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Etruscans, Huns and Hungarians, Introduction

Etruscans, Huns and Hungarians


Prof. Dr. Alfréd Tóth

1. Introduction

Already in 1874, the British priest Isaac Taylor brought up the idea of a genetic relationship between Etruscan and Hungarian (Taylor 1874). Since the very influential linguist August Friedrich Pott accepted this affiliation in the first number of his journal “Internationale Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft” (the very first journal of General Linguistics), it was internationally accepted (Pott 1877, p. 15ss.). In 1917, the German linguist Georg Sigwart showed the relationship between Etruscan and Sumerian (Sigwart 1917, esp. p. 148ss.), by which the relationship between Sumerian, Etruscan and Hungarian was established. The real breakthrough of Etruscan-Hungarian relationship was reached by the famous French orientalist Jules Martha (1853-1932, Professor at the Sorbonne in Paris) in his thorough and exhaustive 500 pp. volume “La langue étrusque” in 1913. Already two years earlier, the French orientalist Baron Carra de Vaux had shown the connections between Etruscan and Altaic Languages (1911). On the XIX. International Congress of Orientalists in Rome, in 1935, Félix von Pográny-Nagy gave a widespread lecture about his own new researches in the field of Etruscan, Hungarian and Sumerian (von Pográny-Nagy 1938), that was only an excerpt of a much bigger work (von Pográny-Nagy 1936-37), that was unfortunately never published. Several Sumerian-Etruscan-Hungarian etymologies came from the famous historian Viktor Padányi in various studies (e.g., Padány 1963, esp. p. 435ss., and 1964). In 1963, Géza Kúr presented a complete translation of the hitherto longest known Etruscan text, the Zagreb Mummy Script, based on the work by Martha (1913).

Shortly after, in 1969, Ambros Josef Pfiffig unfortunately asserted in his otherwise marvelous first Etruscan grammar that Etruscan is a linguistic isolate, but he also stated that it is agglutinative which is incompatible with the assumption that Etruscan is an Indo-European language. This viewpoint was followed by the influenceful Etruscologist Massimo Pallottino (1973) and thus brought the Hungarian-Etruscan studies to stagnate and opened the doors for all those who wanted to prove that Etruscan was Semitic - a view that goes back to the work of the Austrian classical philologist Karlmann Flor (1859- 60) or Indo-European (most recently represented solely by Steinbauer 1999). But already Linus Brunner had shown that Etruscan is not Semitic (Brunner 1984, 1986), although he did not deny that it could be Indo-European, but only since according to him, Proto-Indo-European was also an agglutinative language (Brunner 1969, p. 11).

In 1983, György Zászlós-Zsóka resumed the Etruscan-Hungarian relationship in his work “Toszkánai harangok: Az etruszk nép őszinte története”. In 2003, the Italian linguist Mario Alinei’s work “Etrusco: una forma arcaica di ungherese” appeared, the Hungarian translation two years after under the title “Ősi kapocs” (2005a). At the same time, and, as I want to point out, completely independently from Alinei, my articles “Etruscan-Hungarian word equations”, “Rätisch und Etruskisch: zu einer Neubestimung ihres Verhältnisses” and my chapter “Etruscan and Hungarian” in my “Etymological Dictionary of Hungarian” had been written (all appeared only in 2007, cf. bibliography).

It is very important to state here that Alinei’s work is incompatible with the Sumerian-Hungarian-Etruscan affiliation theory, since it is based on Alinei’s basic two-volumes work about what he calls the “Paleolithic Continuity Hypothesis” (Alinei 1996-2000). According to Alinei, we have in Europe a continuity of languages that goes back much further than, e.g., Proto-Nostratic (ca. 8000-12,000 B.C.), at least to 20’000 B.C. But at that time, the single language families (Indo-European, Semitic, Uralic, etc.) had not yet been dissociated. Thus, Alinei accepts the Uralic theory according to which Hungarian is a part of the Finno-Ugric language family and separates in the very traditional way the “original” Hungarian words from the alleged Turkic and Slavic borrowings. This is also the reason why Alinei - still unscientifically - does not quote any of the Hungarian predecessors of the Etruscan-Hungarian theory except Pográny-Nagy 1938). Since Sumerian originates in Mesopotamia and not in Europe, it does not fit into the frame of Alinei’s Continuity Hypothesis and he thus refuses every possible connections between Sumerian and the Uralic and Altaic families.

