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Eteocretan /itokritn, t-/ (lit.

"true Cretan", from Greek , meaning "true" + Cretan)[2] is


the non-Greek language of a few alphabetic inscriptions of ancient Crete.
In eastern Crete about half a dozen inscriptions have been found which, though written in Greek
alphabets, are clearly not Greek. These inscriptions date from the late 7th or early 6th century
down to the 3rd century BC. The language, which is not understood, is probably a survival of a
language spoken on Crete before the arrival of Greeks and may well be derived from the Minoan
language preserved in the Linear A inscriptions of a millennium earlier. But as that language still
remains to be deciphered, we cannot say for sure that Eteocretan and Minoan are related.
Ancient testimony suggests that the language is that of the Eteocretans, i.e. "True Cretans."
The term 'Eteocretan' is sometimes applied to the Minoan language(s) written more than a
millennium earlier in so-called Cretan 'hieroglyphics' (almost certainly a syllabary) and in the
Linear A script. Yves Duhoux, a leading authority on Eteocretan, has stated that "it is essential to
rigorously separate the study of Eteocretan from that of the "hieroglyphic" and Linear A
inscriptions"
,
,
, , .
,
, ,
.
There is a land called Crete in the midst of the wine-blue sea,
a beautiful and fertile land, seagirt; in it are many
people, innumerable, and there are ninety cities.
Language with language is mingled together. There are Akhaians,
there are great-hearted Eteocretans, there are Kydones,
and Dorians in their three clans, and noble Pelasgians.
[Homer, Odyssey 19, lines 172 - 177]
, ,
,
, , ....
Of them [the peoples in the above passage] Staphylos says that the Dorians occupy the region
towards the east, the Kydones the western part, the Eteocretans the southern, whose town is
Prasos, where the temple of Diktaian Zeus is; and that the Eteocretans and Kydones are
probably indigenous, but the others incomers, ....
[Strabo 10, 475]
Indeed, more than half the known texts are from Praisos (Strabo's );[4] the others were
found at Dreros (Driros).
Inscriptions[edit]
There are five inscriptions which can be attributed Eteocretan, two of them being bilingual
Eteocretan and Greek. There are three other fragments that may be Eteocretan. The whole
Eteocretan corpus, and more, is very fully discussed by Yves Duhoux in L'tocrtois: les textes la langue.[5]
Dreros[edit]

The two bilingual inscriptions, together with six other Greek inscriptions, were found in the
western part of the large Hellenistic cistern next to the east wall of the Delphinion (temple of
Apollo Delphinios) in Dreros, at a depth between 3 to 4 metres.[6] The texts are all written in the
archaic Cretan alphabet and date from the late 7th or early 6th century BC. They give official
religious and political decisions and probably came from the east wall of the Delphinion; they
were published by Henri van Effenterre in 1937 and 1946 and were kept in the museum at
Neapolis.
The longer of these two inscriptions was found in the autumn of 1936 but not published until
1946.[7] The Greek part of the text is very worn and could not easily be read. Almost certainly
with modern technology the Greek part would yield more but the inscription was lost during the
occupation of the island in World War II. Despite searches over 70 years, it has not been found.
The other Dreros inscription was also published by van Effenterre in 1946.[8] The Eteocretan part
of the text has disappeared, only the word(s) (tuprmriia) remaining.
Praisos (or Praesos)[edit]
The other three certain Eteocretan inscriptions were published by Margherita Guarducci in the
third volume of Inscriptiones Creticae, Tituli Cretae Orientalis, in 1942.[4] The inscriptions are
archived in the Archeological Museum at Iraklion (Heraklion). Raymond A. Brown, who examined
these inscriptions in the summer of 1976, has published them online with slightly different
transcriptions than those given by Guarducci.
The earliest of these inscriptions is, like the Dreros one, written in the archaic Cretan alphabet
and likewise dates from the late 7th or early 6th century BC. The second of the Praisos
inscriptions is written in the standard Ionic alphabet, except for lambda which is still written in the
archaic Cretan style; it probably dates from the 4th century BC.[9] The third inscription, dating
probably from the 3rd century BC, is written in the standard Ionic alphabet with the addition of
digamma or wau.
Other possible fragmentary inscriptions[edit]
Guarducci included three other fragmentary inscriptions;[10] two of these fragments were also
discussed by Yves Duhoux.[11] The latter also discussed several other fragmentary inscriptions
which might be Eteocretan.[12] All these inscriptions, however, are so very fragmentary that it
really is not possible to state with any certainty that they may not be Greek.
A modern forgery[edit]
A modern forgery is found in older publications included with Eteocretan inscriptions.[13][14][15] It
is variously known as the Psychro inscription or the Epioi inscription.
The inscription has five words, which bear no obvious resemblance to the language of the Dreros
and Praisos inscriptions, apparently written in the Ionic alphabet of the 3rd century BC, with the
addition of three symbols which resemble the Linear A script of more than a millennium earlier.
The enigmatic inscription has attracted the attention of many, but has now been shown by Dr Ch.
Kritzas to be a modern forgery.[16]
The language[edit]
The inscriptions are too few to give us much information about the language.
Lexicon[edit]
The early inscriptions written in the archaic Cretan alphabet do mark word division; the two longer
inscriptions from the 4th and 3rd centuries BC do not show word divisions.
From the Dreros inscriptions we have the following words: et isalabre komn men inai isaluria lmo
tuprmriia

The two words komn and lmo seem to show that /n/ and /l/ could be syllabic.
As to the meanings of the words, nothing can be said with any certainty. Van Effenterre
suggested that:
iniai = Dorian Cretan (= classical Greek , 3rd singular aorist of ) = it pleased
[the council, the people], i.e. it was decided [that][17] The word occurs in the Greek part
of the bilingual text, and all but one of the other Greek texts from the Delphinion in Dreros.
tuprmriia = in the Greek part of the inscription, i.e. may it become pure.[18]
Also Van Effenterree noted that the word () (cheese) seems to occur twice in the Greek part
of the first Dreros bilingual and suggested the text concerned the offering of goat cheese to Leto,
the mother goddess of the Delphinion triad and that the words isalabre and isaluria were related
words with the meaning of (goat) cheese".[19]
The only clearly complete word on the earliest Praisos inscription is barze, and there is no
indication of its meaning.
The other two Praisos inscriptions do not show word breaks. It has, however, been noted that in
the second line of the 4th century inscription we have phraisoi inai ( ); and it has been
suggested that this means it pleased the Praisians" ( ).[20]
Classification[edit]
Though meager, the inscriptions do show a language which bears no obvious kinship to either
Indo-European or Semitic languages; nor does the language appear to be related to Etruscan or
any other known ancient language of the Aegean or Asia Minor. Brown,[21] after listing a number
of words of pre-Greek origin from Crete suggests a relation between Eteocretan, Lemnian
(Pelasgian), Minoan, and Tyrrhenian, coining the name "Aegeo-Asianic" for the proposed
language family.[22] In whichever case, unless further inscriptions, especially bilingual ones, are
found, the Eteocretan language must remain 'unclassified.'
While possible that Eteocretan is descended from the Minoan language of Linear A inscriptions of
a millennium earlier, until there is an accepted decipherment of Linear A, that language must also
remain unclassified and the question of a relationship between the two remains speculative,
especially as there seem to have been other non-Greek languages spoken in Crete