesting is what it may say: "Apollo, son to Tikumna". A comparison with Umbrian *Tikamnos Iuvios (Iguvine Tables, IIa: Tikamne Iuvie, in the dative case) floats around as well.[1]

From a mythological standpoint and given that this inscription can only read "Apollo, son of X" regardless of how we scramble the letters, it's a source of interest because it *seems* to suggest that Greek Zeus himself (and thus by association, Roman Jupiter), the father of Apollo in Greek myth, was equivalent to the Etruscan god Tecum which was written as Tecvm on the Piacenza Liver. I say *seems* because I never take what I'm served at face value; I delve deeper. I see two problems that get in the way, that is, aside from the obvious third problem that an accompanying photograph of this artifact is separated from the associated transcription, making it next to impossible to expose reading errors.

One problem here, as I've said before, is that many otherwise learned people go too far by taking mythological comparisons made by ancient authors (like that of Zeus and Jupiter) as black-and-white, all-or-nothing equations when they should be understanding these equations always as partial. In these comparisons, some specific functions or aspects of one god or another were shared between them, but surely not all. Zeus is compared to Jupiter largely because they're both heads of the pantheon and they're both symbols of the daytime sky.

Yet if I were to ask, which of these two main features was the trigger of comparison, one might weigh his leadership in the pantheon as most relevant, not his representation of sky. In all instances of the Etruscan word tin and its forms, a basic meaning of 'sun' with the derivative 'day' fits perfectly, but never 'sky'. A phrase 'during the fourth sun of Acale' suffices to convey 'during the fourth day of Acale' but not *'during the fourth sky of Acale'. Therefore, Tinia's comparison to Zeus and Jupiter as leader of the pantheon does *not* mean that Tinia must also be the sky itself as it would be in the related religions of Indo-European speaking peoples. Note that, as sun, any of his seeming allusions to 'daytime sky' remain natural but derivative.

Now the second problem: a stunted Indo-European bias in interpretations of Etruscan mythos. Failed Indo-European comparisons of yesteryear are drudged up in De Grummond's book Etruscan myth, sacred history, and legend (2006) between Tin and Odin of all things[2]. The author's mastery of this subject is provably pitiful. Etruscans were not an Indo-European speaking people or culture and their religion and rituals are squarely derived from the Near East. Another import from the Near East, I wager, was a heliocentric belief as we find in Babylon when the god Shamash, the sun, is the head of the pantheon and divination while in Ancient Egypt, we witness the prominence of their sun god, Re.[3] Even in Iliad's Troy, Apollo is the god of the Trojans. The character Chryses is a Trojan priest of the sun.

After these ideas are kept in mind, we see why those limited to Indo-European notions can't look beyond Tecum being equivalent to Jupiter-Zeus, simply because he is the only father to Apollo, and why Etruscology has been held hostage for a century by stagnant ideas. When reading Aplu, one should be far less tempted to read into his name the All-Father Odin, a simplistic and pseudo-erudite comparison since the Norse aren't even contemporaneous to the Etruscans, and more tempted to look within the native mythology by seeing in him the youthful aspect of Tinia himself, the solar head of the pantheon. And if the father of Apollo-Tinia is Tecum, this would perfectly make sense since the sky is, metaphorically speaking, the father of the sun. Even without recourse to this inscription, I believe this is all implicitly suggested by other facts anyway.

[1] Rasmussen, Public portents in republican Rome (2003), p.130 (see link).
[2] De Grummond, Etruscan myth, sacred history, and legend (2006), p.53 (see link).
[3] The IVP Bible background commentary: Old Testament (2000) p.515: "In Akkadian literature the sun god Shamash is the god of justice and therefore frequently cast in the role of divine judge. In Egypt, Amon-Re, also the sun god, was seen as responsible for justice." (see link).


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