7/29/2020 Etruscan Phrases ‚ Etruscan etymological relationships to other Indo-European languages, translation & grammar.

Update 5.26.13. We have added a book ( PDF) version of  this page: "Etruscan Murals." 

Most of these images were made prior to 1950 and thus are an important record of the images originally found in the Etruscan tombs. Many of the images have deteriorated after the tombs were opened. Preservation of their details, particularly those having to do with Etruscan inscriptions, is important. Images are maravot.com scans, courtesy of the Skira Color Studio publication, "Etruscan Painting," September 13, 1952 and other documents, as noted.  Click on the thumbnail to view the image.

Close-up of the central mural in the Tomb of the Bulls, Tarquinia, "Achilles in Ambush." Mid 6th century B.C. A scene from the Iliad. The Trojan prince, Troilus, upon a stallion is ambushed at the well outside the walls of Troy by Achilles. Below, are trees representing winter, summer and fall, and between the trees is a girdle worn around the waist of Etruscan men, frequently appearing in Etruscan scenes. A wreath or garland hangs on the branch of the tree in winter, which may indicate the time of the hero's death. The girdle may be from the Cestus Girdle of Aphrodite, here carried by Hemeros.

Painting of Amazons on the side of the sacrophagus from Tarquinia. See Translation_Miscellaneous-scripts.html.

Athletes and horseman, Tomb of the Chariots, Tarquinia, ~490 B.C.

Back wall, Tomb of the Augurs, Tarquinia, scene of two Augurs, with inscription, "The priest, he stands, to pass." See Translation_Miscellaneous-scripts.html

Banquet scene, Tomb of the Leopards, Tarquinia, ~470 B.C. Note what appears to be a "Tartan" fabric on the couch. Part of the banquet appears to have involved a ritual drink (probably wine) which may have been like mead or Hindu Soma.

Server, Banquet in the Golini Tomb, Orvieto, now in the Archological Museum, Florence, 4th century B.C. It is unfortunate that the writing above the server cannot be read from this image.

Banquet scene in the Tomb of the Shields, Tarquinia. Third century B.C.
See my translation, Miscellaneous_Short_Inscriptions_a.html

Banqueter, Tomb of the Lioness, Tarquinia, ~520 B.C. Of interest in this image is the fact that he holds an egg, a symbol of rebirth, in his right hand, and he seems to be focused on the sash hanging in front of him. Pysanka, a Ukranian tradition of decorating Easter Eggs, gives us some background into the meanings of the eggs and their designs. The egg is a common symbol of the Etruscan "afterlife."

Negotiation, Tomb of the Baron, Tarquinia. Note the wreath hanging over the black horse.

Crouching bull, Tomb of the Bulls, Tarquinia., middle of the 6th century B.C.

Dancing woman, Tomb of the Lionesses, Tarquinia, ~520 B.C. Located on the back wall; behind her is a vase or cauldron which may have to do with rebirth, as in Celtic beliefs. See the Gundestrup caldron, where Celtic warriors are dipped into a cauldron and given a new life.

Woman dancer, Tomb of the Triclinium, Tarquinia

Dancers, Tomb of the Lionesses, Tarquinia, ~520 B.C. The young man carries a metal olpe, or jug, and in the young lady's right hand are castanets.

Youth diving, Tomb of Hunting & Fishing, Tarquinia, ~510 B.C. This mural is part of an overall theme of hunting and fishing. The birds are fleeing from a man hunting with a sling, and the man diving appears to be chased by another man on the peak. Indo-European tradition identifies fish, and perhaps birds, like stars diving into the ocean at dawn. Diving into the water is like rebirth, just as the stars are reborn.

Player on the double pipes, Tomb of the Triclinium, Tarquinia, ~470 B.C. Note the sash hanging on the tree. The birds at rest in the trees probably has something to do with the sash of the departed in the tree; i.e., rebirth. See Note (1).

Detail of the Sacrifice of the Trojan Captives. The winged lady may be Thetis, the goddess of the sea, mother of Achilles.

Detail of the Sacrifice of the Trojan Captives. Charon, the grim ferryman, can also be seen chasing the dead at Miscellaneous_Short_Scripts.html

Scene from the Franćois Tomb, Vulci. I am unable to read the inscriptions (names) above the heads of the two figures.

