To Cite This Work

Things said and not said in a ritual text: Iguvine Tables Ib 10–16 / VIb 48–53

Gregory Nagy
[A printed version of this article appears in Miscellanea Indogermanica: Festschrift für José Luis García Ramón zum 65. Geburtstag (ed. I. Hajnal, D. Kölligan, and K. Zipser) 509–549. Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft 154. Innsbruck, 2017. The online version of 2016.02.08 has been published with the kind permission of the editors. The page-breaks of the printed version will be indicated within braces: for example, “{509|510}” indicates where page 509 stops and page 510 begins.]

Introduction

§1. I concentrate here on a text, written in Umbrian, that is recorded in Iguvine Tables Ib 10–16 / VIb 48–53. This text prominently features two words, which I will designate short-hand by way of their attestations in classical Latin. These words are agō and ferō. For the moment, I take the liberty of using Latin here as a stand-in for its Italic cognate language, Umbrian.
§2. I propose to analyze here the Umbrian equivalents of these words agō and ferō, together with their derivatives, as they were used with reference to the rituals described and prescribed in the text of the Iguvine Tables. My analysis is part of a long-term project, still in progress, which aims to compare the ritualized uses of these Italic words agō and ferō with corresponding uses of the cognate Greek words agō (ἄγω) and pherō (φέρω). In the case of the Greek evidence, my ongoing project concentrates on a Mycenaean Greek text, the tablet Tn 316 from Pylos, which deals with a ritual of offering gifts to divinities in the context of sacrifices performed at sacred precincts. In the case of the Italic evidence, that same project concentrates on the Umbrian text of Iguvine Tables Ib 10–16 / VIb 48–53, which is the main subject of my study here. This Umbrian text, as we will see, likewise deals with a ritual of offering gifts to divinities—this time, in the specific context of carrying fire in the process of making a sacrifice.
§3. In two recent online publications, listed as Nagy 2015a and 2015b in the bibliography, I have attempted to update my own understanding of the two rituals that I have just mentioned, and the study that I offer here builds on those updatings. But I concentrate here on only one of those two rituals, the Italic one, involving the sacred action of carrying fire in the process of making a sacrifice. After I finish my argumentation, I will add an epilogue that deals with the second of those two rituals, the Greek one, involving the sacred action of carrying gifts to gods.
§4. My main purpose here is to show that a comparative study of the words agō and ferō in Italic can lead to a deeper understanding of the rituals that are being described and prescribed in the Italic texts. Of particular interest to me is one feature of these rituals. As we will see from the Italic evidence that I study here, there are constraints about what can and cannot be said. And the constraining {509|510} mentalities of ritualistic behavior, as we will also see, are strongly influenced by concerns about getting it right.

Iguvine Tables Ib 10–16 / VIb 48–53

§5. I start, then, with the Umbrian text, which is part of the Iguvine Tables (hereafter abbreviated IT). This text, as I already said, features a ritual that centers on the carrying of fire for offering sacrifice to divinities.
§6. Setting up two parallel columns, I place into the left-hand column the wording of a newer version of the text, written in the Latin alphabet (IT VIb 48–53), and I place into the right-hand column the wording of an older version, written in the native Umbrian alphabet (IT Ib 10–16). I will transcribe in italics what is written in the Latin alphabet, and in boldface what is written in the “native” Umbrian alphabet. [1]

The two parallel columns

A) pone poplo afero heries A) pune puplum aferum heries
when he wishes to perform a lustration of the people when you wish to perform a lustration of the people
B) avif aseriato etu B) avef anzeriatu etu
he shall go and observe the birds go and observe the birds
Ca) ape angla combifianšiust C) pune kuvurtus
when he has announced the angla when you have returned
Cb) perca arsmatiam anouihimu  
he shall put on the perca arsmatia  
Da) cringatro hatu D) krenkatrum hatu
he shall have the cringatro have the krenkatrum
Db) destrame scapla anouihimu  
he shall put it on his right shoulder [scapla]  
E) pir endendu E) enumek pir ahtimem ententu
he shall place fire [pir] then place fire [pir] in the ahti {510|511}
Fa) pone esonome ferar pufe pir entelust F) pune pir entelus ahtimem
when that in which he has placed the fire [pir] is carried [ferar] to the sacrifice when you have placed the fire [pir] in the ahti
Fb) ere fertu poe perca arsmatiam habiest  
he shall carry [fertu] it, the one who has the perca arsmatia  
Fc) erihont aso destre onse fertu  
the same shall carry [fertu] the aso on his right shoulder [onse]  
Fd) erucom prinuatur dur etuto with him shall go two prinuati  
Fe) perca ponisiater habituto they shall have the perca ponisiater  
G) ennom stiplatu parfa desua G) enumek steplatu parfam tesvam
then he shall pronounce a parfa-bird on the right then pronounce a parfa-bird on the right
H) seso tote iiouine H) tete tute ikuvine
for himself and for the people of Iguvium for yourself and for the people of Iguvium
§7. Here I offer an epitome of my earlier work, later republished in a newer project that dealt with these wordings. [2] I start with the expression poe perca arsmatiam habiest ‘the one who has the perca arsmatia’ in section Fb at VIb 50. The perca, as I will argue, is something that one wears. This expression, ‘the one who has the perca arsmatia’ here in section Fb at VIb 50, is a periphrasis that we see being used here and elsewhere as well in the Iguvine Tables (VIb 53, 63; VIIa 46, 51) to designate an authorized priestly official whose title is arsfertur, as spelled in the Latin alphabet (VIa 2, 3, 8, 17; VIIb3), or ařfertur, as spelled in the native Umbrian alphabet (Ib 41, IIa 16, Va 3,10, Vb 3, 5, 6). [3] From here on, I will refer to this official called arsfertur / ařfertur simply as “Adfertor,” which is a latinized {511|512} equivalent of his Umbrian title. As we can see from all the contexts where he is mentioned in the Iguvine Tables, the Adfertor is the chief sacrificer in these texts. This sacral function of the Adfertor is relevant to the etymology of arsfertur / ařfertur as an agent-noun derived from the Umbrian equivalent of the Latin verb ferō in the sense of ‘carry’. The Adfertor, as we are about to see, is the one who ‘carries’, that is, the one who carries the sacred fire.
§8. In the two parallel columns above, where I show the parallel wordings of the versions written in the Latin and the Umbrian alphabets, we can see in section Fb at VIb 50 of the left-hand column a periphrasis that avoids referring to the authorized chief sacrificer by his proper title as Adfertor: in terms of this periphrasis, the Adfertor is poe perca arsmatiam habiest ‘the one who has the perca arsmatiam’. As for the right-hand column, the prescriptive language of the wording addresses the Adfertor in the second person, “you must do this and you must do that,” and so the official title of the authorized chief sacrificer is absent. But the word for the authorized object that this authorized person must use in making the sacrifice is very much present in the right-hand column. The word for this authorized object is ahti, embedded in the expression that we read in section E of the right-hand column: enumek pir ahtimem ententu ‘then place fire [pir] in the ahti’. That is what the Adfertor is instructed to do in section E, and then this instruction is immediately followed by a reference back to it in section F: pune pir entelus ahtimem ‘when you have placed the fire [pir] …’.
§9. This word ahti can be traced back to an Umbrian action-noun derived from an Umbrian verb that is cognate with Latin agō, which I translate for the moment as ‘act’ or ‘activate’ or ‘do’. In terms of its form, this action-noun is the equivalent of the Latin action-noun actiō ‘action’, derived from agō. [4] Etymologically, then, the ahti is ritual ‘action’ or ‘activation’ or ‘doing’ par excellence.
§10. But the meaning of Umbrian ahti, as used in the ritual language of the Iguvine Tables, is concrete rather than abstract. This word ahti refers to the container of the fire used in the fire ritual. So the usage of this noun reveals a semantic specialization from abstract to concrete reference. Looking for parallel phenomena, we find comparable examples of semantic specialization in the case of English abstract nouns in -ing. In English, when -ing is added to the stem of a verb and produces an abstract noun, such a noun ordinarily refers to the action inherent in the verb, as in move moving or carrycarrying or bring bringing. But there are cases of semantic specialization where the abstract {512|513} noun becomes a concrete noun referring to the result of the action, as in build building or carve carving or offeroffering. And there are cases where the reference highlights not so much the result of the action but the means that achieve the result, as in cover covering or kindlekindling or setsetting. Correspondingly, the Umbrian noun ahti, cognate with the Latin action-noun actiō ‘action’ as derived from agō meaning ‘act’ or ‘activate’ or ‘do’, designates the means that achieve the result of the ‘action’ or ‘activation’—the result of ‘doing’ what is done in the action. The result of the ‘action’ or ‘activation’ is the carrying of the sacrificial fire, and the Umbrian ahti is the container that is used for achieving this ‘action’. That container is the equivalent of what is called in Latin a focus, which refers to a container of fire, a ‘movable fireplace’. In Romance languages, the reflexes of Latin focus evolve into the generic word for ‘fire’, as in French feu, Spanish, fuego, Italian fuoco. [5]

On the complementarity of the words āra and focus in Latin

§11. Whereas the focus, as well as its derivative by-form foculus, is the Latin word for a ‘movable fireplace’ or, better, for a ‘movable fire placement’, the corresponding Latin word āra, conventionally translated as ‘altar’, stands for an ‘immovable fireplace’. Before we consider the stationary nature of the āra, however, I must first address the fact that these two words complement each other in ritual language, especially with regard to sacrifices requiring fire.
§12. In order to explore, however briefly, this complementarity of āra and focus, I start with a passage that highlights the ritual sacredness of the objects to which the two words refer:
sane Varro rerum divinarum refert inter sacratas aras focos quoque sacrari solere, ut in Capitolio Iovi Iunoni Мinervае, nес minus in plurimis urbibis oppidisque, et id tam publice quam privatim solere fieri … nec licere vel privata vel publica sacra sine foco fieri. quod hic ostendit poeta.
Indeed, Varro (in his Rerum divinarum) reports that besides the ārae that are consecrated [= authorized for sacred use], focī too are regularly consecrated, as in the Capitolium, to Jupiter, Juno, Minerva; likewise in most cities and towns; and that this is regularly done both publicly and privately; and that it is not allowed to perform public or private sacrifices without a focus. Which is what the Poet [Virgil] shows here.
Servius Auctus on Virgil Aeneid 3.134
§13. Varro’s report on the use of the focus in the Capitolium can be directly linked with the mention of the derivative word foculus in the Acts of the Arval Brethren, {513|514} year CE 87: the setting is in Capitolio (a. 87 I 2), and the promagister of the Brethren is presiding (I 2 and following); after the preliminary sacral proceedings (I 2–7), ‘on the same day and in the same place’ (eodem die ibidem in area I 18), the same promagister did the following:
ture et vino in igne in foculo fecit
He made a sacrifice [perfect of faciō] with incense and wine on the fire, on the foculus.
Acts of the Arval Brethren year 87 I 19 ed. Henzen
§14. In the Acts of the Arval Brethren we can see clearly a pattern of complementary distribution in the use of the words āra and foculus with reference to sacrifices of pigs and cows in luco ‘in the grove’: the porcae piāculāres are regularly immolated at the āra and the vacca honorāria, at the foculus. [6]
§15. With this background in place, I return to the fact that the focus / foculus, unlike the āra, is optionally movable. I cite here a most revealing passage about this movability:
adde preces positis et sua verba focis
Add prayers and the appropriate words at the focī that are set down [verb pōnō].
Ovid Fasti 2.542
§16. This example, along with many others, shows that a focus is truly a fireplace in the sense of a fire-placement, a placement that happens when fire is literally ‘placed’, as regularly expressed by the verb pōnō, meaning, ‘to set’, ‘to put’, ‘to put down’, ‘to place’. [7]

