Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources


edited by: Laura Montagnaro (translation revised by Melanie Rockenhaus)

  • Introduction
  • Ancient Writing Systems
  • Further information

Venetic is an Indo-European language documented by approximately 600 inscriptions in the area that Livy refers to as the Venetorum angulus (Liv. V, 33, 10). These documents are dated from 6th to 1st century B.C. (6th century B.C. is the period when writing was introduced in the Venetic area and 1st century B.C. is the period in which the Romanisation process is completed and Latin replaces the local language). Moreover there are one hundred inscriptions defined ‘Venetic-Latin inscriptions’ from 2nd to 1st century B.C. in which writing and linguistic blending can be found.

The inscribed documents have been found in an area in the modern regions of Italy called Veneto (Este, Padua, Altino, Lagole di Calalzo, Auronzo di Cadore, Oderzo, Treviso, Vicenza) and Friuli Venezia Giulia (Zuglio, Pozzuolo del Friuli); there are also documents from the Gail valley (Austria) and Idrija pri Baci (Slovenia).

Most of the texts are votive and funerary texts with reduced textual function and formulaic and repetitive elements:

- a votive text could have a 1st personal pronoun object (mego 'me') who is the ‘donated speaking object’, the subject of the votive act in the nominative case, the verb, and the theonyms in the dative case.
es. mego Fugia donasto Reitiai
'Me Fugia donated for Reitia’'
(Inscription on bronze stylus: G.B. Pellegrini – A.L. Prosdocimi, La lingua venetica, Padova 1967; Es 54).
The votive schema could also mention the human beneficiary of the votive act in the dative case and a circumstantial formula like op voltio leno, per volterkon vontar, etc. to express the fact that the act is intentional.

- a funerary text could have only the deceased’s onomastic formula in the nominative or dative case; or a 1st personal pronoun subject (ego 'I')and the deceased’s onomastic formula in the dative case.
e.g. ego Voltiomnoi Iuvantioi
'I (am) for Voltiomnos (of) Iuvants'
(Inscription on memorial stone: G.B. Pellegrini – A.L. Prosdocimi, La lingua venetica, Padova 1967; Es 4).

The votive schema could also present lexemes like the form ekupetaris (and correlated forms ekvopetaris, eppetaris, epetaris ; in Latin writing: equpetars and ecupetaris) composed by the Indo-European base for *ekwo- ‘horse’, a form from the Indo-European root *pet-meaning ‘lord’ and a derivative morpheme (-ari-) to express ‘proximity and relevance’. The lexeme ekupetaris is often associated with the pronoun subject (ego ekupetaris ‘I (am) the ekupetaris’) and it could be interpreted as ‘something (probably the monument) related to the lord of the horse’. Currently it is not possible to define if that specific kind of funerary monument (ekupetaris) is referred to a precise economic status or rather to a particular social class.

Within the corpus of Venetic inscriptions, the oldest epigraphic texts are of greater textual complexity; probably the formulaic schemes were not yet crystallized into fixed forms. There are also a few public texts, of which the longest and most complex is the ‘Table of Este’: this text is inscribed on a bronze table and was found in Este. The text is fragmentary and concerns a treaty between two communities (probably Este and Padua) for administration and land management.

Votive and funerary texts provide a great amount of onomastic data, so it is possible to investigate onomastic forms from both a strictly linguistic point of view (lexical, phonetic and morphologic) and from an institutional point of view (onomastic formulas or the institutional society’s onomastic designations). The study of the transitional phases between the Venetic language and Latin during the Romanization process is supported and facilitated by onomastic data.

Ancient Writing Systems

  1. Venetic

Further information

  1. Bibliography