A Comprehensive Translation of the Pyrgi Tablets Etruscan Inscription

The Pyrgi Tablets are one of the most significant archaeological discoveries pertaining to the ancient Etruscan civilization. Found in 1964 near the town of Pyrgi in Italy, these tablets date back to around the 5th century BCE. They hold immense historical importance because they provide one of the few bilingual texts in Etruscan and Phoenician, offering valuable insights into both languages.

The tablets were discovered at the site of an ancient sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Uni, who was assimilated with the Phoenician goddess Astarte. This discovery underscores the interactions and cultural exchanges between the Etruscans and the Phoenicians, two of the most influential civilizations in the Mediterranean during the first millennium BCE.

The Pyrgi Tablets are made of gold and inscribed with texts. The bilingual nature of these inscriptions has been instrumental in advancing the understanding of the Etruscan language, which remains only partially deciphered and is a subject of considerable academic interest. The Phoenician inscription is a dedication by the Tyrsenian (Etruscan) king Tiberie Velianas to the goddess Astarte, while the Etruscan inscriptions seem to parallel this content.

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The Phoenician portion of the inscription has been largely translated with a high degree of accuracy. However, the Etruscan section often contains numerous gaps or lacks consistency. It is virtually impossible to find a full translation of the Etruscan text that is logical, natural, and consistent.

In this article, I will present my interpretation of the entire Etruscan text.

The Phoenician Inscription of the Pyrgi Tablets

Before delving into the Etruscan text, it’s essential to understand the Phoenician inscription. Similar to the Rosetta Stone, these two inscriptions must align in meaning.

The Phoencian text reads:

lrbt lʻštrt
For the Lady, for Astarte
ʼšr qdš ʼz, ʼš pʻl, wʼš ytn tbryʼ wlnš, mlk ʻl kyšry
this is the holy place, which was made, and which was placed by Tiberius Velianas, king over Kasriye
,yrḥ zbḥ šmš, bmtnʼ bbtb
during the month of the sacrifice to the Sun, as an offering in the temple
wbn tw, kʻštrt ʼrš bdy, lmlky šnt šlš ///, byrḥ krr, bym qbr ʼlm
And he built a chamber because Astarte requested this from him, year three “3” of his reign, in the month of Krr, on the day of the burial of the divinity
wšnt lmʼš ʼlm bbty šnt km h kkb m ʼl
And may the years of the statue of the deity in her temple be as numerous as the stars

My translation of the Etruscan Inscription of the Pyrgi Tablets

First plate

Ita tmia icac heramašva 
This temple and this statue
vatiexe Unial-Astres 
dedicated to Uni-Astarte
themiasa mex thuta
were built for res publica
Thebariei Velianas sal Cluvenias
by Thiberie Velianas, king of Clusium.
Turuce munistas thuvas tameresca
He gifted to this place this holy sanctuary
ilacve tulerase nac ci avil
when he had ruled for three years.
Xurvar tesiameitale ilacve Alšase 
The altars were consecrated in the month of July
nac atranes zilacal seleitala acnašvers
when the main priest of temple made the fire offerings.
Itanim heramve avil eniaca pulumxva
May the years of this statue be as numerous as the stars.

Second plate

Nac Thebarie Veliiunas thamuce cleva etanal
When Thiberie Veliiunas put offerings in the shrine
masan Tiur Unias šelace vacal
the priests of Tiur and Uni made their libations. 
tmial avilxval amuce pulumxva snuiaφ
May the temple years be as eternal as the rotating stars.

Each word explained

Virtually all Etruscan words were sourced from a single glossary that is feely available online:

Etruscan Glossary – Compilation and translations from French, Italian and Latin 
by Rick Mc Callister and Silvia Mc Callister-Castillo ©1999
See here.

There were only a few instances where I had to refer to other sources.

Below is an explanation of each line in the text, with references included. I included all related terms from the glossary, for clearer understanding, but I’ve highlighted the terms I’ve chosen for my translation.

