THE PELASGIANS FROM LEMNOS ISLAND
An upright gravestone with inscriptions was found in 1885 at Kaminia, on the island of Lemnos, in the Aegean Sea. This stele, which is dated as having been made in the 6th century B.C., is now in the National Museum in Athens, Greece. The inscription on the tomb-stone has 198 letters forming 33 words and is decorated with the profile of a warrior. The inscription is written in a western Greek runic alphabet phonetically adapted so as to match the same peculiarities of the Etruscan alphabet, the only difference being that the letter o is preserved.
XLI. 14. The Pelasgian inscription from Lemnos island.
Another important monument of Pelasgian barbarian language is the inscription discovered in the Lemnos island around 1884-1885.
This island, situated in the northern parts of the Aegean Sea, towards south-east of Mount Athos, was inhabited in prehistoric times by a population of Pelasgian race, called Sinties and Sinti, from the same nation of the Thracians and the Getae. According to Homer, the Sintii spoke a wild barbarian language, meaning northern, Sinties agriophonoi (Iliad, I. 594; Odyss. VIII. 294; Strabo, VII, 57). Later on, during historical times, the inhabitants of this island appear under the name “Pelasgians” with Herodotus (VI. 140) and “Pelasgian-Turseni” with Thucydides (IV, 109; VII. 57).
The Pelasgian-Tursenii of the island of Lemnos, as Thucydides writes, had the same language as the Pelasgians of Placia and Scylace (Hellespont), as the inhabitants of the neighboring islands Samothrace and Imbros, and as those of the peninsula of Mount Athos.
Around 499-496bc, Lemnos island was occupied by the Athenians. The ancient inhabitants being ousted, they scattered through various lands; part of them settled in the Peloponnesus, while others, as traditions said, entered Italy under the leadership of Tyrrhen / Tursan (Herodotus, VIII. 73; Strabo, v. 2. 4).
In Lemnos island has been discovered around 1885, in the village Kaminia, a bas-relief of a rectangular shape, having two engraved inscriptions. The first inscription is on the main face and surrounds the head of a robust soldier, who holds a lance in his hand, and the second inscription, which presents some letters of forms differing from those of the first inscription, is engraved on the lateral face on the right side.
Both these inscriptions pre-date the year 500bc, but are from different times. The letters have the ancient Pelasgian form, and the mode of writing is boustrophedon, from right to left and from left to right. The words are often connected, and the points between them figure more as decoration and are not based on any grammatical rule.
The facsimile of this inscription, as it has been published in the “Bulletin de Correspondance hellenique” (1886, X. I. 1-3), and its transcribing with Greek letters, made by Breal, are as follows:
We ask now, which is the linguistic character of these two inscriptions in general, and the meaning of these words in particular? We shall start with the first inscription.
= Eolai ez, “Eolai”, in Greek form ‘Iolaos, is a barbarian personal name (Diod, IV. 30; V. 15), like Iolea in Romanian onomastics from the Tera Fagarasului.
After “Eolai” follows in the first inscription the word “ez”, and in the second “fzi” or “fli” (?) = fiul (TN – the son). “Ez” corresponds therefore to the Macedo-Romanian word aus, old.
The meaning is: Eolaus senex = Rom. Eolaie betranul (TN - Eolaie the old).
= na foth ziazi.
“An” and “na” in the Macedo-Romanian dialect, like “an” in the Umbrian dialect, are prepositions with the meaning “in”; “foth” is the same word as the Latin “hocce”; “ziazi” = Rom. “zace”, Lat. “jacet”: “Na foth ziazi” has therefore the meaning: in hocce (tumulo) jacet = Rom. in acest (mormant) zace (TN - in this [grave] lies). It is the same expression which we find also on the epigraphic monuments of Dacia and Pannonia: “in hoc tumulo jacet”; “hoc jacet in lapide” (C. I. L. vol. III. 2341. 3397).
= maraz mav sialhveiz afiz.
In Greek language marasmos meant: weakening of strength, becoming sick, wasting of the body; in the Macedo-Romanian dialect “maraze” means constant pain; (mav) corresponds to the Greek particle with negative meaning, or to meaning no, to Macedo-Romanian ma’ meaning never, or to Romanian “ba” meaning no. “Sialhveiz” = salvus (sospes), and “afiz”, which is often repeated in these inscriptions, is a verbal form, like the Romanian “fuse”, from the verb “a fi”, Lat. esse (TN – to be).
