10/21/2010 Etruscan Phrases research showing Etruscan conjugation and declension patterns and vocabulary. Translation of the Schoyen Mirror MS 565 / 2 6th century B.C. The story of Icarius, the first disciple of Dionysus.

Schøyen Mirror MS 565 /2 "Icarius"
Translation by Mel Copeland
(Image from the
Schøyen Collection, reproduced by permission);
Etruscan collection, MS 565/2

Click on the mirror for a larger image.

This is one of the more significant Etruscan scripts because of the correlation of its scene with the mythological story of the event. This can be considered the first example of Etruscan literature that has been translated, where the text coincides with the image on the mirror. According to the Schøyen Collection, this bronze is from Etruria, Italy, 6th c. BC, mirror, diam. 13 cm. early Etruscan script along the raised rim.

The mirror is important for other reasons: Most of its vocabulary is found in other Etruscan scripts, and the writing style seems to coincide with the Tavola Eugubine, Scripts N, Q, R and G. The "T" which appears as a "Y" represents a style not only in the Eugubine but also the Tavola Cortonensis. The Tavola Cortonensis script is the latest Etruscan script that has been discovered. Clearly mirror MS 565 /2 offers an ability to confirm the vocabulary of other scripts. It is not much to go on, it is true, but it is at least an image with a text that can be used to confirm identical words in other scripts. The context makes the confirmation possible.

The image was supplied by Elizabeth Gano Sørenssen, Librarian for The Schøyen Collection.

Background on the Centaurs and wine (1)

The mirror seems to tell a story that hasn't quite come down to us. We know the story of Icarius, how he was clubed to death by shepherds whom he had introduced to wine. His driving a chariot pulled by Centaurs is new. The characters above the Centaur's leg MS-20, were initially read as THeSSE, appearing to suggest the name Theseus (The actual phrase reads: AN PReSSE, "to the press!" as noted in our commentary below (*3)). Nevertheless, we mention Theseus here since he and Heracles, were two heroes that were tied to the story of the Centaurs – each in their own way. Theseus was involved in the first battle between men and the tribe of the Centaurs.

The mirror shows an image of a man with a club with a Phrygian style cap (common in Etruscan images) driving two centaurs with a dog beside the chariot. One centaur carries a bunch of grapes and the other appears to have a cast cutting instrument – as reflected in its handle – probably used for cutting grapes. He also has an animal hanging over his shoulder that is destined for a feast. Above the driver is a cherub. This image, then, shows what appears to be Icarius and his friends driving off to dinner. The cherub above them appears to be sprinkling them with water, with both hands outstretched. He is not likely warning Icarius.

If it were not for the dog in the design, we could suspect that the driver could be Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and vegetation, also called "the twice born" god. He is also known as Bacchus and besides being called Bacchus the Romans also called him Liber. The driver and Centaurs are delivering food and grapes. I have yet to find a story that involves Dionysus driving a chariot pulled by Centaurs. (However, we recently discovered a Roman tile, below, of Dionysus driving a chariot pulled by Centaurs.) His image involves goats, he rides on an ass, he is sometimes wearing a leopard skin, and he carries a thyrsos (a long fennel stalk topped with ivy leaves). An excellent resource with ancient images of Dionysos and a link to ancient texts on Dionysos is at:


Because of a name on the left-hand bottom circumference of the mirror which is Ikra, the driver is probably Icarius who was a key disciple of Dionysus who spread the worship of Dionysus, known as the Bacchalian rites.

Roman tile from http://pro.corbis.com/, Search # CS010353, Roman Mosaic of Dionysus and His Court, Date Created: ca. 2nd-4th centuries:

(via www.the-goldenrule.name) Dionysus driving a chariot pulled by Centaurs. Compare this image to the Schøyen mirror.

Wherever Dionysus traveled, he was followed by a train of satyrs and maenads. The maenads were often joined in their orgiastic rites by local women, to the distress of their husbands and fathers. The dancing maenads, dressed in skins and carrying thyrsi, were popular themes in Greek art. Often represented in the murals of Etruscan tombs (See Etruscan Murals.html) are what appear to be banquet scenes with Bacchalian rites. (1)

The craftsman of the mirror would have to know that the key figure in the design was Icarius' faithful dog, Maera. The dog became the means by which the daughter of Icarius discovered her father's grave, for she found it barking over her father's grave. So this tip from the artist would eliminate Dionysus, leaving no other than Icarius as the driver. The club in the driver's hand is also another clue: Icarius was clubbed to death by drunken shepherds who first learned the art of wine making from Icarius.

