Douglas G Kilday acnasvers at
Fri Apr 27 06:16:47 UTC 2001

David L. White (10 Apr 2001) wrote:

>Yes.  I believe both descriptions might be applied to the
>civilization of Troy, and I see nothing inherently contradictory or comical
>about this.  More to the point, any bearers of Eastern Mediterranean
>civilization, however generic, would have been impressive to the people of
>Italy before these began (with the Etruscans) to ascend to the same level.

Fine. I don't claim that an areally modest civilization can't colonize and
exert political control over a much larger region. But I'm afraid we may be
losing track of the linguistic issues. What started this whole thread was my
objection to the theory that the Etruscan _language_ came by sea from the
East, and the startlingly widespread willingness to misinterpret the Lemnian
inscriptions as evidence for this theory. If you think the Etruscan language
came from Troy or its North Aegean allies, you should present more than
hand-waving arguments about what High Culture can do.

>There is evidence that the Trojans were a small bunch, in the fact
>that their armies are described as being multi-lingual, whereas the Greeks
>were pretty clearly multilingual.  (Now just where in the Iliad is that?)
>Clearly they were not able to match the Greeks in putting fellow-speakers
>(so to speak) in the field, and their forces were composed largely of the
>tributary forces of other states, of other languages.   This does not
>suggest that the native Trojans were ever a large group.  (Nor are they
>very distinctive archeologically, as far as I know.)

I'm not sure what you're getting at here. If the native Trojans constituted
a small elite dominating a polyglot assortment of other peoples (which is
perfectly plausible per se, given the opportunity for acquiring great wealth
by controlling traffic on the Hellespont, and between Europe and Anatolia),
and they or their descendants set up shop in Etruria, one would expect the
linguistic result to be a Trojan superstrate in the native language, like
the Norman element in English or the Doric in Latin (poena, machina, etc.).
The language spoken in Etruria, viz. Etruscan, would remain non-Trojan (or
non-North Aegean) in its essential features.

OTOH the claim that Etruscan originated as a creole between Trojan and the
native speech, or as a Mischsprache based on tributary languages, can't be
taken seriously. Etruscan doesn't have the analytic structure of such forms
of speech. The case-system, participles, and fairly complex morphology of
enclitic demonstratives wouldn't have survived the process of creolization.

The bottom line is that whatever happened _politically_ in Etruria during
1200-700 BCE, the _linguistic_ community of Etruscan-speakers remained
intact. Claims that the entire community immigrated en masse from the East
run afoul of archaeology _and_ linguistics.

>I am not exactly the only person to say that Etruscan civilization
>did not arise semi-miraculously in Tuscany as a result of Greek and
>Phonecian contacts that can only be shown to have been significant in
>Campania.  Since a date of 1200 is too early for real Etruscans in Italy, I
>would imagine that most migrationists must posit an interlude somewhere in
>the northern Aegean, or not far from it.

By "real Etruscans" I presume you mean "bearers of Etruscan culture such as
one finds in a coffee-table book". I don't deny the migration of substantial
cultural elements from the NE Mediterranean to Etruria, without which the
coffee-table books would be vastly different. But again we're losing sight
of the linguistics.

To a limited extent we can peel back the cultural superstrate by looking at
the Etruscan pantheon, minus the obvious Hellenic figures (Aplu, Artumes,
etc.) and Etruscanized Olympians (Tin, Turan, etc.). We are left with such
deities as Aisu, Calu, Cautha, Cel, Leinth, Manth, Vanth, and Veltha. Their
names are evidently native Etruscan, and they were not (to any of our
knowledge) imported from the Aegean, the Troad, or greater Anatolia.

Having dismissed (correctly I hope) the Eastern sea-route, one can still ask
when and by which route the Etruscan-speaking community came to Etruria. I
can't answer this, but I think the best approach is a thorough analysis of
substratal material. The Tuscan hydronyms Albinia, Alma, Armenta, Arnus, and
Auser (with Albula = Tiberis) have been interpreted as "Old European" and
pre-Etruscan. This is difficult to assess: do these names actually contain
"Old European" elements, or are they Latinized Etruscan, or from some other

Someone recently cast doubt on the whole program of using toponyms to deduce
anything, citing the obliteration of native names in Texas and elsewhere by
the Spanish bureaucracy. This sort of objection only applies when there is a
literate bureaucratic class. To our knowledge, literacy didn't reach Etruria
until ca. 700 BCE, so arguments from toponyms should have some validity. The
problem is the large volume of unedited medieval archival material.


More information about the Indo-european mailing list