The Novilara Stele Inscription: A New Clue to the Philistine Migrations

The Novilara Stele is a stone slab with an inscription in an unknown language, found in Novilara, a village in the Marche region of Italy. It is dated to the 7th century BC and is the only completely preserved of four texts written in an unknown language called North Picene, written in the Italic alphabet.

The Novilara Stele is now housed in the Museo Preistorico Pigorini in Rome, Italy. It was acquired by the museum in 1889.

On the back side of the stele there is a depiction of warriors and ships. Warriors are depicted in profile, and they are wearing helmets and carrying shields. The presence of warriors and ships suggests that it may have been a funerary monument.

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In recent years, there has been some debate about the authenticity of the Novilara Stele. Some scholars have argued that the inscription is a forgery, while others maintain that it is genuine. The main reason for the ongoing debate is that no one has been able to translate the inscription in a way that everyone agrees on.

The inscription is generally legible, but there are a few letters that are ambiguous. The words are divided with small dashes, but sometimes they continue to the next line of the text.

The most common reading of the inscription is as follows:

mimnis. erút . gaarestades
rotnem. úvlin. parten_. ús
polem. isairon . tet
sut . tratnesi. krus
tenag . trút . ipiem. rotnem/s/si
lútúis . ?alú. isperion. vúl
tes . rotem. teú . aiten . tasur
soter. merpon . kalatne
nis. vilatos . paten. arn
uis. balestenag. ands . et
Sút. i/lakút . treten . teletaú
nem. polem. tisu . sotris. eús

My Reading and Translation of the Novilara Stele

Mimnis erútka Arestades – Aresta wrote on this monument
dotnem Uvlin Partenús – daughter of Uvlin Partenus
polem Isaidon  – from the city of Isaidon (Sidon)
tetsut Tratnesi – of the Tartessian nation
Kruntenak Trút Ipiem dotnemlútúim – King Trut Ipie’s daughters
Thalú Isperion – Thalu (and) Isperion
Vúltes dotem Teú – Vulte’s daughter Teu
Aiten Tanúr soter Merpon Kalatnenis – Aiten Tanur’s sister, Merpon Kalatnenis
Filatos Patenarnuis Balestenak – my son Patenarnius the Palestine
and zeti Sut lakut Treten – and my son in law Sut Iakut the Third
Teletaúm polem – from the city of Tell Tayinat
Tinu sotris eús – Tin, protect them.

The toponyms that appear in my translation – Sidon, Tartus and Tell Tayinat, are all in the region of modern day Lebanon. In the period when this inscription was written, this region was known as Palistin (hence Balestenak). Moreover, Palistin was reffered to as Patin/Pattin from the 8-7 century BC. Perhaps this is where the name Patenarnius comes from.

The official reading compared to my reading:

mimnis. erút . gaarestades – mimnis erutka arestades
The letter G is marked as C in the text. I read it as K. I also break the words differently as double AA sound seem unconvincing and a small mark on the stone can simply be a result of aging.

rotnem. úvlin. parten_. ús – dotnem uvlin partenus
The differences between the letters D and P are very subtle in all ancient scripts. The words parten us sound more natural together.

polem. isairon . – polem isaidon
Once again, P=D

tetsut . tratnesi. – – Same as the original
krustenag . trút . ipiem. – Same as the original

rotnem/s/silútúis . – dotnemlutium
The author was not sure how to read this word. I reffered to the picture of the inscription.

?alú. isperion. – thalu isperion
The author was not sure how to read this symbol that looks like a Greek “theta”. I read it as such.

vúltes . rotem. teú – vultes dotem teu
Same as above.

aiten . tasur – alten tanur
After reffering to the image of the inscription, I believe that this is an N, not S.

soter. merpon . kalatnenis – Same as the original
vilatos . paten. arnius – Same as the original, except that “patenarnius” is together.

balestenag. – balestenak (becase the original letter is C)

ands . et – and zet

Sút. i/lakút . treten . – Same as the original
teletaúnem. polem. – Same as the original

tisu . sotris. eús – tinu sotris eus
Once again, I think that this is an N, not S.

In other words, my differences in reading are very subtle, but they significantly change the reading, making it much more comprehensable.

The explanation of my translation of the Novilara stele

Mimnis erútka Arestades – Aresta wrote on this monument

Mimnis is a cognate with the Oscan “memnis”, and Latin “memento”, meaning monument, thing of a memory.
Erutka could be a cognate with Latin “erudit” which originally designated a person who can read and write. This word for writing is also a cognate with the word “rune” and Slavic “rezati, urezati” – meaning “to carve in”. See here.
Arestades then must be a personal name, probably Aresta, as from the next line we see that it is the female who wrote it.

dotnem Uvlin Partenús – daughter of Uvlin Partenus
The word “dotnem” is a form of Slavic “duti/doti” – “daughter”. The English word has the same PIE root. See here.
Uvlin Partenus is the name of her father. Perhaps all the lettes V should be read as F, so the name would be Uflin.

polem Isaidon  – from the city of Isaidon (Sidon)
Polem is a cognate with Greek “πόλις” (polis) – city. See here.
Polem is also a cognate with the Slavic word “polje” – “field” which is probably in the root of the Greek word, as it cannot be the oposite. “-polje” is a common suffix in Slavic toponyms. See here.
Isaidon probably reffers to the city of Sidon in Lebanon. The Arabs called it Ṣaydūn. See here.

tetsut Tratnesi – of the Tartessian nation
tetsut would be a form of PIE “tewtéh₂“, meaning “tribe, people”. See here.

