rating: 0+x

Basic Information

Tarchies, also known as Tages or as "the old-baby", was the primary prophet of, and one of the most important gods of Etruscan Mythology. He was a small child or baby, or possibly a wizened impossibly old child, sometimes depicted as a baby with a man's bearded face. Ageless, really, and contradictory. He had a couple of other unusual physical features: wings, for starters. Stranger than that (and at least a little creepy), he had two snake tails instead of legs. In some pictures, he wears a conical hat, or carries a crooked walking stick.

Lots of Etruscan deities have wings, and plenty of them have serpentine body parts, so it's hard to say what meaning those elements of his description might have. Even his ageless childlike form is hard to attribute specific meaning to, because Etruscan art is full of images of babies, parent-and-child groupings, picnics in fields, and breast-feeding. He seems likely to be a chthonic figure of the underworld, but again, so is nearly half the Etruscan pantheon. Most of what we know about the Etruscans comes from their grave goods, all of which imply their afterlife was full of prosaic family reunions and happy snakes. Tarchies seems bizarre and inexplicable from our modern perspective, but he was decidedly standard for Etruria - almost a generic "greatest hits" of Etruscan Mythology rolled up into one little snake-legged cherubic package, dispensing vital magical teachings to those who work the fields.

Tarchies was born out of the earth, and came for one short mission: to tell men how to find truths in liver. One day, an Etruscan farmer was plowing his farm, and in a abnormally deep furrow he found a large cloud of earth. The dirt clod broke open, and this strange child-like being crawled out of it. Everyone on the farm rushed over to see this weird little creature, who immediately started giving a speech. The topic of his speech was divination, augury, and animal sacrifice. A large crowd gathered, and he taught every one of them how to tell the future by examining the liver of a recently slaughtered animal. This is the art of the haruspex. Someone among the assembled crowd wrote down the instructions, including a handy chart of what regions of the liver correspond to which omens. Once Tarchies was satisfied that his message was recorded and understood, he crawled back into the dirt and disappeared.

From that point forward, the Etruscans incorporated liver-gazing into all their sacrifices and most major rituals. They became so well known for it, that when Ancient Rome swallowed up Etruria, the Romans adopted the process and incorporated it into their own rituals. Then again, the Romans kind of had a habit of filing the serial numbers off of found bits of religions, so maybe this isn't too surprising.

Non-Etruscan scribes of Ancient Rome couldn't seem to agree on whether Tarchies was the son of the Tinia (who they identified with Jupiter), or the son of the culture hero Tarchon, or just born out of that furrow he first appeared in.


1. Non-Fiction Book: Mythology for Dummies by Blackwell and Blackwell

Game and Story Use

  • Tarchies embodies the Etruscan Mythology core concepts. Bizarre, serpentine and more than a little creepy, but totally benign and family-friendly. If you're looking for a touch of strange and alien to inject into your Ancient World game, but don't want it to turn into horror, Tarchies is your baby-man.
  • Would make a unique (or at least memorable) mentor, prophet, familiar, or patron for the PCs. Able to share vital arcane knowledge with them, and then slithers away once the message is received. A little like the red-robed "Dungeon Master" character in the old D&D cartoon.
  • Tarchies, his origin story, or his teachings could be the model for an obscure magical tradition in your game. This weird extradimensional entity appears to a outsider caste, ethnic minority group, or menial labor profession, and gifts them with a powerful but narrowly-applicable form of sorcery. Said gift radically reconfigures the power-balance and social strata of the chosen group, and then spreads to the larger empire that had previously absorbed them.
  • A spellbook or other tome of forgotten lore may claim to have been written by Tarchies (or an Amanuensis who wrote down his words).
  • He's sort of a chill, infantile version of Prometheus, or a less-sinister version of Nyarlathotep. The cute little kid that brings forbidden knowledge to the working-class.
    • Tiny, old guy shrivelled to child size? Legs atrophied to snakey things? Spreads forbidden knowledge? Sounds like Quachil Uttaus to me.
    • Is liver-reading all upside, or does it come at a cost?
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License