Tuesday, September 06, 2005

ukriper fisiu tutaper ikuvina

Spent the day in Gubbio (Latin Iguvium, Umbrian Ikuvium) today: took the bus from Perugia. I got there just at noon, which is when the museums close for lunch/siesta, so my first destination was the funivia (chair-lift, minus the chair) that ascends Monte Ingino to the Basilica of St. Ubaldo (whose pickled body lies atop the altar). Before I visited the basilica, though, I climbed the path behind it to the summit of the mount, the ukar fisiu (Fisian mount) of the Iguvine Tables (q.v. sub). It was a perfect day for it: the sun was out but not blazing, there was a gentle breeze; there were bees and butterflies and the buzzing of cicadas. There's a medieval-looking tower at the top, well-maintained, behind the large metal scaffold used every December to hold a giant star when the entire hill becomes the world's largest "Christmas tree." The view is spectacular, which combined with the thrill of being on a mountain sacred to the ancient Umbrians made for an awesome experience. There's a kind of blue thistle that grows on the top, apparently a plant much loved by snails: I saw them on nearly every stalk. Back down in the basilica, I also saw the three ceri ("candles"), enormous wooden pillars run through town and up to the basilica every May 15, in celebration of the saint. Some see in this run a survival of Umbrian rituals outlined in the Iguvine Tables.

The funivia closes between 1:15 and 2:30, but I didn't mind being stranded. I wandered around the three summits of Ingino and relaxed. After the mountain, the museums were underwhelming. The seven Iguvine Tables (Tavole Eugubine in Italian), which in themselves make up about 95% of the surviving records of the ancient Umbrian language, were mounted rather quaintly in glass-and-wood swivel cases in a room off to one side. The first tablet was even mounted upside-down... it should have been possible to swivel it to read correctly, but the mechanism was stuck. The light from the window reflecting on the glass made them a bit difficult to read, not to mention next to impossible to photograph. I know they've been professionally photographed (indeed, I bought a book with such photographs afterwards), but there's nothing quite like taking your own pictures of something. I suppose it's a sort of poor substitute for the experience of killing a man in battle and despoiling his corpse.

The tablets describe in great detail the purification of the entire state of Ikuvium and the lustration of the army, among other things. They are the basis of our understanding of the Umbrian culture, which materially is not sufficiently different from other Sabellic and Etruscan cultures to distinguish archaeologically.

The remainder of the two museums was mediocre. They're divided into the Museo Civico (which houses the Tables, some quotidian Latin inscriptions, glossy medieval ceramic and some paintings) and the Museo Archeologico (a case of Umbrian spearpoints, some bits of pottery, some more humdrum Latin, statuary bits and such). I also hit the Roman theater, nothing out of the ordinary, but well-enough preserved that they still put on performances in it. An Antiquarium nearby, which promised mosaics from the surrounding area, looked open but turned out to be locked. In any case, the trip up the mountain was worth the whole trip.

Tomorrow, I believe I'll head south to the city of Todi, which is mentioned in the Tables...

...totam tarsinatem trifo tarsinatem tuscom naharcom iabuscom nome /
totar tarsinater trifor tarsinater tuscer naharcer iabuscer nomner nerf sihitu ansihitu iouie hostatu /
anhostatu tursitu tremitu hondu holtu ninctu nepitu sonitu sauitu preplotatu preuilatu

the Tadinate (= of Todi) town, the Tadinate territory, the Tuscan, the Narcan, the Iapodic name, the veterans in office and not in office, the young men under arms and not under arms, of the Tadinate town, of the Tadinate territory, of the Tuscan, the Narcan, the Iapodic name: terrify them and cause them to tremble, defeat and ruin them, kill and annihilate them, wound and ulcerate them, shackle and fetter them!

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