On the complementarity of the words asa and ahti in Umbrian

§17. I return here to Umbrian ahti, which is the functional equivalent of Latin focus, likewise designating a movable fire-placement. Just as the use of Latin focus is complementary with the use of āra, so also the use of Umbrian ahti complements the use of Umbrian asa, which is cognate with Latin āra. In what follows, I come back to what I argued about ahti and asa in the earlier project I already cited. [8]
§18. I start with another fire ritual of Iguvium as also recorded in the Iguvine Tables (IT III 1 and following). In this ritual, pir ‘fire’ is kindled on the way leading {514|515} arven ‘to the field’ (IT III 11–12). The pir ‘fire’ is eventually placed ase ‘on the altar [asa]’, which is vuke ‘in the grove’ (IT III 21–22). Then an animal sacrifice is made iuvepatre ‘to Jupiter’ at the right side of the altar (IT III 22–23) on behalf of the following four entities:
fratrusper atiieřies ‘for the Atiedian Brethren’
ahtisper eikvasatis ‘for the ahti- s eikvasatis
tutaper iiuvina ‘for the people of Iguvium’
trefiper iiuvina ‘for the tribus of Iguvium’ [9]
§19. The wording that we read here in this Umbrian text relating to the Atiedian Brethren is comparable in many ways to the wording we read in the Latin text that I have already cited, the Acts of the Arval Brethren: there too we find mention of a prescribed sacrifice in luco ‘in the grove’, and it takes place in ara ‘on an altar [āra]’, and in foculo ‘in a movable fireplace’. [10] In Latin, to repeat, the āra ‘altar’ is an immovable fireplace, by contrast with the focus or foculus, which is a movable fireplace. [11] In other archaizing Latin contexts, we find the sacral expression pro aris focisque ‘for the immovable and movable fireplaces’, which is parallel to the Umbrian sacral expression ahtisper ‘for the ahti- s’. [12]

Back to the two parallel columns of Iguvine Tables Ib 10–16 / VIb 48–53

§20. To sum up where we are so far in analyzing the fire ritual that we see being described and prescribed in the two parallel columns: the authorized object that contains the fire to be carried to the sacrifice is designated by way of the Umbrian word ahti, derived from the equivalent of Latin agō, just as the authorized person who carries the fire is designated by way of the Umbrian word arsfertur / ařfertur, derived from the equivalent of Latin ferō.
§21. Coming back to the Umbrian forms arsfertur / ařfertur as written respectively in the Latin and in the native Umbrian alphabets, I repeat what I said earlier {515|516} about this agent-noun, which I have been “translating” by way of the latinized equivalent form Adfertor. In the two parallel columns, where I show the parallel wordings of the versions written in the Latin and in the Umbrian alphabets, we have seen in the left-hand column a periphrasis that avoids referring to the authorized chief sacrificer by his proper title as Adfertor. The periphrastic reference to the Adfertor, as we have seen in section Fb at VIb 50, is poe perca arsmatiam habiest ‘the one who has [habiest] the perca arsmatiam’. I have already noted the fact that this periphrasis occurs elsewhere as well in the Iguvine Tables, but now I note an additional fact: all these occurrences are limited to those parts of the overall text that are written in the Latin alphabet (besides the attestation in section Fb at VIb 50, we see the phrase also at VIb 53, 63; VIIa 46, 51).
§22. There is a parallel pattern of avoidance in references to the container of the fire to be carried by the Adfertor. As we look back once again at the two parallel columns, we find that the version at A-H, which avoids referring to the Adfertor by his title, also avoids referring to the sacred container, ahti, which is the equivalent of Latin focus in the sense of a ‘fire container’ or ‘movable fireplace’. As we can see in the left-hand column, section E has pir entendu ‘he shall place fire [pir]’, while the corresponding section E in the right-hand column has enumek pir ahtimem ententu ‘then place fire [pir] in the ahti’. So the version written in the Latin alphabet avoids the mention of an ahti.
§23. I highlight an additional case of avoidance: in section Fa, we read pufe pir entelust ‘where the fire [pir] is placed’, which is a periphrasis for the expected word ahti. Avoiding a direct statement, such as *‘when the ahti is brought to the sacrifice’, the language of section Fa says instead: pone esonome ferar pufe pir entelust ‘when that in which he has placed the fire [pir] is brought [ferar] to the sacrifice’. By contrast, we do see a direct statement in the wording that corresponds to section Fa in section F, written in the native Umbrian dialect: there we read pune pir entelus ahtimem ‘when you have placed the fire [pir] in the ahti’.
§24. And I stress here the fact that the ahti is the container for the pir ‘fire’ to be used in the sacrifice. This Umbrian word pir ‘fire’ is cognate with the Greek word pūr (πῦρ) ‘fire’, as also with English fire. The attested Latin word for ‘fire’ is ignis, cognate with Vedic Sanskrit agni- ‘fire’. Curiously, the cognate of Umbrian pir is not attested in Latin. At least, it is not attested as a simple noun. I propose, however, that it is in fact attested in the Latin verb pūrgō ‘purge, purify’. I agree with those who explain this form as *pūrigō, derived from the syntactical {516|517} combination of *pūr ‘fire’ with agō in the sense of ‘act’ or ‘activate’ or ‘do’. [13] The meaning of pūrgō in the sense of ‘purge, purify’ can be explained in the sense of ‘activate fire’ or ‘do fire’: syntactically, *pūr ‘fire’ is the inner object of the verb agō here, while its outer object is whatever is ‘purged’ or ‘purified’ by the action of ‘activating fire’ or ‘doing fire’. Similarly, Latin fūmigō ‘fumigate’ can be explained as ‘activate smoke’ or ‘do smoke’; syntactically, fūmus ‘smoke’ is the inner object of the verb agō here, while its outer object is whatever is fumigated by the action of ‘activating smoke’ or ‘doing smoke’. [14] A semantic parallel is Greek thuō ‘sacrifice’, which means etymologically ‘activate smoke’ or ‘do smoke’ (the root of Greek thuō is of course cognate with the root of Latin fūmus ‘smoke’).
§25. So, I posit a semantic connection between the Latin verb pūrgō and the Umbrian noun ahti, which as we have seen can be explained as an action-noun referring to the sacred ‘action’ of ‘activating’ or ‘doing’ pir ‘fire’. That sacred ‘action’ is still preserved in the fire ritual described and prescribed in the two parallel versions recorded at Ib 10–16 / VIb 48–53 of the Iguvine Tables.

Three problems with things said and not said in the Iguvine texts

§26. By now I have reviewed a substantial part of my argumentation as presented in my earlier work on the two texts describing an Iguvine fire ritual in older and newer phases of its existence. [15] But many problems remain, and I need to address three of them here.
§27. The first of these problems has to do with finding an explanation for the patterns of avoidance and non-avoidance in the use of words referring to the ritual.
§28. I start with the case of ahti, which is the word for the authorized object that is used as a container for the fire. This word, as we have seen, is avoided in the newer version of the text, written in the Latin alphabet, but not avoided in the older version, written in the Umbrian alphabet. In the newer version, as we have seen, the avoidance takes the form of either a periphrasis or an outright omission. {517|518}
§29. Next, there is the case of arsfertur / ařfertur, which is the word for the authorized person or “Adfertor” who carries the fire. Here the avoidance in the newer version of the text is only partial, though it is clearly noticeable. Although there is no outright omission here, since we can find five occurrences of the word arsfertur (VIa 2, 3, 8, 17; VIIb3), the fact remains that we can also find five occurrences of periphrasis for the word (VIb 50, as quoted in section Fb above; also VIb 53, 63; VIIa 46, 51). This word, then, which I have latinized as Adfertor, is treated with a degree of circumspection that is comparable to the treatment of the word ahti.
§30. In my previous work on these two nouns, derived from the Umbrian equivalents of the Latin verbs agō and ferō referring respectively to the authorized object and the authorized person involved in the fire ritual, I applied the anthropological term tabu or taboo in describing the sense of circumspection that I found in the restricted uses of these words.” [16]
§31. But my use of this term taboo has caused a second problem. My formulation concerning patterns of avoiding specific words involved in the fire sacrifice has led to skepticism about my interpretation of yet another specific word that we find in the newer text of the Iguvine fire ritual as written down in the Latin alphabet. The word is aso, and here is the context of this word as we find it used in section Fc at VIb 50 in the left-hand column: erihont aso destre onse fertu ‘the same [= the Adfertor] shall carry [fertu] the aso on his right shoulder’. By implication, the Adfertor must not delegate to anyone else the task of carrying the aso on his shoulder.
§32. Interpreting this inconspicuous word aso as a synonym of the sacred word ahti, I argue that aso, like ahti, refers to the same sacred container of the sacred fire that is used in the ritual.
§33. As for the etymology of aso, I argue that we see here a second-declension noun corresponding to the first-declension noun asa. Just as Umbrian asa ‘altar’, as we saw this word used at IT III 21–22 and elsewhere, can be reconstructed as *assā, so also aso, as we now see this word used in Fc at VIb 50, can be reconstructed as *asso-. In my previous work, I have argued that Umbrian aso is cognate with Hittite hašša-, which means ‘fireplace, hearth’, as also with Umbrian asa / asa and with Latin āra, both of which words mean ‘altar. [17] {518|519}
§34. So, why the skepticism about aso as a synonym of ahti? Here is the way Michael Weiss, in a book that I profoundly admire for its many contributions to our understanding of the Iguvine Tables, expresses his misgivings:
The New Umbrian version studiously avoids the word for fire-carrier or replaces it with the periphrasis pufe pir entelust [‘where the fire is placed’]. Is it really plausible that the composer would resort to such a clumsy periphrasis if an acceptable and exactly homonymous alternative were available? [18]
Weiss adds:
But if aso was an acceptable alternative for ahti why not use it in all cases? [19]
§35. In terms of my argument, however, there is no reason for avoiding the periphrasis, which is a marked way of referring to the sacred container of the sacred fire, just as the word ahti itself is a marked way of referring to this container. Opacity of reference is a form of markedness. [20] As for aso, it is an unmarked or “default” way of referring to the sacred container, and its single occurrence is situated in a context where a marked way of referring to the container, by periphrasis, has already occurred. In its single attestation, I argue, aso is used to avoid a repetition of the periphrasis, not for the sole purpose of avoiding the use of ahti itself. [21] So, I cannot accept the objections offered by Weiss in his argument against the interpretation of aso as a synonym of ahti.
§36. I think, in general, that the wording of the instructions in the newer version A-H of the Iguvine fire ritual is not “clumsy”—even in those situations where periphrastic expressions are substituted for key words. Rather, I find that the instructions in version A-H are in some ways more precise than the corresponding instructions in the older version A-H. Granted, greater precision in the newer version A-H may mean that the practitioners of the ritual have become increasingly less certain, with the passage of time, about the right way of doing things, but, the point is, the greatest care is taken about exactly that, doing things right. A striking example is the formulation in section Db, where it is specified that the sacrificer must put something called the cringatro on his right shoulder. In section D, by contrast, it had sufficed to prescribe for the sacrificer that he must ‘have’ (hatu) this something, spelled here as krenkatrum. Presumably, the stark prescription of the formula in section D was enough of a reminder about what to do next. Not so in section Da: here the formulation does more than simply prescribe that the sacrificer must ‘have’ (hatu) the cringatro. Further {519|520} specification has to follow in section Db about what to do with the cringatro, that is, to put it on the right shoulder. This word cringatro / krenkatrum is comparable to Latin cinctus or cingulum, the etymology of which has to do with binding or girding. Evidently, then, this word refers to some kind of garment. And the detail that we read in section Db about putting this garment called the cringatro on the right shoulder is followed in section Fc by a related detail: now the sacrificer, called the Adfertor, must carry on his right shoulder something called an aso. [22]
§37. Before we arrive at reading this part of the instructions in section Fc, we have already read in section E that the Adfertor must place fire into a utensil, and, in the corresponding section E, we see that this utensil is called the ahti. What happens next is spelled out in sections Fa | Fb: pone esonome ferar pufe pir entelust, | ere fertu poe perca arsmatiam habiest ‘when that in which he has placed the fire [pir] is carried [ferar] to the sacrifice, | he shall carry [fertu] it, the one who has the perca arsmatia’. As we have already seen, ‘the one who has the perca arsmatia’ is none other than the chief sacrificer, that is, the Adfertor. It is this Adfertor who must now carry the fire to the sacrifice. And, as it is specified in both sections E and F, the utensil containing the sacrificial fire carried by the Adfertor is called the ahti. Here is the wording of E|F: enumek pir ahtimem ententu | pune pir entelus ahtimem ‘then place fire [pir] in the ahti, | and when you have placed the fire [pir] in the ahti …’. Further, in terms of my argument, this same utensil is called the aso in section Fc, as we can see when we read what the chief sacrificer or Adfertor must do in sections Fa | Fb | Fc taken together: pone esonome ferar pufe pir entelust | ere fertu poe perca arsmatiam habiest | erihont aso destre onse fertu ‘when that in which he has placed the fire [pir] is carried [ferar] to the sacrifice, | he shall carry [fertu] it, the one who has the perca arsmatia |—the same shall carry [fertu] the aso on his right shoulder [onse]’. So this task, as I noted before, of carrying the aso on the right shoulder cannot be delegated by the Adfertor to anyone else. The Adfertor must be the one who carries the aso.
§38. I have already argued that the noun aso here is a synonym of ahti in referring to the container of fire. And this pairing of synonyms, I must now add, can be compared to the pairing of the expressions destrame scapla in section Db and destre onse in section Fc: both these expressions mean ‘on the right shoulder’, where Umbrian scapla is cognate with Latin scapulae, meaning ‘shoulder-blades’, and Umbrian onse is cognate with Latin umerus, meaning ‘shoulder’. Elsewhere in the Iguvine Tables, at IIb 27 and 28, the sacrificer of a bull-calf is {520|521} instructed to wear for the act of sacrificial slaughter a krikatru that must be placed ‘on the right shoulder’, testreuze.
§39. So, this garment called the cringatro / krenkatrum / krikatru is worn, as we have seen, on the right shoulder in contexts of sacrifice. And, as we have also seen, a utensil called the aso is carried on the right shoulder. Further, as we read the ritual sequence described in sections A-H, the Adfertor puts the cringatro on his right shoulder in section Fc before he carries the aso on his right shoulder. So, in my earlier work, where I already argued that aso as used in sections A-H is a synonym of ahti as used in sections A-H, I inferred that the garment worn by the Adfertor on the right shoulder in section Db could have served as some kind of padding for the aso / ahti that he then somehow carried on his shoulder. My inference was formulated in wording that I now quote here: “It appears, therefore, that the garment called cringatro / krenkatrum may have served to shield the Adfertor’s right shoulder from the heat of the [aso /] ahti which he was to carry.” [23]
§40. In arguing for this formulation, I have run into a third problem, as we can see for example from the misgivings expressed by Weiss concerning the interpretation of aso as a vessel containing fire that must be carried on the shoulder. Using the word brazier, which of course means a fire-container made of bronze, Weiss says:
I am unaware of any parallel, either verbal or visual, for the practice of carrying fire on the shoulder in ancient ritual processions. [24] … In addition, there is a practical argument against such a practice: carrying a lighted brazier on one’s shoulder would be both awkward and dangerous. The transporter would be risking a burnt ear and a hair fire. [25]
§41. I should note that, although Weiss has added here a third problem that stands in the way of interpreting aso as a movable fire-container—and I agree with him that the most appropriate word for this object is brazier—he has also removed a potential fourth problem when he disproves the interpretation of this noun as a cognate of the Latin adjective assus, which means ‘dried’ or ‘dry-roasted’. [26]