The meaning of this phrase is: aegrotus nunquam, salvus (sospes) fuit = Rom. bolnav niciodata, sanatos fuse (TN – never sick, healthy he has been). In Roman funerary inscriptions there was sometimes mentioned the state of health of the deceased: “florente aetate”; “menses quinque et annum cum aegrotaverit” (C. I. L. vol. III. 2197).
= e fistho zeronaith.
“E fistho” corresponds to the Romanian words “a fost” (TN – has been), in older language “au fusto” (Hasdeu, Cuv. I. 152), Lat. fuit. But the letter e from the beginning does not stand for a (from “a fost”), but stands for e (este / TN – is), like the Macedonians say “este fugit” instead of “a fugit”, “este venit” instead of “a venit” (Hasdeu, Dict. l. rom. I. 11 / TN – “is run” instead of “has run”, “is come” instead of “has come”). In Umbrian dialect “fust” = fuerit, in old French “fuist” = a fost (TN – has been).
The following word, “zeronaith” is by its form, a past participle, as in the Armerine dialect from Sicily: ”stait” = stat (TN – sat), “mangiait” = mancat (TN – eaten – Roccella, Vocab. della l. parl. In Piazza Armerina, p. 29), with i added between the last two letters. This participle derives from the verb “zerona”, Fr. “enterer”, Lat. “in terra ponere”, or as we would say in Romanian “a interina” (TN – read intzerina), “a pune sub terina” (TN – to inter, read tzerina); in the Macedo-Romanian dialect “tara” (TN – read tzara) = pament, “tara de mortu” = pament de pe morment (TN – earth from the grave – Papahagi, Basme aromane, p. 721).
The ancient Greeks represented sometimes the sound tz of the Barbarians, with z: Zeranioi (Zeranii), people from Thrace, Romanian terani (TN – read tzerani), Zegan (Zegan), Romanian tigan (TN – read tzigan).
E fistho zeronaith has therefore the meaning: fuit in terra positus = Rom. a fost pus in pament (TN – he was placed in the earth).
The letter F is an Eolian digamma, which corresponds in Latin alphabet to V and F. In the dialect of the Romanians from Istria “jivi’ = a trai (TN – to live), Lat. vivere, Lituan. “gyvata”, Germ. leben. The meaning being therefore: vixit = Rom. a trait (TN – he lived).
= Famala sia l zeronai.
“Famala” is the Macedo-Romanian “fumeale”, art. “fumealea” = familia (TN – family); “sia”, Lat. sua, Rom. sa (TN – his); l is the shortened accusative of the personal pronoun in the third person singular; “zeronai” = placed in the earth. So, the meaning is: familia sua illum in terra posuit = Rom. familia sa il puse sub terina (TN – his family placed him in the earth). Cicero writes (Leges, II. 22) that the Romans had an ancient law that the “family” had to place in the ground the deceased.
= morin ail a cer.
Here “morin” is the present participle of the verb “mori” (TN – to die), without the final d, like in the Armerine dialect from Sicily “mangiann”, Ital. “mangiando”. “Ail” is a verbal form, the third person of the indicative present, Fr. aller, Burg. ai (air) (TN - to go). In the Istrian dialect is heard even today “ala” = hai, vina (TN – come). “A cer” (ker) = in ceriu, like in the dialect of the Romanches from Switzerland “ilg ir a tschell” (Conradi, Deutsch-romanische Gram.1820, p. 85). The meaning of the words is: moriendo abit in coelum = Rom. murind se duce in ceriu (TN – dieing he goes to the sky/heaven). We have here traces of the ancient Pelasgian belief in the immortality of the soul (Dionys. Hol. II. 556).
= taf arzio.
“Taf” is the same word as the Greek taphe and taphos, burial, grave, Lat. sepulchrum; “arzio” means “ars” (TN – burnt), its etymology from “ardeo”. In Thrace Arzus (= Ars) was the name of a city.
The meaning of the above words is: sepulchro (mortali corpore) cremato = Rom. remasitele pamentesci s’au ars (TN – the mortal remains were burnt).
We arrive now to the second inscription.
After Holai follows the particle Fi (or Fzi) = fiul (TN – the son of Iolaie). We find the same word under the form phie and phe on two inscriptions from Lycia: (Bull. d. Corresp. Hell. 1886, I. p. 40-42), words which cannot have another meaning than “the son”, like we find with Homer:
= focia siale, in the first inscription.
