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|Region||Apulian region of Italy|
|Era||attested 6th to 1st century BCE|
Messapian (/ -, - -/,; also known as Messapic) is an extinct Indo-European language of southeastern Italy, once spoken in the region of Apulia. It was spoken by the three Iapygian tribes of the region: the Messapians, the Peucetians and the Daunians. The language has been preserved in about 300 inscriptions written in the Greek alphabet and dating from the 6th to the 1st century BC. It became extinct after the Roman conquest of the region, which began during the late 4th century BC.
Ancient traditions held that the ancestors of Messapian speakers came to Southeastern Italy (present-day Apulia) from Illyria, in the Western Balkans, in the early first millennium BC. The Messapian language is generally considered similar to the Illyrian languages, although this has been debated as a mostly speculative grouping, as Illyrian languages are themselves poorly attested.
The Illyro-Messapian theory is supported by a series of common personal and place names from both sides of the Adriatic Sea. Proposed cognates in Illyrian and Messapian, respectively, include: Dazios/Dazes, Laidias/Ladi-, Platōr/Plator-, Apulus/Apuli, Dalmata/Dalmathus, Ana/Ana, Dei-paturos/Da-matura.
Most of the inscriptions consist of names of deceased inscribed on gravestones and few Messapic inscriptions have been definitely deciphered.
From the Vaste inscription (Corpus Inscriptionum Messapicarum 149), a passage that probably consists mostly of personal names:
klohi zis thotoria marta pido vastei basta veinan aran in daranthoa vasti staboos xohedonas daxtassi vaanetos inthi trigonoxo a staboos xohetthihi dazimaihi beiliihi inthi rexxorixoa kazareihi xohetthihi toeihithi dazohonnihi inthi vastima daxtas kratheheihi inthi ardannoa poxxonnihi a imarnaihi
daus apistathi vinaihi
to the infernal Thaotor
set up [the rest untranslated]
Here, klauhi probably means "hear" (< PIE *kleu-, "to hear"); Zis has been interpreted as the Messapic Zeus; Dekias is a first name (compare Latin Decius); Artahias is a patronym or nomen gentile with the Messapic genitive -as suffix; Thautori is inferred to be an infernal god because of its placement next to what appears to be an adjective, andirahho (perhaps from PIE *ndher-, "under"). It is similar to Tartarus, a classical Greek name for the realm of Hades.
Another Messapic inscription from Galatina is dated to the 2nd century BC:
klohi zis avithos thotorridas ana aprodita apa ogrebis
The separation of the last two elements is uncertain (apa, ogrebis, as shown here). Klohi (as klauhi in the preceding inscription) probably means "listen, hear". Zis may be the Messapic Zeus, as in the preceding inscription. Aprodita is a loanword from Greek Aphrodite. Avithos Thotorridas is a Messapic anthroponym, showing a personal name plus patronymic or nomen gentile in the genitive (-as). It may be related to "Thautori", mentioned in the Vaste inscription.
The Messapian language is preserved in a scanty group of perhaps fifty inscriptions, of which only a few contain more than proper names, and in a few glosses in ancient writers collected by Mommsen (Unteritalische Dialekte, p. 70). Unluckily very few originals of the inscriptions are now in existence, though some few remain in the museum at Taranto. The only satisfactory transcripts are those given by:
- Mommsen (loc. cit.)
- John P Droop in the Annual of the British School at Athens (1905–1906), xli. 137, who includes, for purposes of comparison, as the reader should be warned, some specimens of the unfortunately numerous class of forged inscriptions.
A large number of the inscriptions collected by Gamurrini in the appendices to Fabretti's Corpus inscriptionum italicarum are forgeries, and the text of the rest is negligently reported. It is therefore safest to rely on the texts collected by Mommsen, encumbered though they are by the various readings given to him by various authorities. Despite these difficulties, however, some facts of considerable importance have been established.
The inscriptions, so far as it is safe to judge from the copies of the older finds and from Droop's facsimiles of the newer, are all in the Tarentine-Ionic alphabet. Dates were probably within the range of 400-150 BC; the two most important inscriptions—those of Brindisi and Vaste may be assigned, provisionally, to the 3rd century BC. Mommsen's first attempt at dealing with the inscriptions and the language attained solid, if not very numerous, results, chief of which were the genitival character of the endings -aihi and -ihi; and the conjunctional value of inthi (loc. cit. 79-84 sg(1).
Since 1850 little progress has been made. The Norwegian scholar Alf Torp (1853–1916) in Indogermanische Forschungen (1895), V, 195, deals fully with the two inscriptions just mentioned, and practically sums up all that is either certain or probable in the conjectures of his predecessors. Hardly more than a few words can be said to have been separated and translated with certainty–kalatoras (masc. gen. sing.) "of a herald" (written upon a herald's staff that was once in the Naples Museum); aran (acc: sing. fem.) "arable land"; mazzes, "greater" (neut. acc. sing.), the first two syllables of the Latin maiestas; while tepise (3rd sing. aorist indic.) "placed" or "offered"; and forms corresponding to the article (ta = Greek to) seem also probable.