Hunting with dogs, Franćois Tomb, Vulci

Hermes carrying a woman, slab from Caere, Louvre, Paris, ~6th century B.C. Hermes (Latin, Mercury) is the messenger of the gods. According to Julius Caesar and other sources, the main god of the Celts was Hermes. Agni, the god of fire of the Rig Veda of India, has an important role as the messenger of the gods. Offerings to the fire are carried by Agni up to the abode of the gods. The Etruscan messenger may be like Agni, carrying the cremated soul to heaven.

Head of a Lyre-Player, Tomb of the Leopards, Tarquinia, ~480 B.C.

Rulers of the Underworld, Tomb of Orcus, Tarquinia, 3rd or 2nd century B.C. Shown is Aita (Hades; also known as Orcus) on his throne. Next to him is Phercipnei (Greek Persephone, Lat. Proserpina, wife of Hades), and facing them is the three-headed grandson of the Gorgon Medusa, Geryon. Geryon was the king of Erytheia (Cadiz, a major Phonecian port in the south of Spain). Hercules stole his cattle; later Geryon was killed; no doubt here he registering his complaint regarding the cattle theft. Note that Phercipnei has snakes in her hair and Aiti has a snake over his right shoulder.

Detail of table setting, Tomb of Orcus, Tarquinia.

Sphinx, of a Boccanera slab from Caere, 5th century B.C., British Museum

Back wall of the Tomb of the Lionesses, Tarquinia, ~520 B.C. Below the lionesses is a large vase with two attendants. On the left is a Lyre-player and the left a man plays the twin pipes. There may be a relationship between the large vase and the Celtic ritual shown on the Gundestrup cauldron, noted above, where the dead are revived by dipping in the cauldron.

Servant carrying a wine bowl, Tomb of the Leopards, Tarquinia, ~480 B.C.

Detail, woman's head, Tomb of Orcus, Tarquinia, ~4th century B.C.

Detail, woman's head, Tomb of the Shields, Tarquinia, ~3rd century B.C. Her name appears to be Ronia, and one can see that she is not happy about her mate leaving her. The inscription above the couple's head appears to say, " Veler (person's name) Orcus (the underworld) abducted, to wander away from Ronia." This script may be viewed at: Miscellaneous_Short_Inscriptions_a.html

Back wall of the Tomb of the Leopards, Tarquinia, ~480 B.C. Detail of the scene is above. The left-hand appears to be being offered a wand. The wand, or staff may be the word, ramuer, in Etruscan. In the Rig Veda two wands are frequently mentioned in the ceremony of the sacrifice, including lauds to Agni, the god of fire. The two sticks are the sticks that were used to make fire. The wand here and concept of a "magic wand" may apply here, having to do with granting rebirth. Note on the right hand part of the scene the man is holding in his right hand an egg. The egg is an important motif in the Etruscan concept of rebirth and the word, O8,"ov," used in the Etruscan scripts appears to be "egg" (Fr. "oeuf"). (See Etruscan GlossaryA) for Etruscan vocabulary.

Detail of a large bronze krater from Tuscania with a Hipppocampus and Cernunnos-like god surrounded by dolphins (3)

Painting of Amazons attacking a Greek, a sarcophagus from Tarquinia now in the Archeological Museum, Florence, ~5th century B.C.

Painting of Amazons in a quadriga on one of the sides of the sarcophagus from Tarquinia. In the Iliad ‚ and this is true of late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age warfare, including Celtic, the warrior had a servant-driver who would carry the warrior into various battle positions.

Athletes and armed dancer, Tomb of the Chariots, Tarquinia, ~490 B.C.

Man in flight, Tomb of the Augurs, Tarquinia, ~ 530 B.C.

Dancers, Tomb of the Bacchants, Tarquinia, ~510 B.C.

Banquet scene, Tomb of the Funeral Couch, Tarquinia, ~460 B.C. Possibly painted by the same artist who painted the Tomb of the Triclinium (Lat. dining-couch, dining room)

Servant cutting something (meat?) for the banquet, on a table with a drain, Golini Tomb, Orvieto

Banquet scene in the Tomb of the Shields, Tarquinia. The scene has an inscription which appears to have been written over earlier inscriptions. See my translation, Miscellaneous_Short_Inscriptions_a.html

Back wall, Tomb of the Baron, Tarquinia, ~510 B.C. The deceased may be the woman to whom the drink is being offered. Note the wreaths or ring, a common device, and the Hippocampus and dolphins. Note (2)

Close-up of the Tomb of the Baron.

