Conferences in connection with the ‘The Etruscans, a Mediterranean civilisation’ exhibition
By Dominique Briquel, professor emeritus from the University of Sorbonne, distinguished director of studies at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
The Etruscans left behind a significant number of inscriptions (around 12,000), which is much more than what we have recovered from the same period in Latin. Etruscan inscriptions can be read without too much difficulty, but for the Etruscan, the term often used for ‘deciphering’ is incorrect. Etruscans adopted Greek writing and then took this to the Latins, meaning that the Latin alphabet that we use is actually a modified Etruscan alphabet. But we do not have a full grasp of the meaning of our documents, because we do not have a perfect understanding of the language. We can understand gravestone inscriptions easily, but they only provide the name of the deceased. As soon as we have to deal with longer texts, that is where we run into difficulties, even if much conclusive research has been conducted.