Can you carry a brazier on your shoulder?

§42. There are ways, however, of holding on to the argument that both Umbrian words aso and ahti refer to a portable bronze fire-container, that is, a {521|522} brazier, and that this utensil can be carried on the shoulder even when it contains charcoals on fire. One way to maintain this argument is to find situations where the brazier containing charcoals on fire can be kept at arm’s length, as it were. For the sake of the argument, I posit the existence of utensils that had holes or attached rings for the insertion of a wooden shaft for carrying. [27] I cite as an example a “fire-basket” noted by the archaeologist Anthony Snodgrass, who describes this utensil, dating from the eighth century BCE, with the wording that I now quote here:
Clearly it [= this utensil] was meant to hold some loose material, in pieces that were big enough not to fall through between the struts placed some 3 cm apart. It is suggested that the material was burning charcoal or other combustible materials. … [T]he inferred presence of a substantial wooden shaft would enable this material to be held at more than arm’s length. [28]
§43. The Greek word for such a portable container of burning charcoals is eskharā (ἐσχάρα), which is attested already in Mycenaean Greek: the Linear B tablet Ta 709 from Pylos, written in Mycenaean Greek, lists various utensils, and the word e-ka-ra occurs twice in the list; John Chadwick describes such an eskharā as a brazier, that is, a bronze vessel used for carrying live coals. [29] In general, Chadwick goes on to say, “the normal classical sense” of eskharā is “a portable container for a fire, brazier.” [30] Chadwick adds this useful comment about the word brazier: “the English translation is usually ‘brazier’, but this may sometimes give a wrong impression, as [also] … ‘pan of coals’ does, for eskharā is primarily the container, usually of course made of metal, for the coals..” [31]
§44. We may compare the brazen cribrum or ‘sieve’ used by the Vestal Virgins of Rome as a movable fire-placement, described as follows:
ignis Vestae si quando interstinctus esset, virgines verberibus adficiebantur a pontifice, quibus mos erat tabulam felicis materiae tamdiu terebrare, quousque exceptum ignem cribro aenea virgo in aedem ferret {522|523}
Whenever the fire [ignis] of Vesta was interrupted, the Virgins were beaten by the pontifex; they [= the Virgins] had a custom of boring a board [tabula] of fēlix māteria until a fire [ignis] would take and, once it took, a Virgin carried [= verb ferō] it into the sacred building [aedēs] inside a brazen cribrum.
Paulus ex Festo 94 ed. Lindsay [32]
§45. Whatever the shape of this cribrum may have been, we may compare the function of the correlated tabula ‘board’ here with what we find in the description of a fire ritual in the Iguvine Tables, at IIb 12: tafle e pir fertu ‘carry [fertu] the fire [pir] to that place on a tafla’, where tafla is the equivalent of Latin tabula and fertu is the equivalent of Latin fertō, third-person imperative of the verb ferō. In the case of the Roman ritual, the tabula is the surface for the kindling of the fire, while the cribrum is the container for carrying it. By contrast, in the Umbrian ritual recorded at IIb 12, the wording indicates that the equivalent of the tabula is used both for the kindling of the fire and for the subsequent carrying of the fire.
§46. I should emphasize that the fire ritual recorded at IIb 12 is distinct from the fire ritual that we have been considering so far at Ib 10–16 / VIb 48–53, as formatted in the parallel columns A-H and A-H. The wording that we read here in A-H and A-H does not indicate whether the surface of something like a tabula has been used for the original kindling of the fire, but now, in any case, the container that is used for actually carrying the fire is distinct from such a surface. [33]
§47. I leave it to archaeologists and other experts to pursue these matters further. My purpose for now, in introducing such comparanda, is merely to keep the door from closing shut on further inquiry into the argument that the Umbrian word aso refers to a portable bronze fire-container, a brazier.

Comparable references to braziers in the Septuagint

§48. In the Hebrew Bible as mediated by the Greek Septuagint, we can find references to the uses of braziers containing the fire of charcoals. As we will see, these braziers are used for sacrificing animals at the Bronze Altar of the {523|524} Israelites, situated in the courtyard of the Tabernacle, and they are also used for burning incense in the inner sanctum of the same Tabernacle.
§49. Before I can go into details, I need to offer some general observations about the relevant text and about the language of the text. We are dealing here with a non-Indo-European tradition, of course, and so I must limit my approach while (1) analyzing the details that I find concerning the use of braziers as mentioned in the non-Indo-European tradition stemming from the Hebrew text, especially from Numbers, and then (2) comparing these details with what I have reconstructed concerning fire rituals as mentioned in the Indo-European tradition represented by the Umbrian text of the Iguvine Tables. To put limitations on this two-part approach, I say simply this: the comparisons I am about to make are typological. In other words, I do not posit any cognate relationship between either the form or the content of the relevant Hebrew and Umbrian texts, nor do I posit any mutual influence by way of any historical or even prehistorical contact. I simply compare for the sake of comparing. Having made this point, however, I must insist on a counterpoint: I have learned, from experience, that the language of the Greek Septuagint is remarkably faithful not only to the content of the Hebrew Bible but also to the linguistically unrelated content of ritual vocabulary as used in the Greek language. This Greek vocabulary was hard-wired, as it were, into the mind-set of any speaker of Greek, including of course the Greek-speaking Jews for whom the Septuagint was intended in the first place.
§50. In analyzing the ritual vocabulary that we find in the Septuagint concerning the fire that burns inside the braziers of sacrificers, I will focus on two Greek words: (1) thusiastērion / θυσιαστήριον, meaning ‘altar’, and (2) pūreion / πυρεῖον, meaning ‘brazier’.