Ita tmia icac heramašva 
This temple and this statue

ita, eta, ta “this” nominative demonstrative pronoun [am91, g/lb83, mcv] 
“istud” [am91, mc91, pa, dep] 
itan, itun, etn, tn “this” accusative demonstrative pronoun [mcv, pa]
itanim “this” [lb 299]
see ta “this” [am91, mc91, pa, dep]
see Latin istud “this” [dep]
see Russian eto “this” [dep]
see Greek to “the” [dep]
see Gothic thata “this” [dep]
see Sanskrit tah “this” [dep]
see Indo-European *to- [b/k 32, mcv 9 Feb99]

tmase “building” [az96]
tmia, timia “temple, sacred place” [az96, lb 299, mcv 8 Nov 96, g/lb83, mp68: 407, pa, dep]
“offer, offering” [am91]
“enclosure” [mc91: 73]
tmial “of the temple” [mcv 8 Nov 96]
see tam [dep]
see Greek tmé:dên, tmé:tikós [am91]
see Latin templum “temple” [mp68]

ica-c “and this” [mcv 8 Nov 96]

heramaSva, heramsva, heramue, heramve “statue” [lb 199, mc91: 73, mcv 8 Nov 96]
“proclaimed by an oracle, profatus est” [az96]

vatiexe Unial-Astres 
dedicated to Uni-Astarte

vatiexe “pledged” [az96]
“dedicated” [lb 299] 

“have been dedicated” [mcv 8 Nov 96]

uni, unei “Juno” [az96, cb, djh 95, g/lb83, mc91: 53, EM]
mother of Hercle [EM]
patroness of Perugia [EM]
uni mae celestial deity [mp68: 251]
unialastres “to Uni-Astre” [mcv 8 Nov 96]
*uni-al astre-s “of Uni, of Ishtar?” [rmcc]
unias “to Uni” [mcv 8 Nov 96]
uniiathi, unialthi “in Juno’s temple” [az96]
see un “to grant” [az96]
see Latin Juno [az96, cb, djh 95, g/lb83, mc91: 53, EM]

themiasa mex thuta
were built for res publica

tham-, thamce, thamuce “to build, found, put” [g/lb83, gg 4 Mar 99, mp68, pa]
thamce, thamuce, themiasa < tham-, them- “(has) commanded, disposed” [az96]

The term “Res publica” translates as “general public, public matter, affair”. More on res publica here.

mex “nation” [pa, dep]
“strong, great” [am91, az96]
“lord” [lb 299]
mex, mex-l “people, league, nation” [g/lb83, mp68]
mexl “territory” [g/lb85: 120]
“the greatest” [az96]
mex thuta “res publica” [mcv 8 Nov 96]
see methlum “district, territory” [g/lb83, mp68]
see zilath mexl rasnal, zilath mexlum raSneas “praetor of Etruria” [g/lb83, mp68]
mean, meian- “manificence, greatness” [az96]
*meghi-an-, *megh-an- [az96]
“Nike, Victoria (crowns others with wreath)” [g/lb83] 
“Gloria (goddess)” [az96]
*mak-, makh-, mek, -mekh- [az96]
see Latin maximus [az96]
see Latin pagus “village, district” [dep]

Thebariei Velianas sal Cluvenias
by Thiberie Velianas, king of Clusium.

If it weren’t for the Phoenician text, I would be inclined to translate this “the propher of Sol”. However, the Phoencian inscription clearly mentions the work m-l-k – “king”, and that is followed by “over Kasriye“. For this reason, I translated this as “king of Clusium”. The ancient name of Clusium stems from the Etruscan ‘cluva” – “offering”, and this ancient city was not very far from Pyrgi. The Etruscans called it Clevsin.

sal “Sol?” [mcv 8 Nov 96]
Sal “king, pontifex” [az96]

cluvenias “offerfeast ?” [mcv 8 Nov 96]
“oracle” [az96]
“precinct or enclosure (of Athena)” [htb]
clevana “seer, prophet” [az96]

