Pyrgi Tablets: Wikis


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The tablets.

The Pyrgi Tablets, found in a 1964 excavation of a sanctuary of ancient Pyrgi on the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy (today the town of Santa Severa), are three golden leaves that record a dedication made around 500 BC by Thefarie Velianas, king of Caere, to the Phoenician goddess ʻAshtaret. Pyrgi was the port of the southern Etruscan town of Caere. Two of the tablets are inscribed in the Etruscan language, the third in Phoenician.[1]

These writings are important not only in providing a bilingual text that allows researchers to use knowledge of the Phoenician language to read Etruscan, but they also provide evidence of Phoenician/Punic influence in the Western Mediterranean. This document helps provide a context for Polybius's report (Hist. 3,22) of an ancient and almost unintelligible treaty between the Romans and the Carthaginians, which he dated to the consulships of L. Iunius Brutus and L. Tarquinius Collatinus (505 BC).

The tablets are now held at the National Etruscan Museum, Villa Giulia, Rome.


Phoenician text

l-rbt l-ʻštrt.
To the lady Ashtaret.
ʼṣr qdš ʻz, ʻš pʻl, w-ʼš ytn tbryʼ wlnš mlk ʻl kyšryʼ.
This is the holy place, which was made, and which was donated by Tiberius Velianas who reigns over the Caerites.
b-yrḥ zbḥ šmš, b-mtnʼ b-bt, wbn tw.
During the month of the sacrifice to the Sun, as a gift in the temple, he built an aedicula.
k-ʻštrt ʼrš b-dy l-mlky šnt šlš, b-yrḥ krr, b-ym qbr ʼlm
For Ashtaret raised him with her hand to reign for three years in the month of Churvar, in the day of the burying of the divinity.
w-šnt lmʼš ʼlm b-bty šnt km ḥkkbm ʻl.
And the years of the statue of the divinity in the temple [shall be] as many years as the stars above.

The Phoenician text has long been known to be in a Semitic, more specifically Canaanite language (related to such languages as Hebrew, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Arabic and Akkadian); hence there was no need for it to be "deciphered." And while the inscription can certainly be read, certain passages are philologically uncertain on account of perceived complications of syntax and the vocabulary employed in the inscription, and as such they have become the source of debate among both Semitists and Classicists.[2]

Phoenician vocabulary

ʼlm, divinity [Semitic *ʼil- "god"]
ʼrš, to raise
ʼš, which, who, that [rel.pron]
ʻl, over, above [Semitic *ʻal-]
ʻštrt, Ashtaret [Semitic *ʻaṯtar-]
ʼṣr, place
hz, this [ ha-dha? ]
b-, in, at, with, on [Semitic *bi-]
bt, house, temple [Semitic *bayt-]
yd, hand
hkkbm, stars [Semitic *kabkab-] [hakkawkabīm/hakkawkabūm = the-stars]
k-, for, since [Semitic *ki-]
km, like, as [ka-ma]
krr, Churvar [calendar month] [cf. Etruscan Χurvar]
kyšryʼ, Caerites [a people]
l-, to, for [Semitic *la-]
lmʼš, statue
mlk, to rule, to reign [Semitic *mlk]
mtnʼ, gift [Semitic *ntn 'to give']
pʻl, to make, to do [Semitic *pʻl]
qbr, burial
qdš, holy
rbt, lady [cf. Akkadian rābu "grand, large"] [rabbu , female: rabbatu ]
šlš, three [Semitic *ṯalāṯ-]
šmš, sun [Semitic *śamš-]
šnt, years [šanot - from: šanāt]
tw, aedicula [taw]
w-, and [Semitic *wa-]
wbn, to build [ bny ] [wayyiben = [and] he built]
ym, day [Semitic *yawm-]
yrḥ, month [Semitic *warḥu-] [Canaanite: yarhu]
yttn, to give [Semitic *[y]-ntn] [ya-ntin[u]] he-gives / hebrew: yittēn
zbḥ, sacrifice

Etruscan text

First plate:
Ita tmia ica-c heramašva vat-ieχ-e Uni-al Astre-s, θem-iasa meχ θuta.
That temple and these Hermes idols are dedicated to Uni-Astre, built by the clanspeople.
Θefariei Velianas sal cluvenia-s tur-uc-e.
Tiberius Velianas the pleasing aedicula has given.
Muni-s ta-s θuva-s tamer-es ca ilacv-e tuler-as-e.
That burial of his own by these priests with idols was encircled.
Nac ci avil χurvar, tešiam-ei tal-e, ilacv-e alš-as-e.
For three years [in the month of] Churvar, with Her burnt offerings, with idols [it was] buried.
Nac atran-es zilac-al, sel-ei tala acnaš-ver-s.
During the reign of the chief, in Her hand [he] would be brought forth (ie: Uni-Astre gave him authority to rule).
Itan-i-m heramv-e, avil en-iac-a pulumχva.
And with these Hermes idols, the year(s) shall endure as the stars.
Second plate:
Nac Θefarie Veliiunas θam-uc-e cleva etan-al Masan tiur, Uni-as šel-ac-e.
When Tiberius Velianas had built the statue of the sanctuary [in] the month of Masan, Uni was pleased.
Vacal tmia-l avilχva-l am-uc-e pulumχva snuia-φ.
The votives of the temple yearly have been as numerous as the stars.