“Focia” is the same word as Lat. hocce, Rom. aoce and aocia, Macedo-Rom. aote = aici (TN – here); and is the third person present indicative of a verb which corresponds to the Romanian “salaslui”, Lat. habitare, demorare, sedere. From the same root derives Italian sala, Fr. sale, Germ. Saal, Rom. salas and saiea, shelter for cattle.
The meaning of the words above is: hic habitat, quiescit, pausat = Rom. aici salasluiesce (TN - here dwells).
(instead of ) = zeronaith e fistho, words identical with “e fistho zeronaith” from the first inscription.
= tof eromarom Earalio.
“Eromarom” is a genitive plural from “Eromi” = Aromi, as Romulus had been also called in the Middle Ages “Heromulus” (Graf, Roma, vol. I. 223).
The Pelasgians from Lemnos belonged to the family of the Arimii. The name “Lemnos” was in reality a dialectal form instead of Remnos. An ancient Pelasgian king who had reigned over Lemnos, bears with Suidas the name ‘Ermon (Hermon). “Earalio” is the name of a locality.
The meaning of this phrase is therefore: in terra positus fuit ad sepulchra Eromorum Earalio = Rom. a fost interinat la mormintele Arimilor din Earalia (he was placed in the earth at the graves of the Arimii from Earalia).
= zivai eptezio arai.
Lat. vixit septemdecim annos = Rom. a trait septespredece ani (TN – lived seventeen years).
“Arai” is a feminine form from Lat. annus, like “annee” of the French, but with a rotacised n.
= tin foce zivai afiz sialhviz.
The letter of the first word represents a nasal sound, like = n in the old Romanian alphabet; “tin” = Macedo-Rom. pin, Rom. pana (TN – until). “Foce”, Lat. hocce, Rom. aoce = aici (TN – here). “Afiz”, which is often repeated in the text of these inscriptions corresponds to the Romanian fuse (fuit / TN – was). And the meaning of the phrase is: dum hocce vixit, fuit salvus (sospes) = Rom. pana aoce trai, fuse sanatos (TN – until he lived here, healthy he was).
= maranm afiz aomai(th).
Here maranm, by its form and place it occupies, is only a different pronuntiacion of the word morin from the first inscription. The meaning of the words is: moriendo fuit hutmatus = murind fuse inhumat (TN – dieing, he was inhumed). Cicero (Leg. II. 22) says: ut humati dicantur….quos humus injecta contegeret.
We have another important testimony about the Latinity of the barbarian language spoken in the north-eastern parts of the Aegean Sea.
Dionysius of Halikarnasus writes: “The language which the Romans use is neither entirely barbarian, nor absolutely Greek, but a combination of both, its biggest part though coming from the idiom of the Eolii” (I. 90).
The Eolii dwelt on the littoral of Asia Minor facing the islands Lemnos and Lesbos. To their territory had once also belonged the regions of Troy. In the times of Dionysius (1st century bc), these Eolii still spoke therefore a semi-Latin language.
We repeat the text and verbal translation of these two inscriptions:
1. Eolai ez na foth
e fistho zeronaith,
Famala sia l zeronai, morin
6. a ker, taf arzio.
1.Eolai f(z)i focia siale,
zero(n)ait e fistho tof
zivai ep(t)ezio aria;
3.zivai afiz sialhviz,maraim
Latin verbal translation
Iolaus senex in hocce
salvus (sospes) fuit;
fuit in terra positus,
Familia sua illum in terra
posuit, moriendo abit
in coelum, sepulchro (mortali
Iolaus filius hocce habitat
(quiescit), in terra positus fuit
ad sepulchra Eromarum
vixit septemdecim annos;
vixit, fuit salvus (sospes)
Moriendo fuit humatus.
Romanian verbal translation
Iolaie betranul in acesta
bolnav nici o-data,
a fost interinat,
Familia sa il interina, murind
in ceriu, mormentul i-a fost ars.
Iolaie fiul aocea salasluesce,
Interinat a fost la mormintele
trai septespredece ani;
trai fuse sanatos, murind fuse inhumat.
(TN – 1st inscription: Old Eolai in here lies, never sick, healthy he was; he was placed in the ground, he lived, his family placed him in the ground, dieing he goes to heaven, his grave was cremated.
2nd inscription: Eolai the son here dwells, placed in the ground he was at the graves of the Aromii from Earalia; he lived seventeen years; until now he lived, was healthy, dieing he was inhumed).
