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The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
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CHAPTER IX
The Etruscans

Etruscan Nationality

The Etruscan people, or Ras,(1) as they called themselves, present a most striking contrast to the Latin and Sabellian Italians as well as to the Greeks. They were distinguished from these nations by their very bodily structure: instead of the slender and symmetrical proportions of the Greeks and Italians, the sculptures of the Etruscans exhibit only short sturdy figures with large head and thick arms. Their manners and customs also, so far as we are acquainted with them, point to a deep and original diversity from the Graeco-Italian stocks. The religion of the Tuscans in particular, presenting a gloomy fantastic character and delighting in the mystical handling of numbers and in wild and horrible speculations and practices, is equally remote from the clear rationalism of the Romans and the genial image-worship of the Hellenes. The conclusion which these facts suggest is confirmed by the most important and authoritative evidence of nationality, the evidence of language. The remains of the Etruscan tongue which have reached us, numerous as they are and presenting as they do various data to aid in deciphering it, occupy a position of isolation so complete, that not only has no one hitherto succeeded in interpreting these remains, but no one has been able even to determine precisely the place of Etruscan in the classification of languages. Two periods in the development of the language may be clearly distinguished. In the older period the vocalization of the language was completely carried out, and the collision of two consonants was almost without exception avoided.(2) By throwing off the vocal and consonantal terminations, and by the weakening or rejection of the vowels, this soft and melodious language was gradually changed in character, and became intolerably harsh and rugged.(3) They changed for example -ramu*af- into -ram*a-, Tarquinius into -Tarchnaf-, Minerva into -Menrva-, Menelaos, Polydeukes, Alexandros, into -Menle-, -Pultuke-, -Elchsentre-. The indistinct and rugged nature of their pronunciation is shown most clearly by the fact that at a very early period the Etruscans made no distinction of -o from -u, -b from -p, -c from -g, -d from -t. At the same time the accent was, as in Latin and in the more rugged Greek dialects, uniformly thrown back upon the initial syllable. The aspirate consonants were treated in a similar fashion; while the Italians rejected them with the exception of the aspirated -b or the -f, and the Greeks, reversing the case, rejected this sound and retained the others --theta, --phi, --chi, the Etruscans allowed the softest and most pleasing of them, the --phi, to drop entirely except in words borrowed from other languages, but made use of the other three to an extraordinary extent, even where they had no proper place; Thetis for example became -Thethis-, Telephus -Thelaphe-, Odysseus -Utuze- or -Uthuze-. Of the few terminations and words, whose meaning has been ascertained, the greater part are far remote from all Graeco-Italian analogies; such as, all the numerals; the termination -al employed as a designation of descent, frequently of descent from the mother, e. g. -Cania-, which on a bilingual inscription of Chiusi is translated by -Cainnia natus-; and the termination -sa in the names of women, used to indicate the clan into which they have married, e. g. -Lecnesa- denoting the spouse of a -Licinius-. So -cela- or -clan- with the inflection -clensi- means son; -se(--chi)- daughter; -ril- year; the god Hermes becomes -Turms-, Aphrodite -Turan-, Hephaestos -Sethlans-, Bakchos -Fufluns-. Alongside of these strange forms and sounds there certainly occur isolated analogies between the Etruscan and the Italian languages. Proper names are formed, substantially, after the general Italian system. The frequent gentile termination -enas or -ena(4) recurs in the termination -enus which is likewise of frequent occurrence in Italian, especially in Sabellian clan-names; thus the Etruscan names -Maecenas- and -Spurinna- correspond closely to the Roman -Maecius-and -Spurius-. A number of names of divinities, which occur as Etruscan on Etruscan monuments or in authors, have in their roots, and to some extent even in their terminations, a form so thoroughly Latin, that, if these names were really originally Etruscan, the two languages must have been closely related; such as -Usil- (sun and dawn, connected with -ausum-, -aurum-, -aurora-, -sol-), -Minerva-(-menervare-) -Lasa- (-lascivus-), -Neptunus-, -Voltumna-. As these analogies, however, may have had their origin only in the subsequent political and religious relations between the Etruscans and Latins, and in the accommodations and borrowings to which these relations gave rise, they do not invalidate the conclusion to which we are led by the other observed phenomena, that the Tuscan language differed at least as widely from all the Graeco-Italian dialects as did the language of the Celts or of the Slavonians. So at least it sounded to the Roman ear; "Tuscan and Gallic" were the languages of barbarians, "Oscan and Volscian" were but rustic dialects.
But, while the Etruscans differed thus widely from the Graeco-Italian family of languages, no one has yet succeeded in connecting them with any other known race. All sorts of dialects have been examined with a view to discover affinity with the Etruscan, sometimes by simple interrogation, sometimes by torture, but all without exception in vain. The geographical position of the Basque nation would naturally suggest it for comparison; but even in the Basque language no analogies of a decisive character have been brought forward. As little do the scanty remains of the Ligurian language which have reached our time, consisting of local and personal names, indicate any connection with the Tuscans. Even the extinct nation which has constructed those enigmatical sepulchral towers, called -Nuraghe-, by thousands in the islands of the Tuscan Sea, especially in Sardinia, cannot well be connected with the Etruscans, for not a single structure of the same character is to be met with in Etruscan territory. The utmost we can say is that several traces, that seem tolerably trustworthy, point to the conclusion that the Etruscans may be on the whole numbered with the Indo-Germans. Thus -mi- in the beginning of many of the older inscriptions is certainly --emi--, --eimi--, and the genitive form of consonantal stems veneruf -rafuvuf-is exactly reproduced in old Latin, corresponding to the old Sanscrit termination -as. In like manner the name of the Etruscan Zeus, -Tina-or -Tinia-, is probably connected with the Sanscrit -dina-, meaning day, as --Zan-- is connected with the synonymous -diwan-. But, even granting this, the Etruscan people appears withal scarcely less isolated "The Etruscans," Dionysius said long ago, "are like no other nation in language and manners;" and we have nothing to add to his statement.
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