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Copyright © 2001 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.

ON SCYTHIAN AND SARMATIAN RECORDS WRITTEN BY GREEK LETTERS

by Sergei V. Rjabchikov

Let us examine several Scythian and Sarmatian inscriptions performed by Greek letters. The first artifact was published at the site of the Odessa Museum of Numismatics (http://www.museum.com.ua/en/editing/period1/index.html) in 2001 (Odessa, Ukraine). This is a Scythian figurine of a dolphin from Olbia dated to the 5th century B.C. The word reads ARICO. According to the Old Greek beliefs, a dolphin brings Amphitrite, the goddess of the sea, to her husband Poseidon, the god of the sea (Takho-Godi 1991). Amphitrite (literally 'Near Trita' (1)) is a Nereid, hence she looks like Slavonic mermaids. Besides, one can consider the Scythian golden phial from the Scythian barrow Kul-oba (Raevsky 1985: 174-5, figure 34). Here dolphins and fishes symbolyse the lower (chthonic) level of the Universe, they are associated with Medusa-Argimpasa decorated with snakes. I translate the word Ariho (Ar-ih-o, a variant of the name Ar-gim-pasa) as 'Furious' (cf. Russian yarostny), 'Spring' (cf. Russian yarovoy), 'Bright' (cf. Russian yarky), cf. Russian suffixes ih, uh. It is another name of the Scythian-Sarmatian spring goddess Argimpasa which means '(The transition from) winter to spring - the cattle'. For comparison let us examine a figure of a naked goddess situated under a handle of the Scythian silver dish from the Chertomlyk barrow (Ukraine) (Machinsky 1978: 133, figure, 135). This a representation of Argimpasa before whom the head of a bull is depicted.

Let us consider a fragment of an amphora of the end of the 2nd century A.D. from the Bosporan ancient settlement near the village Mikhaylovka (the Crimea, Ukraine) (Emets, Peters 1994: 169, figure 3 [18], 172). A graffito is inscribed on this fragment, it is the word KO; according to I.A. Emets and B.G. Peters, such records are often found at the North Black Sea coastal area. I believe that it is a Proto-Slavonic (Scythian, Sarmatian) word that signifies 'milk; milky', cf. Old Indian go 'bull; cow' (2). Let us examine an earthenware pot from the late Sarmatian burial in the barrow number 2 of the burial ground Vesely the Third (the small village Vesely, the Volgograd Territory, Russia) (Myskov, Sergatskov 1994: 183, figure 4 [2]). On it the Scythian/Sarmatian V-shaped sign 77 ga/ka 'bull; cow' (cf. also sign P18 of the Phaistos disk) and the Greek letters IR are written down. The latter word is y(a)r, i.e. yar, this Scythian/Sarmatian word is a determinative for the word 'bull; cow', cf. the name of Argimpasa, the Scythian/Sarmatian goddess of spring. It is quite possible that this record on the vessel means 'milk; milky', too.

Let us investigate a royal sign on a golden finger-ring that was discovered in Gorgippeon (Anapa, the Krasnodar Territory, Russia) (Solomonik 1983: 89, figure 6). The feature of this sign is as follows: the standard sign 'round' (see Solomonik 1983: 89, figure 7), cf. Scythian/Sarmatian ra 'the sun' (3), is replaced by the Greek letter R. I read this letter as Scythian/Sarmatian ra 'the sun'.

NOTES

1. Hence the archaic name of Old Greek god Poseidon is Trita; the latter character is known in the Old Indian mythology as well.

2. Russian korova 'cow' is comparable with Russian korichnevy 'brown'. On the other hand, the word korova may be split into two parts: ko 'cow' (cf. Old Indian go 'bull; cow') and rova (cf. Old Indian rava 'cry; roar; howl', Russian rev 'roar; howl').

3. Cf. Old Indian purvi 'sunrise; east; the sun', Russian bury 'brown', English burn; Old Indian surya, ravi 'the sun', su 'to create; to produce', vi 'horse; bird'. Hence *ra (*rya) 'the sun' was an initial form.

REFERENCES

Emets, I.A., Peters, B.G., 1994. Graffiti iz poseleniya u s. Mikhaylovka. Rossiyskaya arkheologiya, 2, pp. 164-178.

Machinsky, D.A., 1978. Pektoral' iz Tolstoy Mogily i velikie zhenskie bozhestva Skifii. In: B.G. Lukonin (ed.) Kul'tura Vostoka: Drevnost' i rannee srednevekov'e. Leningrad: Avrora, pp. 131-150.

Myskov, E.P. and I.V. Sergatskov, 1994. Pozdnesarmatskie komplexy na Nizhnem Donu. Rossiyskaya arkheologiya, 2, pp. 179-190.

Raevsky, D.S., 1985. Model' mira skifskoy kul'tury. Problemy mirovozzreniya iranoyazychnykh narodov evraziyskikh stepey I tysyacheletiya do n.e. Moscow: Nauka.

Solomonik, E.I., 1983. Neskol'ko pamyatnikov s sarmatskimi znakami. In: T.N. Vysotskaya (ed.) Naselenie i kul'tura Kryma v pervye veka n.e. Kiev: Naukova dumka, pp. 80-95.

Takho-Godi, A.A., 1991. Amfitrita. In: S.A. Tokarev (ed.) Mify narodov mira. Vol. 1. Moscow: Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya, p. 73.


Copyright © 2001 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.

Published 24 December 2001.

Sergei V. Rjabchikov, Krasnodar, RUSSIA.


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