The proper names in the inscriptions show the regular Italic system of gentile nomen preceded by a personal praenomen; and that some inscriptions show the interesting feature that appears in the Tables of Heraclea of a crest or coat of arms, such as a triangle or an anchor, peculiar to particular families. The same reappears in the Iovilae of Capua and Cumae.
|Messapian lexical item||Proposed cognates|
|Bréntion (from Messapian bréndon, bréntion) (Brindisi, Italy)||
Swedish brinde ("elk"), Latvian briêdis ("deer"), Lithuanian briedis, ("elk"), Old Prussian braydis, ("elk"), Thracian Brendike  (which was a Thracian toponym located just east of Dikaia) Albanian bri, brî - pl. brirë, brinë ("horn"; "antler") [< late Proto-Albanian *brina < earlier *brena ]. The Messapian word is glossed early as "deer", then narrowed in meaning to a deer's head (cf. Strabo caput cervi), then possibly by metonymy to its antlers in early Albanian, and by extension and excrescence, thus modern "horn".
|Menzana||cf. Albanian mëz - meza ("foal")|
|penkaheh||Torp identifies this as the Messapian word for the number "five", from PIE *penkwe-, "five" (Lithuanian penki (five), (Albanian pesë (five)|
|apa = "from"||Alb. Gheg dialect pi (PI < apa) ("from") or pa (PA < apa) ("without"), Greek apó, Sanskrit ápa|
|bilia = "daughter"||Latin filia, Albanian bijë - "bija" ("daughter") older dialect bilë - "bila" ("daughter")|
|ma = "not"||Greek mē, Sanskrit mā, Albanian ma, me, mos|
- Messapian at MultiTree on the Linguist List
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Messapic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Carpenter, Lynch & Robinson 2014, p. 18.
- Mallory & Adams 1997, pp. 378f.
- Fronda, Michael P. (2006). "Livy 9.20 and Early Roman Imperialism in Apulia". Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte. 55 (4): 397–417. ISSN 0018-2311. JSTOR 4436827.
- Wilkes 1992, p. 68: "...the Messapian language recorded on more than 300 inscriptions is in some respects similar to Balkan Illyrian. This link is also reflected in the material culture of both shores of the southern Adriatic. Archaeologists have concluded that there was a phase of Illyrian migration into Italy early in the first millennium BC."
- Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 278.
- West 2007, p. 15...To these can be added a larger body of inscriptions from south-east Italy in the Messapic language, which is generally considered to be Illyrian...
- Woodard 2008, p. 11...A linking of the two languages, Illyrian and Messapic must however remain a linguistically unverifiable hypothesis..
- West 2007, p. 140, 176.
- Mallory, J. P.; Adams, Douglas Q. (1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Taylor & Francis. pp. 378f. ISBN 978-1-884964-98-5.
- Orel, Vladimir. Albanian Etymological Dictionary. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1998.
- Orel, Vladimir. A Concise Historical Grammar of the Albanian Language: Reconstruction of Proto-Albanian. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2000.
- Kapović, Mate; Ramat, Anna Giacalone; Ramat, Paolo (2017-01-20). The Indo-European Languages. Taylor & Francis. p. 556. ISBN 978-1-317-39153-1.
- W. B. Lockwood, A Panorama of Indo-European languages, Hutchinson, 1972, p. 185
- Carpenter, T. H.; Lynch, K. M.; Robinson, E. G. D. (2014-08-28). The Italic People of Ancient Apulia: New Evidence from Pottery for Workshops, Markets, and Customs. Cambridge University Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-139-99270-1.
- Mallory, James P.; Adams, Douglas Q. (1997), Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, London: Routledge, ISBN 978-1-884964-98-5
- West, Morris L. (2007). Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199280759.
- Mallory, James P.; Adams, Douglas Q., eds. (1997), Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, London: Routledge, ISBN 978-1-884964-98-5, (EIEC)
- Wilkes, J. J. (1995), The Illyrians, Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 0-631-19807-5
- Woodard, Roger D. (10 April 2008). The Ancient Languages of Europe. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-139-46932-6.
For a discussion of the important ethnological question of the origin of the Messapians see:
- Wolfgang Helbig, Hermes, xi. 257
- P. Kretschmer, Einleitung in die Geschichte der griechischen Sprache, pp. 262 sqq., 272 sqq.
- H. Hirt, Die sprachliche Stellung der Illyrischen (Festschrift für H. Kiepert, pp. 179–188)
- Civiltà messapica (in Italian)
- Archaeologists find western world's oldest map. Telegraph Newspaper Online, November 19, 2005.
- Ancient Illyrian languages, perhaps allied to Messapian