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Ὀμβρική). The portion of Central Italy between the rivers Sapis in the north and Nar in the south, the Apennines in the west, the Ager Gallicus near Ariminum and the Ager Picens near Hadria in the east; in Augustus's division, the sixth region of Italy, with about fifty important cities (Pliny , Pliny H. N. iii. 112 foll.), after B.C. 220, traversed by the Via Flaminia. It was able, at the time of the Second Punic War, to muster 20,000 warriors against the Keltic foe. The name Ὀμβρικοί (shorter Ὄμβροι) is first met in Herodotus as an undefined title for the Italic tribes in the region of the Po, of which the Etruscans took possession. The ancients derived the name from ὄμβρος, imber, making the people as old as the Deluge; the Umbrian-Roman comedian Plautus, with more probable correctness, in a joke (Most. 770) connects the word with umbra. The name probably designated the tribes of the western mountains from the standpoint of some of the Greeks.

Most nearly related to the Latins and the Sabellian tribes, the Umbrians were the ruling race of Northern Italy until the Romans, in the extension of their power, about B.C. 300, brought them also under their sway. The Sarsinates were the last to submit to the Roman imperium in the year 266, after a vain attempt to recover their freedom; the Sarsinate Plautus, who wrote for the Roman stage even before 200, is so completely Latinized that his ancient commentators had trouble to discover a single Umbrian word in his comedies. The historical importance of the Umbrians, therefore, belongs to an undefined period prior to the end of the fourth century B.C., when they formed a powerful barrier for the Italic peoples against the tribes of another race pushing on from the North. The elder Cato had placed the founding of the Umbrian city of Ameria in the year B.C. 1133, fifty years after the fall of Troy, as calculated by the Alexandrian scholars. Once subjugated by these strangers, or while still contending with them for supremacy in the plain of the Po and beyond the Apennines, the Umbrians had been more and more forced back, and at last confined to the abovenamed position in the valleys east of the Apennines. There they had been obliged to give place to the Kelts and Etruscans, who, to the last, were considered by the Umbrians the chief enemies of their own name. Various Keltic tribes had at different times pushed their way south through the plains of Lombardy into Umbrian territory (Livy, v. 34 foll.); the tomb of a Kelt, with Keltic and Roman inscriptions, was found at Tuder in the heart of Umbria. This race is represented in the ritual records of the Umbrians by the tribe of the Iapyds, which is not mentioned in the Roman annals until the second century B.C. The other hereditary enemy was the Etruscans. Not only did the Umbrians contend with Etruscans for the adjoining lands of the Po region, where many settlements were alternately Umbrian and Etruscan (Strabo, v. p. 216), but even in Etruria itself, many districts had been in the hands of the Umbrians before they were driven out by the Etruscans; and before the onsets of the Romans both nations made war against each other alternately to and fro across the Tiber, which formed the boundary between their territories. Thus the strongest barrier was set against the spread of the Umbrians to the north and west. It is no wonder, then, that the Umbrians, hemmed in by Kelts and Etruscans, were unable to offer any successful resistance to the conquering enemies of their own line pressing upon them from the Nar, since we see them without unity or centralized power, split up into a number of cities or States, which were just as hostile to each other as to the national enemy, as the Iguvini towards the Tadinates, the Sarsinates towards the rest of the Umbrians. The contrast to the political ideas and discipline of the Romans is apparent also in the contrasting application of an hereditary expression for their civil divisions. While the Romans subordinated the tribus as a fractional part to the civitas, with the Umbrians the trifu, i. e. the outlying country confederation belonging to the city, stood above the tota, as they called the city organization, as the essence of the State; e. g. the district of Iguvium or the tribus Sapinia on the northern boundary of the land (Livy, xxxi. 2). As in Rome, consuls, so at the head of Umbrian States we find marones, a word familiar through Vergil's cognomen.