Turuce munistas thuvas tameresca
He gifted to this place this holy sanctuary

tur-, tur-a, tur-e, tur-i, tur-u, tur-une, “to give, dedicate” [am91, cb, v, g/lb83, mc91, pa, dep] 
turan “given” [am91]
turu “donator, giver” [az96] 
“dedicated” [mc91]
tur-u-ce, tur-un-ke, tur-i-ce, tur-ce, tiurke “s/he gave (it), given, s/he dedicated” [am91, az96, cb, v, g/lb83, mc91, lb 299, mcv, pa] 
tur-une “cession, yielding’ [mp68: 405]
“gave” [az96]
turuce “s/he dedicated” [pa]

mun-, muni, muni-s, muni-s-ta-s, muni-cle-th, muni-cle-t, muni ule-th, muni-vle-th, mun-sle, mun-th “place, hypogeal place, tomb” [cw 43, g/lb83, mp68, pa, dep]
munistas “this place” [lb 299]

thuva, thuve “guarded place, cell” [az96]
thue, thuve “protected place” [az96]
thuvas “of this sacred place” [lb 299] 
“of his own/private” [mcv 8 Nov 96]
thval “pertaining to the priesthood” [am91]
see Italian tutrice [az96]

tamera, tameru, tamere-s-ca “chamber, tomb, chapel, arc, home” [az96] 
tam-eresca “temple building, sanctuary, arc” [az96] 
see tam [rmcc]
see tm-ia [mcv 8 Nov 96]
see Latin taberna “shop” of Etruscan origin [bm 24-25, g/lb85: 82, nv 73]
see Indo-European *dom- [mcv 8 Nov 96]
tameresca “promoter” [lb 299]

ilacve tulerase nac ci avil
when he had ruled for three years.

Virtually every translation of this text translates the word Tulerase as the name of a month. This is probably because it follows the word “ilacve” which can mean “calends” (although this is not certain). However, the name of the month Tuleras isn’t attested in any other inscription.

On the other hand, the Phoencian inscription clearly states that he had ruled for 3 years when he built the temple. Therefore, my original suggestion would be that this word is related to the Latin “tuleras”, which is a second-person singular pluperfect active indicative of ferō. One of the meanings of this word was “to lead”.

Similarly, the word “ilacve” in my opinion means “when, at that time”. I base my translation on the Latin “illo tempore”, with the same meaning. Illo is the ablative singular masculine form of “ille,” which is a demonstrative pronoun. “Illo” can be translated as “by that,” “with that,” or “in that,” depending on the context. The ablative case in Latin often denotes means or agency, and in this context, it’s typically used to indicate time.

ilacve, ilucve “on the one hand” [lb 299] 
“as well as ?” [mcv 8 Nov 96] 
“calends?” [mp68, pa]

tul “to divide, assign” [az96]
act associated with religion [mp68: 409]
*dvel [az96]
tul, tular, tularu “limit(s), border, lot, boundaries” [am91, ag 79, az96, mc91: 146/150, mcv, mp68, v, g/lb83, pa]
“established” [lb 299]
tul “to divide, share, assign” [az96]
act associated with religion [mp68: 409]
“stone, border” [dep]
“stone” [ag 79, g/lb83]
tulalu “divider” [az96]
tulerase “enclosure?” [az91?]
tuler, tulera month name [az96]

nac “as, how, so, because, then, when, why” [az96, g/lb83, lb 299, mcv, mp68, pa, dep]

ci, cis, ciS “three” [am91, cb. g/lb83, mc91, mp68]

avil “year” [cb, g/lb83, lb 90, mp 75, v, pa, dep, gzb]
“year(s)” [ag 79, mp68, rab 332]
“years; aged xxx years” [pa]
“per year” [mc91]
avils, avilS “years”
“years of age” [mc91]
avilxva, avilxval “anniversary, yearly” [g/lb83 56, mp68]
“to the year-count” [mcv 8 Nov 96]
avilxva “annual, yearly” [dep, pa]
avil + adjectival suffix -xva [dep]
avil “year” [pa, dep, gzb]
avils “year, season” [gm97]
see Lemnian aviz [mp68: 99]
see Lemnian avis [ayma@tip.nl, mp68]
see Gothic aiws “eternity” [dep]
see Latin aevus “time, eternity” [dep]
see Greek ayôn “lifetime” [dep]
see Albanese eshë “timespan” [dep]
see Old Irish aes “life, age” [dep]
see Indo-European *aiwon “lifetime” [dep]
see Nostratic *h.aju “to live” [ag 79]