Birds in flight, Tomb of Hunting & Fishing, Tarquinia, ~510 B.C. Note the colored wreaths.

Two seated men, perhaps a consultation with an augur, stone slab from Caere, Louvre, Paris, ~middle of the 6th century B.C.

Male dancer, Tomb of the Trinclinium, Tarquinia, ~470 B.C.

Male dancer, Tomb of the Triclinium, Tarquinia. Note the poncho-like garment.

Back wall, detail, Francesca Giustiniani Tomb, Tarquinia, ~ 5th century B.C. The man holds a crook in his left hand. Not seen in this image, to the left of the woman, is a chariot, and the woman may be protesting his departure in the chariot.

Hunter and fishermen, Tomb of Hunting & Fishing, Tarquinia.

Player on the double pipes, Tomb of the Leopards, Tarquinia, ~480 B.C.

Sacrifice of the Trojan Captives, Franćois Tomb, Vulci, ~2nd century B.C. The scene depicts the burial ceremony for the Greek hero Patroclos. After burning his body on a bier, a tumulus was raised and games celebrated. Horses and captives were sacrificed and placed in the tumulus. Charon, the grim ferryman, stands ready with a hammer to hit the victim over the head before admitting him into the underworld, Hades.

Scene from the Franćois Tomb. Death of the brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, sons of king Oedipus of Thebes. The brothers had agreed to rule on the throne of Thebes together but went to war against each other. The war is known as "The Seven against Thebes."

Lions attacking a horse, François Tomb, Vulci

Chimera & lion, François Tomb, Vulci

Gazelle attacked by a lion, Tomb of the Bacchants, Tarquinia, ~510 B.C.

Horse, Tomb of the Chariots, Tarquinia, 490 B.C.

Horses heads, Francesca Giustiniani Tomb, Tarquinia, 5th century B.C. Along with sending the captives of Troy to the tomb with the Greek hero who defeated them, among other sacrificed victims mentioned in the Iliad were horses. Horses were also sacrificed in the tombs of the Scythians, and horse sacrifice is a practice in the Rig Veda of ancient India. There is no evidence that the Etruscans sacrificed horses, that I am aware of, but the blue image here may be a token to that effect.

These (Theseus) threatened by a demon, Tomb of Orcus, Tarquinia. Theseus is known for killing the Minotaur of King Minos to save the lives of the Athenian children sent in sacrifice to it; but he had many adventures, and the one shown here involved his friend Perithous, with whom he had abducted the daughter of Zeus, Helen, when she was about 11 years old. Later she was abducted by Paris a prince of Troy. But Perithous later convinced Theseus that they ought to abduct Hades' wife, Persephone. Hades froze them there in a "state of forgetfulness," frozen by snakes, until Hercules found them there and rescued Theseus and some say Perithous was freed as well.

Racehorse with youths, Tomb of the Funeral Couch, Tarquina, ~460 B.C.

Lyre-player and dancing woman, Tomb of the Triclinium, Tarquinia, 470 B.C.

Procession, Tomb of the Typhon, Tarquinia, 1st century B.C.

Typhon, a titan with serpent-legs. Tomb of the Typhon, 1st century B.C. In the Greek myth Typhon, or Typhoeus, was a monster born to Ge that had a hundred burning snake heads and spoke with voices of men and animals. He battled with Zeus, and in one of many tales Zeus crushed Typhon's smoking body under a mountain. Some say Zeus threw Sicily on top of him, giving Mt. Etna life. Here the monster's legs are snakes and its palms are flush against the ceiling, holding it up. His gray-blue colors reflect the grimness of the realm of Charon and his lord, Aita (Hades).

Three women, Boccanera slab from Caere, British Museum, ~middle of the 6th century B.C.

