Elogia Spurina
Author: Igor Pirnovar

The genealogies and family trees

Inscriptions from The Tomb of the Shields

Etruscologists claims about Spurina family

Inscriptions beginning with letters spur-


 

The genealogies and family trees

In the book Etruscan Civilization, A Cultural History (p:308-315) two Tarquinian tombs (the Tomb of the Shields, and the Tomb of the Underworld [ also known as "Tomba dell'Orco" ] ) are presented. These tombs are known for their rich Etruscan art, and the famous frescoes, with added Etruscan inscriptions, which in addition to inscriptions on sarcophagi and other artifacts Etruscologists used to compile family trees of many famous Etruscan families.

The frescoes from Tarquinian tombs
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Tomb of the
Shields #1
Tomb of the
Shields #2
Tomb of the
Underworld #1u
Tomb of the
Underworld #2u

 

In the first tomb (left and left [#2] above) there are fresco paintings of the Velcha family. On the first fresco (left #1), we can see the Larth Velcha and his wife Seitithi Velcha sitting on a banquet couch. Velia is handing her birded husband an egg with her left, while touching his shoulder with her right hand. On the second fresco (left #2) Larth Velcha is escorted by musicians, and a slave carrying a chair. Etruscologists conclude this indicates his high dignitary position of a magistrate (See: zilath, purth, maru). Both frescoes are furnished with inscriptions. The Etruscologists claim the inscriptions represent the genealogy of the Velcha family, hence we can recognize the founder of the tomb Larth Velcha and his wife Seitithi Velcha, his father Velthour Velcha and mother Ravnthu Velcha, and their younger son or a grandson Vel. Following are the inscriptions from the two frescoes:

 

Inscriptions from The Tomb of the Shields
(#1) Larth Velcha and Velia Seitithi
ceXasieOur .erce[ .] f [ a ] S . mant . ciz . zilaXnOce .smelOa . s [ p ] u [ r ] e .OenaX-ice .cizm .ceXaneri .tenO [ c ] e .eprialsm .arusias .cara-ice [ ] Oal .-arnas .apa .apatie .erce . fiSe .tev .Svasi .hamFete .clesnes .Ours .t [ ] u .Oes- .zilci .v [ elu ] si .h [u] l [ Xni ] esi
Poorly visible inscriptions on fresco #1 (Tomb of Shields)
(#2) Larth Velcha, musicians and the slave
[ larO . velXa ] .[ velOur ] us . cla [ n . ravnOus ] c . ap [ ronal--] i .acalusve [ . ] sa-cn [ ] . mulv [ va ] ice .Xam . papac . marcO . svlisva .s [ ] nai .c .Outa [.] venO [ ] Oavi-lm
Poorly visible inscriptions on fresco #2 (Tomb of Shields)

As you can see, the quality of these inscriptions is very poor, and what is worst is that this information is not readily available to general public. There are catalogues of inscriptions and hopefully properly equipped with documentation and graphics but they are so expensive, you will not find them listed even in libraries operating on the Internet. The same is true for the official and reliable Hittite transcripts equipped with the images of original legible cuneiform texts, where a single book can cost above $1000 US - (talk about about the information control!

It is frustrating, that for the other two frescoes (above on the right [#1u, #2u]) from the second "Tomb of the Underworld", there are even fewer publicly available records of inscriptions, but there is plenty of narrative about the past difficulties with the reading of the name of the rightful owner of the tomb. Let's see is it Murina or Spurina?

 

Etruscologists claims about Spurina family

The second tomb (pictures on the right [#1u, #2u] above) called the Tomb of the Underworld, was after some confusion identified as belonging to the family Spurina, rather than to the family Murina. According to the Etruscologists a later archaeological find - written in Latin, reveals a historical setting which provides the evidence about the existence of the famous Tarquinian Spurina family.