Xurvar tesiameitale ilacve Alšase 
The altars were consecrated in the month of July

xurvar “Churvar (month)” [mcv]
see Phoenician KRR in Pyrgi tablets [mcv]
xurvar (plural) “fires, altars?” [az96]

teSiameitale “(were) dedicated, indicated” [az96]
teSiameitale “she favors him?” [mcv 8 Nov 96]

alS, alSa “July” [az96]
alSase “in July” [az96: 17]

nac atranes zilacal seleitala acnašvers
when the main priest of the temple made the fire offerings.

nac “as, how, so, because, then, when, why” [az96, g/lb83, lb 299, mcv, mp68, pa, dep]

athre “building” [g/lb83, mp68]
“request, provocation?” [az96]
atranes “relating to ‘building?” [g/lb83, mp68]
“of the temple” [lb 299]

atri, âtrium “atrium” [djh 61, lb 90, mp68/75] 
athre “atrium, hall” [pa, dep]
see Latin atrium [g/lb83, mp68, dep]

zilacal “of the zilac (praetor)” [mcv 8 Nov 96]
zilacei, zilac “Ruler, Queen” [az96]
zilath “(one who) governs, praetor [az96]

Seleita “instituted, ordered” [az96]
seleitala “of the goddess?” [mcv 8 Nov 96]
Seleta “(cosmic) order [az96]
*stel [az96]

acnasvers “funeral? cremation?”
“gave in possession” [lb 299]
see verse “fire” [mcv 8 Nov 96]
acasri “to be offered” [mp68: 409, pa, dep]
acazr “objects offered in the tomb, offered” [g/lb83, 85: 162; mp68, pa, dep]
probably plural form of *cas “offer” [dep]
from same root as acas [dep]
see acnasver “venerable” [az96]
acasri “to be offered” [mp68: 409, pa, dep]
acazr “objects offered in the tomb, offered” [g/lb83, 85: 162; mp68, pa, dep]
probably plural form of *cas “offer” [dep]
from same root as acas [dep]
see acnasver “venerable” [az96]

Itanim heramve avil eniaca pulumxva
May the years of this statue be as numerous as the stars.

ita, eta, ta “this” nominative demonstrative pronoun [am91, g/lb83, mcv] 
“istud” [am91, mc91, pa, dep] 
itan, itun, etn, tn “this” accusative demonstrative pronoun [mcv, pa]
itanim “this” [lb 299]
see ta “this” [am91, mc91, pa, dep]
see Latin istud “this” [dep]
see Russian eto “this” [dep]
see Greek to “the” [dep]
see Gothic thata “this” [dep]
see Sanskrit tah “this” [dep]
see Indo-European *to- [b/k 32, mcv 9 Feb99]

heramaSva, heramsva, heramue, heramve “statue” [lb 199, mc91: 73, mcv 8 Nov 96]
“proclaimed by an oracle, profatus est” [az96]
herm- “to lead, conduct” [am91]
herama “oracle” [az96]
herma, herme “Hermes; statue?” [g/lb83]
herme sacred society dedicated to Hermes [dep]
hermeri “Hermes; statue?” [g/lb83]
“to be led” [am91]
*hermi- “August” [g/lb83]
classical gloss Ermius [g/lb83] 
hermu “Hermes; statue?” [g/lb83]
“having led” [am91]
see Latin herm- “statue of Hermes” [g/lb83, mp68]
see Greek Hermes [dep]

eniaca “just-like” [az96, mcv 8 Nov 96]

pul “beautiful” [az96] 
base of pulum? [az96] 
pulpai, pulpa “shining, splendid” [az96]
pultuce, pultuxe “Pollux, Poludeúkês” [g/lb83, mc91: 45] 
“light-bearing, Lucifer (morning star)” [az96]
pulum “shining, splendid” [az96] 
pulumxva “stars, star-count” [g/lb83, ib 90, mcv 8 Nov 96, mp 68/75, pa, dep]
(that which) shines, firmament” [az96]
see pulcher “beautiful” Latin of Etruscan origin [az96. EB XXII:647]
see Latin splendor [rmcc]