Mentions of altar and brazier in the Septuagint

§51. I start with Greek thusiastērion / θυσιαστήριον, translating Hebrew mizbēaḥ and meaning ‘altar’. This word is used in the Septuagint with reference to two different altars. The first is the Bronze Altar, as described primarily in Exodus 27:1–5. This altar is situated in the courtyard of the Tabernacle (as we see most clearly from 1 Kings 8:64). By contrast, there is also mention of a second altar, as described primarily in Exodus 30:1–10. This is the Golden Altar of Incense, situated in front of the curtain that veils the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 30:6).
§52. Pausing here, I compare the Latin equivalent of Greek thusiastērion / θυσιαστήριον, which is āra ‘altar’. And I note again a relevant fact that I already noted earlier concerning altars in Roman and other Italic traditions: in those traditions, altars were notionally immovable. {524|525}
§53. By contrast, as we will now see, the two altars of the Israelites were movable in an early phase of their existence. The descriptions of the two altars that we read in Exodus refer to these structures as they reportedly existed in a remote era when the Israelites were still non-sedentary. In that era, they were reportedly journeying through the wilderness and seeking a promised homeland where their stationary Temple would eventually be built by King Solomon. While allowing for the strong likelihood that any visualizations of the Bronze and the Golden Altars in Exodus and in other related passages were shaped, by hindsight, from the perspective of a later era when the immovable Temple had already been built, I now proceed to examine the textual evidence for the early movability of these two altars.
§54. The most relevant passage in the Septuagint is at Numbers 3:29–31, where we see that the two thusiastēria / θυσιαστήρια ‘altars’ of the Israelites must be guarded by ‘the sons of Kohath’, who are one of three clans belonging to the tribe known as the Levites, and who must also guard the Ark and the Table of Display and the Lampstand and the Screen, as well as various utensils. [34] I quote here the actual wording that lists all the sacred things that must be guarded by these sons of Kohath:
καὶ ἡ φυλακὴ αὐτῶν ἡ κιβωτὸς καὶ ἡ τράπεζα καὶ ἡ λυχνία καὶ τὰ θυσιαστήρια καὶ τὰ σκεύη τοῦ ἁγίου, ὅσα λειτουργοῦσιν ἐν αὐτοῖς, καὶ τὸ κατακάλυμμα καὶ πάντα τὰ ἔργα αὐτῶν.
And the task of guarding is for them [= the sons of Kohath] the following things [to guard]: the Ark [kibōtos] and the Table [trapeza] and the Lampstand [lukhniā] and the [two] Altars [thusiastēria] and the utensils [skeuē] of the Holy—utensils used for whatever ritual acts they perform [leitourgeîn] with them [= the utensils]—and the Screen [katakalumma], in addition to all the [connected] work [erga].
Numbers 3:31
§55. The wording of the Greek text here does not spell out the fact that the ritual acts performed by the sons of Kohath with regard to all these sacred objects are strictly limited to two tasks. I will soon have more to say about the reasons for this limitation, but for now I concentrate on the two tasks.
§56. In the text that I have just quoted, the first of these two tasks assigned to the sons of Kohath has been spelled out: they must guard the sacred things that we saw being listed, and these things include the two Altars or thusiastēria / θυσιαστήρια. But now we come to the second of the two tasks assigned to the sons {525|526} of Kohath: they must carry on the shoulder these sacred things every time the encampment is relocated. [35] A vitally important piece of relevant evidence is this wording:
καὶ τοῖς υἱοῖς Κααθ οὐκ ἔδωκεν, ὅτι τὰ λειτουργήματα τοῦ ἁγίου ἔχουσιν· ἐπ’ ὤμων ἀροῦσιν
And to the sons of Kohath he [= Moses] did not give [the oxen or the ox-carts], because they [= the sons of Kohath] have [ekhein] the ritual objects [leitourgēmata] of the Holy. They will lift [airein] them [= the ritual objects] on their shoulders.
Numbers 7:9
§57. Every time the Israelites move their encampment from one place to the next in the course of their journey to reach the eventual location of their immovable altar, the σκηνή / skēnē or Tabernacle has to be moved as well. So, the clan of the Levites known as the sons of Kohath must lift and carry on their shoulders the most sacred parts of the Tabernacle, while other ‘sons’ stemming from two other clans of the Levites must transport, by way of oxcarts drawn by oxen, other parts that are less sacred. Such other parts include, for example, the massive planks and posts that were used for the framework of the Tabernacle, as also the voluminous curtains. [36] But, to repeat, the more sacred parts of the Tabernacle must not be transported on oxcarts: instead, they must be carried on the shoulder, and the carriers must be the sons of Kohath. I cite a most apt formulation by a noted expert concerning the work assigned to the sons of Kohath: “their labor is their porterage.” [37]
§58. Here I come to a detail that is most important for my argumentation. The sacred parts of the Tabernacle that are carried by the sons of Kohath include both the Bronze Altar, situated in the courtyard of the Tabernacle, and the smaller Golden Altar of Incense, situated in front of the curtain that veils the Ark. As we will now see, both altars are explicitly portable.
§59. I start with the Bronze Altar as described in Exodus 27.7, where we read that its surface was plated over in bronze, and that there were four brazen rings attached at each one of its four corners, so that wooden shafts could be pushed {526|527} through the rings, making it possible for the porters to ‘lift’, airein (αἴρειν), the whole altar for transportation every time the encampment was moved from one place to the next during the travels of the Israelites in the wilderness. Next, I turn to the smaller Golden Altar of Incense as described in Exodus 30:4, where we read that its surface was made of gold, and that there were two gold-covered rings attached to each side, so that wooden shafts could be pushed through the rings, again making it possible for the porters to ‘lift’, airein (αἴρειν), the whole altar for transportation.
§60. We see also in Exodus some detailed descriptions of analogous procedures involving other sacred objects, including the Ark (25:14) and the Table of Display (25:27): in these cases as well, we see that metallic rings are attached to the sacred objects, and that wooden shafts are then pushed through the rings, making it possible for the porters to lift, airein (αἴρειν), these sacred objects. In sum, all these objects, including the two Altars, are meant to be not only guarded by the sons of Kohath but also carried by them on their shoulders, since they are the authorized porters.
§61. Earlier, in the passage I quoted from Numbers 3:31, we have seen that the Ark and the Table of Display are specifically mentioned as two of the sacred objects that are guarded by the sons of Kohath. Other sacred objects that are specifically mentioned, as we have also seen, are (1) the Lampstand and (2) the Screen and—what is the most important for my argument—(3) the two Altars. In addition, there are still other objects mentioned in that same passage from Numbers 3:31, described only by way of the general term skeuē ‘utensils’. As we read in that passage, these other sacred utensils are meant for leitourgeîn or ‘performing ritual acts’. This verbal association of skeuē ‘utensils’ and leitourgeîn ‘perform ritual acts’ is relevant to what we read in a related passage that I already quoted from Numbers 7:9, which reports that the task of the sons of Kohath is to ‘lift’, airein, on their shoulders, the ‘ritual objects’ or leitourgēmata, which evidently include these sacred ‘utensils’ or skeuē.
§62. In Numbers 4:14, these skeuē ‘utensils’ are already mentioned, described as the means for leitourgeîn ‘performing ritual acts’, and they are specifically listed as the pūreia ‘braziers’, the kreagrai ‘meat-forks’, the phialai ‘bowls’, and something called the kaluptēr; then this list is rounded out with a restatement, which specifies that these sacred objects are the skeuē ‘utensils’ pertaining to the thusiastērion ‘altar’. There is a parallel reference to these sacred objects in Exodus 27:3, where we see them listed in the following order: first, there is that thing called the kaluptēr, then the phialai ‘bowls’, then the kreagrai ‘meat-forks’, and then, finally, the pūreia ‘braziers’. In this context, it is specified that all the sacred objects listed here belong to the Bronze Altar, and that these objects too, {527|528} like the Altar itself, must all be made of bronze. And here we even learn, incidentally, that the kaluptēr is the bronze ‘lid’ of the Bronze Altar itself.
§63. With this information in place, I shift the focus, turning away from the Greek word thusiastērion / θυσιαστήριον, corresponding to Hebrew mizbeah and translated as ‘altar’, and I now turn to the Greek word pūreion / πυρεῖον, corresponding to Hebrew maḥtā (plural maḥtōt) and translated as ‘brazier’ or ‘fire-pan’.
§64. I start by explaining why I prefer the translation ‘brazier’ for this word pūreion, plural pūreia. We have already seen in Numbers 4:14, as also in Exodus 27:3, that the pūreia, together with such other sacred objects as the kreagrai ‘meat-forks’, the phialai ‘bowls’, and the kaluptēr ‘lid’, are associated primarily with the Bronze Altar. And, as we see it specified in Exodus 27:3, the pūreia as well as all the other objects I have just listed must in fact be made of bronze. That is why I prefer the translation ‘brazier’ over ‘fire-pan’, since the second term does not specify bronze.
§65. There are contexts where the special association of pūreia ‘braziers’ with the Bronze Altar is not made explicit but is nevertheless implied—and strongly so. A most important example is a passage in Leviticus 16:12–13 where Aaron as the chief priest of the Israelites is instructed to take a pūreion ‘brazier’ that is filled with the fire of burning anthrakes ‘coals’ (12: τὸ πυρεῖον πλῆρες ἀνθράκων πυρὸς) and to bring this brazier from the thusiastērion ‘Altar’ that is situated ‘in the presence of God’, who is called Kyrios ‘Lord’ here and elsewhere without the definite article (12: ἀπὸ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου τοῦ ἀπέναντι κυρίου); then, entering the inner sanctum as marked off by the curtain, Aaron is instructed to put, ‘in the presence of Kyrios’, the thumiāma ‘incense’ into the fire of the coals that are burning inside the brazier he is carrying (13: καὶ ἐπιθήσει τὸ θυμίαμα ἐπὶ τὸ πῦρ ἔναντι κυρίου). [38] The sacred place from which Aaron is bringing with him the live coals into the most sacred place, which is the inner sanctum, is not the Golden Altar, which is situated in front of the curtain that marks off the inner sanctum, but the Bronze Altar, which is situated farther away in the courtyard of the Tabernacle. As we learn from the text of Leviticus 6:2–13, together with the accompanying exegetical traditions, the source of fire for this ritual of burning incense must be the Bronze Altar, which contained {528|529} three different compartments for three different fires meant for (1) the rituals of burnt offerings, where parts of the meat taken from the animal sacrifices were burned on the Bronze Altar, (2) the rituals of burning incense (2a) on the Golden Altar in front of the curtain or (2b) inside a brazier carried by the high priest into the inner sanctum hidden behind the curtain, and (3) the rituals of maintaining a notionally eternal flame. [39] Also, at Numbers 17:11, where Moses tells the chief priest Aaron that he must take his priestly pūreion ‘brazier’ and put into it the fire that comes from the thusiastērion ‘altar’ for the sake of performing a ritual burning of incense in order to purify the people of Israel, it is clear from the context that this fire must be brought from the Bronze Altar. [40]
§66. Here I stop for a moment to review the relationship of the pūreion ‘brazier’ to the thusiastērion ‘altar’ in the ritual world of the Hebrew Bible as mediated by the Greek Septuagint. As we have seen from the examples I have already cited, the sacrificer carries his brazier, filled with burning coals, to the altar, where the fire is used to burn offerings of meat—and, at whatever stage of the proceedings, also to burn offerings of incense placed on the live coals.
§67. The authorized sacrificer, as we have just seen in Numbers 17:11, is the priest. In this passage, this sacrificer is in fact Aaron himself as the chief priest, who becomes a model for all future priests. He brings with him the fire inside a brazier filled with charcoals ablaze, carrying it to the holiest place of the Tabernacle for the purpose of burning incense as a climactic action of sacrifice. And the fire that burns inside the pūreion or ‘brazier’ is the same sacred fire that burns on the thusiastērion or ‘altar’. I see here a typological parallel for what we have already seen in the Italic rituals. In terms of my argumentation so far, the fire that burns inside the utensil known as the focus or foculus in Latin and inside the utensil known as the ahti or aso in Umbrian can be the same sacred fire that burns on the altar, known as the āra in Latin and as the asa / asa in Umbrian.