Though, as we saw there are a few problems with the way the Etruscologists interpret the inscriptions in the first tomb (the Tomb of the Shields), I would like to concentrate here on the second, the Tomb of the Underworld. Evidently, additional discoveries helped solve the mystery about a rather famous Etruscan family the Spurinas. I found this additional info interesting, because the alternative evidence, that at first looks very sound and convincing turns out to be a quite doubtful or at best incomplete. In particular it illustrates, that the way the Etruscologists present their "evidence" only on the surface looks impeccably flawless, and holds only for as long as one remains convinced a closer scrutiny isn't necessary. But more importantly, even if we could believe that their guessing about the Latin text here are correct, there are about fifty Etruscan inscriptions containing the pivotal word Spuri-, for which this particular explanation they provided does not fit well.

I first came across the mentioning of the newly discovered "evidence" called "Elogia" of the Spurinas in the book The Etruscan Language, where it is described as a rare and precious Latin historical document. However, its short description with a reference to the "family archives", which apparently tell of Spurinas as a family of generals, and of honours they receiving by citizens of Tarquinia after various military expeditions against Syracuse, Caere, and Arezzo, prompted me to search for this fantastic Latin document. I soon found the following text on a web page called Tarquinia (Tarchna/Tarchuna):

At the end of the fifth century and during the first half of the fourth a brief revival took place, both in the political and artistic sphere, probably under the ascendancy of the Spurinna family, whose members contributed to the renewed expansion of Tarquinia and the repopulation and growth of towns in the hinterland.

The Spurinnas' tomb, known as the "Tomba dell'Orco" , is decorated with fine frescoes of a banquet uniting the famous members of the family, who are identified by inscriptions. The Spurinna family was prominant in Tarquinia up to the 1st Century CE.

Recently, two fragmented slabs were found known as the Elogia Tarquiniensis. These pay tribute to Velthur Spurinnas and Aulus Spurinnas, and give a rare glimpse of Etruscan history, including the mention of one King Orgolnium of Caere, recalling the family name of Urgulanilla,which included among its members, the wife of the emperor Claudius. Latin texts mentioning Velthur Spurinnas and Aulus Spurinnas

If you had a chance to have read numerous, excellent, exhaustive and imaginative descriptions of the life of the Spurinas, Murinas, Velchas, Vibenas, Velenias, Thanchvils, Markezičs ( click to see all names ) and other Etruscan aristocratic families in other books, none of which do not seem to care explaining the illegible inscriptions from which the linguists apparently learnt about the pertinent genealogies and family trees, any Latin text containing those "family" names should indeed be an extremely welcome addition. In this light, the "elogia" is without a doubt a very convincing "evidence", especially if the Romans also used the Spurinas' "family archives" to carve these inscriptions on monuments dedicated to the famous generals. Needless to say none of these artifacts except the few broken pieces of these inscriptions survived to our days. In fact, if we look closely at those pieces, there exist a chance that all of the above excitement was premature. Yet the authors of the magnificently decorated Etruscan books find enough of "historical and cultural" inspirations to write pages about the life of those depicted on the paintings, but with a few exceptions, almost religiously fail to provide pictures of even those inscriptions which gave them the confidence, and their motives for writing.

This is the reason I decided to use the elogia of the Spurinas as an example of between the Etruscologists so prevalent masquerading game, which is cleverly defined as the more objective research method based on the "historical / cultural" rather than "etymological" method. I believe neither of the two methods alone is adequate, and that they both should join their efforts. It is rather dubious to claim to be be on the side of multidisciplinary approach while at the saame time excluding just the one discipline, that also happens to point to the most problems in a theory one wishes to develop or prove. This method too seems to suit the Etruscologists rather well, whereby in the name of historical / cultural objectivity they can at will choose to ignore certain aspects of the investigation most notably all the etymological and comparative linguistic methodologies. One also should notice, that it is not at all prudent to rely solely on historical or cultural facts as they more than anything are subject to almost any interpretations depending on a socially accepted views in a particular environment, time or a in a regime.

