FALISCI, a tribe of Sabine origin or connexions, but speaking a dialect closely akin to Latin, who inhabited the town of Falerii (q.v.), as well as a considerable tract of the surrounding country, probably reaching as far south as to include the small town of Capena. But at the beginning of the historical period, i.e. from the beginning of the 5th century B.C., and no doubt earlier, the dominant element in the town was Etruscan; and all through the wars of the following centuries the town was counted a member, and sometimes a leading member, of the Etruscan league (cf. Livy iv. 23, v. 17, vii. 17).
In spite of the Etruscan domination, the Faliscans preserved many traces of their Italic origin, such as the worship of the deities Juno Quiritis (Ovid, Fasti, vi. 49) and Feronia (Livy xxvi. n), the cult of Dis Soranus by the Hirpi or fire-leaping priests on Mount Soracte (Pliny, Nat. Hist. vii. 2, 19; Servius, ad Aen. xi. 785, 787), above all their language. This is preserved for us in some 36 short inscriptions, dating from the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C., and is written in a peculiar alphabet derived from the Etruscan, and written from right to left, but showing some traces of the influence of the Latin alphabet. Its most characteristic signs are -
As a specimen of the dialect may be quoted the words written round the edge of a picture on a patera, the genuineness of which is established by the fact that they were written before the glaze was put on: "foied vino pipafo, era carefo," i.e. in Latin "hodie vinum bibam, cras carebo" (R.S. Conway, Italic Dialects, p. 312, b). This shows some of the phonetic characteristics of the Faliscan dialect, viz.: -
1. The retention of medial f which in Latin became b;
2. The representation of an initial Ind.-Eur. gh by,f (foied, contrast Latin hodie);
3. The palatalization of d + consonant i into some sound denoted merely by i-the central sound of foied,.from fo-diëd;
4. The loss of final s, at all events before certain following sounds (cra beside Latin cras);
Other characteristics, appearing elsewhere, are:
5. The retention of the velars (Fal. cuando = Latin quando; contrast Umbrian pan(n)u);
6. The assimilation of some final consonants to the initial letter of the next word: "pretod de zenatuo sententiad" (Conway, lib. cit. 321), i.e. "praetor de senatus sententia" (zenatuo for senaiuos., an archaic genitive). For further details see Conway, ib. pp. 370 if., especially pp. 384-385, where the relation of the names Falisci, Falerii to the local hero Halaesus (e.g. Ovid, Fasti, iv. 73) is discussed, and where reason is given for thinking that the change of initial f (from an original bh or dh) into an initial h was a genuine mark of Faliscan dialect.
It seems probable that the dialect lasted on, though being gradually permeated with Latin, till at least 150 B.C.
In addition to the remains found in the graves (see Falerii), which belong mainly to the period of Etruscan domination and give ample evidence of material prosperity and refinement, the earlier strata have yielded more primitive remains from the Italic epoch. A large number of inscriptions consisting mainly of proper names may be regarded as Etruscan rather than Faliscan, and they have been disregarded in the account of the dialect just given. It should perhaps be mentioned that there was a town Feronia in Sardinia, named probably after their native goddess by Faliscan settlers, from some of whom we have a votive inscription found at S. Maria di Falleri(Conway, ib. p. 335).
Further information may be sought from W. Deecke, Die Falisker (a useful but somewhat uncritical collection of the evidence accessible in 1888); E. Bormann, in C.I.L. xi. pp. 465 ff., and Conway, op. cit.
(R. S. C.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)