The DUENOS INSCRIPTION is one of the earliest known
Old Latin texts,
variously dated from the 7th to the 5th century BC. It is inscribed
on the sides of a _kernos _, in this case a trio of small globular
vases adjoined by three clay struts. It was found by Heinrich Dressel
in 1880 on the
Quirinal Hill in
The inscription is written right to left in three units, without spaces to separate words. It is difficult to translate, as some letters are hard to distinguish, particularly since they cannot always be deduced by context. The absence of spaces causes additional difficulty in assigning the letters to the respective words.
* 1 Text and translations * 2 Notes * 3 Epigraphic note * 4 Site of the find
* 5 Overview of the linguistic research
* 5.1 First section * 5.2 Juridical note on the matrimonial sponsio * 5.3 The second section * 5.4 Cosmis
* 6 References * 7 Further reading
TEXT AND TRANSLATIONS
There have been many proposed translations advanced by scholars since the discovery of the _kernos_; by 1983, more than fifty different explanations of the meaning had been put forward. Due to the lack of a large body of archaic Latin, and the method by which Romans abbreviated their inscriptions, scholars have not been able to produce a singular translation that has been accepted by historians as accurate. However thanks to Gordon's work the reading of the text can be now considered certain.
Below is the transcription and one of many possible interpretations: a. the direct transcription b. direct transcription with possible macrons and word breaks c. a speculative interpretation and translation into Classical Latin d. an English translation of that transcription, interpretation and translation.
LINE 1: a. IOVESATDEIVOSQOIMEDMITATNEITEDENDOCOSMISVIRCOSIED b. iouesāt deivos qoi mēd mitāt, nei tēd endō cosmis vircō siēd c. Iurat deos qui me _mittit_, ni in te (= _erga te_) comis virgo sit d. _The person who sends me prays to the gods, lest the girl be not kind towards thee_
LINE 2: a. ASTEDNOISIOPETOITESIAIPAKARIVOIS b. as(t) tēd noisi o(p)petoit esiāi pākā riuois c. at te (...) paca rivis d. _without thee (...) calm with rivers_
LINE 3: a. DVENOSMEDFECEDENMANOMEINOMDVENOINEMEDMALOSTATOD b. duenos mēd fēced en mānōm einom duenōi nē mēd malo(s) statōd c. Bonus me fecit in manum _einom_ bono, ne me malus (tollito, clepito) d. _A good man made me in his own?? hands for a good man, in case an evil man take me._
An interpretation set out by Warmington and Eichner, renders the complete translation as follows, though not with certainty: 1. _It is sworn with the gods, whence I'm issued:_ _If a maiden does not smile at you,_ 2. _nor is strongly attracted to you,_ _then soothe her with this fragrance!_ 3. _Someone good has filled me for someone good and well-mannered,_ _and not shall I be obtained by someone bad._
_Duenos_ is an older form of the
The Praenestine fibula is thought by some to be the earliest
surviving evidence of the
The inscription (CIL I 2nd 2, 4) is scratched along the side of the body of three vases made of dark brown _bucchero_, connected with each other by short cylindric arms. It is written from right to left spiralling downwards about 1 and 1/2 times. The letters are written upside down for a reader who looks at the inscription from a level position: this has been explained by Aldo Luigi Prosdocimi as due to the fact that the inscription was meant to be read from an above, not a sideways position. Some letters are written in an archaic fashion that appears influenced by Greek. There are signs of corrections in the two C or K of 'PAKARI' and 'FECED' and in the L of 'MALOS'. Three distinct sections are individuated by spaces after 'SIED' and 'VOIS'. There are neither spaces delimiting words nor signs of interpunction. The earliest interpunction to appear was syllabic. As it appeared only in the 7th century, the inscription should be more ancient.
The inscription is made up by two distinct parts or sections, the second one beginning with the word 'DUENOS'. It was found in a votive deposit (_favissa_). It belongs to the kind known as _speaking inscriptions_, widely in use in archaic times. Some scholars consider the object to be of good quality and reflecting the high social status of the owner. Other consider it common.
SITE OF THE FIND
_The following sections are mainly based on Osvaldo Sacchi's article "Il trivaso del Quirinale" appeared in_ Revue Interantionale de Droit de l'Antiquité _2001 pp. 277-344_.
The vase was bought from an antiquarian by Heinrich Dressel shortly after its find. It was discovered in 1880 by workers who were digging to lay the foundation of a building near the newly opened Via Nazionale, in the valley between the Quirinal and the Viminal hills, precisely on the South slope of the Quirinal near the church of S. Vitale. Dressel was told the place was supposed to have been a burial site.