But the Etruscan problem is even more complicated, since Rhaetic, an extinct language spoken in the Alpine mountains, was already in the 19th century considered to be an Etruscan dialect. Actually, there were two independent Rhaetic-Etruscan theories. The first goes back to Matthias Koch (1853) and Ludwig Steub (1854) and assumes that the Etruscans came from the North via the Alpine mountains to the South (Tuscany, Latium), thereby leaving a part of them in the area of the Grisons and the Dolomites who became known under the name “Rhaeti” which were first identified with the Etruscans by the Roman historian Livy (Ab urbe condita V 33, 11). This theory of “Alpine Etruscans” has long been proven to be wrong already (Heuberger 1932). The second theory assumes that parts of the Etruscans emigrated around the 4th century B.C. from Tuscany to the North. This theory has recently proven wrong by archeologists (Nothdurfter 1992, Dal Ri 1992, Gleirscher 1993). Marta Sordi has also pointed to the fact that if there were Etruscans in the Alpine valleys, they had to leave geographical names, but as a matter of fact not one name has been proven to be Etruscan in the Rhaetic area (Sordi 1992) while Tuscany is still full of Etruscan place names.

Another important argument concerns the very different cultures of the Etruscans and Rhaetians: While the Etruscan art is displayed in museums all over the world, while their philosophy, politics, agronomy and literature influenced the Roman empire most deeply, there is simply not one Rhaetic picture, sculpture, grave-monument and no trace of Rhaetic influence on the Indo-European tribes (Germanics, Italics, Slavonics etc.) who were neighboring them. On the other side, there are hundreds of clearly Rhaetic place names all over the alpine mountains (cf. Tóth and Brunner 2007, p. 116-145). The proof that Rhaetic was a Semitic language, based on East Semitic Akkadian and most closely related to Amoritic, was shown in a long series of articles by Linus Brunner and me, collected in Brunner and Tóth (1987) and in Tóth and Brunner (2007). While the Etruscans have been identified with the carriers of the Villanova-Culture, the Rhaetians have been identified since the ground-breaking studies by Benedikt Frei with the carriers of the Laugen-Melaun and the Fritzens-Sanzeno cultures (Frei 1958-59, 1970), but the Villanova culture is fully independent from both Rhaetic cultures (Gleirscher 1991, 1993). Nothdurfter (1992) also pointed out that the Etruscans could not have come to the Alpine mountains during the time when the Rhaetic inscriptions start, in the 4th century B.C., since at that time the area in the North of the river Po had been barred by the intruding Celts from Gallia.

But probably because of ideologic reasons - the idea of Semitic people settling in the Alpine valleys must be disturbing in the heads of some Indo-Europeanists whose predecessors belonged in the 19th century to the spiritual forefathers of National Socialist ideology - the Semitic theory of Rhaetic origin was mainly accepted by archaeologists and historians, but hardly any linguists. Therefore, in order to “save” the Etruscan-Rhaetic theory, two methods were invented. The first “method” was Gleirscher’s (1991) who simply asserted that the Rhaeti were not a people but a loose connection of worshippers of the goddess “Reitia” - this in full contradiction with the antique tradition. The second method was more elaborate: Helmut Rix (1998) asserted that Rhaetic was not Etruscan, but a language closely related to Etruscan, more exactly: Etruscan and Rhaetic would belong both to a Tyrrhenian language family, a member of which would be also the (still hardly deciphered) language on the stele of Lemnos. It is almost funny to see that Rix based his whole “evidence” of his alleged Etruscan-Rhaetic-Lemnian family on one single morphological feature, the alleged pertinentive ending, “der das entscheidende Argument für die Annahme einer relativ engen Verwandtschaft des Etruskischen mit dem Lemnischen (...) geliefert hat”/“that delivered the most decisive argument for the assumption of a relatively close affiliation between Etruscan and Lemnian” (Rix 1998, p. 36).

