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Larrahe, the Vascones and Latin


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Diario de Navarra

Javier Andreu Pintado

Full Professor of Ancient History and director of Diploma of Archaeology

I usually remind my students of "Epigraphy and Roman Institutions" at Diploma of Archaeology at the University of Navarra of the value of the written word on hard supports in Rome, emphasizing that each new registration makes the hearts of historians beat faster. I explain to them that the inscriptions tell us stories, very condensed but exciting, and that it is this eloquence that allows us to know many aspects of when, in Navarre, we were Romans. We know it well in Los Bañales de Uncastillo and in Santa Cruz de Eslava where their epigraphic repertoires -by far the most generous of the ancient Basque territory- allow us to characterize the ins and outs of the society of 2,000 years ago.

This appeal of the inscriptions has been felt again these days. One of the philologists who was more cautious with the Basque interpretation of Irulegi's hand warned the team that, from the CSIC of Mérida, excavates in El Turuñuelo de Guareña (Bajadoz), of the presence of a Tartessian sign -from about 3,000 years ago- in a slate with scenes of warriors that they presented as finding of their new excavation campaign. Last Saturday, in Navarra, the Vascones returned to the media limelight with the presentation, by the Aranzadi Science Society, at finding, in Larunbe, of a beautiful stone altar with five lines of text and dedicated to the Vascon deity Larrahe that we already knew from other more southern attestations and that now becomes the best represented indigenous deity in the Vascon territory. The piece, from the first century A.D., documents the vow that a woman, Valeria Vitella, made to this divinity. In the presentation of the document much emphasis has been placed on the theonym, Larrahe, but little has been said about the name of the dedicatee, clearly Roman, and that testifies in its onomastic structure a second element, the cognomen, Vitella, which is the first time that appears in the Iberian peninsula although its masculine variant, Vitulus, "calf", was already known in the inscriptions of the forum of Los Bañales. This onomastic element shows the taste of our ancestors of 2,000 years ago for obtaining their personal names from the semantic field of fauna, something that, for example, can be seen very well in the almost thirty inscriptions of Santa Criz, sample . In contrast to the cliché of unredeemed Vascones, Larunbe's piece sample shows a very Romanized Vascones and in exchange cultural with a strongly Latinized population, perfectly Roman.

In these days when the EvAU has passed and the rankings of the most demanded university degrees by the labor market are published in the media, it is satisfying to see how, thanks to the classic programs of study , to the Humanities, five formal lines of epigraphic text in Latin continue to excite us 2,000 years after the EvAU.