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An article from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, now in the public domain.
Any color photos are mine, © William P. Thayer.
Iguvium (mod. Gubbio, q.v.), a town of Umbria, situated among the mountains, •about 23 m. NNE of Perusia and connected with it by a by-road, which joined the Via Flaminia near the temple of Jupiter Appenninus, at the modern Scheggia. It appears to have been an important place in pre-Roman times, both from its coins and from the celebrated tabulae Iguvinae (see below).
We find it in possession of a treaty with Rome, similar to that of the Camertes Umbri; and in 167 B.C. it was used as a place of safe custody for the Illyrian King Gentius and his sons (Livy XLV.43). After the Social War, in which it took no part, it received Roman citizenship. At that epoch it must have received full citizen rights since it was included in the tribus Clustumina (CIL XI, e.g. 5838). In 49 B.C. it was occupied by Minucius Thermus on behalf of Pompey, but he abandoned the town. Under the empire we hear almost nothing of it. Silius Italicus mentions it as subject to fogs. A bishop of Iguvium is mentioned as early as A.D. 413. It was taken and destroyed by the Goths in 552, but rebuilt with the help of Narses. The Umbrian town had three gates only, and probably lay on the steep mountain side as the present town does, while the Roman city lay in the lower ground. Here is the theatre, which, as an inscription records, was restored by Cn. Satrius Rufus in the time of Augustus. The diameter of the orchestra is 76½ ft. and of the whole 230 ft., so that it is a building of considerable size; the stage is well preserved and so are parts of the external arcades of the auditorium. Not far off are ruins probably of ancient baths, and the concrete core of a large tomb with a vaulted chamber within.
Of Latin inscriptions (CIL XI.5803‑5926) found at Iguvium two or three are of Augustan date, but none seem to be earlier. A Latin inscription of Iguvium (XI.5824) mentions a priest whose functions are characteristic of the place "L. Veturius Rufio avispex , sacerdos publicus et privatus." The ancient town is chiefly celebrated for the famous Iguvine (less correctly Eugubine) Tables, which were discovered there in 1444, bought by the municipality in 1456, and are still preserved in the town hall. A Dominican, Leandro Alberti (Descrizione d' Italia, 1550), states that they were originally nine in number, and an independent authority, Antonio Concioli (Statuta civitatis Eugubii, 1673), states that two of the nine were taken to Venice in 1540 and never reappeared. The existing seven were first published in a careful but largely mistaken transcript by Buonarotti in 1724, as an appendix to Dempster's De Etruria Regali.1
The first real advance towards their interpretation was made by Otfried Müller (Die Etrusker, 1828), who pointed out that though their alphabet was akin to the Etruscan their language was Italic. Lepsius, in his essay De tabulis Eugubinis (1833), finally determined the value of the Umbrian signs and the received order of the Tables, pointing out that those in Latin alphabet were the latest. He subsequently published what may be called the editio princeps in 1841. The first edition, with a full commentary based on scientific principles, was that of Aufrecht and Kirchhoff in 1849‑1851, and on this all subsequent interpretations are based (Bréal, Paris, 1875; Bücheler, Umbrica, Bonn, 1883, a reprint and enlargement of articles in Fleckeisen's Jahrbuch, 1875, pp127 and 313). The text is everywhere perfectly legible, and is excellently represented in photographs by the marquis Ranghiasci-Brancaleone, published with Bréal's edition.a
Language. — The dialect in which this ancient set of liturgies is written is usually known as Umbrian, as it is the only monument we possess of any length of the tongue spoken in the Umbrian district before it was latinized (see Umbria). The name, however, is certainly too wide, since an inscription from Tuder of, probably, the 3rd century B.C. (R. S. Conway, The Italic Dialects, 352) shows a final -s and a medial -d-, both apparently preserved from the changes which befell these sounds, as we shall see, in the dialect of Iguvium. On the other hand, inscriptions of Fulginia and Assisium (ibid. 354‑355) agree very well, so far as they go, with Iguvine. It is especially necessary to make clear that the language known as Umbrian is that of a certain limited area, which cannot yet be shown to have extended very far beyond the eastern half of the Tiber valley (from •Interamna Nahartium to •Urvinum Mataurense), because the term is often used by archaeologists with a far wider connotation to include all the Italic, pre-Etruscan inhabitants of upper Italy; Professor Ridgeway, for instance, in his Early Age of Greece, frequently speaks of the "Umbrians" as the race to which belonged the Villanova culture of the Early Iron age. It is now one of the most urgent problems in the history of Italy to determine the actual historical relation (see further Rome: History, ad init.) between the Ὀμβροί of, say, Herodotus and the language of Iguvium, of which we may now offer some description, using the term Umbrian strictly in this sense.
