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date: 15 May 2021

Oscan languagelocked

  • Benjamin Fortson


The Sabellic language (see Sabelli) spoken in central and southern Italy, attested in several hundred inscriptions from the 6th centurybce through the mid-1st centuryce. Specific varieties (e.g., Paelignian, Marrucinian, Vestinian) have been distinguished, though the material is too scanty to glean much information about regional differentiation.Most Oscan inscriptions are written in the native Oscan alphabet; the Greek and Latin alphabets are also found, the former in the south, the latter in some later material. Around the mid-4th centurybce, the Oscan alphabet was modified to indicate more differences among vowels, resulting in the so-called Oscan national alphabet. Few inscriptions postdate the Social War. The material encompasses many genres, including dedicatory inscriptions, epitaphs, leges sacrae, inscriptions on public works, curse tablets, and coin legends. Among the most notable texts are the Tabula Bantina (recording a statute), the Cippus Abellanus (containing an agreement between Abella and Nola concerning a shared sanctuary of Hercules), a lex sacra from Agnone with a lengthy list of deities, various curse tablets from Cumae exhibiting archaic Italic poetic features, the so-called iúvila dedicatory inscriptions from Capua, a lengthy epitaph from Corfinium of both poetic and religious interest, and the eítuns-inscriptions from Pompeii that appear to be military notices put up during the Social War.

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