What can happen when a fire ritual goes wrong

§68. In the language of the Septuagint, then, it is said that the chief priest carries fire inside his brazier for the purpose of lighting incense in the overall context of performing sacrifice. That is what is said. What is not said, however, is how exactly he is carrying his brazier. So, I ask: is the high priest carrying this {529|530} sacred utensil on his shoulder? The answer is this: the text of the Septuagint simply does not say.
§69. By contrast, in the case of the Levitic non-priests known as the sons of Kohath, the text does in fact say that they must carry braziers as well as other sacred objects on their shoulders. But the text also says that they must not, under pain of death, use these braziers to carry fire for performing any sacrifice.
§70. Yes, the text really says this, but it does so not in terms of the present. Instead, as we will now see, the text narrates an incident that happened in the distant past, and then this narration identifies itself as an aetiology intended as a motivation for a strict ritual rule that operates in the immediate present. The narrative, as we will also see, teaches the sons of Kohath a powerful lesson about the need for strict observance of the ritual rule. According to this rule, the sons of Kohath must guard the braziers and other sacred bronze objects during any period of encampment for the people of Israel, and then they must transport all these objects whenever the time comes to relocate the camp. I have already noted some important details of this rule as we see it articulated at Numbers 7:9. But now I add the most important detail of them all: the rule is that the sons of Kohath must never touch or even look at these braziers, under pain of death, and we see this lethal sanction spelled out in Numbers 4:15–20. In that extended passage, we see that this same strict rule applies also to all the other sacred objects that the sons of Kohath carry on their shoulders.
§71. To avoid direct contact, all the sacred objects that are carried by the sons of Kohath on their shoulders must be wrapped under protective covers before these carriers ever even get to carry them. That is what we read in the overall formulation at Numbers 4:1–20. So, when the sons of Kohath carry the braziers—carrying also all the other sacred objects that have to do with sacrifice—these carriers function as porters, not as sacrificers. According to the rationale of the Hebrew Bible, the sons of Kohath are not sacrificers because they are not priests—and they must never be priests.
§72. But, in terms of the aetiological narrative that I am about to analyze, the sons of Kohath did once upon a time act like priests—or at least they attempted to do so. That is, they attempted to perform a fire ritual as if they were authorized sacrificers. And, as we will see, each sacrificer had his own brazier.
§73. The fullest version of the narrative, enveloped inside as many as four accretive layers of narration, is recorded at Numbers 16:1–35. [41] According to the narrative, a Levite who is descended from the sons of Kohath—he is Korah, son {530|531} of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi—leads a rebellion against the leadership of the Israelites (16:1). This rebel Korah is followed by the chieftains of 250 extended families, who collectively join Korah in challenging the leadership (16:2–4). Moses pushes back by challenging Korah and his 250 followers to appear together at an assembly arranged for the next day (16:5), and each one of the 250 rebels is instructed to carry their own individual pūreia ‘braziers’ (16:6) for this appearance. Then, on the appointed day, Moses instructs all these 250 men, whom he addresses along with Korah as Levites or ‘sons of Levi’ (16:7 and 8), to put pūr ‘fire’ into their 250 braziers and then, ‘in the presence of Kyrios’ (ἔναντι κυρίου), to put thūmiama ‘incense’ on the fire that is burning inside each brazier (16:7). Essentially, Moses is challenging Korah and his fellow Levites ‘to perform [leitourgeîn] the rituals [leitourgiai] of the Tabernacle of Kyrios’ (16:9, λειτουργεῖν τὰς λειτουργίας τῆς σκηνῆς κυρίου). Addressing the 250 rebels once again as ‘sons of Levi’ (16:10), he asks them, in outraged indignation: how dare you ‘seek to be priests’? (again, 16:10, ζητεῖτε ἱερατεύειν). Then Moses turns to Kyrios and prays: ‘do not pay attention to their sacrifice [thusiā]’ (16:15, μὴ προσχῇς εἰς τὴν θυσίαν αὐτῶν). Now Moses repeats his challenge to the 250 rebels led by Korah: each one of them, bringing his individual pūreion ‘brazier’—in competition with the high priest Aaron, who must bring his own pūreion ‘brazier’—must all individually put pūr ‘fire’ into their braziers and then put thūmiama ‘incense’ on the blazing coals of the fire (16:19). In retelling the narrative, I now go “fast-forward” to the climactic moment of retribution:
καὶ πῦρ ἐξῆλθεν παρὰ κυρίου καὶ κατέφαγεν τοὺς πεντήκοντα καὶ διακοσίους ἄνδρας τοὺς προσφέροντας τὸ θυμίαμα.
And fire [pūr] came out from Kyrios and devoured [kat-ephagen] the 250 men as they were carrying [pros-pherontes] the [burning] incense [thūmiama].
Numbers 16:35
§74. Without going into details, I note here that the narrative about the punishment of the Levites, especially of Korah, is multilayered, resulting from at least two layers of accretion. [42] Accordingly, the death of Korah himself is treated in at least two different ways. In one version of the narrative, he too is incinerated along with the 250 other Levites (Numbers 16:39); in another version, Korah and his followers are swallowed by the earth (Numbers 16:19–33). [43]
§75. And now here comes what I consider to be the most important detail in this aetiological narrative: after the 250 would-be sacrificers are all incinerated, Kyrios orders Moses and the priest Eleazar, son of Aaron, to take the 250 {531|532} individual pūreia ‘braziers’ of the 250 would-be Levite sacrificers—braziers that are explicitly described as made of bronze (17:2 and 17:4, πυρεῖα τὰ χαλκᾶ)—and to melt down the bronze from these braziers, converting the consolidated mass of metal into a bronze plate to be used as the surface of a thusiastērion ‘altar’ (17:3). [44] This altar is thus converted into what I have already been describing as the Bronze Altar. In fact, the passage in Exodus 27:1–5 that I cited earlier with reference to the bronze plate that covered the Bronze Altar can be matched with another passage, in Exodus 38:22–24: in the Septuagint version, the bronze plate that covers the Bronze Altar is explained as the result of melting down the 250 bronze pūreia of the 250 Levites who had been incinerated by the fire of Kyrios for daring to sacrifice as if they were priests. That bronze plate on the Bronze Altar, as the narrative goes on to say in Numbers 17:5, will be an eternal mnēmosunon ‘reminder’ to the Levites and to anyone else who is not descended from Aaron that they should never again attempt to put incense into the fire of braziers that can only be used by descendants of Aaron as high priest of the Israelites. Soon after this point in the narrative, at Numbers 17:11, Moses tells Aaron that he must now take his own individual pūreion ‘brazier’ and put into it the fire that comes from the thusiastērion ‘altar’ for the sake of performing a ritual burning of incense in order to purify the people of Israel. And, as I already argued, it is clear from the context here that this fire must be carried by Aaron from the Bronze Altar.
§76. So, Aaron as the chief priest—and as the ancestor of all priests—shows that only priests are authorized to use a pūreion ‘brazier’, since (1) all the rebellious Levites have by now been incinerated and (2) the individual pūreia ‘braziers’ of the Levites will now be melted down and consolidated into a bronze plate that covers the thusiastērion ‘altar’, so that this sacred object may hereafter be known as the Bronze Altar. What I find most remarkable about this whole aetiological narrative is that, since the Bronze Altar is portable, it has become, metaphorically, a brazier in its own right. To paraphrase this aetiology by using the most familiar Latin terms, we could say that a stationary āra has now been transformed into a portable focus or foculus. And the Levite porters of the Bronze Altar, having lost forever their own individual braziers, now have a collective brazier to carry on their shoulders. {532|533}

An aetiology for the Bronze Altar

§77. So, in terms of the analysis I have offered here, I will now sketch a reconstructed aetiology of the Bronze Altar.
§78. Just as the Levite porters of the Bronze Altar used wooden shafts for ritually carrying this collective brazier—though the ritual act of carrying happened only when the altar was in transit and thus not on fire—these same porters would have used, once upon a time before their own fire ritual went wrong and changed things forever, their own individual wooden shafts to carry their own individual braziers, presumably on the right shoulder.
§79. To back up this reconstruction, I introduce here a most revealing additional detail. The fact is, the Greek word for the wooden shafts used by the Levites for transporting all the sacred objects they transported, including the movable Bronze Altar itself, is the agent-noun ana-phoreus, meaning literally ‘the carrier’ (as at Numbers 4:6 and elsewhere).
§80. To take the reconstruction one step further, into a later period, I would add that the high priest of the Temple, once it was built, could have used such an ana-phoreus whenever he carried a brazier filled with burning coals from the Bronze Altar, now stationary, to the Golden Altar or even into the inner sanctum behind the curtain veiling the Ark. I have in mind here three references in the Septuagint to pūreia ‘braziers’ as used in the rituals of the Temple along with other sacred utensils (4 Reigns 25:15; 2 Paraleipomena 4:11, 21).
§81. The Levites, of course, could no longer be the carriers of these and other sacred objects, including the Bronze Altar, once the Temple was in place. There was no further need for transportation, since the Bronze Altar had by now become stationary, no longer movable. A ritual act of moving that could have persisted, however, at least within the grounds of the stationary Temple, was the carrying of fire by the high priest as he processed from one part of the sacred grounds to another. Since the sacred utensil for such a sacred act of carrying was a brazier filled with coals on fire, I suggest that the word ana-phoreus ‘carrier’ could have persisted as an appropriate term for the instrument that carried the carrier of the fire.

A comparative view of aetiology

§82. Having argued that the whole set of narratives in the Hebrew Bible about the Bronze Altar can be viewed as an aetiology, I connect this argument with similar arguments I have made before—with reference to Greek mythology. Making use of those arguments, I offer here a working definition of aetiology, {533|534} based primarily on my experience in analyzing Greek traditions involving an interaction between myth and ritual:
In terms of […] Greek traditions, an aetiology is a myth that explains and even confirms the stability of a ritual in the present by narrating a primordial event of instability for that ritual as performed in the mythical past. My formulation here is a compressed version of a more elaborate explanation originally developed by Walter Burkert [45] and further developed by myself, [46] which I now restate this way: an aetiology focuses on a foundational catastrophe in the mythologized past that explains and thus motivates continuing success in the ritualized present and future. [47]
§83. So also in the narrative at Numbers 16:1–35 about the deviant Levite Korah and the incident of burning incense that went disastrously wrong, I see a failed ritual action in the past corresponding to a successful ritual interaction of priests with Levites in the present.

A further aetiology involving altars and braziers

§84. There is a comparable aetiology to be found in a narrative at Leviticus 10:1–3 concerning Nadab and Abihu, two ritually incorrect sons of the high-priest Aaron. These deviant priests are to be contrasted with another of Aaron’s sons, Eleazar, whom we have already seen in the role of a ritually correct sacrificer. It is this priest Eleazar, as we recall from Numbers 17:2–4, who is instructed by Kyrios to serve as the assistant of Moses in undertaking the sacred project of melting down the 250 braziers belonging to the rebellious Levites into a brazen mass used for the purpose of plating the Bronze Altar. In sharp contrast with Eleazar, as we will now see from the narrative at Leviticus 10:1, Nadab and Abihu commit an act of ritual deviation by way of their own priestly braziers: the two of them put into their individual pūreia ‘braziers’ a pūr ‘fire’ that is allotrion ‘alien’ when they approach the thusiastērion ‘altar’ to make their sacrifice.
§85. So, at Leviticus 10:1–3, the fire that the two deviant priests carry inside their braziers to the altar is unauthorized. By contrast, the sacrifice made previously on the same altar by Aaron himself is shown to be ritually correct, since the meat and the fat that are offered to be burned at the thusiastērion ‘altar’ are in this case consumed by the fire of sacrifice in a propitious way: in the words that express this successful sacrificial burning at Leviticus 9:24, ‘the fire [pūr] of Kyrios’ literally ‘devoured’ (kat-ephagen) the meat and the fat that were placed on the altar. By contrast, in reaction to the offerings made at a later point on the {534|535} same altar by the two deviant priests who had put into their pūreia ‘braziers’ a pūr ‘fire’ that is allotrion ‘alien’, the cosmic chemistry turns out to be disastrous: in the words that express this unsuccessful sacrificial burning at Leviticus 10:2, ‘the fire [pūr] of Kyrios’ literally ‘devoured’ (kat-ephagen) not any meat or fat placed on the altar but rather the deviant priests themselves, who were thus incinerated.

On the dangers of carrying fire in rituals of sacrifice

§86. I conclude, then, that even if braziers containing charcoals on fire could in fact be carried on the shoulder for the purpose of making sacrifice, the very act of carrying fire was considered to be very dangerous. So, I do not minimize what Michael Weiss has said about the possible dangers. To quote him again, “The transporter would be risking a burnt ear and a hair fire.” Actually, as I have argued, even if the porter who carries the brazier containing burning coals keeps it at arm’s length by way of attaching this utensil to a wooden shaft that he carries on his shoulder, the transporter would nevertheless be risking even more, much more, if the ritual went wrong.
§87. For typological examples, I have analyzed two lethal incidents narrated in the Hebrew Bible as mediated by the Greek Septuagint. Both incidents, as we have seen, involve braziers containing the fire of charcoals. These braziers, as we have also seen, are normally used by priests for sacrificing animals and then burning designated portions of meat and fat at the Bronze Altar of the Israelites, which is situated in the courtyard of the Tabernacle, as also for burning incense at the Golden Altar, which stands just outside the inner sanctum. In the case of the chief priest, as we have already seen, there are even those special yearly occasions when he is authorized to bring his own brazier, filled with charcoals on fire, into the inner sanctum of the Tabernacle, where he will burn incense to purify the whole community.
§88. So, why did things go so wrong with the use of braziers in the two incidents of “blow-back” as narrated in the Hebrew Bible? In the case of the deviant priests, as narrated at Leviticus 10:1–3, the fires that are burning inside the braziers of the two sacrificers is unauthorized. In the case of the rebellious Levites, as narrated primarily at Numbers 16:1–35, the 250 individual sacrificers who carry the fires that are burning inside their 250 individual braziers are themselves unauthorized. In both incidents, then, the sacrifice itself is unauthorized. [48] And so, in both incidents, when the sacrificers make their unauthorized sacrifice using their braziers, they themselves are incinerated by the fire of sacrifice. {535|536}