As a particularity worthy of note is the lack of the letter u (Greek u, ou) from the text of these two inscriptions. This letter seems to have been replaced with ei and i in the words: sialhveiz, sialhviz, afiz, fistho, sia.
Finally, the Pelasgians from Lemnos also used in their speech the post-posed article lu(s), as results from the word Mosuhlos (Rom. Mosul), the ancient name of a mountain from this island.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Lemnian language is a language of the 6th century BC spoken on the island of Lemnos. It is mainly attested by an inscription found on a funerary stele, termed the Lemnos stele, discovered in 1885 near Kaminia. However, fragments of inscriptions on local pottery show that it was spoken there by a community. Lemnian is academically accepted as being closely related to Etruscan. After the Athenians conquered the island in the latter half of that century, Lemnian was replaced by Attic Greek.
 Writing system
The inscriptions are in an alphabet similar to that used to write the Etruscan language and the older Phrygian inscriptions, all derived from Euboean scripts (Western Greek alphabet, alphabets of Asia Minor). These scripts are ultimately of West Semitic origin and were adapted by various peoples from before the 8th century BC.
A relationship between Lemnian, Etruscan, and Raetian as a Tyrsenian language family is widely accepted due to demonstrations of close connections in vocabulary and grammar. For example,
- both Etruscan and Lemnian share two unique dative cases, masculine *-si and feminine-collective *-ale, shown both on the Lemnos Stele (Hulaie-ši "for Hulaie", Φukiasi-ale "for the Phocaean") and in inscriptions written in Etruscan (aule-si "To Aule" on the Cippus Perusinus as well as the inscription mi mulu Laris-ale Velχaina-si "I was blessed for Laris Velchaina").
- They also share the masculine genitive in *-s and a simple past tense in *-a-i (Etruscan <-e> as in ame "was" (< *amai); Lemnian <-ai> as in šivai "lived").
Like Etruscan, the Lemnian language appears to have had a four-vowel system, consisting of "i", "e", "a" and "o". Having a contrast between front and back vowels, it would (unlike Etruscan) appear to lack a high back rounded vowel (written in IPA as /u/) which is curious because this defies the linguistic universal of contrast maximization. Since vowel systems without /u/ are rare (though occurring in languages such as Seneca and Nahuatl), it is likely that what we transliterate as "o" from the symbol omikron was in fact meant to record /u/. This is not unusual considering that different languages may take the same letter to transcribe different sounds. It is rather coincidental that the languages neighbouring this region, namely Hittite and Akkadian, also happen to have the same four-vowel systems lacking "o". This suggests early areal influence.
The stele was found built into a church wall in Kaminia and is now at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. The 6th century date is based on the fact that in 510 BC the Athenian Miltiades invaded Lemnos and Hellenized it. The stele bears a low-relief bust of a helmeted man and is inscribed in an alphabet similar to the western ("Chalcidian") Greek alphabet. The inscription is in Boustrophedon style, and has been transliterated but had not been successfully translated until serious linguistic analysis based on comparisons with Etruscan, combined with breakthroughs in Etruscan's own translation started to yield fruit.
The inscription consists of 198 characters forming 33 to 40 words, word separation sometimes indicated with one to three dots. The text consists of three parts, two written vertically and one horizontally. Comprehensible is the phrase avis sialchvis ("aged sixty", B.3), reminiscent of Etruscan avils maχs śealχisc ("and aged sixty-five").
- A.1. hulaieš:naφuθ:šiaši
- A.2. maraš:mav
- A.3. sialχveiš:aviš
- A.4. evisθu:šerunaiθ
- A.5. šivai
- A.6. aker:tavaršiu
- A.7. vanalasial:šerunai:murinail
- B.1. hulaieši:φukiasiale:šerunaiθ:evisθu:tuveruna
- B.2. rum:haraliu:šivai:eptešiu:arai:tiš:φuke
- B.3. šivai:aviš:sialχviš:marašm:aviš:aumai
 See also
- Bonfante, Larissa (1990). Etruscan. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-07118-2.
- Steinbauer, Dieter H. (1999). Neues Handbuch des Etruskischen. St. Katharinen: Scripta Mercaturae Verlag.
