postin : viam : videtas : tetis : tokam : alies : esmen : vepses : vepeten

A sample of an Italic language known as South Picene. I’ve lifted all the below intro, translation, and commentary from Benjamin Fortson’s Indo-European Language and Culture:

South Picene is known from nearly two dozen inscriptions from an area in east-central Italy called Picenum in ancient times; the inhabitants were called the Piceni. Although South Picene inscriptions have been known for some time, due to difficulties posed by the script they remained essentially a closed book until very recently. In the 1980s it was finally realized that the two symbols (• and :) that had always been assumed to be interpuncts were instead the letters o and f; needless to say, this discvoery dramatically improved oru ability to read these texts, and further advnces in interpretation have been continuing apace. Our South Picene documents date from the beginning of the sixth to the third century BC; the earliest ones are among our oldest preserves texts in any Sabellic language.
South Picene appears to be more closely related to Umbrian than to Oscan. It is unrelated to another language of the region called North Picene, a non-IE [Indo-European] language preserved in a single unintelligible text.

The inscription begins near the bottom of the inner of the two vertical lines of text on the left (right above the vertically stacked triple dots) and proceeds upwards and then clockwise around. Drawing from Marinetti (see below).

The inscription, a gravestone found in Bellante near Teramo, south of Piceno. The inscription is poetry in the archaic Italic strophic style; except for the first word it consists of alliterative word-pairs (viam videtas, tetis tokam, etc.)

postin : viam : videtas : tetis : tokam : alies : esmen : vepses : vepeten

Along the road you see the “toga” of Titus Alius (?) buried (?) in this tomb.

Notes. postin: ‘along’, Umbrian pustin. videtas: probably ‘you see’, 2nd pl., equivalent to Lat. videtis ‘you (pl.) see’; passers-by are the addressees. tetis alies: apparently the name, in the genitive, of the man buried there. tokam: cognate with Lat. togam (accus. sing.), but the exact sense is uncertain (‘covering’? The root is *(s)teg- ‘cover’). In many early Italic inscriptions k or c was used for voiced g. esmen: locative of the demonstrative stem e-, cp. Umbr. esme; superficially similar to Sanskrit asmin ‘in this’ but probably not of identical origin. It is thought to continue *esmeien, the earlier locative *esmei plus the postposition -en ‘in’. vepses: perhaps ‘buried’; unclear. It might be a past participle of the sort seen in Lat. lapsus ‘slipped’. vepeten: perhaps ‘tomb’, with locative in -en.

More details can be found in Anna Marinetti’s Le iscrizioni sudpicene with some analysis of the poetic features in Calvert Watkins’ How to Kill a Dragon. There also seems a good amount done on this language family since these works (Angelo Mercado’s Italic Verse: A Study of the Poetic Remains of Old Latin, Faliscan, and Sabellic seems especially promising but I need a few days to find a copy.)

And a less than great image of the gravestone itself:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s