Nac Thebarie Veliiunas thamuce cleva etanal
When Thiberie Veliiunas put offerings in the shrine

nac “as, how, so, because, then, when, why” [az96, g/lb83, lb 299, mcv, mp68, pa, dep]

tham-, thamce, thamuce “to build, found, put” [g/lb83, gg 4 Mar 99, mp68, pa]
thamce, thamuce, themiasa < tham-, them- “(has) commanded, disposed” [az96]

cleva “gift, offering” [g/lb83, mcv 8 Nov 96, mp68: 409]

eta “seat, post” [az96]
etanei “seat” [az96]
see Latin aedes “building, temple, house”
[az96]
etula (oblique) [az96]
*et(h)-/*it- < *sed [az96]
ethava “seat, residence, temple, foundation” [az96]
see Latin sedes “seat, residence, temple, foundation” [az96]

masan Tiur Unias šelace vacal
the priests of Tiur and Uni made their libations. 

Once again, most translations read the word “masan” as the “month” and then name it Tiur. But Tiur was a well-attested Etruscan moon goddess, and the word can also mean “seer, hierophant”. Perhaps it could be even related to the word “messiah” – the “anointed”, especially in the context of the libations that follow.

The word šelace is problematic, and I haven’t found any cognates at the time of publishing this text, but based on the context, which is quite clear, it probably meant smething like “to give, to make”. In many Rhaetic and Venetic inscriptions related to offerings, the word “šai” is present. Perhaps these are different forms of the same word.

masan, masn “Masa” a month [g/lb83, mcv 8 Nov 96, mp68, pa, dep]
masan, masn “seer, hierophant” [az96]

Tiur – Etruscan deity identified with Greek Selene and Roman Luna (goddess)

vacal, vacil, vacl “libation” [g/lb83 56, pa, dep] 
“offering?”
[mcv 8 Nov 96, mp68: 409] 
“augur” [az96]

tmial avilxval amuce pulumxva snuiaφ
May the temple years be as eternal as the rotating stars.

tmase “building” [az96]
tmia, timia “temple, sacred place” [az96, lb 299, mcv 8 Nov 96, g/lb83, mp68: 407, pa, dep]
“offer, offering” [am91]
“enclosure” [mc91: 73]
tmial “of the temple” [mcv 8 Nov 96]
see tam [dep]
see Greek tmé:dên, tmé:tikós [am91]
see Latin templum “temple” [mp68]

avil “year” [cb, g/lb83, lb 90, mp 75, v, pa, dep, gzb]
“year(s)” [ag 79, mp68, rab 332]
“years; aged xxx years” [pa]
“per year” [mc91]
avils, avilS “years”
“years of age” [mc91]
avilxva, avilxval “anniversary, yearly” [g/lb83 56, mp68]
“to the year-count” [mcv 8 Nov 96]
avilxva “annual, yearly” [dep, pa]
avil + adjectival suffix -xva [dep]
avil “year” [pa, dep, gzb]

-xva plural for things [vs/amr 189]

amuce, amuxe “continual, perpetual, eternal” [az96]

pul “beautiful” [az96] 
base of pulum? [az96] 
pulpai, pulpa “shining, splendid” [az96]
pultuce, pultuxe “Pollux, Poludeúkês” [g/lb83, mc91: 45] 
“light-bearing, Lucifer (morning star)” [az96]
pulum “shining, splendid” [az96] 
pulumxva “stars, star-count” [g/lb83, ib 90, mcv 8 Nov 96, mp 68/75, pa, dep]
(that which) shines, firmament” [az96]
see pulcher “beautiful” Latin of Etruscan origin [az96. EB XXII:647]
see Latin splendor [rmcc]

snaus “turn, course” [az96]
snua “to turn (over)” [az96]
snuiaf “run, turn” [az96]

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