The fact that we know a little more of the Umbrians, their language and civilization, than the scanty and inexact records of the ancient historians and geographers tell us, is due to the inscriptions on the monuments which the soil of the land has preserved for modern times. It is true that the smaller inscriptions from Asisium, Fulginia, Tuder, Ameria, including two dies for coinage, only seven in number, and of limited extent, give little information; but from the inscription of Assisi we may mention the mayor Propartis as the ancestor of the Umbrian Callimachus, who in the last verse of his elegy on Maecenas (iii. 9) evidently makes an allusion to the etymology, clearer in that form, of his name (in partes). Far richer and more valuable, in their extent almost unique in Italian epigraphy, are the seven bronze tablets excavated in 1444 in the theatre at Iguvium (now Gubbio) and still preserved at that place, written partly in the Umbrian, partly in the Latin alphabet, but all in the Umbrian dialect. They are the legacy of a religious brotherhood, which had at Iguvium nearly the same importance as the Pontifical Collegium at Rome, and at all events far surpassed the known Roman brotherhoods in weight and influence in the sacras of all the communities. The Temple of Iupiter Apenninus on the heights at Iguvium was famous in ancient times; but certain indications of the position of this temple and cult are lacking in the tablets.

These tablets (Tabŭlae Iguvīnae or Eugubīnae) are the work of the Fratres Atiedii, who have here set down their ritual and in addition some decisions of their College. Of the ten great families for whose alliance a sacrifice of pigs and goats is offered twice a year, the Atiedias familia occupies the first place; the similarity of this name to the ethnic name of the Umbrian city Attidium is certainly not accidental. The most

One of the Eugubine Tablets. (Bréal.)

important tablets are I., VI., and VII., which describe the most essential sacrificial rites of the ancient communities, the lustration of the sacred citadel (montem piare), and the purification of the people (circumferre populum), from moment to moment and with all the ceremonies and prayers— Tablet I. briefly, VI. and VII. in greater detail, just as among the Roman Fratres Arvales the protocols of the rites are at first short, later more detailed and verbose. At the consecration of the citadel a procession went from gate to gate, and before and behind each gate a rich sacrifice was offered for the citadel and town of Iguvium. The celebration was concluded with sacrifices of bullocks at the Temple of Iupiter and a deity related to Iuno Curritis, which probably stood upon the citadel; the whole ceremony occupied the greater part of the day. “Then the citadel shall be purified; but if anything should be omitted, the officiating priest must observe the birds, turn back at the first gate, and begin the sacred rite anew.” Tablet II. gives directions for a sacrifice improperly made and for the service of the dead, and on the other side for the half-yearly family reunions; III. and IV. add the ritual of the ambarvalia to the amburbium and ambilustrium described in I., VI., and VII.; V. contains decrees of the College as to what the officiating priest and the members of the society have to perform and to demand in regard to the expenses necessary for the sacra, the sacrificial feast, the distribution of the flesh, etc. As we possess no documents similar to these Umbrian remains concerning Roman religion and religious observances, and least of all from the time when the Roman cult was not yet permeated and adulterated by the Grecian, the great importance of these monuments for all investigation of Roman as well as of Italian ceremonial systems is self-evident. As the whole Roman literature, frequently as it refers to auspices and other kindred terms, does not tell us much of their nature, the arrangement of the temple, the methods and forms of auspices, etc., as the beginning of the sixth Umbrian tablet, its statements are necessarily the foundation for all scientific investigation of these questions. The significance of the vacca honoraria in contrast to the hostiae piaculares in the Roman Arval-rites had been shown in the Umbrian vittu vufru, before the recently discovered record of the Roman secular festival under Augustus had instructed even Roman antiquarians on the point (Mommsen, Ephem. Epigraph. viii. p. 270). See Ludi.