Back to the Iguvine Tables: authorization by the Auctor

§89. Here I return to a text, already mentioned, about an Umbrian fire ritual. In this text, beginning at Table III of the Iguvine Tables, pir ‘fire’ is kindled on the way leading arven ‘to the field’ (IT III 11–12). Then the pir ‘fire’ is placed ase ‘on the altar [asa]’, which is vuke ‘in the grove’ (IT III 21–22). Then an animal sacrifice is made iuvepatre ‘to Jupiter’ at the right side of the altar (IT III 22–23). Now I note an additional fact: before the kindling takes place, the Atiedian Brethren receive at IIIb 4 an official known as the uhtur, and the Latin equivalent of this Umbrian noun would be auctor. At IIIb 7–8, this Auctor goes on to approve a young pig and a sheep for sacrifice, and then, at IIIb 9, the procession gets underway, heading to the field and, later, to the grove. As Michael Weiss notes, this uhtur is “the chief magistrate of Iguvium,” [49] and he has “the highest auctoritas.” [50] In effect, then, the Auctor has just authorized the sacrifice by way of his auctoritas or authority. [51]

Ritual lustration as a context for sacrifice by fire

§90. As we see most clearly from reading the Umbrian text at Ib 11–12 of the Iguvine Tables, where the wording describes and prescribes the placement of fire by the Adfertor into the consecrated utensil called the ahti, this ritual procedure is part of an overall ritual complex known as a lustration, which is then described and prescribed in the overall text of Ib 10–45. [52]
§91. Just as the fire ritual here involves the use of Umbrian words derived from the equivalents of Latin (1) agō and (2) ferō, as we see in the case of the Umbrian forms (1) ahti and (2) ařfertur / arsfertor respectively, so also the overall ritual complex of lustration involves the same words agō and ferō in Latin texts. There is a striking example in Cato’s prescriptive formulation concerning the performance of a lustration:
Agrum lustrare sic oportet: impera suovitaurilia circumagi: ‘cum diuis uolentibus quodque bene eveniat, mando tibi, Mani, ut illace suovitaurilia fundum agrum terramque meam quota ex parte sive circumagi sive circumferenda censeas uti cures lustrare. …’
Here is the way one must perform-a-lustration [lustrāre]. Give a mandate that the-things-having-to-do-with-the-pig-and-the-sheep-and-the-bull {536|537} [suovitaurilia] should be-sacrificially-activated-in-a-circuit [circum-agī], [saying what follows:] ‘Provided that the gods are willing and that each thing has a good outcome, I mandate you, Manius, to take special care to perform-as-lustration [lustrāre] those [aforementioned] things-having-to-do-with-the-pig-and-the-sheep-and-the-bull [suovitaurilia], [lustrating] my farm and my field and my land in however many places you think it is proper for them [= the-things-having-to-do-with-the-pig-and-the-sheep-and-the-bull] to be-sacrificially-activated-in-a-circuit [circum-agī] or for them [= the-things-having-to-do-with-the-pig-and-the-sheep-and-the-bull] to be carried in a circuit [circum-ferenda]. …’
Cato De agri cultura 141.1
§92. The wording here tells Manius to ‘lustrate’, lustrāre, which is a ritual act of purification that requires making a circuit of the space to be purified. This making of a circuit is expressed by way of compounding the prefix circum- with two verbs, agō and ferō, which express two levels of ritual action. But before we consider the meanings of these two compound verbs circum-agō and circum-ferō in this context, we must first consider in this same context the syntax of the nouns that indicate the space to be purified. These nouns, indicating ‘farm and field and land’, are syntactically the outer object of the verb lustrāre ‘to lustrate’, while the inner object of the same verb here is the neuter plural noun suovitaurilia, which specifies the ritual actions that are contained by the general meaning of lustrāre. This general meaning, having to do with the overall ritual action of purification, contains the three specific ritual actions of sacrificially slaughtering (1) a pig and (2) a sheep and (3) a bull. But this noun suovitaurilia is not only the inner object of the infinitive lustrāre ‘lustrate’ here but also, simultaneously, the subject of the passive infinitive circum-agī and of the passive gerundive circum-ferenda. These two words circum-agī and circum-ferenda are syntactically linked together in a subordinate construction referring to the overall ritual action, which is the making of a circuit that integrates the specific ritual actions of sacrificially slaughtering the pig and the sheep and the bull.
§93. That said, we are now ready to consider the meanings of the two compound verbs circum-agō and circum-ferō in reference to the making of this ritual circuit. These two verbs show that the idea of doing a ritual ‘circuit’ is actually subdivided into two kinds of ritual action, one of them expressed by the verb agō and the other, by the verb ferō. So far, I have translated agō as ‘act’ or ‘activate’ or ‘do’. Now I expand the translation to include the idea of ‘drive’, while I continue to translate ferō simply as ‘carry’. As I will now argue, the two kinds of ritual action that are indicated by agō and ferō operate on two distinct levels, corresponding to the syntactical distinction between the passive infinitive circum-agī and the passive gerundive circum-ferenda, which I have already translated this way: ‘for them [= the-things-having-to-do-with-the-pig-and-the-sheep-{537|538}and-the-bull] to be-sacrificially-activated-in-a-circuit [circum-agī] or for them [= the-things-having-to-do-with-the-pig-and-the-sheep-and-the-bull] to be carried in a circuit [circum-ferenda]’. In what follows, I will argue for choosing this complex translation over the simpler translation ‘for them to be driven around or for them to be carried around’, where the antecedent ‘them’ must be understood as referring to the pig and the sheep and the bull.
§94. I start with the negative side of my argumentation. To translate ‘for them to be driven around’ cannot be justified here, since the antecedent ‘them’ in the logic of the Latin text refers not to the animals that are being sacrificed but to the things that have to do with the sacrificing of these animals. And these ‘things’ add up to the overall idea of ritually sacrificing the pig and the sheep and the bull—which is what suovitaurilia really means. The combination of the subject suovitaurilia with the passive verb circum-agī does not mean that a pig and a sheep and a bull are being ‘driven around’, since the noun that serves as the subject designates not the sacrificial animals that are to be driven around but the ritual of actually sacrificing these animals. Now I come to the second part of the overall translation, ‘carried around’. I find that this second part is even less apt than the first part. I resist the idea that any of these animals—the pig or the sheep or the bull—was supposed to be ‘carried around’, as if the verb circum-ferō were referring here to some kind of an alternative to the idea that these animals were to be ‘driven around’, as expressed by the verb circum-agō.
§95. Now I turn to the positive side of my argumentation. The semantic relationship of agō in the sense of ‘drive’ and ferō in the sense of ‘carry’ is more complicated in contexts of sacrifice. It is not enough, in such contexts, to translate agō and ferō simply as ‘drive’ and ‘carry’ respectively. In the semantic opposition between these two words, with reference to sacrifice, agō is the unmarked member and ferō is the marked. And the unmarked member can optionally be used to include the marked member. Yes, in Cato’s De agri cultura 141.1 we have seen a context where circum-ferō is used with a meaning that is distinct from the meaning of circum-agō, but we have also already seen another context where the distinction is elided. I refer again to the wording at De agri cultura 141.1, impera suovitaurilia circumagi, which I translated ‘give a mandate for [the ritual of] the suovitaurilia to be activated in a circuit [circum-agī]’. Also, later on in the same text, we find another example of the same sort of elision. Here I refer to the wording at 141.2, suovitaurilia circumagi iussi, which I now translate: ‘I have made the mandate for [the ritual of] the suovitaurilia to be activated in a circuit [circum-agī]’. In both these contexts, the meaning of circum-agō actually stands for and includes the meaning of circum-ferō. So, the use of the marked form circum-ferō can optionally be elided altogether by way of using the unmarked form circum-agō. {538|539}
§96. In situations where a sacrifice is initiated, the unmarked agō can stand for any act of sacrifice—without specifying whether the action highlights the driving of animate offerings—that is, of sacrificial animals—or the carrying of inanimate offerings. Here is an example in the cognate language of Umbrian: as we see in the text of the Iguvine Tables, the third-person singular imperative of the equivalent of Latin agō, spelled aitu / aitu, can have as its direct object a term like kapi sakra / capif sacra, meaning ‘consecrated bowls’ (Ib 29, 37 / VIb 18, VIIa 39–40). To give an etymological interpretation of aitu / aitu in these contexts, I translate literally let him activate for sacrifice the consecrated bowls. Or, to translate more idiomatically, let him carry the consecrated bowls or even let him have someone carry the consecrated bowls.
§97. In their etymological dictionary of Latin, Alfred Ernout and Antoine Meillet argue for an old pastoral meaning of dūcō in the basic sense of ‘pulling’, by contrast with ‘pushing’ as the corresponding old pastoral meaning of agō: the herdsman or dux is ‘pulling’ or ‘leading’ (dūcō) the herd when he goes in front, while he is ‘pushing’ or ‘driving’ (agō) when he is coming up from behind. [53] Such is the reasoning behind my etymological translation of the Umbrian equivalent of agō in the sense of activate for sacrifice. It is a matter of activating the sacred agenda or, to say it colloquially, of pushing such agenda. And such a sense can also account for the semantics of Umbrian ahti as an originally abstract action-noun meaning ‘action’ or ‘activation’ with reference to sacrificial agenda. Further, the semantic specialization of ahti as a concrete noun referring to a fire-carrying utensil corresponds to the unmarked meaning of the corresponding verb as we see it used in the third-person imperative aitu / aitu, which I have just translated simply as let him carry. Another way to express in English this unmarked sense of Italic agō is to translate it simply as ‘take along’: so, let him take along with him the utensil.

To carry-and-drive, or to carry and take along

§98. With these semantic considerations in mind, I come to a most difficult passage in the Iguvine Tables, featuring a collocation of the two verbs derived from the Umbrian equivalents of Latin agō and ferō:
sakre uvem kletra fertuta aituta
You must carry-and-drive [fertuta aituta] the pig and the sheep and the kletra.
Iguvine Tables IIIb 13 {539|540}
§99. At IIIb 12, immediately before this wording, the sacrificer has just been instructed to kindle (uřetu) a fire (pir) in preparation for a sacrifice, and now we see that a pig and a sheep are to be taken to the place of sacrifice as the sacrificial victims. The verbs fertuta aituta can be explained as two plural imperatives, to be translated as ‘you must carry-and-drive’, and the nouns sakre uvem meaning ‘pig and sheep’ are the direct objects of these imperatives. Michael Weiss argues that the additional noun kletra here is used as an ablative of accompaniment referring to some kind of seat of honor that is being carried to the sacrifice. [54] Although I agree with him that kletra cannot refer to some kind of ‘litter’ on top of which one of the sacrificial animals is supposedly being carried, I disagree with his view that this noun here is used in the ablative case. Instead, I allow for the possibility that kletra is in the accusative case, like the nouns sakre uvem meaning ‘pig and sheep’. So, if this noun kletra really refers to something like a portable seat of honor, it could be one of three direct objects of the two-fold imperative fertuta aituta. Then the seat of honor could be carried to the place of sacrifice, while the sacrificial animals could both be driven there. Granted, Weiss may be right when he allows for the possibility that one of the animals, the pig, is to be carried, not driven; but, in any case, I think that at least one of the animals, the sheep, is to be driven, not carried. [55] In terms of my explanation of agō as the unmarked member of the semantic opposition between agō and ferō in Italic languages, where agō can mean either ‘drive’ or ‘carry’ while ferō can mean only ‘carry’, the Umbrian collocation fertuta aituta at IIIb 13 can be translated simply as ‘they must carry-and-drive’, and this combination of marked ‘carry’ and unmarked ‘drive’ can have as direct objects the nouns for (1) the pig and (2) the sheep and (3) the seat of honor—without specifying which one or ones of the direct objects refers to something that is carried as opposed to something that is driven. Also, given the semantic opposition between Italic agō in the unmarked sense of ‘drive’ and Italic ferō in the marked sense of ‘carry’, we could experiment with a translation that renders more clearly the unmarkedness of ‘drive’ by substituting ‘take’ or ‘take along’. For the sake of such experimentation, then, I suggest this translation of fertuta aituta: ‘carry and take along’. {540|541}

