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Native toAncient Rhaetia
RegionEastern Alps, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Slovenia[1]
Era5th–1st centuries BC[2]
  • Rhaetic
Language codes
ISO 639-3xrr

Rhaetic or Raetic (/ˈrtɪk/), also known as Rhaetian,[3] was a Tyrsenian language spoken in the ancient region of Rhaetia in the eastern Alps in pre-Roman and Roman times. It is documented by around 280 texts dated from the 5th up until the 1st century BC, which were found through northern Italy, southern Germany, eastern Switzerland, Slovenia and western Austria,[4][2] in two variants of the Old Italic scripts.[5] Rhaetic is largely accepted as being closely related to Etruscan.[6]

The ancient Rhaetic language is not to be confused with the modern Romance languages of the same Alpine region, known as Rhaeto-Romance.


Tyrrhenian language family tree as proposed by de Simone and Marchesini (2013)[7]

The German linguist Helmut Rix proposed in 1998 that Rhaetic, along with Etruscan, was a member of a language family he called Tyrrhenian, and which was possibly influenced by neighboring Indo-European languages.[8][9] Robert S. P. Beekes likewise does not consider it Indo-European.[10] Howard Hayes Scullard (1967), on the contrary, suggested it to be an Indo-European language, with links to Illyrian and Celtic.[11] Nevertheless, most scholars now think that Rhaetic is closely related to Etruscan within the Tyrrhenian grouping.[12]

Rix's Tyrsenian family is supported by a number of linguists such as Stefan Schumacher,[13][14] Carlo De Simone,[15] Norbert Oettinger,[16] Simona Marchesini,[7] and Rex E. Wallace.[17] Common features between Etruscan, Rhaetic, and Lemnian have been observed in morphology, phonology, and syntax. On the other hand, few lexical correspondences are documented, at least partly due to the scanty number of Rhaetic and Lemnian texts and possibly to the early date at which the languages split.[4][18] The Tyrsenian family (or Common Tyrrhenic) is often considered to be Paleo-European and to predate the arrival of Indo-European languages in southern Europe.[19][20][21]



In 2004 L. Bouke van der Meer proposed that Rhaetic could have developed from Etruscan from around 900 BC or even earlier, and no later than 700 BC, since divergences are already present in the oldest Etruscan and Rhaetic inscriptions, such as in the grammatical voices of past tenses or in the endings of male gentilicia. Around 600 BC, the Rhaeti became isolated from the Etruscan area, probably by the Celts, thus limiting contacts between the two languages.[12] Such a late datation has not enjoyed consensus, because the split would still be too recent, and in contrast with the archaeological data, the Rhaeti in the second Iron Age being characterized by the Fritzens-Sanzeno culture, in continuity with late Bronze Age culture and early Iron Age Laugen-Melaun culture. The Raeti are not believed, archeologically, to descend from the Etruscans, as well as it is not believed plausible that the Etruscans are descended from the Rhaeti.[22] Helmut Rix dated the end of the Proto-Tyrsenian period to the last quarter of the 2nd millennium BC.[23] Carlo De Simone and Simona Marchesini have proposed a much earlier date, placing the Tyrsenian language split before the Bronze Age.[24][25] This would provide one explanation for the low number of lexical correspondences.[4]*

Retic culture and inscriptions

The language is documented in Northern Italy between the 5th and the 1st centuries BC by about 280 texts, in an area corresponding to the Fritzens-Sanzeno and Magrè cultures.[4] It is clear that in the centuries leading up to Roman imperial times, the Rhaetians had at least come under Etruscan influence, as the Rhaetic inscriptions are written in what appears to be a northern variant of the Etruscan alphabet. The ancient Roman sources mention the Rhaetic people as being reputedly of Etruscan origin, so there may at least have been some ethnic Etruscans who had settled in the region by that time.[citation needed]

In his Natural History (1st century AD), Pliny wrote about Alpine peoples:

... adjoining these (the Noricans) are the Rhaeti and Vindelici. All are divided into several states.[a] The Rhaeti are believed to be people of Etruscan race[b] driven out by the Gauls; their leader was named Rhaetus.[26]