Background regarding the "Ikra" mirror:

The script is about Ikra (Icarius) who was an Athenian (here identified as a king) who had a daughter, Erigone. Both welcomed Dionysus, the god that taught Icarius the culture of the vine. Icarius loaded a wagon with wineskins, called his faithful dog, Maera, and set off to spread the word. The first persons that he met were some shepherds. He gave them some of the wine, which, from inexperience, they drank unwatered. Rousing much later from a drunken stupor, they thought that the stranger had tried to poison them. They beat Icarius to death with clubs, flung his body into a well or buried it under a tree, and ran away. Erigone looked everywhere for her father and was finally led to him by Maera, who howled over his grave. Distracted with grief, she hanged herself from the tree that grew over the grave. The dog also committed suicide by jumping into a well.

Dionysus, angered that the deaths of his devoted followers had gone unavenged, sent a madness on Athenian girls that caused them to hang themselves from trees. The Athenians learned the cause of this phenomenon from a miracle, found and punished the murderers, and instituted rites in honor of Icarius and his daughter that were held during the grape harvest. During this "swinging festival" girls swung from trees on swings, in imitation of Erigone. Dionysus further honored the two by placing Icarius in the sky as the constellation Boötes, Erigone as Virgo, and Maera as the dog star.

Ikra is driving a chariot pulled by two centaurs. The centaurs are known in mythology for being among the first to get drunk drinking wine and turning violent. Hercules was involved with the centaurs. He was entertained by Pholus, a civilized member of their tribe, when the other Centaurs, aroused by the odor of wine, broke up the feast. Hercules killed many of them and drove away the others, most of whom fled either to Malea, to Mount Pholoe (named for Pholus) or to Eleusis. Nessus, however, went to Aetolia, where he ultimately took a terrible revenge on Heracles. An innocent victim of Heracles' war with the Centaurs was Pholus, who dropped one of his guest's poisoned arrows on his foot. Heracles also inadvertently caused the death of the wise Centaur Cheiron, who had reared Jason, Asclepius, Actaeon and Achilles. Cheiron was the firstborn of Centaurus or Ixion.

Cheiron also befriended Peleus when he was deserted without weapons on Mount Pelion by Acastus. Cheiron saved Peleus from an attack by hostile Centaurs and found for him the sword that Acastus had hidden. Later he told Peleus how to win the love of Thetis. From the two was born Achilles.

Cheiron was noted for his knowledge of medicine, which he taught to Asclepius, and he was a competent sculptor as well. When, after Actaeon's death, his dogs howled in loneliness, the centaur comforted them by making a statue of their master.

Cheiron is sometimes said to have been king of the Centaurs. With them he was driven from Pelion by the Lapiths, after a protracted war between the two tribes. The Centaurs took refuge at Mount Malea in the southern Peloponesus, but were encountered by Heracles in Arcadia when he hunted the Erymanthian boar. When they attacked the friendly Centaur Pholus, Heracles killed many and drove the others from the land. During these hostilities Cheiron was accidentally shot by Heracles, or else dropped one of Heracles' poisoned arrows on his foot, as did Pholus. Cheiron could not die, but the pain of the wound, and perhaps the fate of his people, made him regret his immortality. [See Apollodorus 1.2.4, 2.5.4, 3.4.4, 3.13.3-5, Hyginus, Poetica Astronomica, 2.38]

Actaeon was the son of Aristaeüs and Autonoë. Actaeon was taught the art of hunting. Several explanations are offered of how he fatally offended the goddess Artemis. Some say that he claimed to be a better hunter, others that he offered to violate Artemis in her temple, still others that she destroyed him at Zeus' bidding because he wanted to marry his aunt Semele, whom Zeus was currently courting. According to the most usual account, Actaeon's crime was the accident of coming upon the goddess as she was bathing with her nymphs on Mount Cithaeron. To prevent him from telling others of the indignity that she had suffered, Artemis changed him into a stag, or else threw a deerskin around him, and he was torn to pieces by his own hounds. The hounds, who could not now find their master, howled in grief until the Centaur Cheiron took pity on them and made a statue of Actaeon to soothe them. [Apollodorus 3.4.4, Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.138-252; Hyginus, Fabulae, 180, 181.]

