Home T - panel (The Back) - The Inscription: Titus

The runic inscription begins on the left edge (here part of a coherent text) continues right of the arch in Latin (language and letters), and changes back to runes on the right edge with a word in corrupt Latin (afitatores instead of lat. habitatores, inhabitants). There is no line on the bottom edge, only two words, seeming to comment on the scenes.

Arranged according to the sections on the edges the text reads:

  her fegtaþ    
+-Runetitus end giuþeasu   Hi-RuneC FUGi-RuneANT Hi-RuneEr-RuneUS-RuneALi-RuneM
dom gisl

The text splits into two verses of similar pattern (her/hic; fegtaþ/fugiant; giuþeasu/hierusalim).

The 1st verse, referring to the upper left picture, reports the fight between the later Roman emperor Titus and the Jews. The translation is plain, though the spelling is “different”. We would expect fehtaþ instead of fegtaþ; and instead of end1; iuþeas instead of giuþeas(u). We may assume numeric reasons
(20 e-runes and 20 a-runes around the casket) for that, but this is not all. The carver is likely to have aimed at the runes f-Rune meaning “wealth” and g-Rune meaning “gift”, i.e. largesse, as they are the prerequisite for t-Rune spelling “honour” of the ruler by victory and justice. Thus the verse is a charm by itself. Likewise the symbol preceding +-Rune TITUS may have magic function. At this point we remember the same pattern on the R-panel (left side), where we read: "... twoegen gibroðær a* // foeddæ ...". Already here, on the way to war, the rune t-Rune is accompanied by the runes f-Rune and g-Rune.
The 2nd verse, referring to the upper right picture, reports the flight of the Jerusalem’s inhabitants. The text is kept in Latin, as well in language as – on the upper rim – in letters, 20 by number. It ends - on the right rim - in runes with afitatores (instead of lat. habitatores). Having a closer look at the Latin part we notice some letters that are undoubtedly runes (r-Rune and S-Rune) or could be read as letters or runes (i-Rune). For one thing they serve numeric reasons2, as we shall see later. But beyond that they have calendar quality.

The translation depends on the introductory formula:

  "here fight" or: "army fights"
Titus and the Jews - here flee Jerusalem'(s)//
inhabitants //
verdict (or: power, dignity) - hostage(s)

Let us have look at the left edge: Again it is composed of 9 runes, bringing up the total value of all three "9-rune charms" up to 330. We may suspect another magic formula: "In case of war". What is normally translated as "here fight" could also be interpreted as "army fights" (comp. Engl. 'army', Germ. 'Heer', O.E. 'here'). As the F- and R-panels bear independent 9-rune formulas on this edge we may well prefer this interpretation.

On the panels F and R, we remember, the incantation was followed by the thematic magic rune, there f-Rune and r-Rune, here t-Rune. This spear shaped rune stands for the name (OE) Tir, Tiw (ON Tyr). It is the name of the highest god, the Germanic equivalent of Greek Zeus. Before Woden graced the scene he was the leading god of rule, warfare and justice, protector of the Germanic Thing. All these qualities can be found in this depiction: Warfare and victory (k>her fegtaþ), and a ruler (Titus) exercising justice (dom, gisl). Old English his very name in means 'fame, glory, honour' and 'ornament', the same as the ambiguous word dom can express. What other rune but t-Rune could be more appropriate at this spot? Even the person, Titus himself, was a good choice as we can tell by the title he was given:
Armor et deliciae generis humani, "Love and delight of the human race."

The words dom and gisl, certainly comment on the scenes they go with, but at the same time they may hide a name, DOMGISL. The name is reported, though not in context with the casket. Did our rune master fill in his name in order to increase his spell? If so, he would only have followed a common practice.

Why does the text change to Latin in word and script? And why only for a few words, but not for the complete sentence? And why did the rune-master mix Roman letters with runes and majuscules?

Here as elsewhere he was aiming at wordings, which had to produce certain numbers and values. Thus we find the "S" in its runic variation S-Rune(cf. Chessel Down and St. Cuthbert's Coffin), the "R", which, anyway, is similar in shape to its runic counterpart r-Rune, and four times the rune-like i-Rune. Apart from that there is the letter a, which appears twice in the shape of a manuscript majuscule instead of the kind we know from the ABC. Moreover this letter helps to form a grammatically wrong verb form, (fugiant instead of fugiunt).

This way the carver achieves a row of 20 (i.e. 19 +1) runes with the anciently shaped S-Rune, symbol of the ‘Sun’, in a significant position (16) and framed it by two majuscule type letters a in order to produce a luni-solar calendar like the Metonic Cycle. This includes the common Germanic cycle of 8 years, which is framed by the majuscule type letters a. These two cycles served to adjust the solar year and the lunar cycle, and in this particular case the formula was designed to perpetuate the magic spell, which was meant to influence the life of the casket’s royal owner.

1 Why else should the rune master spell the same word once end (quite oddly here), then again and (correctly R- and H-Panel)?
2 fugiant instead of fugiunt may be chosen for numeric reasons.


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