 External links
Lemnos (mod. Limnos Greek: Λήμνος), an island in the northern part of the Aegean Sea. The island, part of the Greek prefecture of Lesbos, is of considerable size: the area has been estimated at 476 km² (150 sq.mi). A great part is mountainous, but some very fertile valleys exist. The hillsides afford pasture for sheep. A few mulberry and fruit trees grow, but no olives. The chief towns are Myrina on the western coast, and Mudros on the southern coast. Myrina (aka Kastro) possesses an excellent harbour, and is the seat of all the trade carried on with the island.
In ancient times the island was sacred to Hephaestus, who as the legend tells fell on Lemnos when his father Zeus hurled him headlong out of Olympus. There he was cared for by the Sinties, according to Iliad I:590ff or by Thetis (Apollodorus, Library I:3.5), and there with a Thracian nymph Cabiro (a daughter of Proteus) he fathered a tribe called the Cabiroides. Sacred rites dedicated to them were performed in the island.
39.8/39 °42' N.
26 ° E
|Area:||476 km ²|
|Postal code:||814 xx|
|Name of inhabitants:||Lemnian sing.|
Hephaestus' forge, which was located on Lemnos, as well as the name Aethaleia, sometimes applied to it, points to its volcanic character. It is said that fire occasionally blazed forth from Mosychlos, one of its mountains; and Pausanias relates that a small island called Chryse, off the Lemnian coast, was swallowed up by the sea. All volcanic action is now extinct.
The name Lemnos is said by Hecataeus to have been a title of Cybele among the Thracians, and the earliest inhabitants are said to have been a Thracian tribe, called by the Greeks Sinties, i.e. "the robbers".n
Apollodorus (Epitome I:9) records that when Dionysus found Ariadne abandoned on Naxos, he brought her to Lemnos and there fathered Thoas, Staphylus, Oenopion, and Peparethus. Pliny in Natural History (xxxvi. 13) speaks of a remarkable labyrinth in Lemnos, which has not been identified in modern times.
According to a famous legend the women were all deserted by their husbands for Thracian women, and in revenge they murdered every man on the island. From this barbarous act, the expression Lemnian deeds became proverbial. The Argonauts landing soon after found only women in the island, ruled over by Hypsipyle, daughter of the old king Thoas. From the Argonauts and the Lemnian women were descended the race called Minyae, whose king Euneus, son of Jason and Hypsipyle, sent wine and provisions to the Greeks at Troy. The Minyae were expelled by a Pelasgian tribe who came from Attica. The historical element underlying these traditions is probably that the original Thracian people were gradually brought into communication with the Greeks as navigation began to unite the scattered islands of the Aegean; the Thracian inhabitants were primitive in comparison with the Greek mariners.
The worship of Cybele was characteristic of Thrace, whither it spread from Asia Minor at a very early period, and it deserves notice that Hypsipyle and Myrina (the name of one of the chief towns) are Amazon names, which are always connected with Asiatic Cybele-worship.
In another legend localized in Lemnos, Philoctetes was left there by the Greeks on their way to Troy; and there he suffered ten years' agony from his wounded foot, until Odysseus and Neoptolemus induced him to accompany them to Troy. He is said by Sophocles to have lived beside Mount Hermaeus, which Aeschylus makes one of the beacon points to flash the news of Troy's downfall home to Argos. (Ancient Communication methods)
(see also A Chronology of Early Italian History)
Virtually all that we know about Etruscan history today comes to us from indirect sources- either from Roman historians who had a patriotic axe to grind, or from Ancient Greek historians, who in some cases failed to grasp the very different sets of values held by the Etruscans. For example the status of women in Etruscan society, which was so alien to the Greeks and Romans alike, both being of Indo European origins. The Greeks saw the Etruscans as being an immoral race of people (although this accusation was on very shaky ground given their own morality). The Greeks also refer to the Etruscans quite frequently as pirates. There is no evidence to suggest that the Etruscans dabbled in piracy any more than other races of the day, and what was piracy to one group of people was defense to others. One fact was indisputable, and that was that during their heyday, the Etruscans controlled a significant part of the Mediterreanean.
The Etruscans went on to lay the foundation of the city of Rome, to clear the shepherds huts which once littered the Palatine Hill, to drain the swamps and transform what had been a collection of tribal sheep herders into a true city which would eventually dominate large tracts of Europe, Asia and North Africa alike. From the Etruscans came writing, and Roman history was born in the true sense.