Also, far too often one can see that in the name of legibility hardly any evidence is given for any statement dealing with the inscriptions and written documents, such as the broken pieces of the Latin text we discussed above, not to mention references like the mysterious Spurina's "family archives", or a total lack of the illustrations of those inscriptions the authors base their theories and explanations on. But let's return to our subject and look at the survived Latin inscriptions a bit more critically.

Left the survived pieces               Right reconstruction
Left the survived pieces -- right reconstruction

No doubt, there exists a word spurina in numerous Etruscan inscriptions. One can reasonable argue the similarities to it shown on the Latin inscription above are accidental, not to mention the rest of the text, which is also nothing more than one of the many other possibilities.

 

Inscriptions beginning with letters spur-

spur -ia .spur .epu .ekna .tevi .pupies .Oui
spural ] ulaO .arnOal .clan . [ ] .elinizas .s [ p ] ural .fasci . [ ] u .lauOn [ ] avil .Ou .cealc [
spural la .vi .varna .--ural <<< ( larisa .vipi .varna .spural )
spural mi .spural
Spural mi .Spural
spural tular .spural .hil .puratum .vitsl .vX .tatr
Spural tular .Spural .hil .puratum .vitsl .velXieS .tatr .nOmina .magistratum . [ tu ]
Spural tular .Spural .ainpuratum .visl .vX .tatrtu
Spural tular .Spural .puratum .nOmina .magistratum . [ tu ]
spurana arnO .XurXles .larOal .clan .ramOas .nevtnial .zilc .parXis .amce .marunuX .spurana .cepen .tenu .avils .maXs .semFalXls .lupu
tle-165
spurana vel .laOites .arnOial .ruva .larOialisa .clan .velusum .nefS .marniu .spurana .eprOnec .tenve .meXlum .rasneas .clevsinsl .zilaXnve .pulum .rumitrineOi .ma-ce .clel .lu [
tle-233
Spurana arnO .larisal .ruv [ a ] .arce .marunuc .Spurana .ci .tenu .ril .+xxxiii+
Spurana mi .Spurana .talape
spure
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ceXasieOur .erce [ . ] f [ a ] S .mant .ciz .zilaXnOce .smelOa .s [ p ] u [ r ] e .OenaX-ice .cizm .ceXaneri .tenO [ c ] e .eprialsm .arusias .cara-ice [ ] Oal .-arnas .apa .apatie .erce .fiSe .tev .Svasi .hamFete .clesnes .Ours .t [ ] u .Oes- .zilci .v [ elu ] si .h [ u ] l [ Xni ] esi
(tq3 / tle-90, ec-310) --- ([Tarquinia] Tomb of the Shields: Velcha and Velia Setithi)
spurem
Click to enlarge (Kliknite za povečano) Click to enlarge (Kliknite za povečano)
lris .pulenas .larces .clan .larOal .papacs .velOurus .nefts .prumts .pules .larisal .creices .ancn .ziX .neOSrac .acasce .creals .tarXnalO .spurem .lucairce .ipa [ . ] ruOcva .caOas .hermeri .slicaXeS .aprinOvale .luOcva .caOas .paXanac .alumnaOe .hermu .mele .crapisces .puts .Xim .culsl .leprnal .pSl .varXti .cerine .pul .alumnaO .pul .hermu .huzrnatre .pSl .ten [ ] ci .meOlumt .pul .hermu .OutuiOi .mlusna .ranvis .mlamna [ ] mnaOuras .parni .amce .lese .hrmrier
Sarcophagus scroll
spureOi avl [ e .al ] eOnas [ .a ] rnOal .cla [ n . ] OanXvilusc .ruvfial .zilaX [ nce ] .spureOi .apasi .svalas .marunuXva .cepen .tenu .eprOnevc .eslz .te [ nu ] .eprOieva .eslz