Detail, wrestlers, Tomb of the Augurs, Tarquinia, ~530 B.C Behind them appears to be a caldrun. As illustrated in Homer's Iliad, part of the tradition when burying a hero in a tumulus included war games and contests such as wrestling. A ceremony involving the pouring of wine over the bier and celebrating with the wine was also involved. Among the Celts mead (an alcoholic drink made with honey) and wine was used; in India the heroes celebrated with Soma, a beverage that may have included hemp (cannabis / marijuana). Cannabis has been found in Scythian tombs in Siberia.

Wrestlers, Tomb of the Monkey, Chiusi, ~480 B.C. More funeral games are displayed here in celebration of the dead hero. Along with wrestling, which is being judged here, there would be chariot races. Funeral games are also the theme in the Tomb of the Chariots in Tarquinia.

Back corner of Tomb of Orcus, Tarquinia: Theseus facing the demon Tuchulcha (4)

Etruscan vase showing Theseus killing the Minotaur. As in the Etruscan tombs, much of the Etruscan pottery was in the Hellenic style and distributed over the Alps among the Celts and into the Black Sea area. Their mirrors and other manufactured goods, including wine, were appreciated in those areas as well.


(1) The sash may relate to the girdle worn by Venus (Greek Aphrodite). It was a magic girdle, and one can see on a Red Attic Vase Himeros carrying it. The vase is from Erotes_himeros.gif, http://www.theoi.com/Kronos/Erotes.html. According to Bullfinch's Mythology, "Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, possessed an embroidered girdle called Cestus, which had the power of inspiring love. Swans, roses, and myrtle were some of the symbols sacred to Venus which covered the belt. Venus sometimes loaned her girdle to others. Jupiter (Greek Zeus) and Juno (Greek Hera) were on opposite sides of the Trojan War. At one point, Juno borrowed the magic girdle which heightened her charms to such a degree that she was quite irresistible. So prepared, Juno visited her husband, Jupiter, who sat on Olympus watching the battle. When he beheld her, she looked so charming that the fondness of his early love revived, and, forgetting the contending armies and all other affairs of state, he thought only of her and let the battle go as it would." In Etruscan mythology, Tinia is Jupiter and Vni (Uni) is Juno. The Himeros image is from http://www.theoi.com/Kronos/Erotes.html, which is a good source on mythology.
(2) The Hippocampus was frequently depicted on Phoenician coins from Tyre dating ~330 B.C. It also appeared on Etruscan coins. The Hippocampus is a mix of seahorse and monster and is often depicted with the god Melqart riding it. Melqart was the supreme god of the Phoenicians, a sun-god, and part of a triad. Melqart's temple was the location of the sacred fire, he was the chief protector of the city and ships at sea, since he could control storms (like Poseidon). He symbolized the annual cycle of seasons and the dying and regeneration of vegetation. Here the Hippocampus in the Tomb of the Baron is probably calling on either Melqart or a similar god and belief.
To read more about Melqart go to: http://www.ancientroute.com/religion/Godsname/melqart.htm. To view the Phoenician Hippocampus coins go to: http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/greece/phoenicia/byblos/i.html.
      This tomb offers evidence, correlating with the Pyrgi Scripts which were written in Etruscan in two gold panels and Phoenician in a third gold panel. The inscription has to do with a dedication involving the consort of Melqart, Ishtar, and further work is needed to be done in translating the Etruscan portion of the script. It appears that the Etruscan goddess, Aph, was like Ishtar or Artemis. The scripts record a controversy of Aph and commemorates the festival of HERAM: Hera (Lat. Heraea-orum).
(3) Photo, detail of a large bronze krater from Tuscania, Rome Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia Soprintendenza alle Antichita dell'Etruria Meridionale, The Etruscans, Massimo Pallottino, Indiana University Press, 1975. Note the Cernunnos-like image with horns coming out of his head, on either side of which are dolphins. Above appears to be a battle between a Hippocampus and dog-headed sea monsters.
(4) Photo: The Etruscans, Massimo Pallottino, Indiana University Press, 1975.
(5) To get an idea what it was like to attend a Roman banquet, I recommend that you read, "Trimalchio's Banquet," at Banquet4.html. The story is from The Satyricon, by Petronius, probably written during the time of Nero. It is, of course, a satire, but probably is a good reflection of Italian traditions.
(6) Etruscan GlossaryA:





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