Kruntenak Trút Ipiem dotnemlútúim – King Trut Ipie’s daughters
The first word Kruntenak is obscure. I could be wrong, but I see it as a compound word from Slavic “kruna” – “crown” (cognates) and tenere – to hold. See here. In other words, “crown-holder” – king.
Trút Ipie – A personal name
dotnemlútúim – ”daughters” – plural of “doti”.

Thalú Isperion – Thalu (and) Isperion
The names of the daughters

Vúltes dotem Teú – Vulte’s daughter Teu
Vulte (or Fulte) – a personal name.
dotem Teú – daughter Teu.

Aiten Tanúr soter Merpon Kalatnenis – Aiten Tanur’s sister, Merpon Kalatnenis
Aiten Tanur is a personal name. Aiten could be a cognate with the Greek Athens.
soter – The word “soter” means “saviour” in ancient Greek. See here. However, judging by the context, I believe that here it means “sister”. See here.
Merpon Kalatnenis – the name of the sister. The name Merpona also appears in the Rhaetic inscriptions (in my translation). See here.

Filatos Patenarnuis Balestenak – my son Patenarnius the Palestine
Filatos could be a cognate with the Latin “filus” – son. See here.
Paternarius Balestenak – The name of the son. Balestenak probably meant “from the Palistin”. This word also sounds like the Slavic toponym Bela Stena (white rock). See here.

and zeti Sut lakut Treten – and my son in law Sut Iakut the Third
The word and is the same word as the English “and”. This word appears in other, officialy accepted readings of the Iberian peninusla. In Lusitanian inscriptions it is marked as “indo” and “indi”. The neighbours of the Lusitanians were the Tartessians. Their name sounds similar to Tratnesi from this isncription. More on that later.
zeti – This could be a cognate of Slavic “zet”, meaning “son in law”. See here.
Sut Iakut – a personal name.
Treten – the third, from a common IE root.

Teletaúm polem – from the city of Tell Tayinat
Polem means that wer are dealing with another city.
I believe that the best match is the ancient city of Tel Tayinat – the capital of the ancient Palistin.

Tinu sotris eús – Tin, save us. (or “to Tin, our saviour”)
Tinu is a vocative form of Tin. Tin was the god of the sky and the highest god in Etruscan mythology, equivalent to the Roman Jupiter and the Greek Zeus. The invokation of his name makes perfect sense if we consider the time period of the inscription, and the geographical area where it was discovered.
Sotris – “protect/save”, from “soter” – “saviour”.
Eus – them, a cognate with French “eux” – “they”. See here.

In conclusion, the text in this inscription is a prayer to Tin, from a woman named Aresta, and for the safe passage of her family members. It is not clear if this relates to the passage to the afterlife, or a sea voyage to the other side of the Mediterranean sea. Their orgins were clearly not in Italy, but around modern-day Lebanon.

Final thoughts

The kingdom of Palistin (or Walistin) was a small kingdom located in what is now Lebanon, Syria, and Israel.

The kingdom of Palistin was founded by the Philistines, a group of Sea Peoples who migrated to the region in the 12th century BC. The Philistines were a seafaring people who came from the Aegean region. They were skilled warriors and sailors, and they quickly established themselves in the region.

The kingdom of Palistin was a powerful kingdom in its early years. It was able to withstand attacks from the Egyptians and the Assyrians. However, in the 7th century BC, the kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians. The Assyrians destroyed the capital of Palistin, and they deported many of the Philistines.

After the fall of the kingdom of Palistin, the Philistines never regained their former power. They eventually assimilated into the surrounding cultures, and their language and culture disappeared.

Were the Philistines of the Scythian stock?

As I’ve already mention in my article on the sea peoples (see here), one of the main cities of the Philistines was Ashkelon. See here. The Greek name for this city was Scythopolis – the city of the Scythians. And even the Hebrew word “Ashkenaz” designates those who have the Scythian origin.

In the light of this translation, I would like to add that even the name of the city of Sidon could have the Scythian origin. In this form “Isaidon” it sounds like the name of the mysterious Scthian tribe of “Issedoni”, whom Herodotus mentions in the 5th century BC. See here.

According to Herodotus, the Issedones lived in the region of the Jaxartes River (modern Syr Darya), north of the Massagetae. They were a nomadic people, who lived in tents and herded livestock. They were also skilled warriors, and they were known for their use of bows and arrows.

The Issedones were a wealthy people, and they were known for their gold and silver mines. They were also known for their trade with other peoples, including the Greeks and the Chinese.

The emense value of this stele lies in the fact that it opens a window into the language of the last Philistines, and perhaps the Issedoni.

The Phillistines in ancient Iberia and Italy?

As I already mentioned in an older article (see here), the name of Iberian peninsula sounds the same as the Iberia in the Caucasus. Could it be that both regions were named by the same group of people? In my translation, the word Tratnesi reffers to the city of Tartus, but with an attribute “nation” and not the “city” – polis.

Could this be the same tribe that appears in ancient Iberia as the Tartessians? And could this claim be further supported by the use of the word “and”, which is similar to the Iberian “indo/indu” and finally the English “and”?

Could it be that after their empire crumbled, those of the Phillistines who did not want to be subdued, ventured across the seas in their mighty ships, in the search of the new land?

And finally, is this migration of the Phillistines what Herodotus was reffering to, when he claimed that the Etruscan origins lie between Lydia and Egypt? Perhaps he simply knew that a large group of people had settled in Italy from that general area.

We often hear that the Latin alphabet traces its origin to the Phoenican script. But the fact is that the origin of that script lies in Byblos, modern-day Lebanon. See here.

The fact is also that the Sabines of Italy used an alphabet that shares almost 50% of the letters with the Sabeans of the modern-day Yemen. See here.

There is so much more history waiting to be discovered.

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