From their beginnings in the area that is now Tuscany, these Etruscans had deep rooted influences which survive to this day. Although the Etruscan language is by no means totally decoded, we now know enough to see that many words of Etruscan origin found themselves into Latin and from there into English. For an unknown language, many Etruscan words look very familiar.
Their Religious legacy had profound influences on at least the rituals and dress of the Church. Etruscan Art had obvious influences on renaissance artists such as Michelangelo.
While the Roman legions conquered region after region, the Etruscan cities were occupied by Veterans, and the citizens of the once proud Etruria bowed to the pressure and became part of Rome or died during numerous rebellious uprisings.
Those same legions were organised in accordance with Etruscan traditions, responded to the sound of the tuba (from Etruria), built their camps on a North/ South grid, as specified by the Etruscan sacred books, and carried a Standard inscribed with SPQR: Senatus Populusque Romanus. "Populus" is a word of Etruscan origin, -que (Etruscan -c with probably the same pronunciation) means "and", and even Romanus itself probably came from the Etruscan language. There are various theories among which connect it with the Etruscan gentilial name Rumlua
The Etruscan Haruspices and soothsayers remained well into the 5th Century CE, and according to some reports, may have survived in the Eastern Empire in Byzantium. The ancient tradition of their ancestral leaders proved difficult for the Romans to give up entirely.
The question of Etruscan origins has been a controversial subject for many years. Nowadays, it is fair to say that most authorities would agree that the Etruscans were autochthonous, and that the predecessors of the Etruscan civilization that started to manifest itself in the regions of Cerveteri, Tarquinia, Vulci and Vetulonia in the North in the early 7th century BCE had been in the region for many hundreds of years beforehand. There is however a large gulf between popular conceptions of the Etruscans, and the generally well established beliefs of academics in the field, as the generally acknowledged 'father of Etruscology', Massimo Pallatino pointed out in his introduction to the 1986 reprint of D.L. Lawrence's "Etruscan Places" :
"I dont think there is any other field of human knowledge in which there is such a daft cleavage between what has been scientifically ascertained and the unshakeable beliefs of the public...."
It is however interesting to examine the various theories about Etruscan origins.
Above: Representation of a sea fight between the Egyptians and the Sea people from the reliefs at Medinet Habou. This dates to the period of Ramses III (1200-1166 BCE) and thought by some to represent the ancestors of the Achaeans, Etruscans, Sicilians and others.
Even among ancient writers, there was difference of opinion as to whether the Etruscans were Autochthonous (indigenous) or originated from Asia Minor. The earliest historical account of the Etruscans was given by Hesiod who mentions the Etruscans in the "Theogony". However it is fair to say that the works of such early writers as Hesiod and Homer consist of an equitable mixture of legend and fact, stemming from the period around 750 BCE in Ionian Greece, part of Asia Minor. Homer himself is probably not one, but the collected oral traditions of many authors.
The first reasonably believable account was given by Herodotus in the 5th Century BCE. He writes that the Etruscans originated in Lydia, in Asia Minor, and that due to a famine in the area, they invented a number of games to take their minds off the lack of food:
"...After some time, the famine had not improved, so they drew lots, and half the population, and eating on the following day without playing. In this way they got through 18 years. Things got worse, however, rather than better, and the king therefore divided all the Lydians into two groups and drew lots to decide which should stay and which should emigrate, putting himself at the head of those who were to remain and appointing his son, who was called Tyrrhenus, as the leader for those who had to leave. Those Lydians whose lot it was to leave went down to Smyrna and built boats on to which they loaded all their possessions and sailed away to seek a life elsewhere. After sailing past many lands they came to Umbria in Italy where they built cities and still live to this day, changing their name from Lydians to Tyrrhenians after the king's son Tyrrhenus who had led them...."
However, despite the fact that he travelled widely, the accounts of Herodotus were prone to inaccuracies.
It has been suggested that the Etruscans were part of the famous Pelasgians, or Sea Peoples of Lemnos, and the evidence is that the Pelasgians were a mixture of various peoples including some of the biblical Canaanites who later became the Phoenicians. There are many ancient references which use the terms Tyrrhenian and Pelasgian interchangeably.
Hellanicus of Lesbos, another Greek historian writing in the fifth century BC, mentioned a group of Pelasgians who arrived in Italy and there changed their name to Tyrrhenians.
