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Subject: Valerius Corvus
From: "Adolfo Zavaroni (Reggio Emilia, Italia)" <[log in to unmask]>
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Date:Sat, 20 Jun 1998 22:47:22 +0100
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Dennis,
I doubt that the tale about Valerius Corvus is merely a "Gaulish myth which
the Romans appropriated and reworked to their own benefit", as Raymond Bloch argued.
Certainly Valerius Corvus is a fruit of fiction as well as all the characters of the first
centuries of the Roman "history" (which is full of mythology, on my mind, until the
wars against the Gauls of the fourth century B. C. at least). Valerius Corvus recalls the
Italic Mars who was not only a warrior god, but ruled health and oracles also as well as
some Gaulish gods did. According to Dionysios from Alikarnassos, this archaic Mars
ruled an oracle in the Sabine town called Tiora (cf. Etruscan tiur "month < moon <
luminous"; Etr. Tiurunia is Diana) or Matienes (from the same root as Celtic and
Etruscan *mat- "good" ; therefore the place was sacred to Bona dea, earthly counterpart
of Diana).
The oracle was usually sent to the prayers by means of a picus "woodpecker" (which is
also another name of the same ancient god), who used to stay on the top of a wood pole.
Therefore, later, Picus ('peritissimus auguriorum' and 'praeclarus belligerator' according to
Varro) was represented as a young, holding a woodpecker on the head.
In the tale on Valerius Corvus the Latin annalists changed the picus "woodpecker" with a
corvus "crow", that was the "victory factor" of the Gaulish gods and their devoted
warriors. Certainly the Romans were used to assimilate the strangers gods or some
attributes of them, but must have and keep always an own substratum or base which
allowed such an assimilation.
I recall that Valerius is the Latin equivalent of Etr. Velthune "the strong one > powerful,
chief" and that was apt to indicate, in the ancient (mythic) history, the character of the
apollonian-martial heroes.  I would not exclude that the Gaulish chief (the hero of the tale)
facing Valerius was really (in the legend) called *Valatio (or similar: > Vlaith).

Adolfo Zavaroni
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