Semele was the daughter of Cadmus, king of Thebes, and Harmonia. Semele was loved by Zeus and conceived a child by him. The jealous Hera learned of this affair and, disguising herself as Semele's nurse, Beroë, advised the young woman to demand of her lover that he appear to her as he did to his wife on Olympus. Zeus tried to dissuade her but, having vowed to grant whatever wish she expressed, could not refuse. He appeared as the storm god and Semele was consumed by lightning. The six-month-old child was snatched from her womb by Hermes and sewed into Zeus' thigh, from which, in due course, it was born. After Semele's death, her envious sisters, Autonoë, Ino and Agave, spread a rumor that her lover had been mortal and that her fate had been Zeus' punishment for her presumptuous lie. For this insult to Semele, the sisters were severely afflicted by Zeus or by Semele's child, the god Dionysus. At the end of his wanderings Dionyus descended into Hades and brought his mother up to Olympus under the name Thyone.

According to certain Orphic myths, Dionysus was originally the child of Zeus and Persephone. He was dismembered and eaten by the Titans, but Zeus saved his torn heart and served it to Semele in a drink, by which she became pregnant. At the time of her destruction by a thunderbolt, a log is said to have fallen from heaven at Thebes. King Polydorus, Semele's brother, decorated it with bronze, and it was honored as Dionysus Cadmus. At the Laconian coast town of Brasiae there was a tradition, found nowhere else, that Cadmus punished his daughter for bearing an illegitimate son by locking mother and child into a chest and flinging them into the sea. When the chest came ashore at Brasiae, Semele was dead, but her son was alive and was nursed in a cave there by his aunt Ino.

Semele was identified by the Greeks with the mother of the Egyptian god Osiris. She was probably closely related to the Phrygian earth-goddess Zemelo. Osiris was tricked by his brother Set into laying in a wooden box that turned out to be a coffin. When the innocent man was in the box Set nailed the lid shut and cast the box into the Nile where it drifted into the sea. It came to rest in Tyre, Lebanon, at the foot of a tree. The tree soon engulfed the casket and began to emit a wonderful odor. The king heard about the wonderful tree and ordered that it be cut down and brought to his palace, where it would be installed as a pillar. When it was cut down a babe was found in the coffin. The child was given to the king's wife, Ishtar, who began to raise it. But Isis, the wife of Osiris, heard about the child and went to the palace, where she was given the job of being the child's wet nurse. When the child became an adult Isis and Osiris married once again. Osiris was regarded as the judge of the Underworld. [Apollodorus 3.4.4, Hyginus, Fabulae, 167, 179; Pausanias 9.2.3]

Ixion was a Thessalian king who tried to seduce Hera, the wife of Zeus. Zeus caught onto the plan and substituted a cloud in the shape of a woman in her bed instead of Hera. Ixion was delighted but caught in the act and punished by Zeus who chained him to a winged and fiery wheel which revolved forever in the sky (or the Underworld). The cloud with whom he had intercourse gave birth to the first of the Centaurs or else a creature named Centaurus, who fathered them on Magnesian mares. [Apollodorus, Epitome, 1.20; Diodorus Siculus 4.69.3-5; Pindar, Pythian Odes, 2.21-48].

Theseus was also involved with the Centaurs, for he had been invited to attend the Lapith wedding. The notorius Lapith King Ixion's son Peirithoüs was to marry Hippodameia. The Centaurs got drunk during the festivities and tried to carry off the Lapith women, including the bride. Theseus and Peirithous later attempted to abduct Helen, a daughter of Zeus who had been adopted by Tydareüs, king of Sparta. Some say that Theseus wanted to be related to the Dioscuri, Helen's brothers; others claim that he and Peirithoüs had vowed that they would both marry daughters of Zeus and that they would aid each other in fulfilling this ambition.

They met with little difficulty in carrying off Helen, who was only ten or twelve years old at the time. Theseus took her to the town of Aphidnae, in Attica, and left her in the charge of his mother, Aethra, while he went off to keep his part of the compact by helping Peirithoüs to win a bride. During their absence the Diioscuri, with a force of Spartans and Arcadians, took Aphidnae, rescued Helen and her nurse, and perhaps sacked Athens as well. Some say Helen later bore a child, Iphigeneia, by Theseus. Helen's sister, Clytemnestra (who is usually called Iphigeneia's mother by Agamemnon) adopted the infant because of Helen's youth. Another mirror, the Divine_Mirror.html, tells the story of Helen of Troy.