Roman authors confirmed an eastern origin for the Etruscans. Virgil referred to the town of '. . . Cerveteri, built on an ancient rock where once the Lydians, a race distinguished in war, settled the hills of Tuscany.' And Seneca (who died in AD 65) stated that '. . . Asia claims the Etruscans as her own.' Tacitus (first to second centuries AD) accepted the story as told by Herodotus. Other tales also locate the Etruscans in Asia Minor, linking them with the Pelasgians; and refer to Tyrsenians or Tyrrhenians on the islands of Lemnos, Imbros and Lesbos, just off the Asian coast in the northern Aegean, and on Delos, the holy island in the centre of the Cyclades.
The Etruscans referred to themselves as Rasenna, but to the Romans and Greeks they were Etrusci, Tusci, Tyrrheni, or Tyrseni. To the modern Italians they are still Etrusci and the name of the Etruscan Sea is still the Tyrrhenian, after perhaps 3,000 years.
But in the first century BC, a dissenting voice spoke up. Dionysius, another Greek historian from Halicarnassus, writing four centuries later than Herodotus, declared a different finding:
"I do not believe that the Tyrrhenians were a colony of the Lydians, for they do not use the same language as the latter, nor can it be alleged that, though they no longer speak a similar tongue, they still retain some other indications of their mother country."
The controversy was to rage on until the late 20th century.
Perhaps the strongest evidence put forward by the Eastern providence school is the Lemnian inscription. Excavations on Lemnos turned up a community there which dates to around 600 BCE and which links the Etruscans to that place.
The inscription on the Lemnos Stele was dated at 600BCE and was written in a language similar to Etruscan. It was found in a warrior's tomb with weapons and pottery which are very similar to early Etruscan. The necropolis of the city contained 130 cremated burials. In the women's burials an early form of Etruscan Bucchero pottery was found. Bucchero clay was used by the people of Asia Minor and by the Etruscans. In the male sites daggers and axes of the Cretan and Etruscan models were found. The evidence, then, is for a small community which had strong cultural ties with the Etruscans and, to a lesser extent, the inhabitants of Asia Minor.
One theory that was put forward was that the inhabitants of Lemnos represented a pocket of pre-indoeuropean speaking people, whose language was similar to Etruscan. There are difficulties with that theory when one examines the alphabet and the language in some detail. The Stele is dated at approximately 600, and uses an alphabet used in Northern Etruria at that time. The first evidence of Etruscan inscriptions dates to about 750 BCE, and use a script which was based on the early Euboan alphabet, learned from the Greeks at Cumae. The Greeks first established their colony at Cumae in about 750 BCE, yet there was evidence of the Etruscans in Italy well before this time. If the Lemnos stele was an isolated outlier of a pre-indo european language, then the alphabet is too similar to Etruscan for it to have developed from any other source. It is more likely to represent an isolated colony of either 'Pelasgians' or Etruscan pirates.
The Northern provenance theory, which bases its evidence on the similarities of Raetian and Etruscan languages has one major flaw, in that the Raetian Alpine inscriptions are much later, and are more consistent with later Etruscan influences, or associated with the scattering of the Northern Etruscans as a result of Celtic incursions.
There are problems with all theories which suggest that the truth is far more complicated as always.A likely solution is that the Etruscans were autochthonous, but were subjected to cultural influences and immigrants at various stages in their history. The nature of these cultural influences are nowadays understood much better. The result of this was a gradual development of an Etruscan civilisation. The influx at some time of a group from Lydia is not inconsistent with this Neo Autochthonous theory which is gaining more and more acceptance.
There is no precise time when we can say that the Etruscan civilisation began. According to the libri fatales as described by Censorinus, the date can be calculated at 968 BCE, but it was a gradual change that came over the land that was to become Etruria. Between the 10th and the 8th century BCE, several things began to happen: There was a drift from scattered village settlements into urbanised centres. The incidence of cremations decreased in favour of inhumation. Land was cleared and drained on a massive scale. Trade with the Aegean commenced, evident from the appearance of Greek artifacts.
The plentiful deposits of metals on Elba and the nearby coastline, and the bounty of Etruscan agriculture resulted in growing prosperity for the Etruscans. Bulk export trade typically used large shipping amphorae, and metal ingots have also been found in several sites.
By the end of the 7th Century BCE, Etruscan territory had expanded to include parts of Northern italy, with the Po Valley league, and the Etruscan city states held sway over large areas of Latium, including Rome, and Campania to the South.