Archeologist Filippo Coarelli has advanced the hypothesis that the object might have been placed in the votive deposit of one of the temples of goddess Fortuna dedicated by king Servius Tullius , perhaps the one known as _ Fortuna Publica_ or _Citerior_, i.e. located on the side of the Quirinal near to Rome. Her festival recurred on the _nonae_ of April (April 5). However June 11, the festival day of the Matralia , which was originally devoted to _Mater Matuta_, was also the day of the _ Fortuna Virgo_, ritually associated with the passage of girls from adolescence into adulthood and married life.
OVERVIEW OF THE LINGUISTIC RESEARCH
The antiquity of the document is generally acknowledged. The language shows archaic characters in morphology, phonetics and syntax. The absence of _u_ after _q_ would testify to its greater antiquity comparatively to the inscription of the _cippus_ of the Forum , also known as Lapis Niger (CIL I 1).
For the sake of convenience of interpretation, the text is usually divided into two sections, the first one containing the first two units and ending with 'PAKARIVOIS'. The two sections show a relative syntactic and semantic independence.
Many attempts have been made at deciphering the text.
In the 1950s the inscription had been interpreted mainly on the basis of (and in relation to) the supposed function of the vases, considered either as containers for a love philter or of beauty products: the text would then mockingly threaten the owner about his behaviour towards the vase itself or try to attract a potential buyer. This is the so-called erotic line of interpretation which found supporters until the eighties.
During the 1960s Georges Dumézil proposed a new line of thought in the interpreting of the text. He remarked the inconsistency of the previous interpretations both with the solemnity of the opening formula ("_Iovesat deivos qoi med mitat_": "He swears for the gods who sends /delivers me") and with the site of the find. Dumezil's interpretation was: "If it happens that the girl is not nice to you/ has no easy relationship with you ("_nei ted endo cosmis virco sied_"="_ne in te (=erga te) cosmis virgo sit_"), we shall have the obligation of bringing her and you into good harmony, accord, agreement ("_asted noisi...pakari vois_"="_at sit nobis...pacari vobis_"). The transmission of the object would be expressed by the words _qoi med mitat_. The story mirrored in the text would thus depict a custom deeply rooted in Roman society that is described by Plautus in the scene of the Menaechmi in which the _tutor_ of the _virgo_ or his representatives formally give a suretyship about her attitude towards a man.
Dumézil's interpretation though was fraught with linguistic
problems. Apart from the value of the 'I' before 'OPE', which he
considered meaningless or an error of the incisor, the only possible
meaning of _ope_ in
Antonino Pagliaro understood the word 'TOITESIAI' as an adjective from noun _tutela_, _ope tuteria_, i.e. _ope tutoria_ in classical Latin: the word would thence be an attribute in the ablative.
Dumézil's contribution and the location of the find gave researchers grounds to pursue their work of interpretation in the same direction, i.e. of its significance as a token of legal obligation. The efforts have centred on deciphering of the last segment of the first section, 'ASTED...PAKARIVOIS'.
As already mentioned above, the cult of _ Fortuna Virgo_, celebrated on the day of the Matralia , was related to the role of girls who became married women. The passage saw girls as completely passive subjects both during the archaic period and great part of the republican: the matrimonial exchange was conducted, as far as legally relevant profiles were concerned, by the subjects who had _potestas_ on the woman and by the future husband (or he/those who had _potestas_ over him). This is testified by the fact the _virgo_ had no right of pronouncing the _nupta verba_.
The passage which presents the greatest difficulties is the central
group of letters 'IOPETOITESIAI' in the string 'ASTED...VOIS'.
Proposed interpretations include: _iubet_ orders for IOPET;
_futuitioni_ sexual intercourse for IOPETOI, the cut TOI/TESIAI or
OITES/IAI so that 'OPE' be the only recognisable
Dumézil attributes a peculiar semantic value to the syllabic group 'TOITESIAI': a moral instrument that is nothing else than a form of the power the males of a family group (father, tutors) exercised on a girl, i.e. a variant or alteration of the word _tutelae_, similar to _tu(i)tela_. Since this interpretation has been proposed no critic has been able to disprove it. Authoritative scholars on the grounds of the lexeme _toitesiai_ have proposed a theonym (Coarelli), a feminine proper name Tuteria (Peruzzi, Bolelli), or even a _gentilicium_, the gens Titur(n)ia (Simon and Elboj) mentioned by Cicero.
