CHAPTER XII
LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE

DUCATI says that the Etruscan language is the Etruscan Sphinx, which still keeps its secrets, smiling at us mockingly the while. We have failed to discover its family connexions, and we have caught the meaning of but few of its fragmentary utterances.

The materials available for the study of the Etruscan language are discouragingly scanty. It is true that nearly 9,000 inscriptions have been collected, but most of them are isolated words and dedicatory phrases made up of proper names; only nine are over thirty words in length.

Some of the words are found on mural paintings, where a man's name is often written above his head; sometimes the lower animals are labelled, though whether 'krankru' (p. 62) meant simply the leopard or was a pet name for the Velii's big cat we do not know.

We catch glimpses of the people's little thoughts in the inscriptions on cups, vases, and utensils. Sometimes it is only 'Mi Thancvilus Fulnial' ('I belong to Tanaquilla Fulvia'); sometimes the jug says, 'Do not touch me; I am not yours.' The word 'suthina', an adjective meaning 'pertaining to the tomb', occurs frequently on objects used as tomb-furniture. It was intended to prevent people from stealing those things, and in many cases it would be written at the time of burial. One almost unique vase, shaped like a bird, the property of a child of the seventh century, was his

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