Douglas G Kilday acnasvers at
Mon Mar 19 04:05:44 UTC 2001

X99Lynx at (16 Mar 2001) wrote:

>As far as Etruscan origins go, certain things might be worth mentioning:

>- There is (as far as I know) no evidence of anything but Villanovian
>settlements in Etruscan regions before somewhere around 800BC.  The first
>clear evidence of a foreign presence afterward is Greek.  But when
>identifiably Etruscan settlements emerge they have some features that do not
>seem Villanovian or Greek at all.  These features are however identifiable
>with other locations around the Mediterranean.

Late Mycenaean pottery and hut-foundations (ca. 1200 BCE) are known from
Luni sul Mignone SE of Tarquinii. This may not have been a permanent
settlement. The Mycenaeans were there to exploit the metals. It is not
surprising that Mediterranean cultural elements diffused into Etruria. Trade
in metals (or acquisition without compensating the natives) probably went on
continuously for several centuries before 800.

>- Many elements of the so-called "orientalizing" of later Etruscan culture
>feature things emphatically not Greek or Early Roman, such as bucherro
>pottery, which clearly establish some kind of ties with Asia Minor.  There
>are other elements that suggest ties with Crete or the southern
>coast.  These elements are not peripheral to Etruscan culture.  Their
>eastern, non-Greek character had a pronounced effect on scholars from the
>earliest finds and they are still plain to see in Etruscan artifact

I don't know what bucchero-ware has to do with Asia Minor. Etruscans
certainly traded with Syria and Phoenicia, not just Greece; incorporation of
non-Greek elements into Etruscan artefacts is not surprising. Cretan motifs
probably came in early, through contacts with Mycenaeans. One should not
expect Etruscan culture to be a mere imitation of the Greek.

>- What is odd about the Etruscan settlement on Lemnos is not the stele.
>is odd is that it is on Lemnos, without an apparent serious stronghold
>structure, dangerously in the very teeth of a very Greek sea.  I have seen
>different earliest dates for the settlement itself.  (And how early this
>settlement would be scientifically dated would make a difference.)

Not only the earliest, but the latest date of Etruscan presence on Lemnos
would be of great interest.

>I understand that there were over a hundred cremation burials in the
>necropolis, including men and women.  The women's graves contain early
>bucherro pottery and the male graves contain weapons, including
>characteristically Cretan axes and daggers.

>What the stele tells us is the settlement appears to have had a strong
>Etruscan connection.  It does not tell us why these settlers were there.
>Even as a trading colony, it is a fish out of water.  The strong implication
>is I think some kind of a license or patronage allowed the settlement to be
>there.  One wonders if the coming of the Persians had something to do with

The settlement may have been a trading "station" or "outpost", not a true
colony. Perhaps it was "licensed" to Etruscans by the Chalcidians. After the
eclipse of Chalcidian power, these Etruscans would have been on their own.
Pelasgians, not Etruscans, were evicted from Lemnos by the Athenians under
Miltiades (Hdt. VI.139-40). Possibly these Pelasgians, or their forefathers,
had taken over the island and forced the remaining Etruscans to flee to
Chalcidice (cf. Thuc. IV.109.4).

>- Putting aside the question of who the Etruscans were for a moment, the
>Etruscan language appears to the have been strongly centered in Italy from
>all the evidence we have.

>If it came from foreign parts, it could have come with very few carriers, but
>it would have had to provide indigenous people a very good economic or social
>reason to adopt it.

Yes, and this "elite dominance" model advocated by Dr. White generally
requires many centuries to obliterate the indigenous languages. I'm not
aware of any evidence for native non-Etruscan speech in non-peripheral parts
of Etruria between 700 BCE and Latinization.

>If it represented a large migration, we would like to see evidence of the
>language elsewhere, other than in a small colony in a sea of Greeks.

>On the other hand, if it was a local language adopted by immigrants from Asia
>Minor and points east and south - or even Greeks - we might see the very same
>footprint as in the cases above.

If the immigration was by individuals and small groups, it would have little
impact on the language, and indeed this sort of immigration must have
occurred throughout Etruscan times. Large groups which stayed together would
form enclaves, and this probably did happen with Greeks, Carthaginians, and
eventually Latin-speakers in Etruria.

The fundamental linguistic question is one of date: when did speakers of
proto-Etruscan enter Etruria? If it was many millennia BCE, one would not
expect much in the way of pre-Etruscan substrate. If it was a century or two
before 800, one would expect a lot of non-Etruscan toponyms and hydronyms.
The evidence is hard to interpret, but seems to favor a middle ground. Most
of the ancient names in Etruria sound Etruscan, but a few (e.g. Soracte,
Umbro) look like substratal relics.

>The origin of the Etruscan language may not tell us where some or many of the
>people we know as Etruscans came from.

Yes, the origin of the Etruscans and the origin of the Etruscan language are
different questions. The latter question, in my opinion, can be more clearly
defined than the former.

>- The adoption of the Greek alphabet seems to be a thing somewhat taken for
>granted in all this.  But what were the mechanics of this process? How much
>bi-lingualism do you need to even understand the concept?  How do we envision
>converting a whole "people" without an alphabet to writing (and reading) using
>the Greek method?  Would it help if many of them at first also spoke and wrote

It probably would help, and it probably did happen. Early Archaic Etruscan
alphabetaria contain letters not used for writing Etruscan (b, d, o,
samekh). They have the complete Cumaeo-Pithecusan form of the
Euboico-Chalcidian alphabet. One can infer that the earliest Etruscan
litterati could speak and write Greek, and their writing of Etruscan was an
application of their ability to write Greek. The "schools" of litterati in
different Etruscan city-states all had their own opinions of the best way to
adapt the Greek system to Etruscan, leading to the orthographic
discrepancies among the Archaic inscriptions of Tarquinii, Caere, Vulci,
Veii, and Clusium.

The mechanism I favor involves the acquisition of bilingualism by those
Etruscans who dealt directly with Greek traders from Cumae and Pithecusae in
the mid-8th c. BCE; the ability to speak Greek would have had clear
advantages. During the second half of this century, many of these Etruscans
learned to write Greek also. Before 700, some of them got the idea to write
Etruscan, and during the 7th c. this idea spread through Etruria. Eventually
schools were established for ordinary free Etruscans to learn to write,
independently of knowing Greek. In my opinion, this model of "Etruscan
teachers" of writing works better than the model of "Greek teachers" which
some authors assume.

If the community on Lemnos was indeed a trading-station licensed by the
Chalcidians, presumably the acquisition of letters there was similar. The
Lemnian alphabet is Euboico-Chalcidian, but not Cumaeo-Pithecusan, and the
adaptation to writing Lemnian is independent of the schemes used for
mainland Etruscan: Lemnian uses <o>, not <u>, for the back-vowel.


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