In the nineties, two further contributions have discussed once again the interpretation of the second part of the first grapheme, particularly morpheme _toitesiai_. Even though doubts have been cast over its correspondence with the technical Roman legal word _tutela_, Dumezil's intuition of recognising in the destination of the vase a juridical function, namely a matrimonial _sponsio_, was accepted and taken on.
G. Pennisi reconstructs the text as follows: "_Iovesat deivos qoi
med mitat: nei ted cosmis virgo sied ast ednoisi opetoi pakari vois.
Duenos med feced en manom einom duenoi ne med malos tatod_". Segment
'EDNOISI' is deciphered recurring to Homeric έεδνα in the meaning
of nuptial gifts and the speaking token would be a marriage compact or
promise by a young man in love to a girl to whom the vase is presented
as a gift. The inscription would thence exhibit an oath structure
consisting in an archaic form of _coemptio _: "Swears for the gods he
who buys me": _mitat = *emitat_ (the future bridegroom would be
speaking in the third person). Then passing to the second person the
compact would be set out in the second line by the offering of the
nuptial gifts as a guarantee. The third line would complete the legal
formula of the compact (_Duenos / ne med malos tatod_). Leo Peppe has
proposed to interpret the inscription as a primitive form of
matrimonial _coemptio_ different from that presented in
F. Marco Simon and G. Fontana Elboj (autopsy) confirmed the
interpretation of the previous proposals that see in the vase the
symbol of a marriage compact. The authors ground their interpretation
on the segment 'OITESIAI' instead of 'TOITESIAI'. They therefore
identified a root *o-it (composed by prefix *o and lexem *i-, cf.
Even after the last two contributions related above, Sacchi acknowledges that all attempts at interpreting the segment 'AST...VOIS' remain conjectural.
Dumezil's hypothesis of a protoform of tutela, though attractive and plausible, remains as yet unconfirmed.
JURIDICAL NOTE ON THE MATRIMONIAL SPONSIO
Although there are still obscure points in the interpretation of line two, it is generally accepted that the text contains the formula of an oath. On the archaic oath and its juridical value there is large agreement among scholars. It looks also probable that the object should have a religious implication: an instrument permeated by religious ritualism as the oath could well be employed in legal practice at the time of the object, as seems supported by linguistic analysis. The usage of the oath in archaic times as an instrument of private civil law could have been widespread, even though the issue has not yet been thoroughly analysed. Even though in the inscription there is no segment directly reminiscent of the dialogic formula of the _sponsio_, i.e. "_spondes tu...?_", "_spondeo!_", internal and external evidence allow the assumption of the enactment of a matrimonial _sponsio_. Such a usage of oaths is attested in later literary sources.
Besides the trace of a _sponsio_ as the legal function of the object, Dumézil would also see that of providing a piece evidence, i.e. a probatory attitude. Servius in his commentary to the _Aeneid_ writes that, before the introduction of the matrimonial tablets, in Latium the parties used to exchange tokens of pledge (_symbola_) on which they stated as a promise that they agreed to the marriage and nominated guarantors (_sponsores_). To the same time of the regal period is ascribed the introduction of the Greek use of double scriptures, _tesserae_.
The sponsio is one of the most ancient forms of verbal undertaking of obligation and its religious nature is acknowledged, as well as its connection with betrothal. The ancient sources are in agreement that the archaic _sponsalia_ had a religious nature.
Brent Vine's study which focuses on the linguistic analysis of the
word _MITAT_ of the first sentence and of the segment 'EN()MANOMEINOM'
of the third lends support to such an interpretation: he argues that
_mitat_ would be a form of a frequentative verb _mitare_ based on a
past participle in -_to_ of an IE root _*meɨ̯_, with the meaning of
'exchange'. Semantically this frequentative should be considered
factitive, thence arriving at a verb that would mean 'to cause to be
given in exchange', hence 'to give (in exchange)'. Vine's analysis of
the segment 'EN()MANOMEINOM' fits the hypothesis of an exchange of
_symbola_ equally well. He argues that a word (M)EINOM could be
isolated on the grounds of the single spelling of geminates which is
considered normal by linguists for the archaic period. This he
proposes to understand as reflecting a substantivised _*méi̯-no-_,
meaning 'something given in exchange, gift' from the same root
_*mei̯_ as in 'MITAT'. This form would be a -_no_ substantive, a
widely attested formation and may be presupposed by
The document raises also the question of the kind of the marriage in question, and specifically of whether it was with or without _manus _. Dumézil supported the thesis of a marriage without loss the independent status of the woman (_sine capitis deminutio_). In the last case it should be admitted that in archaic times a form of marriage existed in which the _sponsio_ was directly linked to the _nuptiae_, independently from the initial constitution of the _manus_. The _sponsalia_ would then be the occasion upon which the legal subjects defined the compacts concerning the juridical and economic aspects of the marriage: the dowry, the future legal status of the woman who could be put under the _potestas/tutela_ of one or more persons, the compensations for a passage of status of the woman and the guarantees for breach of promise. Two strata were perhaps present as testified by the expression _more atque iure_ of Gellius.