Pliny's comment on a leader named Rhaetus is typical of mythologized origins of ancient peoples, and not necessarily reliable. The name of the Venetic goddess Reitia has commonly been discerned in the Rhaetic finds, but the two names do not seem to be linked. The spelling as Raet- is found in inscriptions, while Rhaet- was used in Roman manuscripts; it is unclear whether this Rh represents an accurate transcription of an aspirated R in Rhaetic, or is merely an error.[citation needed]



Our understanding of Rhaetic phonology is quite uncertain, and the working hypothesis is that it's very similar to Etruscan phonology.[27]



It appears that Rhaetic, like Etruscan, had a four-vowel system: /a/, /i/, /e/, /u/.



Unlike Etruscan, Rhaetic does not seem to have the distinction between aspirated and non-aspirated stops. Consonant phonemes attested in Rhaetic include a dental (or palatal) affricate /ts/, dental sibilant /s/, palatal sibilant /ʃ/, nasals /n/, /m/ and liquids /r/, /l/.





The following cases are attested in Rhaetic:[28]

For plural, the ending -r(a) is attested.



Two verbal suffixes have been identified, both known from Etruscan:

  • -ke is the 3rd person preterite ending
  • -u is the suffix that derives verbal nouns from preterite forms.[29]

See also



  1. ^ in multas civitates divisi.
  2. ^ Tuscorum prolem (genitive case followed by accusative case): "offshoot of the Etruscans."


  1. ^ Schumacher, Stefan; Kluge, Sindy (2013–2017). Salomon, Corinna (ed.). "Thesaurus Inscriptionum Raeticarum". Department of Linguistics. of the University of Vienna
  2. ^ a b "Script". Thesaurus Inscriptionum Raeticarum. Retrieved 2024-06-04.
  3. ^ Silvestri & Tomezzoli 2007.
  4. ^ a b c d Marchesini 2018.
  5. ^ Salomon 2020.
  6. ^ Wallace 2010, pp. 97–102:Etruscan origins lie in the distant past. Despite the claim by Herodotus, who wrote that Etruscans migrated to Italy from Lydia in the eastern Mediterranean, there is no material or linguistic evidence to support this. Etruscan material culture developed in an unbroken chain from Bronze Age antecedents. As for linguistic relationships, Lydian is an Indo-European language. Lemnian, which is attested by a few inscriptions discovered near Kamania on the island of Lemnos, was a dialect of Etruscan introduced to the island by commercial adventurers. Linguistic similarities connecting Etruscan with Raetic, a language spoken in the sub-Alpine regions of northeastern Italy, further militate against the idea of eastern origins.
  7. ^ a b de Simone & Marchesini 2013.
  8. ^ Rix 1998.
  9. ^ Schumacher 1998.
  10. ^ Beekes 2011, p. 26: It seems improbable that Rhaetic (spoken from Lake Garda to the Inn valley) is Indo-European, as it appears to contain Etruscan elements.
  11. ^ Scullard 1967, p. 43.
  12. ^ a b Van der Meer 2004.
  13. ^ Schumacher 1999.
  14. ^ Schumacher 2004.
  15. ^ de Simone 2009.
  16. ^ Oettinger 2010.
  17. ^ Wallace 2018.
  18. ^ Sindy, Kluge; Corinna, Salomon; Stefan, Schumacher (2013–2018). "Raetica". Thesaurus Inscriptionum Raeticarum. Department of Linguistics, University of Vienna. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  19. ^ Mellaart 1975.
  20. ^ Haarmann 2014.
  21. ^ Harding 2014, p. 1912: Italy was home to a number of languages in the Iron Age, some of them clearly Indo-European (Latin being the most obvious, although this was merely the language spoken in the Roman heartland, that is, Latium, and other languages such as Italic, Venetic or Ligurian were also present), while the centre-west and northwest were occupied by the people we call Etruscans, who spoke a language which was non-Indo-European and presumed to represent an ethnic and linguistic stratum which goes far back in time, perhaps even to the occupants of Italy prior to the spread of farming.
  22. ^ Marzatico 2019: Se resta il fatto che la documentazione archeologica smentisce in tutta evidenza un rapporto filogenetico fra Etruschi e Reti, visti anche fenomeni di continuità come nell’ambito della produzione vascolare di boccali di tradizione Luco/Laugen (fig. 8), non è escluso che la percezione di prossimità esistenti fra la lingua e la scrittura delle due entità etniche possano avere indotto eruditi del tempo a costruite "a tavolino" un rapporto di parentela. (...)
  23. ^ Rix 2008.
  24. ^ Marchesini 2013.
  25. ^ Marchesini 2019.
  26. ^ Pliny. "XX". Naturalis Historia (in Latin). Vol. III. Translated by Rackham, H. Loeb.
  27. ^ Salomon 2020, p. 280.
  28. ^ Salomon 2020, pp. 280–281.
  29. ^ Salomon 2020, pp. 280–282.


