Greek in Italy

Project Research Blog

Did what with Hannibal?

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From Wikimedia Commons (

Hannibal Crossing the Alps, by Heinrich Leutemann. Note the unfortunate elephant.

As I write, the final stages of the Second Punic War have begun. It’s not looking good for Hannibal – he’s holed up in the toe of Italy, his brother’s been killed, the Romans have taken control of most of Spain, and they’re preparing to attack Carthage itself. It all looked so promising earlier on, as he climbed over the alps with his elephants and swept through Italy (although, unfortunately, all but one of the elephants was killed in his first battle against the Romans). As he went he picked up allies from the local peoples, who were not necessarily particularly enamoured of Roman power (despite being officially ‘allies’ of Rome). Eve McDonald gives a nice example of this on p.115 of ‘Hannibal, a Hellenistic Life’, from a gravestone of an Etruscan man, Larth Felsnas, who lived to be 106 (a mere stripling, compared to Ahvdio from Teanum Sidicinum) and who claimed to have fought with Hannibal.

Now, apart from the fact that anyone who says they are 106 may well be inclined to telling tall tales, is that really what he says? The appropriate part of the inscription reads murce capue tleχe hanipaluscle (it is number Ta 1.107 in Rix’s Etruskische Texte ). I’m no expert on Etruscan, but it seems as though no-one actually knows for certain what either of the verbs murce and tleχe means: the best that can be said is murce is an active past tense verb, and tleχe (probably) a passive past tense verb. So the most conservative translation is ‘Larth Felsna did something at Capua and was somethinged in (?) the something (?) of Hannibal’. Clearly – if we’re to trust the inscription at all – something happened to him in the Hannibalic war: but which side was he on?.

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