Etruscan vocabulary

*acna(s), to bring forth (<acnaš-ver-s> '[he] would be brought forth')
[perhaps <-u>, passive + <-er->, purposive, common in the LLZ, had combined to form a passive optative in <-ver-> 'would be']
Note <Huśur maχ acnanas, arce.> "Having brought forth (ie: given birth to) five children, [she] raised [them]" (TLE 887)
*alš, to bury (<alš-as-e> 'buried')
*am, to be (<am-uc-e> 'has been, had been')
<An zilaθ amce mecl Rasnal.> "He had been a chief of the Etruscan people." (ET Ta 7.59)
Astre, Phoenician goddess of fertility, associated with Uni (<astre-s> 'of Astre') [Phoenician <‘štrt> < *‘Aṯtarṯ]
*atran, reign, rulership
avil, year (<avilχva-l> 'of the years, yearly')
ca, this (<ca> 'this', <ica-c> 'and this')
ci, three
*cluvenia, aedicula (<cluvenia-s> 'of the aedicula')
Χurvar, month [Phoenician <krr> *Kurar]
*en, to last, endure (<en-iac-a> 'shall endure')
<Śacnicleri cilθl, śpureri, meθlumeric, enaś.> "By way of these sacred objects of the sanctuary, by the city and by the people, [it] endures" (LLZ, col 9, lines 12-13)
*etan, sanctuary (<etan-al> 'of the sanctuary')
*heram(aš), Hermes idol (<heramv-e> 'with the Hermes idols', <heramašva> 'Hermes idols')
*ila, idol (*ilacva 'idols', <ilacv-e> 'with idols')
meχ, people
muni, burial, plot of land (<muni-s> 'of the burial')
nac, when, during, while
*pulum, star (<pulum-χva> 'stars', <pulun-za> 'little star')
<fulumχva> (Cippus perusinus, lateral, lines 29-30)
<…pulunza ipal sacnina tinia tei aθemeiś caś…> "…the little star for which the sacred Tinia of the sky…" (CIE 6310)
sal, pleasing
*sel, hand (<sel-ei> 'with the hand')
*snuia, many (<snuia-φ> "as many")
<śnuiu-φ> "as many" (LLZ, col 6, lines 1,2,4)
*šel, to please (<šel-ac-e> 'has pleased') [cf. <sal>]
ta, that (<ita> 'that', <itan-i=m> 'and with that', <ta-s> 'of that', <tala> 'her', <tal-e> 'with her')
tešiam, burnt offerings (<tešiam-ei> 'with burnt offerings')
<Śucic firin tesim.> "And incense was burned as a burnt offering" (LLZ, col 7, lines 9-10)
tmia, temple (<tmia-l> 'of the temple')
*tuler, to encircle (<tuler-as-e> 'encircled') [cf. <tul> 'border, boundary']
tur, to give (<tur-uc-e> 'has given')
*θem, to build (<θem-iasa> 'built', <θam-uc-e> 'has built')
θefariei, Tiberius [Roman male name]
θuta, clan (compare Celto-Germanic cognates *Tuatha, *Theod, *Diot)
θuva, oneself, (<θuva-s> 'one's own') [cf. <θu> 'one, single']
<Θuker akil tuś thuveś.> "Thuker completed his own tomb." (TLE 672)
Uni, Etruscan mother goddess of fertility (<uni-al> 'of Uni') [cf. Latin <Iuno:>]
vacal, votive offering
<Celi suθ vacl θesnin> "Upon the earth of the tomb a votive offering was dedicated." (LLZ, col 5, lines 15-16)
*vat, to dedicate (<vat-ieχ-e> 'to be dedicated')
Velianas, Velianas [family name].
zilaχ, chief (<zilac-al> 'of the chief')
<Svalasi, zilaχnuce.> "[While] living, [he] had been chief." (TLE 173)
<Zilaχnce avil XI.> "[He] had been chief eleven years." (REE 40, n75)

See also


  1. ^ The specific dialect has been called "Mediterranean Phoenician" by Philip C. Schmitz, "The Phoenician Text from the Etruscan Sanctuary at Pyrgi" Journal of the American Oriental Society 115.4 (October - December 1995), pp. 559-575. Full bibliography of Pyrgi and the tablets
  2. ^ For the most recent analysis of the inscription and summary of the various scholarly interpretations, see Smith, P. 1995 "The Phoenician Text from the Etruscan Sanctuary at Pyrgi." Journal of the American Oriental Society 15:559-575.

External links



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