tle-171
spuri fa .spuri .vetie
spuri mi .ma .mamarce .spuri .i .azas;Ig
spuri spuri .ca .fatial
spuria mini .spuria .za . [ ] rnas .mulvanice .alSaianasi
spuriana araO .spuriana .S [ uO ] il .hecece .fariceka
spurianas araz .silqetenas .spurianas)
sedaj nas posiljujete spuritanci
spurias mi .sunO .eruza . [ s|S ] puria [ s|S ] .mlaka [ s|S ]
spuriaza mini .spuriaza .muluvanike .kuritianaS
Mi spodbujevalca na molitveniku zažigaš
(Burn the stimulant on the altar)
spuriaza mini .spuriaza . [ ] rnas .mulvanice .alSaianasi
meni spodbujevalca ???
spurie spurie .ritumenas
Spurie mini .Spurie .utaS .muluvanice
Daj mi utehe (na tešče) oživljajoče (vzbujajoče) medice
(Give me the consolatory (vivifying) magic potion for my hurting (empty) stomach
spurieisi mi .spurieisi .teiOurnasi .aliqu
pohiti k tej uri naši, kot se spodobi;
(Etrlgs:I've been given by Spurie Teithurna; [ dative of agent ] [ eL-p85 ] )
spurienas mi .venelus .spurienas
spuries mi .spuries .atacenas
spuries [ m ] i .spu [ ri ] es .aternas .SuOi
spuries mi .spuries .aXilinas
spurieS ] pui .spurieS
spuriiazas mi .ma .mamarce .spuriiazas
spurims
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larOi .cilnei .luvXumesai .cilnies .seX .ari .aritinial .meani .ar .since .crlum .lupu .felznealc .naXumse .puia .arce .arnOal .spurinis .cver .puOsce .uOu .uzr .einX .sal .luiceFulurce .-e- .puia .amce .avil .+xiiii .lupum .av [ i ] ls .+lxxxiii+
Etruscologists write the letter "M" on the origimal inscription spuriMs as spuriNs.
spurina venel .spurina
spurinal arnO .murina .lspurinal;Ig:l .spurinal
Rano bolezen dušo odganja
spurinal ls .tetina .ls .spurinal
spurinal ve .ti .petruni .ve .aneinal .spurinal .clan .veilia .clanti .arznal .tuSurOi
spurinas sp ] urinas .an .zilaO .amce .meXl .rasnal . [ ] S .purO .ziiace .ucntm .hecce
spurinas sp ] urinas .an .zilaO .amce .meXU .rasnal . [ ] S .purO .ziLace .ucntm .hec .ce;Ig
spurinas spurinas .arnO .velus .clan .cu [ cl ] nial .OanXvi [ lus ] .--- [ zi ] laO .lupuce .Surnu-- .-purtsis
spurinas spur ] inas .sacni .Oui .ceseOce
spurinas ta .mutna .marces .spurinas
spurinaS laXu .Oefri .spurinaS .lau
spurinaS Oana .tatnei .spurinaS
spurinaS spurinaS .a .S .svalce .avil .+xxxv+
spurinei larOi .spurinei
spurinei l .spurinei .tetinal
spurinei spurinei .Oana .ril .+lxxxiiii+
spurinei spurinei .paniaOes .tatnal
spurinial Oa .paniai .velzna .spurinial
spurinis
Click to enlarge (Kliknite za povečano)
larOi .cilnei .luvXumesai .cilnies .seX .ari .aritinial .meani .ar .since .crlum .lupu .felznealc .naXumse .puia .arce .arnOal .spurinis .cver .puOsce .uOu .uzr .einX .sal .luiceFulurce .-e- .puia .amce .avil .+xiiii .lupum .av [ i ] ls .+lxxxiii+
Etruscologists write the letter "M" on the origimal inscription spuriMs as spuriNs.
Spurti larza .Spurti

 

 

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©2005 Igor H. Pirnovar
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