Under the headings Latin Language and Osca Lingua there have been collected (1) the points which separate all the Italic languages from their nearest congeners, and (2) those which separate Osco-Umbrian from Latin. We have now to notice (3) the points in which Umbrian has diverged from Oscan. The first of them antedates by six or seven centuries the similar change in the Romance languages (see Romance Languages).
(1) The palatalization of k and g before a following i or e, or consonant i as in tiçit (i.e. diçit) = Lat. decet; muieto past part. passive (pronounced as though the i were an English or French j) beside Umb. imperative mugatu, Lat. mugire.
(2) The loss of final -d, e.g. in the abl. sing. fem. Umb. tōtā = Osc. toutād.
(3) The change of d between vowels to a sound akin to r, written by a special symbol ꟼ (ḍ) in Umbrian alphabet and by RS in Latin alphabet, e.g. teḍa in Umbrian alphabet = dirsa in Latin alphabet (see below), "let him give," exactly equivalent to Paelignian dida (see Paeligni).
(4) The change of -s- to -r- between vowels as in erom, esse = Osc. ezum, and the gen. plur. fem. ending in -aru = Lat. -arum, Osc. -azum.
To this there appear a long string of exceptions, e.g. asa Lat. ara. These are generally regarded as mere archaisms, and unfortunately the majority of them are in words of whose origin and meaning very little is known, so that (for all we can tell) in many the -s- may represent -ss- or -ps- as in osatu = Lat. operato, cf. Osc. opsaom.
(5) The change of final -ns to -f as in the acc. plur. masc. vitluf = Lat. vitulos.
(6) In the latest stage of the dialect (see below) the change of final -s to -r, as in abl. plur. arver, arviis, i.e. "arvorum frugibus."
(7) The decay of all diphthongs; ai, oi, ei all become a monophthong variously written e and i (rarely ei), as in the dat. sing. fem. tote, "civitati"; dat. sing. masc. pople, "populo"; loc. sing. masc. onse (from *om(e)sei), "in umero." So au, eu, ou all become ō, as in ote = Osc. auti, Lat. aut.
(8) The change of initial l to v, as in vutu = Lat. lavito.
Owing to the peculiar character of the Tables no grammatical statement about Umbrian is free from difficulty; and these bare outlines of its phonology must be supplemented by reference to the lucid discussion in C. D. Buck's Oscan and Umbrian Grammar (Boston, 1904), or to the earlier and admirably complete Oskisch-umbrische Grammatik of R. von Planta (Strassburg, 1892‑1897). Some of the most important questions are discussed by R. S. Conway in The Italic Dialects, vol. II. p495 seq.
Save for the consequences of these phonetic changes, Umbrian morphology and syntax exhibit no divergence from Oscan that need be mentioned here, save perhaps two peculiar perfect-formations with -l- and -nçi-; as in ampelust, fut. perf. "impenderit", combifiançiust, "nuntiaverit" (or the like). Full accounts of the accidence and syntax, so far as it is represented in the inscriptions, will be found in the grammars of Buck and von Planta already mentioned, and in the second volume of Conway, op. cit.
Chronology. (I.) The Relative Dates of the Tables. — At least four periods in the history of the dialect can be distinguished in the records we have left to us, by the help of the successive changes (a) in alphabet and (b) in language, which the Tables exhibit. Of these only the outstanding features can be mentioned here; for a fuller discussion the reader must be referred to The Italic Dialects, pp. 400 sqq.
(a) Changes in Alphabet. — Observe first that Tables I, II, III and IV, and the first two inscriptions of V are in Umbrian character; the Latin alphabet is used in the Claverniur paragraph (V.iii), and the whole of VI (a and b) and VII (a and b).
What we may call the normal Umbrian alphabet (in which e.g. Table I. a is written) consists of the following signs, the writing being always from right to left: 𐌀 a, ᗺ b, ꟼ ḍ (i.e. a sound akin to r derived from d), Ǝ e, zzz v, zzz z, zzz h, zzz i, zzz k and g, zzz l, zzz m, zzz n, p298zzz p, ᗡ r, 𐌚 s, 𐌗 t and d, V u and o, 𐌚 f, d s̀ (i.e. a voiceless palatal consonant.)