Epilogue: agō and pherō in Greek

§100. In an online publication that I mentioned already in the Introduction, Nagy 2015b, I study combinations of Greek agō and pherō that are comparable to what we have just seen in the Italic evidence. [56] The primary text that I study in that publication is written in Mycenaean Greek on a clay tablet from Pylos, inventory number Tn 316. Limitations of time and space prevent me from recapitulating here all the things I have to say in Nagy 2015b about Tn 316, and so I must confine myself to highlighting whatever is most relevant to the Italic evidence.
§101. Before we have a look at the text of the Pylos tablet Tn 316, however, I must briefly consider the wording of the following Homeric passage:
|509 αὐτὸς δ’ ἐκ δίφροιο χαμαὶ θόρε παμφανόωντος, |510 κλῖνε δ’ ἄρα μάστιγα ποτὶ ζυγόν· οὐδὲ μάτησεν |511 ἴφθιμος Σθένελος, ἀλλ’ ἐσσυμένως λάβ’ ἄεθλον, |512 δῶκε δ’ ἄγειν ἑτάροισιν ὑπερθύμοισι γυναῖκα |513 καὶ τρίποδ’ ὠτώεντα φέρειν· ὃ δ’ ἔλυεν ὑφ’ ἵππους.
|509 He [Diomedes] jumped from the splendid chariot to the ground |510 and leaned his whip against the yoke. Nor was he idle, |511 that powerful Sthenelos [the charioteer of Diomedes]. He quickly took hold of the prize [aethlon] |512 and he gave [dōke] over to the superb companions, for taking away [agein], the woman, |513 and the tripod with a handle [he gave it over to them] for carrying away [pherein]. Then he [Sthenelos] unharnessed the horses.
Iliad XXIII 509–513
§102. Here is the context. The hero Diomedes has just won first prize in a chariot race that is featured as the premier athletic contest of the Funeral Games honoring the dead Patroklos. Earlier, at Iliad XXIII 263–265, Achilles had determined that the first prize in this contest will be bipartite: to be given away will be a slave woman (263) and a tripod (264). In the text of the subsequent narrative, which I have just quoted, the chariot driven by Diomedes is the first to reach the finish line, and we now see the victorious hero jumping down from the platform of the chariot (509) and leaving to his companion Sthenelos the task of unharnessing the horse team (513). Elsewhere in the Iliad, Sthenelos functions as the chariot driver of Diomedes whenever the two of them together engage in chariot fighting. Here in Iliad XXIII, Sthenelos is also left with the additional task of taking hold of the first prize (511), which is bipartite: there is a slave woman to ‘take’ away, agein (512), and there is a tripod to ‘carry’ away, pherein (513).
§103. The collocation of dōke (δῶκε) ‘gave’ plus agein (ἄγειν) ‘to take away’ and pherein (φέρειν) ‘to carry away’ in this Homeric passage is comparable with {541|542} another collocation that we find in four other Homeric passages. This other collocation involves (1) the same word for ‘give’ (δῶκε / δῶκε / δοίης / δῶκ᾿) and (2) the word phorēnai (φορῆναι), which is a derivative of pherein ‘carry’ and which likewise means ‘to carry’—or ‘to wear’. In the four Homeric passages, the direct objects of the infinitive phorēnai are: a scepter to carry (Iliad II 107), a set of armor to wear (VII 149), a helmet to wear (X 270), and fodder for a herdsman to carry for feeding a herd of goats (Odyssey xvii 224).
§104. Now that I have these Homeric comparanda in place, I am ready to look at the text written in Mycenaean Greek:

The text of PY Tn 316 transcribed

§105. recto: [57]
|r1 po-ro-wi-to-jo |r2+3 pu-ro |r2 i-je-to-qe pa-ki-ja-si do-ra-qe pe-re po-re-na-qe |r3 a-ke po-ti-ni-ja GOLD CUP [type *215] 1 WOMAN 1 |r4 ma-ṇạ-sa GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 WOMAN 1 po-si-da-e-ja GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 WOMAN 1 |r5 ti-ri-se-ro-e GOLD CUP [type *216] 1 do-po-ta GOLD CUP [type *215] 1
§106. verso: [58]
|v1+2+3 pu-ro |v1 i-je-to-qe po-si-da-i-jo a-ke-qe wa-tu |v2 do-ra-qe pe-re po-re-na-qe a-ke |v3 GOLD CUP [type *215] 1 WOMAN 2 qo-wi-ja [--] ko-ma-we-te-ja |v4+5+6+7 pu-ro |v4 i-je-to-qe pe-re-*82-jo i-pe-me-de-ja-qe di-u-ja-jo-qe |v5 do-ra-qe pe-re-po-re-na-qe a<-ke> pe-re-*82 GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 WOMAN 1 |v6 i-pe-me-de-ja GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 di-u-ja GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 WOMAN 1 |v7 e-ma-a2 a-re-ja GOLD CUP [type *216] 1 MAN 1 |v8+9+10+11 pu-ro |v8 i-je-to-qe di-u-jo do-ra-qe pe-re po-re-na-qe a-ḳẹ |v9 di-we GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 MAN 1 e-ra GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 WOMAN 1 |v10 di-ri-mi-jo di-wo i-je-we GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 [ ]
Pylos tablet Tn 316, r(ecto) lines 1–5 and v(erso) lines 1–10

A working translation of the transcribed text

§107. recto:
|r1 (In the month of) Plōwistos. |r2+3 Pylos: |r2 and makes-sacrifice [i-je-to-qe] at pa-ki-ja-ne; and carries [pherei] gifts [dōra] and takes-along [agei] |r3 for the carrying [phorēnai] (of the gifts): to the Potnia, GOLD CUP 1 [type *215] WOMAN 1; |r4 to ma-na-sa, GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 WOMAN 1; to Posidāeia, GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 WOMAN 1; |r5 to the Tris-hērōs, GOLD CUP [type *216] 1; to the Dospotās, GOLD CUP [type *215] 1.
{542|543}
§108. verso:
|v1+2+3 Pylos: |v1 and makes-sacrifice [i-je-to-qe] at the precinct-of-Poseidon [= po-si-da-i-jo]; and the city [wastu] takes-along [agei] (the gifts); |v2 and carries [pherei] gifts [dōra] and takes-along [agei] for the carrying [phorēnai] (of the gifts): |v3 GOLD CUP [type *215] 1 WOMAN 2 qo-wi- ja [--] ko-ma-we-te-ja. |v4+5+6+7 Pylos: |v4 and makes-sacrifice [i-je-to-qe] at the precinct-of-pe-re-*82 [= pe-re-*82-jo] and of i-pe-me-de-ja, and at the precinct-of-Diwya [= di-u-ja-jo]; |v5 and carries [pherei] gifts [dōra] and takes-along [agei] for the carrying [phorēnai] (of the gifts): to pe-re-*82, GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 WOMAN 1; |v6 to i-pe-me-de-ja, GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1; to Diwya, GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 WOMAN 1; |v7 to Hermes a-re-ja, GOLD CUP [type *216] 1 MAN 1. |v8+9+10+11 Pylos: |v8 and makes-sacrifice [i-je-to-qe] at the precinct of Zeus [= di-u-jo]; and carries [pherei] gifts [dōra] and takes-along [agei] for the carrying [phorēnai] (of the gifts): |v9 to Zeus, GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 MAN 1; to Hera, GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 WOMAN 1; |v10 to Drimios the son of Zeus, GOLD BOWL [type *213] 1 [ ].
Pylos tablet Tn 316, r(ecto) lines 1–5 and v(erso) lines 1–10
§109. I highlight the expression do-ra-qe pe-re po-re-na-qe a-ke, at lines r2+r3 of the recto and at lines v2, v5, and v8 of the verso, focusing on the following formal correspondences with the Homeric passage I quoted earlier:
- The form do-ra, to be read as the noun dōra in the accusative plural, corresponds to Homeric dōra (δῶρα).
- The form pe-re, to be read as the verb pherei in the third-person singular, corresponds to Homeric pherei (φέρει).
- The form a-ke, to be read as the verb agei in the third-person singular, corresponds to Homeric agei (ἄγει).
- The form po-re-na-, if it could be read as the infinitive phorēnai, would correspond to Homeric phorēnai (φορῆναι).
§110. Of these four correspondences, the first three are straightforward, and only the fourth one involves uncertainties and calls for debate.
§111. I offer here my reading of do-ra-qe pe-re po-re-na-qe a-ke at lines v2+v3 on the recto side and at v2, v5, and v8 on the verso side of the tablet Tn 316. I read dōra-kʷe pherei phorēnai-kʷe agei, the equivalent of which in classical Greek would be δῶρά τε φέρει φορῆναί τε ἄγει. I translate ‘and carries [pherei] gifts [dōra] and takes-along [agei] for the carrying [phorēnai] (of the gifts) …’. {543|544} This reading is based on argumentation that I presented in an article published in Nagy 1994–1995—now reworked in Nagy 2015b. [59]
§112. My translation treats the verbs pherei ‘carries’ and agei ‘takes along’ here as having no personal subject, in line with the impersonal prescriptiveness of the ritual instructions. Similarly, an impersonal translation can be applied to the introductory verb i-je-to, which I translate as hietoi ‘makes sacrifice’, following the analysis of this form by José Luis García-Ramón, who argues for a formal connection between such a verb hietoi (i-je-to) and the adjective hieros ‘sacred’. [60]
§113. Having just said that the verbs pherei (pe-re) ‘carries’ and agei (a-ke) ‘takes along’ and hietoi (i-je-to) ‘makes sacrifice’ are all deprived of a personal subject, I will now go on to argue that they all nevertheless share what I call an impersonal subject.
§114. The verb i-je-to at lines r2 and v1 and v4 and v8 is correlated with the place-name pu-ro that we read at lines r2+3 and v1+2+3 and v4+5+6+7 and v8+9+10+11. This is the name for the city of Pylos, pu-ro, which would be Pulos in the nominative case. As García-Ramón observes, a nominative Pulos at lines r2+3 and v1+2+3 and v4+5+6+7 and v8+9+10+11 could in theory function as the subject of the verb i-je-to at lines r2 and v1 and v4 and v8. [61] And here is where I apply the idea of an impersonal subject.
§115. In support of this idea, I note that the formatting of the word pu-ro as a headline, as it were, at lines r2+3 and v1+2+3 and v4+5+6+7 and v8+9+10+11, written in larger characters than the rest of the text, could indicate that it functions as the subject not only for i-je-to but also for do-ra-qe pe-re po-re-na-qe a-ke at lines r2+3 and v2 and v5 and v8. As we will see in a moment, an essential piece of evidence in favor of this syntactical interpretation is the expression a-ke-qe wa-tu at line v1.
§116. The ritual procedure of taking gifts to divinities is well known from the evidence of fifth-century Greek: an ideal example is ἄγειν … δῶρα ἐς τὰ ἱρά ‘to take [agein] gifts [dōra] to the sacred precincts [hiera]’ in Herodotus 1.53.1. In the text of the Pylos tablet, however, we see that the ritual of agein or ‘taking’ the offerings to a sacred precinct is subdivided into ‘carrying’ objects, as expressed by way of pherein, and ‘taking’ persons, as expressed by agein. We see a {544|545} comparable subdivision in the Homeric passage that I cited, Iliad XXIII 512–513, where the prize that is given as a gift consists of a tripod for the recipient ‘to carry away’, pherein (513), plus a slave woman for the recipient ‘to take away’, agein (512).
§117. I note here in passing a difference in perspective between the Homeric passage and the text of the Pylos tablet. In the Homeric passage, we see the gifts being carried away and taken away by the human recipient. In the text of the Pylos tablet, by contrast, the gifts are being carried to and taken to the divine recipients.
§118. The fact that the recipients of the gifts are divinities in the text of the Pylos tablet helps us understand the status of the persons who are being taken to these divinities. In this text, the gift of a votive object or objects is optionally supplemented by the gift of a votive person or persons. And this person or these persons must be votive gifts just as the corresponding objects are votive gifts. So, in terms of my interpretation, these persons are slaves who can be given away as consecrated property, just as the objects are being given away as consecrated property. In the case of the persons who are being given as consecrated gifts, the consecration itself is indicated by the fact that the gender of the persons given consistently matches the gender of the divine recipients.
§119. The verbs pherei ‘carries’ and agei ‘takes’ in my translation have as their direct object the noun dōra ‘gifts’, and this direct object refers, first, to the consecrated golden vessels and, second, to the consecrated slaves—who are second-level gifts that are optionally added to the first-level gifts, which are the golden vessels. Accordingly, we could say that the semantic combination of a double verb meaning ‘carries & takes-along’ with a noun meaning ‘gifts’ as a direct object is a merism that can substitute for the semantic combination of a single verb meaning ‘takes along’ with the same direct object meaning ‘gifts’. [62]
§120. That said, I am ready to consider the expression a-ke-qe wa-tu at line v1 of Pylos tablet Tn 316, which I have translated ‘and the city [wastu] takes-along [agei] (the gifts)’. This way of referring to the idea of bearing gifts would be the least specific way of expressing such an idea. It would be the unmarked way of saying it. In this prescriptive formula, I argue, wastu ‘city’ functions as a common noun in apposition to the proper noun Pulos ‘Pylos’. In terms of my argument, wastu ‘the city’ is an impersonal subject of agei ‘takes along (the gifts)’, just as Pulos is the subject of hietoi ‘makes sacrifice’. In this case, the sacrifice as indicated by hietoi (i-je-to) ‘makes sacrifice’ is taking place in the sacred precinct of {545|546} Poseidon, written as po-si-da-i-jo at line v1, and, as we know from other contexts recorded in other tablets, this precinct is located in the city center or wastu of Pylos, not in its periphery. [63] That is why, in this case, the impersonal subject of the verb hietoi ‘makes sacrifice’ is exceptionally acting in the name of the city of Pylos when it participates in the rituals held in the sacred precinct of Poseidon in Pylos, at line v1. And that is why the expression a-ke-qe wa-tu ‘and the city [wastu] takes-along [agei] (the gifts)’ at line v1 occurs only in this case, where the sacred precinct is actually located inside the wastu ‘city’ of Pylos. In the other cases, by contrast, the city of Pylos is participating in rituals held outside of the city. That is what happens when the city hietoi (i-je-to) ‘makes sacrifice’ at a sacred precinct such as pa-ki-ja-ne at line r2, which as we know from other tablets (especially Jn 829) is located in the ‘Hither Province’ administered by Pylos. In such a case, the city still ‘makes sacrifice’, hietoi, but it makes this sacrifice not in its own name but in the name of the precinct that is sacred to the divinity who presides over that precinct. That is what we see also in the case of the sacred precinct of Zeus, di-u-jo, at line v8. And a similar formulation applies to the sacred precincts named pe-re-*82-jo and di-u-ja-jo at line v4.
§121. In the last example I just cited, the divine recipients of gifts offered by the city of Pylos are three in number. We see here not only the female divinities pe-re-*82 and di-u-ja at lines v5 and v6, corresponding to the sacred precincts that are named after them, pe-re-*82-jo and di-u-ja-jo at line v4, but also the female divinity i-pe-me-de-ja at line v6, who does not have a sacred precinct of her own but shares the precinct belonging to pe-re-*82. Accordingly, the name of i-pe-me-de-ja is written at line v4 simply in the genitive, and that is why, I think, there is no separate votive slave assigned to her as a gift.
§122. I have three final observations to make about the expression a-ke-qe wa-tu at line v1 of Pylos tablet Tn 316, which I have translated ‘and the city [wastu] takes-along [agei] (the gifts)’:
1) In terms of my reconstruction, the use of the noun wastu (wa-tu) ‘city’ as the impersonal subject of the verb agei ‘takes along’ here at line v1 is parallel to the juridical use of dāmos (da-mo) ‘district’ as the impersonal subject of the verb phāsi ‘says’ at line 5 of the Pylos tablet Ep 704. [64]
2) In the expression that I interpret as agei-kʷe wastu (a-ke-qe wa-tu) at line v1, which I translate ‘and the city [wastu] takes-along [agei] (the gifts)’, the verb agei ‘takes along’ has as its implied direct object the noun dōra (do-ra) {546|547} ‘gifts’, which is then made explicit in the wording that immediately follows at line v2, dōra-kʷe pherei phorēnai-kʷe agei (do-ra-qe pe-re po-re-na-qe a-ke), which I have translated as ‘and he carries [pherei] gifts [dōra] and takes-along [agei] for the carrying [phorēnai] (of the gifts) …’. As I have already argued, we see in this wording a bipartition of the kinds of gifts that are offered to a divine recipient. But now I also argue that the preceding expression agei-kʷe wastu (a-ke-qe wa-tu) at line v1 shows an absence of such bipartition, just as we saw no bipartition in the expression ἄγειν … δῶρα ἐς τὰ ἱρά ‘to take [agein] gifts [dōra] to the sacred precincts [hiera]’ in Herodotus 1.53.1.
3) Such alternation between the absence and the presence of semantic bipartition in the use of Mycenaean Greek agein and pherein is comparable to the alternation we saw in the use of Latin circum-agō and circum-ferō in Cato’s De agri cultura 141.1-2.