  • Beekes, Robert Stephen Paul (2011). Comparative Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction (2nd ed.). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 9789027211859.
  • de Simone, Carlo (2009). "La nuova iscrizione tirsenica di Efestia" [The New Tyrsenic Inscription of Hephaistia]. In Archontidou, Aglaia; de Simone, Carlo; Greco, Emmanuele (eds.). Gli scavi di Efestia e la nuova iscrizione 'tirsenica'. Tripodes (in Italian). Vol. 11. pp. 3–58.
  • de Simone, Carlo; Marchesini, Simona, eds. (2013). "La lamina di Demlfeld". Mediterranea. Quaderni annuali dell'Istituto di Studi sulle Civiltà italiche e del Mediterraneo antico del Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (in Italian). Supplemento 8. Pisa/Roma: Fabrizio Serra Editore. ISSN 1827-0506.
  • Haarmann, Harald (2014). "Ethnicity and Language in the Ancient Mediterranean". In McInerney, Jeremy (ed.). A Companion to Ethnicity in the Ancient Mediterranean. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. pp. 17–33. doi:10.1002/9781118834312.ch2. ISBN 9781444337341.
  • Harding, Anthony H. (2014). "The later prehistory of Central and Northern Europe". In Renfrew, Colin; Bahn, Paul (eds.). The Cambridge World Prehistory. Vol. 3. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Marchesini, Simona (2013). "I rapporti etrusco/retico-italici nella prima Italia alla luce dei dati linguistici: il caso della "mozione" etrusca". Rivista storica dell'antichità (in Italian). 43. Bologna: Pàtron editore: 9–32. ISSN 0300-340X.
  • Marchesini, Simona (2018). "Raetic". Mnamon - Ancient Writing Systems in the Mediterranean. Translated by Rockenhaus, Melanie. Scuola Normale Superiore. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  • Marchesini, Simona (2019). "L'onomastica nella ricostruzione del lessico: il caso di Retico ed Etrusco". Mélanges de l'École française de Rome: Antiquité (in Italian). 131 (1). Rome: École française de Rome: 123–136. doi:10.4000/mefra.7613. ISBN 978-2-7283-1428-7. S2CID 214398787. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  • Marzatico, Franco (2019). "I Reti e i popoli delle Alpi orientali". Preistoria Alpina (in Italian). 49bis. Trento: MUSE-Museo delle Scienze: 73–82. ISSN 2035-7699.
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  • Salomon, Corinna (2020). "Raetic". Palaeohispanica. Revista sobre lenguas y culturas de la Hispania Antigua (20): 263–298. doi:10.36707/palaeohispanica.v0i20.380. ISSN 1578-5386.
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Further reading

  • A. Baruffi, Spirit of Rhaetia: The Call of the Holy Mountains (LiteraryJoint, Philadelphia, PA, 2020), ISBN 978-1-716-30027-1
  • Salomon, Corinna (2017). Raetic: Language, Writing, Epigraphy. Prensas de la Universidad de Zaragoza. ISBN 978-84-16935-03-1.