But infinitely greater in value than the information which these tablets contain is their linguistic importance, for we must not forget that some light is shed by the language upon those periods of the people on which history is silent, in so far as it interprets the origin of a race and its connection with or opposition to other peoples. Although in the last century, misled by the characters, scholars associated Umbrian and Etruscan, every one knows, from the language, that these two races had nothing in common. This, however, does not preclude the possibility that in consequence of centuries of proximity each one borrowed features from the other, or both from a third; as, e. g., the Umbrian-Italian words maron (city official) and vinu are found also in Etruscan. This much at least is sure, on the other hand, that the Umbrians received their writing and alphabet from the Etruscans. And this very point throws still further light on primitive times. For while their language unites the Umbrians with the Latins, Sabines, Samnites, and the smaller peoples of Central Italy, so that we roughly class them all as Italic, the writing separates the Umbrians from the Latins and Faliscans, and places them in a closer relation, produced probably by longer living together, with the Samnites (Oscans), who, together with the Umbrians, adopted the same Etruscan alphabet. In this alphabet, to which the sign for the Italic fricative f is peculiar, the character for the vowel o was wanting (so in Umbrian puplum is written for poplom), as were also the characters for medial g (for which Ikuvina and Ijuvina are written), and d, which is supplied partly by t tekuries for the Latin decuries). But the Umbrians compensated for this by incorporating two new characters in their alphabet, both modifications of an older r-sign, as the sound represented by the first letter had really relationship with the r-sound. The second letter was then arbitrarily formed in imitation of the first. The first is , represented in Latin writing by rs, in general etymologically corresponding to the Greek δ—e. g., persu, for πόδα, pedem; sometimes to l, as in karsitu for καλέιτω, calato. The fact that the Latin transcription employed r as well as s indicates a dental sound, such as the rubbing of the tongue between the teeth produces. The other letter is , rendered s' in the Latin writing, etymologically corresponding to k before i and e: fas'ia for Latin faciat, pas'e for Latin pace. This fact, that the Umbrian, in agreement with the Romance languages, changes the original guttural into the sibilant before light vowels, is the more remarkable since in related dialects no trace of this is found, nor in Latin before the time of Constantine. But this is one of many indications that important linguistic processes of the Romance languages have their beginning in the far-distant past of the Italic, but, pushed aside and restrained by the development and predominance of literary Latin, only with its decadence after the time of the Antonines come to the surface and into use again. The language of the Umbrians, as we know it from the monuments, embraces approximately the second century B.C. The inscriptions written in the Latin alphabet may be assigned on palaeographic and other grounds to the time of Sulla , roughly to B.C. 100; those written in Umbrian characters, therefore, tablets written from right to left as among the Etruscans, must be as much older as is required for certain changes in the language, shown in later tablets, to have become fixed. Among these changes the progress of rhotacism in place of an original s is especially prominent, as e. g. in the older tablets we find the genitive singular totas like σοφίας, paterfamilias, but in the later, totar. From this difference we distinguish Old Umbrian, written in the national alphabet, and New Umbrian, written in Latin; the former reaches scarcely beyond the war with Hannibal, but may perhaps, as appears from the older tablets (I. to V.), have been produced in different decades of the second century, since even in them slight differences in language appear.

On the whole, the Umbrian more nearly resembles the Oscan than the Latin, the reason for which has been already indicated in its phonology (Umbr.-Osc. pantam, Lat. quantam), in inflection (nominative plural Umbr.-Osc. viros, Lat. viri; Umbr.-Osc. frateer, Lat. fratres; fut. Umbr.Osc. fust, Lat. erit, etc.), in vocabulary (Umbr.Osc. heriom, Lat. velle). The discoveries of Oscan remains in recent years have confirmed the presumption of a very close agreement between Oscans and Umbrians in matter as well as in language (e.g. in the pentadic family order). But the Oscan gives the impression of a more vigorous plant, as though unfolded in the sunlight of Magna Graecia. It has more genuine, transparent, elegant forms, while with the Umbrians even their language reflects the pressure of their political relations, narrowing and stunted. All the diphthongs have disappeared (oktur, Lat. auctor, kvestur); the endings are mangled (nome for nomen, emantu for emantur, etc.); in composition four prepositions, appearing in Latin as ab, ad, an, and in, are reduced to the bare a-vowel.

If we bring Latin into comparison, the Umbrian has most similarity in its general structure with the Latin of two periods—the first, before it had been elaborated on literary lines, the second after the decline of the literature at its vulgarization and breaking up into provincial idioms. It is therefore not probable that a national literature preceded or accompanied the Umbrian which we know. Among the smaller tribes of Central Italy the Paeligni spoke a dialect occupying a place about midway between Umbrian and Oscan; but in spite of the greater separation in their positions, in historic times, the language of the Volsci comes near to the Umbrian. See Italia.

The principal authority is Aufrecht and Kirchhoff, Die Umbrischen Sprachdenkmäler (Berlin, 1849); Huschke, Die Iguv. Tafeln (Leipzig, 1859), chiefly for the facts; Bréal, Les Tables Eugubines (Paris, 1875, with photo-lithographic atlas), especially useful as an introduction to the language; Bücheler, Umbrica (Bonn, 1883); Von Planta, Grammatik der Osk.-Umbr. Dialekte, i. (Strassburg, 1893). For the history and geography, Nissen, Italische Landeskunde, i. p. 502 foll., and, above all, Borrmann in the Corpus Inscript. Latinarum, xi. 2, in which are collected the Latin inscriptions of Umbria. Cf. Osci.

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 34
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 31, 2
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