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Footnotes

[ back ] 1. The text shown here follows the edition of Poultney 1959.
[ back ] 2. Nagy 2007, republished as Nagy 2015a.
[ back ] 3. In VI 3, the spelling is a cross between the Latin and the native Umbrian versions, arfertur.
[ back ] 4. Weiss 2010:103n22 considers the possibility that *acti(o)- is derived directly from a ti-stem that would be the equivalent of Latin actiō. He also considers an alternative possibility: that *acti(o)- might be an ii̯o-derivative from the equivalent of Latin actum. I prefer the first possibility.
[ back ] 5. This paragraph repeats the content of Nagy 2015a §4.
[ back ] 6. I list the attestations in Nagy 1990b:161n61
[ back ] 7. For commentary and further examples, see Nagy 1990b:161–163.
[ back ] 8. Nagy 2015a §§5–8.
[ back ] 9. I agree with Weiss 2010:189–200 when he argues that Umbrian trefi is a cognate of Latin tribus, and I also agree that it means something like ‘tripartite entity’. But I disagree with his view (pp. 191–192) that the combination of tre-/tri- with -fi- / -bu- involves the Indo-European root *dʰh1u-. As I argued in Nagy 1990b:278–293, there is Greek comparative evidence for positing formations and meanings involving tri-phū-, pointing to a derivation from *tri-bʰū-.
[ back ] 10. See also Nagy 1990b:165.
[ back ] 11. Nagy 1990b:160–163.
[ back ] 12. Nagy 1990b:165–166.
[ back ] 13. Thurneysen 1912–1913; see further Nagy 2015a §8 and, earlier, Nagy 1990b:180.
[ back ] 14. Again, Nagy 2015a §8.
[ back ] 15. Nagy 2015a §§10610–16.
[ back ] 16. Nagy 2015a §20, recapitulating Nagy 1990b:167–168, following the usage of Poultney 1959:271.
[ back ] 17. Nagy 1990b:151–155, 170–174.
[ back ] 18. Weiss 2010:152.
[ back ] 19. Weiss 2010:152n61.
[ back ] 20. I use here the terms marked and unmarked along the lines formulated by Jakobson (especially 1957); details in Nagy 1990a Introduction §§12–16.
[ back ] 21. Nagy 2015a §31.
[ back ] 22. Nagy 2015a§21.
[ back ] 23. Nagy 1990b:168.
[ back ] 24. Weiss 2010:153.
[ back ] 25. Weiss 2010:154n67.
[ back ] 26. Weiss 2010:153.
[ back ] 27. Nagy 2015a §24.
[ back ] 28. Snodgrass 1996:592–593; for the relevant illustrations, see vol. III, Fig. 177; vol. IV, pl. 290.
[ back ] 29. Chadwick 1986:517.
[ back ] 30. Chadwick 1996:114.
[ back ] 31. Chadwick 1986:519; on the same page, he has produced a line drawing of a typical eskharā.
[ back ] 32. Nagy 1990b:169. See also Weiss 105n22, with further bibliography.
[ back ] 33. Nagy 2015a §25. I think that the two alternatives of (1) carrying fire on a tabula or (2) carrying fire inside a brazier can be correlated with the absence or the presence respectively of an extra ritual step that we see articulated in the Iguvine Tables at VIa 20: this extra step has to do with the procedure of ‘causing fire to be kindled from fire’. On this procedure, I am guided by the comments of Poultney 1959:239.
[ back ] 34. In the commentary of Milgrom 1990:21 on the Hebrew text of Numbers 3:29–31, we find valuable information about these objects, especially with regard to the ‘Screen’, which is māsāk in Hebrew and kata-kalumma (κατακάλυμμα) in Greek.
[ back ] 35. This bipartition of the tasks assigned to the sons of Kohath is made clear in the Hebrew text of Numbers 3:29–31 as analyzed by Milgrom 1990:20–21, with special reference to the Hebrew word ăbōdâ in the sense of ‘removal’.
[ back ] 36. Milgrom 1990:20, 54.
[ back ] 37. Milgrom 1990:344. See also in general Milgrom 1970. I owe much to Milgrom for the guidance that he gives his readers in these two works. I have also benefited from the guidance, in live conversations and also by e-mail, of James Adam Redfield, Keith Stone, and Jacqueline Vayntrub.
[ back ] 38. See also Philo De specialibus legibus 1.72, describing what happens when the arkhiereus ‘chief priest’ enters the holy of holies behind the curtain of the Tabernacle of the Temple in order to perform there the yearly ritual of atonement by way of burning incense: πυρεῖον … ἀνθράκων πλῆρες καὶ θυμιαμάτων εἰσκομίζει ‘he brings [into the holy of holies] a brazier [pūreion] full of live charcoals [anthrakes] and incense’.
[ back ] 39. Milgrom 1990:27 says about the Golden Altar: “nothing was burnt on it but incense.”
[ back ] 40. On the brazier or “fire pan” of Aaron, Milgrom 1990:141 says that “the definite article [in the Hebrew] indicates a familiar fire pan, the one that Aaron aways used of the several fire pans attached to the altar [Numbers 4:14].”
[ back ] 41. The accretions are analyzed by Milgrom 1990:414–423.
[ back ] 42. As I already noted, the accretions are analyzed by Milgrom 1990:414–423.
[ back ] 43. Milgrom 1990:140.
[ back ] 44. The commentary of Milgrom 1990:139 on the action of Eleazar in Numbers 17:3 is most helpful.
[ back ] 45. Burkert 1985:105–107.
[ back ] 46. Nagy 1990a:118, 125–130; 141–142; 386; 395–397.
[ back ] 47. Nagy 2011 §68.
[ back ] 48. Milgrom 1990:138.
[ back ] 49. Weiss 2010:85.
[ back ] 50. Weiss 2010:87.
[ back ] 51. Willi 1994–1995:182 aptly describes the uhtur as “the organizer or auctor of the sacrifice.”
[ back ] 52. Poultney 1959:163, Weiss 2010:105.
[ back ] 53. Ernout and Meillet 1959:185.
[ back ] 54. Weiss 2010:106–113.
[ back ] 55. Weiss 2010:108.
[ back ] 56. That online publication, Nagy 2015b, is a second edition of Nagy 1994–1995.
[ back ] 57. The heading pu-ro is written in larger characters for recto lines 2+3 and 5.
[ back ] 58. The heading pu-ro is written in larger characters for verso lines 1+2+3 and 4+5+6+7 and 8+9+10+.
[ back ] 59. Nagy 1994–1995. Also in favor of reading po-re-na as phorēnai is Willi 1994–1995. Opposed to this reading is Palaima 1996–1997. Nagy 2015b is a continuation of my friendly debate with Palaima on the interpretation of po-re-na.
[ back ] 60. García-Ramón 1996.
[ back ] 61. García-Ramón 1996:267–268.
[ back ] 62. My understanding of the term I use here, merism, matches that of Willi 1994–1995:181.
[ back ] 63. Mathioudaki 2003–2004:122.
[ back ] 64. On Mycenaean dāmos as “an administrative entity that can have a juridical personality,” see Palaima 2004:231.