Venetic seminar week 2

Este styluses

This week at the Faculty of Classics, we held the second Venetic seminar (summed up by one attendee as “Close Encounters of the Venetic Kind”). We tackled a few more of the shorter inscriptions as a warm up, including one of the dedicatory styluses from Este – you can see a selection of these in the picture above.

But the main task for the afternoon was the Tavola d’Este.

Es Tavola d'Este

This text on bronze was only discovered in the late 1970s – and even then, it was rolled up so tightly that no one realised it had a text on it until a decade later, and it wasn’t fully published for another ten years after that. As a result, the work on the text is still pretty patchy, and I was interested to see what our seminar would make of it.

The two fragments we have now, if flattened out and stuck together, would look something like this:

tavola d'este

What we have now is probably the centre part of a much larger text. As you can see from the drawing, the text is arranged in a distinctive spiral (or possible concentric circle) layout. Legal or religious texts on bronze are found all across Italy, but I’m not aware of another one written in circles in this way.

The text has gaps where the bronze is broken, but the letters are fairly easy to read. Following Marinetti’s 1998 text, and her interpretation of where the word boundaries are, we end up with something like this:

1 ]om kude diaritores vagsont-[1.7cm / 23.5cm / 2.7cm]imois doti-[1.6cm]e : neibar o-[

2 ]/oregnos ekvo[i]bos moltevebos ei vido : X : verdeos diaritorbos da nei v[i or e]-at ta plana m[

3 ]etai(i)on valgam to om(m)ni o pedon : elokvillos doukai peri kon vonin kom proivos [

4 ]imer ke dat–(-) [-]/ vutei dekomei diei kvan ve nev[?]is pai vero kenon[

5 ]preker eś d[—-(–)] moltevebos ei poi krivinea : X : dia[

6 ]s doti ke lud[—(-)]/-(-)nita[/–(-)]oke-kermen ośon mol[

This is not easy to interpret, though there are flashes of things that make sense. The phrase dekomei diei kvan in line 4, for example, looks immediately like “on the tenth day when” – but the rest of the line is unfortunately much more difficult to understand. A couple of words come up more than once, and seem to be important to the theme of the text. Who are the diaritores, for example? This word looks like an agent noun in -tor, but we don’t know exactly what it means. They are probably important, though, as they come up again in the dative as diaritorbos.

Even in the state it’s in, this text is much longer than any other Venetic text, and has (or appears to have) many more verbs and connecting words (like kude and kvan) than any other surviving text. It has its mysteries too – for example, unlike other Venetic texts, there’s no words in this text starting with /f/. Is that just a coincidence, or has /f/ been lost over time? Or is the letter <V> doing double-duty for both /v/ and /f/, perhaps? It’s fascinating and frustrating in equal measure.

I had a great time organising the seminar, but it would have been very boring indeed without the contributions of everyone who attended and shared their ideas. Thanks to everyone who came, saw and conquered Venetic – I await your publications on the meaning of the Tavola d’Este with great interest!

Text and drawing from Anna Marinetti (1998) Il venetico: bilancio e prospettive. In A. Marinetti, M.T. Vigolo and A. Zamboni (eds.) Varietà e continuità nella storia linguistica del Veneto: 49-99.


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