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Pyrgi Tablets

The Pyrgi Tablets, found in a 1964 excavation of a sanctuary of that town in Italy (current Santa Severa), a port of the southern Etruscan town of Caere, are three golden leaves that record a dedication made around 500 BC by Thefarie Velianas, king of Caere, to the Phoenician goddess ‘Ashtaret'.

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).

It is now held at the National Etruscan Museum, Rome.

Phoenician text

L-rbt l-ʕštrt.
To the lady Ashtaret.

ʔṣr qdš ʕz, ʕš pʕl, w-ʔš ytn Tbryʔ Wlnš mlk ʕl Kyšryʔ.
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-mtnʔ b-bt, wbn tw.
During the month of the sacrifice to the Sun, as a gift in the temple, he built an aedicula.

K-ʕštrt ʔrš b-dy l-mlky šnt šlš, b-yrḥ Krr, b-ym qbr ʔlm
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 lmʔš ʔlm b-bty šnt km ḥkkbm ʕl.
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 a Semitic language (related to such languages as Hebrew, Canaanite, Ugaritic, 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.

Phoenician vocabulary

ʔlm, divinity [Semitic *ʔil- "god"]
ʔrš, to raise
ʔš, which, who, that [rel.pron]
ʕl, over, above [Semitic *ʕal-]
ʕštrt, Ashtaret [Semitic *ʕAθtar-]
ʕṣr, place
ʕz, this
b-, in, at, with, on [Semitic *bi-]
bt, house, temple [Semitic *bayt-]
yd, hand
ḥkkbm, stars [Semitic *kabkab-]
k-, for, since [Semitic *ka-]
km, like, as
Krr, Churvar [calendar month] [cf. Etruscan Χurvar]
Kyšry’, Caerites [a people]
l-, to, for [Semitic *la-]
lmʔš, statue
mlk, to rule, to reign [Semitic *mlk]
mtnʔ, gift [Semitic *ytn 'to give']
pʕl, to make, to do [Semitic *pʕl]
qbr, burial
qdš, holy
rbt, lady [cf. Akkadian rābu "grand, large"]
šlš, three [Semitic *θalāθ-]
šmš, sun [Semitic *šamš-]
šnt, years
tw, aedicula
w-, and [Semitic *wa-]
wbn, to build
ym, day [Semitic *yawm-]
yrḥ, month [Semitic *yarḥu-]
ytn, to give [Semitic *ytn]
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 ( '[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 acnanas, arce.> "Having brought forth (ie: given birth to) five children, [she] raised [them]" (TLE 887)
*alš, to bury ( 'buried')
*am, to be ( 'has been, had been')
amce mecl Rasnal.> "He had been a chief of the Etruscan people." (ET Ta 7.59)
Astre, Phoenician goddess of fertility, associated with Uni ( 'of Astre') [Phoenician <‘štrt> < *‘Aθtareθ]
*atran, reign, rulership
avil, year ( 'of the years, yearly')
ca, this ( 'this', 'and this')
ci, three
*cluvenia, aedicula ( 'of the aedicula')
Χurvar, month [Phoenician *Kurar]
*en, to last, endure ( '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 ( 'of the sanctuary')
*heram(aš), Hermes idol ( 'with the Hermes idols', 'Hermes idols')
*ila, idol (*ilacva 'idols', 'with idols')
meχ, people
muni, burial, plot of land ( 'of the burial')
nac, when, during, while
*pulum, star ( 'stars', 'little star')
(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 ( 'with the hand')
*snuia, many ( "as many")
<śnuiu-φ> "as many" (LLZ, col 6, lines 1,2,4)
*šel, to please (<šel-ac-e> 'has pleased') [cf. ]
ta, that ( 'that', 'and with that', 'of that', 'her', 'with her')
tešiam, burnt offerings ( 'with burnt offerings')
<Śucic firin tesim.> "And incense was burned as a burnt offering" (LLZ, col 7, lines 9-10)
tmia, temple ( 'of the temple')
*tuler, to encircle ( 'encircled') [cf. 'border, boundary']
tur, to give ( '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 ( 'of Uni') [cf. Latin <Iuno:>]
vacal, votive offering
vacl θesnin> "Upon the earth of the tomb a votive offering was dedicated." (LLZ, col 5, lines 15-16)
*vat, to dedicate ( 'to be dedicated')
Velianas, Velianas [family name].
zilaχ, chief ( 'of the chief')
zilaχnuce.> "[While] living, [he] had been chief." (TLE 173)
<Zilaχnce avil XI.> "[He] had been chief eleven years." (REE 40, n75)

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