Rix’s word-equation in question is Lemnian avis = Etruscan avil-s “of the year”, by the way not testified in Rhaetic and thus not supporting Rix’ “Tyrrhenian” family, but the Etruscan-Lemnian word av- “year” was clearly proven to be identical with Hung. év “year” by Alinei (2003, p. 47) and before him by Padány (1963/2000). Therefore, Rix’ whole phantasmagory of an alleged “Tyrrhenian” language family brakes together. Moreover, a “Tyrrhenian language family” was already invented by Kretschmer (1943), where all important points of Rix’ theory can be found, but Rix does not even quote Kretschmer’s work. On the other side, the Tyrrhenians were already identified by the ancient Greek historians and linguists with the Etrucans (e.g., Herodotos I 57, 94, 166, 167; VI 17). The superificially different word-stems in Latin Tusci = Greek Tyrsēnoi “Etruscans” are identical, since Latin Tusci < *Tur-sc-i, thus the same stem as in Greek Tur-sēn-oi, and *Tur- can be traced back with Hommel (1906) to Sumerian E-tu-ru “house builder” from which Eridu “House in Faraway Built”1, the oldest of the Sumerian cities, has gotten its name (Hommel 1906, p. 349). Moreover, it is more than probable that the stem *Tur-2 (> Tur-anians) is also the basis of the name of the Turks: The biological-genetic affiliation of the Etruscans and the Turks has very recently been proven (Achilli et al. 2007, Pellecchia et al. 2007).

But although Alinei likes to cite genetic papers in order to support his theory (e.g., Alinei 2005b), a genetically proven relationship between the Turks and the Etruscans cannot support Alinei’s theory, since the Turks, too, do not fit in the frame of this Continuity Hypothesis. Therefore, since on the one side the Etruscans are genetically Turks and on the other side they are linguistically Hungarians, this can be only due to the common Sumerian origin of both the Turks and the Hungarians - as shown in chapter 15 of my “Hungarian Etymological Dictionary”. Since I have stated here using linguistic, archaeological, historical and biological-genetic facts that the Rhaetians are not related with the Etruscans, but the Etruscans and the ancient inhabitants of Lemnos are related with the Hungarians, the Turks and the Sumerians, we may ask further if Etruscan is really, as asserted by Alinei (2003, 2005a), a form of Early Hungarian or if it belonged to another language closely related to Hungarian. This question is not superfluous, since I have recently proven that Hunnic was not - as generally assumed (e.g., Menges 1968, p. 17ss.) - a Turkic language, but a very close relative of Hungarian (Tóth 2007, forthcoming). Thus, in the following I will give a maximally complete Etruscan-Hungarian-Sumerian dictionary3 that comprises all up to now known Etruscan words. Further, I will base the word-list on my “Hungarian-Mesopotamian Dictionary” which does not only compare modern Hungarian forms with 3000 years old Etruscan and 5000 years old Sumerian forms, but also shows the proto-Ugric, proto-Finno-Ugric, proto-Uralic and proto-Altaic forms reconstructed by the adherents of the respective linguistic theories in order to bridge the time-gaps between the actually testified words.

1 J.B. Hofmann (1950, p. 379), obviously not aware of the small article of Hommel (1906), was nevertheless very very close to the truth when he stated in his etymology of Greek “tyrsis” (translation by me): “secured city, by walls surrounded house, together with Latin turris “tower” (> German Turm) from an Egean or Asia Minor source, from which derivated also Tyrrēnós, Tyrsēnós, Etruscans as city-builders?”.

2 Greek Tur-sēn-oi/Tur-rēn-oi (and not *Turs-ēn-oi/*Turr-ēn-oi) thus in analogy to Greek ar-sēn/ar-rēn “masculine,virile”.

3Under exclusion of additional affixations, derivations and word-compositions, since these forms would blow up the present study and can be found easily in Martha (1913) and Alinei (2003, 2005a).

* * *


ALFRÉD TÓTH was born in 1965 in St. Gallen (Switzerland), his native tongue is Hungarian. Received two PhD's (1989 Mathematics, University of Zurich; 1992 Philosophy, University of Stuttgart) and an MA (General and Comparative Linguistics, Finno-Ugristics and Romanistics, University of Zurich 1991). Mr. Tóth is since 2001 Professor of Mathematics (Algebraic Topology) in Tucson, Arizona. He is member of many mathematical, semiotic, cybernetic and linguistic societies and scientific board member of eight international journals. Lives in Tucson and Szombathely where his family comes from.


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