With the increasing trade and the specialization of crafts, the application of new techniques, particularly in metal extraction and agriculture, the living standard improved. This corresponded to an exponential increase in demographic growth. The Etruscan aristocracy increased in power, authority and wealth. They were buried in rich tombs or necropolises next to cities such as Tarquinia, Caere, Vulci and Veii.
Greek immigrants started to arrive and began to exert a significant influence in the art and culture of Etruria.
It was also during this period that grapes were introduced to the Italian peninsula. Grape seeds found in early Etruscan grave sites in Chiusi, show that the predecessor of Chiante had arrived. Craters and other vessels of Greek design started to appear.
The Orientalizing Period is generally taken as the period between the end of the 8th Century until the late 7th Century BCE. It is so called because of the eastern influence in art and artifacts. Typical of this period was the Regolini Galassi tomb at Caere, in which were found objects with obvious Egyptian and Eastern influence such as Ostrich eggs, Sphinxes, scarabs and lions with an Assyrian like character.
During this period, the Etruscans began to take control of sea trade particularly in the Tyrrhenian sea, and the control of sea routes to Campania, where a strong Etruscan core settled around Capua and Salerno.
The orientalization period was not unique to the Etruscans, and a similar trend of eastern influence was evident in the Greek cities of the Archaic age.
The burning of the books
This Section is titled "The burning of the books" and the title suggests that much of Etruscan literature was in fact deliberately destroyed. This is certainly the view expressed by a number of authors, but was this entirely the case?
There are many unanswered questions, owing to the lack of the literature in the first place. How much of a literature base did the Etruscans have and what was the nature of this literature?
Did they have written histories, or were their writings mainly for the purpose of trade and religion, in the same way as the Phoenicians?
Early Christians in the 4th Century CE have been blamed for the systematic destruction of Etruscan literature. It may have been the fact that Etruscan religious beliefs and practices were so deep-rooted among the Romans that led to the complete destruction of all Etruscan literature as a result of the advent of Christianity. Arnobius, one of the first Christian apologists, living around 300CE, wrote "Etruria is the originator and mother of all superstition".
There is evidence that a significant portion of Etruscan literature was systematically destroyed following the Theodosian code, since it represented the Old Religion and was considered as idolatry and the work of the devil. (It is recorded that Flavius Stilicho, a regent for the Emperor Honorius between 394 and 408 CE, burnt a number of "Pagan volumes" which included the Tagetic books, which had been stored in the Temple of Apollo in Rome.) However there are other probable reasons that led to the demise of Etruscan literature.
In order to better understand the fate of Etruscan literature we should first look at how Roman writing was recorded. The Roman literature that survives today originates from about 200 BCE onwards. There is very little from before this period. In the early days, wax tablets were used as notebooks. Schoolchildren learnt to write on wax tablets. Papyrus was used, but this was an expensive item, since much of it had to be imported. Carbonised papyrus rolls have been found at Herculaneum, some of them partially legible, but the bulk of Papyrii available nowadays survive as fragments, usually from Egypt and Byzantium.
In the later Roman period, Papyrus began to be replaced by Vellum and parchment. These materials are treated animal skins. These survived much better than papyrus, and became very popular since they could be scraped, and re-used many times. During the dark ages, monks spent many long hours manually transcribing Classical literature, some religious, but some of secular origin. It is largely thanks to these monks that we have quite an extensive library of Latin and Greek literature to this day.
But what of the Etruscans? One noted discovery of the 20th Century was the Liber Linteus, or Linen book, which was thought to be the fragments of an Etruscan book made of linen and re-used to preserve an Egyptian Mummy. The Liber Linteus can be seen in Zagreb museum. If linen was used as a medium, then this would have had even less chance of survival than papyrus. Certainly there have been examples of models of Etruscan books found in the tombs of Cerveteri. These suggest that Linen was indeed traditionally used by the Etruscans for the written word.
The question of the scope of Etruscan literature remains unanswered, but it is quite clear from other sources that it must have been quite substantial. Censorinus refers to the Annals of Etruria, and during the late Roman Republic and Early Imperial years it was considered quite fashionable for Roman Patricians to send their boys to Etruscan schools to further their education. Some of this would no doubt have been a grounding in the disciplina etrusca, but it seems unlikely that that was all that they learned. We also know that enough of the history of Etruria survived in written form even up to late Imperial times for the emperor Claudius to write a twenty volume history of Etruria. (together with an 8 volume history of the Carthaginians, both in the Greek Language) If even a fragment of this history survived today it would answer a great many questions.