Peirithoüs decided that he and Theseus would abduct the most dangerous bride known: Persephone, queen of Hades. Theseus, bound by vows to aid his friend in this suicidal scheme, went with him down into the Underworld, through the entrance at Taenarum. Hades listened blandly while Peirithoüs explained their purpose, then waved them to a seat and called for refreshment. The guests sat down on stone chairs – and discovered that they could not get up again. Some say that they were bound fast with chains or with serpents, others that their flesh grew fast to the stone, others that they had unknowingly sat on the seat of Lethe (Forgetfulness) and, presumably, had lost all recollection of why they had come. Theseus might have remained there forever (and did, according to Homer and Vergil) had not Heracles come down to Hades to fetch Cerberus for Eurystheus. Seeing Theseus and Peirithoüs seated on their chairs, he tore Theseus loose, but when he tried to do as much for his companion, the earth quaked and Heracles dared not continue. Although some say that Peirithoüs, too, was saved, it is generally agreed that he had to remain in Hades, while Theseus accompanied Heracles back to the world of the living. The tomb of Orcos has a mural of Theseus (THESE) in Hades. Theseus (THeSSE) appeared to be the name written directly over the Centaur's leg, but the actual inscription is AN PReSSE.

This is some of the mythological "history" the creator of this mirror should have known.

Here is what the text looks like so far:

Bottom left side: Script MS-1: IbOA RVI Le ET: VSV ENAI : [Translation: Ikra the king (Fr. roi) there from (L. et) Oso (Mt. Ossa, in northern Magnesia) of Enai (Eioneus = Ixion)]. The letter "b" is not used often in the Etruscan scripts and appears to be a "g" sound, here transcribed as "k." Thus, "Ikra the king there from Mt. Ossa of Ixion."

Top left side: Script MS-13: TRE RI: CIM Se QISI [Translation: Three (L. tres, tria) things / matters (L. res, ri) within / on this side (L. cis) of itself (L. se) he did (L. queo, quire, quivi, and quii, quitum)]. Alternatively the Q could be "8" written in a similar way in the word 8RATER. The word 8ISI may be indicated, "he saw / went to see. (L. viso, visere, visi, visum)," but the character looks like the Etruscan "Q" written upside down (as in the case of the "F." Thus, I prefer "Three things on this side of itself he did." This character can be seen on the Etruscan writing tablet.

Top right side: Script MS-14: ESV Ce 8RATER IRE: [Translation: Eso ce frater iri : I / to hunger / long for here the brother (L. frater-tris) to go (L. ire, It. ire)]. IR declines: IR, IRE, and IRI, IRV. IRI appears to be the word "wrath," L. ira-ae, used frequently in the Zagreb Mummy script "Z" ; 8RATER is used in Scripts Q, R and G; it declines: 8RATA (possiblty It. fratta, bush, hedge), 8RATER, 8RATR, 8RATRV, 8RATRVM, 8RATRVS. This key word demonstrates that the Tavola Eugubine and Ikarius mirror share a common language, i.e, Etruscan. We hope to find other texts with the word.

Bottom right side: Script MS-18 ZEK HeKNIZ KVPIZ CEPI ABiR [Translation: I cut (L. seco, secare, secui, sectum) the grapes (L. acinus-i, bunch of grapes; note AKNI is used in Script Z.) abundant (L. copiosus-a-um, richly provided, wealthy, plentiful; note the agreement in number in HeKNIZ KVPIZ) of the vinestock (Fr. cep; note that Cepi appears at L31;CEP, CEPE, CEPEN,CEPIS appear in script Z, used in the same context) to go away, depart, die (L. abeo-ire-li-itum) or alternatively A BiR = "to drink" (L. a bere).
Note: ABiR appeared to be DeBiR, "to owe" (L. debeo-ere-ui-itum, to owe, be bound to, to have to pay because of fate). The "D" appears only once in the scripts at M-8 in the name DIVNE, Dione. On closer examination the character as a "D" is facing the wrong way and appears to be an "A." See AP, APA, APE, API, which may be "abeo" but probably is "to drink" (L. bibo, bibere, bibi, bibitum; It. bere). In the story Icarius (IKRA) harvested the grapes and was killed for it. So the context of "harvesting to die / go away" is appropriate and, of course, the context of "harvesting to drink" is the main purpose Icarius had in mind.
Words above the Centaur's leg: Script MS-20: AN PReSSE [ Translation: or, L. an, or, whether; word frequently used in the Etruscan scripts, used like a preposition) presse (L. presso-are, to press; premo, premere, pressi, pressum, to press, squeeze; It. presse, f. press.); thus: "to the press!" (2) & (3)

