MESSAPII, an ancient tribe which inhabited, in historical times, the south-eastern peninsula or " heel " of Italy, known variously in ancient times as Calabria, Messapia and lapygia. Their chief towns were Uzentum, Rudiae, Brundisium and tlria. They are mentioned (Herod, vii. 170) as having inflicted a serious defeat on the Greeks of Tarentum in 473 B.C. Herodotus adds a tradition which links them to the Cretan subjects of "King Minos." Their language is preserved for us in a scanty group of perhaps fifty inscriptions of which only a few contain more than proper names, and in a few glosses in ancient writers collectedly Mommsen (Unteritalische Dialekte, p. 70). Unluckily very few originals of the inscriptions are now in existence, though some few remain in the museum at Taranto. The only satisfactory transcripts are those given by (i) Mommsen (loc. cit.) and by (2) I. P. Droop in the Annual of the British School at Athens (1905-1906), xii. 137, who includes, for purposes of comparison, as the reader should be warned, some specimens of the unfortunately numerous class of forged inscriptions. A large number of the inscriptions collected by Gamurrini in the appendices to Fabretti's Corpus inscriptionum italicarum are forgeries, and the text of the rest is negligently reported. It is therefore safest to rely on the texts collected by Mommsen, cumbered though they are by the various readings given to him by various authorities. In spite, however, of these difficulties some facts of considerable importance have been established.
The inscriptions, so far as it is safe to judge from the copies of the older finds and from Droop's facsimiles of the newer, are all in the Tarentine-Ionic alphabet (with [ for v and [ for h). For limits of date 400-150 B.C. may be regarded as approximately probable; the two most. important inscriptions those of Bindisi and Vaste may perhaps be assigned provisionally to the 3rd century B.C.
Mommsen's first attempt at dealing with the inscriptions and the language attained solid, if not very numerous, results, chief of which were the genitival character of the endings aihi and ihi; and the conjunctional value of inOi (loc, cit. 70-84 sqq.). Since that time (1850) very little progress has been made. There is, in fact, only one attempt known to the present writer to which the student can be referred as proceeding upon thoroughly scientific lines, that of Professor AH Torp in Indogermanische Forschungen (1895), v., 195, which deals fully with the two inscriptions just mentioned, and practically sums up all that is either certain or probable in the conjectures of his predecessors. Hardly more than a few words can be said to have been separated and translated with certainty kalatoras (masc. gen. sing.) " of a herald " (written upon a herald's staff which was once in the Naples Museum); aran (ace. sing, fern.) " arable land "; mazzes, " greater " (neut. ace. sing.), the first two syllables of the Latin maiestas; while tepise (3rd sing, aorist indie.) " placed " or " offered "; and forms corresponding to the article (to- = Greek rt>) seem also reasonably probable.
Some phonetic characteristics of the dialect may be regarded as quite certain; (i) the change of the original short to & (as in the last syllable of the genitive kalatoras); (2) of final -m to - (as in aran); (3) of -Kt--ti- -si- respectively to -nn- -t6- and -w- as in dazohonnes " Dasonius," dazohonnihi " Dasonii "; dazetdes, gen. dazelBihi "Dazetius, Dazetii," from the shorter stem dazet-; Vallasso for Vattasio (a derivative from the shorter name Valla) ; (4) the loss of final d (as in tepise), and probably of final / (as in -des, perhaps meaning " set," from the root of Gr. rK%u) ! (5) the change of original dh to d (anda = Gr. evda. and bh to b (beran = Lat. ferant) ; (6) -au- before (at least some) consonants becomes -a- (Bdsta, earlier /SaDora). (7) Very great interest attaches to the form penkaheh which Torp very probably identifies with the Oscan stem pompaio which is a derivative of the Indo-European numeral *penque " 5."
If this last identification be correct it would show that in Messapian (just as in Venetic and Ligurian) the original velars were retained as gutturals and not converted into labials. The change of o to a is exceedingly interesting as being a phenomenon associated with the northern branches of Indo-European such as Gothic, Albanian and Lithuanian, and not appearing in any other southern dialect hitherto known. The Greek 'A(/>poSira appears in the form Aprodila (dat. sing., fern.). The use of double consonants which has been already pointed out in the Messapian inscriptions has been very acutely connected by Deecke with the tradition that the same practice was introduced at Rome by the poet Ennius who came from the Messapian town Rudiae (Festus, p. 293 M).
It should be added that the proper names in the inscriptions show the regular Italic system of gentile nomen preceded by a personal praenomen; and that some inscriptions show the interesting feature which appears in the Tables of Heraclea of a crest or coat of arms, such as a triangle or an anchor, peculiar to particular families. The same reappears in the lovilae (q.v.) of Capua and Cumae.
For further information the student must be referred to the sources already mentioned and further to W. Deecke in a series of articles in the Rheinisches Museum, xxxvi. 576 sqq. ; xxxvii. 373 sqq. ; xl. 131 sqq.; xlii. 226 sqq.; S. Bugge, Bezzenbergers Beitrdge, vol. 18. A newly discovered inscription has been published by L. Ceci Notizie degli Scavi (1908), p. 86; and one or two others are recorded Tarentine-Ionic alphabet see ibid, ii., 461.
For a discussion of the important ethnological question of the origin of the Messapians see W. Helbig, Hermes, xi. 257; P. Kretschmer, Einleitung in die Geschichte der griechischen Sprache, pp. 262 sqq., 272 sqq. ; H. Hirt, Die sprachliche Stellung der IHyrischen (Festschrift fur H. Kiepert, pp. 179-188). Reference should also be made to the discussion of their relation to the Veneti by C. Pauli in Die Veneter, p. 413 sqq., especially p. 437; and also to R. S. Conway, Italic Dialects, i. 15. (R. S. C.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)