Curtun (Modern Cortona)


The Tabula Cortonensis

The Etruscan city of Curtun (Roman Corito, modern Cortona) is located in Arezzo provincia, Toscana (Tuscany) regione, central Italy, on the southern slope of San Egidio Hill just north of Lake Trasimeno. The Roman Corito, it was probably of Umbrian origin but was later an important Etruscan magisterial centre.

Remnants of the Etruscan walls are incorporated in the medieval town walls, and the 4th-century BC Etruscan tomb erroneously said to be that of the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras also survives.

The Tabula Cortonensis

The Tabula Cortonensis, discovered near Cortona in 1992, but only made public in June 1999, is made of bronze (Approximate dimensions: 50 by 30 cm, with a mean thickness of 2-3 milimetres) and was cut into eight fragments, of which one unfortunately has unfortunately been lost. We can surmise that the table, once it had served its purpose, was broken in order to re-use the precious metal of which it was made. Though there is some disagreement on this, it seems likely that it was moulded using the lost wax process rather than being cold worked.

The inscription of 40 lines is the third longest surviving Etruscan text after the Liber linteus of Zagreb and the Capua Tablet. The text of the Tabula is that of a land transfer agreement between two parties.

The two workers who have studied the inscription most are the Italian linguist L. Agostiniani and archaeologist F. Nicosia, both of whom testify to the fact that the inscription was executed with great skill. We can possibly draw the conclusion that the table was not unique, and that similar tables had been manufactured previously by a craftsman skilled in the mass production of such agreements.

It is highly improbable that the document referred to a unique event or even a particularly exceptional event.

Although some sources suggest that the table was designed to be hung, this seems inconsistent with the nature of the handle device at the top of the tablet. If designed to be hung, it would be fitted with either a hook or a ring. The handle appears to be designed to extract the table from a series of other similar tables, inserted in a slot in some sort of filing system, along with other similar legal documents. In a file of this type, composed of bronze cards, the selection and the extraction of one tablet from a series would have been difficult without the handle device . This same handle probably served for attaching a small label made of parchment or even linen, on which was written something in the nature of a file number and/or the identity of the customer. This hypothesis seems consistent with the configuration of the handle.

It is also conceivable that if the bronze tables were used in a systematic manner by a public notary then their height and width were probably standardised with reference to the Etruscan system of metrics, and may have been aligned with the units of measurement found from excavations on Etruscan temples etc.

The inscriptions are generally very clear, but it is interesting to note that where the names of persons are inscribed, they sometimes appear slightly smudged, as if they were added later to a template, and modified, somewhat in the manner that a word- processing document is modified nowadays. The scribe who instered the relevant details may have been different from the author of the original template.

Other small errors may also be significant in our understanding of the document; for example there is some variation in the spelling of words such as thuchti/thucht, spante/spanthi, zal/sal, although this may be due to the absence of a standardised spelling system or a scribe from outside the region. Then in several instances, the dividing dot between the words is obscured or absent. Finally there are two errors: one in petru{i}s instead of petrus and a sade almost certainly omitted in tentha[sh].

It has been widely experienced that most common errors occur in the transcriptions of witnesses and personal names, for various reasons such as variations in spelling and lapses in attention by the scribe. However to put this all in perspective, most of the remainder of the document is free from obvious errors, tending to reinforce the significance of the small errors noted above.

According to the linguistic analysis of Agostiniani, the text belongs to the linguistic area of Cortona. Certainly the use of the sade(M) instead of s tends to reinforce its origins in the Northern part of Etruria proper.

The Text

The following is an approximate translation of the Tabula Cortinensis, which draws on numerous sources, including those cited above:

These (the property) of Petru Sceves: olive groves. the vineyard and the house estimated ten talents; and those of the Cusu family descended from Laris, That by the Lake (estimated) six talents and ten (units).

Along with this same Lake also four containers Etruscan 'eshiethic' measure (they are) for the family of Petru, and the balance to settle within the month two talents in the form of food and money.

The amount of this value (is) exactly the inheritance of the Cusu family and that of Petru Sceves.

The following have witnessed: Larth Petruni, Arunth Pini, Larth Vipi Lusce, Laris Salini of Vetna, Lart Velara of Larth, Lart Velara of Aule, Vel Pumpu Pruciu, Aule Celatina of Setumna, Arnza (Little Arthth) Felsni of Velthina, Vel Luisna Lusco, Vel Vslna of Nufre, Laru Slanzu, Larzla Lartle Vel Aule, Arnth Petru Raufe.

Accepting (the transaction) have been Vulca Cusu of Laris and the sons, Laris Cusu, those descendants from Laris, and Larin son of Laris, Petru Scevas, Arntlei wife of Petru;

This is written now that those of the Cusunu family have been issued from this notary public and according to law in (its) deposited dwelling. Tullia daughter of Telutia therefore two copies has been left with the Cusunu family, descendants of Laris, and to Petru Sceves according to the right of Tarcontian law (?) (Pessh Tarchian) .

These things witnessed and checked by Larth Cucrina of Lausu, Zilath Mechl Rasnal (Sacerdos).

Laris Celatina Lausi and his son, Arnth Lusce of Arnth and the son Larza, Lart Turmna of Salina, [ of the father, Larth Celatina and the sons of Velcha (.........................) [ and grandsons Vulca Cusuna descendant from Avle (.......... and of Anina, Laris Fulna (............................) and sons, Lart Petce of Vslna (.........................), [pertaining to the family Cucrinia of Tecsina, Vel (......................................) and Laris Cusu of Vslna (...

Avle Salini of Cusua wrote this under the consulate of Larth Cusu Titina and Laris Salinis of Avle, the district of Tarsimena. Declared in the dwelling (of the notary public) deposited in accordance with common law. The transcription (the tablet) (is) of Velcha Cusu, descendant of Avle, of Velthur Titlnis, descendant of Velthur, and of Larth Celatina of Apnal (of his father?) and Laris Celatina of Pitlina.


Above: Part of the transcription
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