Re: [tied] Thanatos and Vanth

From: Piotr Gasiorowski
Message: 7579
Date: 2001-06-12

----- Original Message -----
From: Glen Gordon
Sent: Sunday, June 10, 2001 12:58 AM
Subject: [tied] Thanatos and Vanth

> [Glen:] ... Vanth, as the goddess of death, truely is a "ruler of the realm". What other realm besides a physical one is there except the otherworld, the world of the gods and deceased. She has eyes on her wings showing off her omniscience. I don't know about you, but I think knowledge is power, and if you see all, you have a considerable amount of power and authority over the physical world if not the beyond as well. Odin saw everything. Odin was powerful. Odin was in a position of authority. I rest my case. And the transfer of function from a deity of war to one of death is an understandable development.

Understandable, perhaps. But where's the evidence? A semantic sequence like "ruler" -> "powerful deity" -> "deity of war" -> "deity of death" is no doubt imaginable -- that's hardly a problem. In fact, any number of similar chains could be imagined. The real problem is how to constrain the imagination, so that it will not produce mirages. It isn't only war that does for people. It's hardly fair, but we depart at a lively rate in times of peace as well. Vanth, mind you, doesn't kill with the sword; like Thanatos, she puts out the flame of life, symbolised by the torch she carries (PIE *dHwenh2-, by the way, means 'darken, cover over, extinguish'). She has absolutely no royal or military attributes -- nothing to suggest that her original function was that of a "ruler" or "chief".

> [Glen:] As I have said, Thanatos could very well have merged with a pre-existing Vanth with new functions attributed to him/her as is the case with a large amount of Greek and Roman gods (Aphrodite-Venus, Mars-Ares, yadayadayadayada). Claiming that the very name of Vanth is somehow derived from Hellenic *tHwanatos seems a little phonetically weak. If Vanth were a Greek loan, we'd expect Etruscan *Thantu, similar to Apollo versus Aplu. How can you possibly explain the missing initial dental? Should we not expect final -u as in Aplu?

The Etruscans borrowed several names of Greek and Italic deities (the former are well known, the latter include e.g. Losna < *louksna:, a form more conservative than Latin Lu:na), so the borrowing of the name of a demon of death alongside his/her functions and attributes isn't a priori unlikely. The final -u in <Aplu> reflects Greek -o:(n). Gk. -os, like Lat. -us, would have become -e in classical Etruscan, and given the variability of Greek-to-Etruscan orthographic correspondences (Pe:gasos : Pecse, but Persephoneia : Phersipnei) as well as inner Etruscan variation (truth ~ trut, lautnita ~ lautnitha) one would expect anything like *Tvante, *Thvante or *Tvanthe for Thw√°natos (with the etymological digamma still there!). My scenario is as follows: since the final -e was characteristic of masculine names, the change of sex that the deity underwent in Etruscan produced "genderless" *Tvanth, while the initial cluster -- presumably felt to be "foreign" in terms of Etruscan phonotactics -- was simplified to v-.