Go Back

Jorma Kaimio

Jorma Juhani Kaimio
Born July 13, 1946, Helsinki

Master of Arts (1967) (Roman literature), Licentiate of Philosophy (1969) and Doctor of Philosophy (1972), University of Helsinki
Secretary, Matriculation Examination Board (1969-72)
Acting Associate Professor of Roman literature (1977)
Managing Director of the Akateeminen bookshop (1980-90)
Literary Director and Vice President at WSOY (1990-2000), President (2000-06)

Publications, research projects and other academic activities

Research interests:
What became of the Etruscans and their language under Rome’s tightening grip?
Latin and Greek as languages of the Roman Empire
The publication of Greek-language papyrus rolls

Awards and special achievements:
University of Helsinki, Senior of the Year 1997

Photo: WSOY:n kuva-arkisto
Written by Jorma Kaimio
Translated by John Calton, Kaisla Kajava and Johanna Spoof
Revised by John Calton.

Tombstones Tell the Story of the End of the Etruscan Civilisation

I was nineteen years old and attending an academic course organised by the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae when I first held an Etruscan gravestone in my hands. Now, almost fifty years on, they continue to fascinate me. My doctoral thesis dealt with the shift in the language used in the epitaph from Etruscan to Latin on these monuments. Why did the Etruscans write their family members’ gravestone inscriptions in Latin, even though the burial rites were still entirely Etruscan around 100 B.C.? Since returning to Etruscology in my retirement, I have concentrated my research on South Etrurian towns and 'cippus' gravestones, 950 of which I have been able to track down thus far.

Photo: Jorma Kaimio.​
Photo: Jorma Kaimio.​

An astonishing number of Etruscan epigraphs have been found, many times that of their Latin counterparts from the same period, even though towards the end of the Etruscan period Latin was spoken throughout Italy. Most of the epigraphs are tombstones which often only display the name of the deceased. But the names combined with the burial monuments can provide the researcher with plenty of information.

Some families have maintained their position of power in the city-state for 500 years, and then make a smooth transition to the Roman senate. Several families arrive from Rome or from neighbouring territories, some of whom adapt to Etruscan ways, while others hold on to their language. In some towns slaves and freedmen start to be recorded with epitaphs, thus expanding the social dimension of the study. Finally, we arrive at the stage when the Etruscan civilisation's special characteristics are effaced, and the shared Roman and Latin culture takes over the old Etruscan towns. How can the ancient Etruscan families find their place there?

Using inscriptions as a historical resource entails basic research, rummaging through dusty museum warehouses, checking and making adjustments for old ways of reading, and searching for unpublished texts. The stones are mostly badly preserved, cracked, with barely decipherable text.

Jorma Kaimio at the American Center of Oriental Research. Photo: Barbara Porter.​​
Jorma Kaimio at the American Center of Oriental Research. Photo: Barbara Porter.​​

It often seems incredible how making out a single letter of the alphabet can establish a new interpretation and save the researcher's day. I am always striving to date the stones using all and any methods available since actually, they often reveal the age of the deceased, but never the year of their death. With the help of a more accurate dating, a single deceased person can be placed in an historical context, and to some extent shed light on the final years of the Etruscan civilisation.

Scientific publications by Jorma Kaimio:

  • The ousting of Etruscan by Latin in Etruria (1972)
  • The Romans and the Greek language (1979)
  • The Cippus Inscriptions of Museo Nazionale di Tarquinia (2010)
  • Four volumes of publications of papyrus documents, together with Finnish and American scholars
  • Scientific and popular works and articles in the fields of Classical Studies and book publishing
Photo: Tuomo Nuorluoto.​
Photo: Tuomo Nuorluoto.​


Go Back