Word under the cherub: MS-21: PVLESI [Translation: This may be, "young boy" (L. puellus-i, a little boy) or may refer to the messenger "lares" (household god) of the tribe of the Centaur Pholus). The winged cherub appears to be sprinkling / anointing the driver. Another winged child is held in the hand of Heracles in the Divine_Mirror.html, being offered to the god Tinia (Greek Zeus, Latin Jupiter). That child has the inscription EPE VR above his head. The cherub god, ERVS, Eros, (L. Cupid, Amore) is mentioned frequently in Script N, Q and R (Tavola Eugubine) and possibly as ERvS, Au62. Erus-i, Latin, master, owner, lord," may be indicated at Au62, the Pyrgi Gold tablets.

Since the inscription over the driver describes an action and not a name, this word may be, L. polliceor-ceri -citus, "to offer, promise."

Words over the head of Ikra: MS-24: III AP RICF. The first characters appear to be the Roman Numeral III. Roman numerals are used in tomb inscriptions (See Translation_ Scripts_html), and should properly be called "Etruscan numerals," since the Etruscans passed the alphabet to the Romans. III agrees with the word, Tre, at MS-13. If the III is an "M" I would be tempted to read a name, Mapricu here. The "F" is sometimes written upside down and represents a vowel at the end of a word. [Translation: three away from / beside / on the side of (L. a, ab, abs; used at Script Q253, Q396, Q767, Q908.) watered / bedewed (L. rigo-are, to lead or conduct water, irrigate, moisten, bedew; riguus-a-um, watering, pass. well watered, irrigated). RIC appears in script Z, RIK is at AF-1, RIKE at Q460,Q726, Q837, used with the word PVP (L. popa-ae, junior priest or temple servant) which appears in other locations in Script Q and R. Other words: RICA, script TC190 (probably L. reicio-icere-ieci-iectum, to throw back, reject), RiGES, Q854, RIGV, R65. Thus: "Three on the side bedewed."


(1) All mythological references – except for the story of Osiris – are from The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology, by Edward Tripp, New American Library, New York, 1974.
(2) Special thanks to Martin
Schøyen, owner of the Schøyen Collection, for providing me with his handwritten copy of the script based upon his personal examination of the mirror. His rendering was quite helpful in clarifying the characters used on the mirror, some of which are hard to read. There is one character, , that presents a problem in understanding the script. I used that character (on Script MS written with a dash rather than a dot in the center) at MS-20, because of the context suggesting a link to Theseus who was involved in the battle of the Centaurs. Other locations where the character might have been indicated, at MS-1, MS-10, and MS-18 I elected to read as an "R," usually written as "O." Click on the image for a larger view. Another "R" used in Etruscan texts is written as "P." Sometimes the stem of the letter is reduced, making it appear more like a "D." Our character, "D" is rare in Etruscan scripts, with the sound usually being expressed through the character "t."

Also thanks to Elizabeth Gano Sørenssen, Librarian for The Schøyen Collection, for her assistance in providing the Script MS image.

The following is Martin Schøyen's reading of the mirror, provided in his E-mail May 13, 05. He insists that the "P" is written at location MS-20, making the reading, "ANPOSSE," corrected by the author, Copeland, to read AN PReSSE.

Ikra the King from Mt. Ossa of Ixion
Three things on this side he went to see
I long for the brother also to go
I cut the grapes abundant of the wine-stock to owe

(3) Based upon Schøyen's reading, MS-20 is AN PReSSE. The "O" = "R" in the Etruscan Scripts, except F-28, BRVTOS.
(4) All Etruscan scripts and their words catalogued at Maravot's Etruscan Phrases home, http://www.maravot.com/Etruscan_Phrases_a.html, are identified with alphanumeric locators. The words in the scripts, including script MS, "Schøyen Mirror Ikarius," are catalogued alphabetically in Etruscan Phrases Table 1. Conjugation and declension patterns of the Etruscan language can be seen there, with relationships of Etruscan words to other Indo-European words. A list of the scripts studied by Mel Copeland is at Maravot's Etruscan Phrases home.


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Updated: 5.05.05; 5.13.05; 5.14.05; 5.28.05; 3.20.06; 4.05.06; 5.21.06; 7.15.06; 1.14.07; 5.22.09; 10.21.10

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