In the Latin alphabet, in which Tables VI and VII and the third inscription of Table V are written, d is represented by RS, g by G but k by C, d by D, t by T, v and u by V but o by O, zzz by zzz, though the diacritic is often omitted. The interpunct is double with the Umbrian alphabet, single and medial with the Latin.
Tables VI and VII, then, and V.iii, were written later than the rest. But even in the earlier group certain variations appear.
The latest form of the Umbrian alphabet is that of Table V.i and ii, where the abbreviated form of m (zzz) and the angular and undivided form of k (zzz not zzz) are especially characteristic.
Nearest to this is that of Tables III and IV, which form a single document; then that of I (a) and (b); earliest would seem that of II (a) and II (b). In II.a, 18 and 24, we have the archaic letter san (zzz = s) of the abecedaria (E. S. Roberts, Int. Gr. Epig. pp17 ff.), which appears in no other Italic nor in any Chalcidian inscription, though it survived longer in Etruscan and Venetic use. Against this may be set the use of zzz for t in I.b 1, but this appears also in IV.20 and should be called rather Etruscan than archaic. These characteristics of II.a and b would be in themselves too slight to prove an earlier date, but they have perhaps some weight as confirming the evidence of the language.
(b) Changes in Language. — The evidence of date derived from changes in the language is more difficult to formulate, and the inquiry calls for the most diligent use of scientific method and critical judgment. Its intricacy lies in the character of the documents before us — religious formularies consisting partly of matter established in usage long before they were written down in their present shape, partly of additions made at the time of writing. The best example of this is furnished by the expansion and modernisation of the subject-matter of Table I into Tables VI and VII.a. Hence we frequently meet with forms which had passed out of the language that was spoken at the time they were engraved, side by side with their equivalents in that language. We may distinguish four periods, as follows:
1. The first period is represented, not by any complete table, but by the old unmodernised forms of Tables III and IV, which show the original guttural plosives unpalatalized, e.g. kebu = Lat. cibum.
2. In the second period the gutturals have been palatalized, but there yet is no change of final s to r. This is represented by the rest of III and IV and by II (a and b).
3. In the third period final s has everywhere become r. This appears in V (i and ii and also iii). Table I is a copy or redraft made from older documents during this period. This is shown by the occasional appearance of r instead of final s.
4. Soon after the dialect had reached its latest form, the Latin alphabet was adopted. Tables VI and VII.a contain an expanded form of the same liturgical direction as Table I.
It is probable that further research will amend this classification in detail, but its main lines are generally accepted.
(II.) Actual Date of the Tables. — Only the leading points can be mentioned here.
(i) The Latin alphabet of the latest Tables resembles that of the Tabula Bantina, and might have been engraved at almost any time between 150 B.C. and 50 B.C. It is quite likely that the closer relations with Rome, which began after the Social War, led to the adoption of the Latin alphabet. Hence we should infer that the Tables in Umbrian alphabet were at all events older than 90 B.C.
(ii) For an upper limit of date, in default of definite evidence, it seems imprudent to go back beyond the 5th century B.C., since neither in Rome nor Campania have we any evidence of public written documents of any earlier century. When more is known of the earliest Etruscan inscriptions it may become possible to date the Iguvine Tables by their alphabetic peculiarities as compared with their mother-alphabet, the Etruscan. The "Tuscan name" is denounced in the comprehensive curse of Table VI.b, 53‑60, and we may infer that the town of Iguvium was independent but in fear of the Etruscans at the time when the curse was first composed. The absence of all mention of either Gauls or Romans seems to prove that this time was at least earlier than 400 B.C.; and the curse may have been composed long before it was written down.
The chief sources in which further information may be sought have been already mentioned.
1 A portion of this article is taken by permission from R. S. Conway's Italic Dialects (Camb. Univ. Press, 1897).
a In our own time, the edition you want is Le tavole di Gubbio e la civiltà degli Umbri, Perugia 1996, by Augusto Ancillotti and Romolo Cerri; the highlights of which, by the same authors, are available as Le Tavole Iguvine, Edizioni Jama, Perugia 1997 (124pp). Even the latter, however, does include complete photographs of all seven extant tables, and an essential bibliography of 30 works on them.
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Page updated: 23 Oct 12