Then the object in question could well have been deposited in a temple upon the occasion of a marriage ritual as a probatory document of an engagement undertaken not by the girl but by her _sponsor_. The compact would be also a legal guarantee of the rights of the future bridegroom.
THE SECOND SECTION
The most relevant issue for the interpretation of the document in Sacchi's view is the meaning the lexical couple 'DUENOS/DUENOI'. The meaning of _Duenos_ has been often considered to be the name of the craftsman who made the object. Such an interpretation meets with the difficulty of how to explain the second occurrence of the word and with the problem of how to interpret 'MANOM', since if _Duenos_ is a name identifying a person and qualifying him as 'good' then it would difficult to understand the use of 'manom' in the same sense of good. It should be easier to understand 'manom' as hand 'manum', i.e. reading: "Duenos made me with his own hands".
Sacchi, following Palmer and Colonna, proposes to interpret the
couple as conveying a specifically technical religious and legal
meaning as is testified in ancient sources. _Duenos_ has given classic
Sacchi opines that in the case of the Duenos inscription the speaker is acting according to the religious legal ritual, presumably enacting a private consecratio : the formula of the dedication is then a case of private _dedicatio dis_, dedication to the gods. The epithet _duenos_ should therefore be interpreted as used in its original technical sense. The restitution of the text should thus be: "A party acting in the way sanctioned by religious law made/consecrated me for a good end. That no harm/fraud be done to me and to one who is a party (equally) religiously sanctioned by the gods". The vase is a speaking token that after the celebration of the ritual consecrates the content of the action, of which it is "the form in its probatory function and the matter as a constituent element".
Vine quotes German authors who still follow the erotic thread of
interpretation. They think of the vase as a container for beauty
products and interpret the last phrase NEMEDMALOSTATOD as: "let no
evil person steal me". "STATOD would be a form of a
Both Sacchi and Vine remark the striking parallelism between the formula of the Duenos inscription: QOIMED MITAT and the inscription on a pedestal (probably of a votive statue) from Tibur : HOI()MED()MITAT...DNOM()PRO()FILEOD. Vine finds in it support for his interpreting of (M)EINOM as meaning _munus_.
Sacchi rejects the interpretation of _cosmis_ as _agreeable_ in the first section that is traditionally accepted in the scholarly literature, on the grounds of considerations of history of the language and semantics. He proposes to interpret the term as referring to the peculiar style of hairdressing of brides, known as _seni crines_ which would find support in Festus: "Comptus id est ornatus...qui apud nos comis: et comae dicuntur capilli cum aliqua cura compositi", "Comptus i. e. adorned... what we call _comis_; and _comae_ is named the hair dressed with a certain care". In the inscription the use of this word would be an explicit allusion to the fact that the girl shall be ready to marry. Festus gives it as a most ancient custom for marriage ceremonies. An analogous usage of the word _comis_ is to be found in Gellius while relating the custom of _flaminica dialis_ on the occasion of the Argei .
* ^ Osvaldo Sacchi "Il trivaso del Quirinale" in _RIDA_ 2001 p. 277
citing Attilio Degrassi _
Inscriptiones Latinae Liberae Rei Publicae _
1 1957, Arthur Gordon, "Notes on the Duenos-Vase Inscription in
Berlin", _California Studies in Classical Antiquity_, Vol. 8, 1975,
pp. 53–72, Giovanni Colonna "Duenos " in _Studi Etruschi_ 47 1979
pp. 163-172; Brent Vine - A Note on the
* (in German) "Die DUENOS-Inschrift": transcription and
interpretation of the Duenos inscription
* Larissa Bonfante, "Etruscan Life and Afterlife: A Handbook of
Etruscan Studies", Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1986
* Arthur Gordon, "Notes on the Duenos-Vase Inscription in Berlin",
_California Studies in Classical Antiquity_, Vol. 8, 1975, pp. 53–72
* Arthur E. Gordon, _Illustrated Introduction to
* WorldCat Identities * VIAF : 198982167
Links: ------ /wiki/Old_Latin /#cite_note-1 /wiki/Kernos /wiki/Heinrich_Dressel