Praeneste fibula (the "brooch of Palestrina") is a golden fibula
or brooch, today housed in the Museo Preistorico Etnografico Luigi
Pigorini in Rome. The fibula bears an inscription in Old Latin. At the
time of its discovery in the late nineteenth century, it was accepted
as the earliest known specimen of the
Latin language. The authenticity
of the inscription has since been disputed. However a new analysis
performed in 2011 declared it to be genuine "beyond any reasonable
doubt" and to date from the Orientalizing period, in the first half of
the seventh century BC.
2 Date and inscription
4 Claimed authenticity
6 Further reading
7 External links
The fibula was presented to the public in 1887 by Wolfgang Helbig, an
archaeologist. At the time, Helbig did not explain how he had come to
acquire the artifact.
Date and inscription
The inscription on the Praeneste Fibula. The writing runs from right
The fibula was thought to originate from the 7th century BC. It is
inscribed with a text that appears to be written in Old Latin, here
transcribed to Roman letters:
MANIOS MED FHEFHAKED NVMASIOI
The equivalent Classical
Latin sentence obtained by applying the
appropriate differences between
Old Latin and Classical
probably have been:
*MANIVS ME FECIT NVMERIO
Manius made me for Numerius
In 1980 Margherita Guarducci, a leading epigraphist, published a book
claiming that the inscription had been forged by Francesco Martinetti,
an art dealer, and Helbig, who were known to have collaborated in
shady dealings. Its presentation in 1887, she claimed, was in fact a
hoax perpetrated to advance the careers of both men. This was the
most formal but not the first accusation of its kind:
Georg Karo had
said that Helbig told him that the fibula had been stolen from
Palestrina's Tomba Bernardini.
Evidence in favor of the genuineness of the text came from a new
Etruscan inscription of the
Orientalizing period published by Massimo
Poetto and Giulio Facchetti in 1999. The inscription scratched on the
body of an Etrusco-Corinthian aryballos shows a gentilicium,
Numasiana, which provides confirmation of the genuineness of the name
Numasioi on the Fibula Prenestina, often regarded as suspicious by the
supporters of the theory that it was a forgery.
In 2011, new scientific evidence was presented by the research team of
Edilberto Formigli and Daniela Ferro, whose optical, physical and
chemical analyses allowed them to take into consideration smaller
scrapes on the surface of the object than was possible in the 1980s.
Observation by means of
Scanning Electron Microscope
Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and
detailed physical and chemical analyses on the surface of small areas
within the track of the incision showed the existence of
micro-crystallization of the gold surface: a natural phenomenon that
could have taken place only in the course of centuries after the
fusion. The study reported that a 19th-century forger could not have
realized such a forgery.
^ Conway, Robert Seymour (1897). The Italic Dialects: edited with a
grammar and glossary. I. Cambridge (England): University Press.
^ a b c Maras, Daniele F. (Winter 2012). "Scientists declare the
Fibula Praenestina and its inscription to be genuine 'beyond any
reasonable doubt'". Etruscan News. 14.
^ a b Momigliano, A. (1989). "The Origin of Rome: III Settlement,
Society and Culture in Latium and at Rome". In Edwards, I. E. S. The
Cambridge Ancient History. VII. Part 2: The Rise of
220 B.C. (2 ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 73–4.
ISBN 9780521234467. One, the gold fibula (Fig. 23) inscribed
'Manios me vhevhaked Numasioi' ('Manios (Manius) made me (or 'had me
made'?) for Numasios (Numerius)') – perhaps the most famous
inscribed object from the whole of Latium – raises two doubts, one
about its origin and the other about its authenticity. It was
published in 1887 by an eminent archaeologist, W. Helbig, without
indication of its origin. Later
Georg Karo declared that he had been
told by Helbig that the fibula, being of gold and obviously valuable,
had been stolen from the Tomba Bernardini
^ Gordon, Arthur E. (October–November 1982). "Review: 'La cosiddetta
Fibula Prenestina. Antiquari, eruditi e falsari nella Roma dell'
Ottocento by Margherita Guarducci". The Classical Journal. The
Classical Association of the Middle West and South. 78 (1): 64–70.
Authors who argue that the Fibula is a forgery:
Hamp, Eric P. (1981). "Is the Fibula a Fake?". American Journal of
Philology. 102 (2): 151–3. doi:10.2307/294308.
Gordon, Arthur E. (1983). Illustrated Introduction to
Berkeley/Los Angeles/London. ISBN 0520038983.
Bonfante, Larissa (1986). Etruscan Life and Afterlife: A Handbook of
Etruscan Studies. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
Authors who argue that the Fibula is authentic:
Lehmann, Winfred P. (1993). Historical Linguistics (3rd ed.).
Wachter, R. (1987). Altlateinische Inschriften. Sprachliche und
epigraphische Untersuchungen zu den Dokumenten bis 150 v. Chr. Bern
Formigli, E. (1992). "Indagini archeometriche sull'autenticità della
Fibula Praenestina". MDAI(R). 99: 329–43, Taf. 88–96.
Hartmann, Markus (2005). Die frühlateinischen Inschriften und ihre
Datierung: Eine linguistisch-archäologisch-paläographische
Untersuchung (in German). Bremen: Hempen.
"La Fibula Prenestina". Bullettino di Paletnologia Italiana (in
Italian). 99. 2014.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Praeneste fibula.
Harsch, Ulrich (1996). "Fibula Praenestina". Bibliothec