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Copyright © 2004 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.

SCYTHIAN INSCRIPTIONS OF THE SCYTHIAN KING SKIL:
A NEW APPROACH

by Sergei V. Rjabchikov

The name of the Scythian king Skil (Skyles) is written down on a Scythian finger-ring (Ryabova and Lezhukh 2001: figure 7, 7). The History (IV: 76, 78-80) of Herodotus informs some data about this king. Earlier the author read and interpreted Scythian inscriptions performed by Greek letters on this artifact (Rjabchikov 2001a). In this paper a new interpretation of some Scythian/Sarmatian words is offered. Main arguments are mentioned here again.

The first inscription reads SKULEW, i.e. Skyl Eo. In my opinion, both names belong to the king Skil; the first name is Scythian, and the second one is Greek. This supposition is based on the report by Herodotus (IV: 78) that this king spoke the Greek language. The second name corresponds to Greek hws (Attic ews) 'dawn; morning; east'. Now one can compare the name Skyl with Russian sokol 'falcon'. It is interesting to note that the bird is associated with the sun in the Old Indian (Indo-Aryan) beliefs (Toporov 1992: 478; Shilov 1995: 382). The Russian fairytale character Finist Yasny Sokol (Propp 1998: 278) is associated with the Proto-Slavonic sun deity (cf. Russian yasny 'clear; bright'), cf. also the Russian expression svet yasen sokol (Afanasiev 1996: 84, 146) 'the light -- the bright falcon'.

The second inscription reads SKELEOEARGOTANGAR, i.e. Skel Eo e ar Gota ngar. I translate this record as follows: 'Skel (= Skyl) Eo is an Aryan (of the) town Gota'. Scythian/Sarmatian n(a)gar 'town' is comparable with Old Indian nagr 'town' (cf. Russian gorod 'town'). In my opinion, Old Indian nagr 'town' comes from Proto-Indian *naa g(a)r- 'many fires, hearths' (cf. Old Indian naanaa 'many', ghr 'to shine; to burn', gharma 'heat'). What does the name Gota signify? Scythian/Sarmatian go-ta, ko-ta, ga-ta, ka-ta mean 'cattle; bulls; cows', go, ko, ga, ka mean 'bull; cow', and the suffix t- denotes plurality (1). Therefore we have every reason to believe that the town's name was 'The cattle'. Now it is necessary to realise where this town was located. According to Herodotus (IV: 79), the Scythian king Skil had a big palace in the ancient town Olbia (the Ukraine). It is known that bucrania were a favourite motif in the manufacture of the votive lead things in this town; besides, skulls of seven bulls - real bucrania - were found here in a cistern (Levi 1985: 83-4, fig. 77). In addition, the Scythian/Sarmatian signs 77-59 ga-ta, ka-ta (cf. Scythian/Sarmatian go-ta, ko-ta, ga-ta, ka-ta 'cattle; bulls; cows') and sign 77 ga, ka (cf. Scythian/Sarmatian go, ko, ga, ka 'bull; cow') are presented on two coins from Olbia (Rjabchikov 2004: 14-5). So it is safe to say that the cult of the cattle was widespread here, moreover, the cattle was an original emblem of the town. I conclude that the Scythians called Olbia by the name Gota 'The cattle'. This part of the text inscribed on Skil's finger-ring can be translated as follows: 'Skel (= Skyl) Eo is an Aryan (of the) town Gota = Olbia'.

Scythian/Sarmatian e '(he, she, it) is' and or (ar) 'Aryan' are registered in another Scythian/Sarmatian expression. Scythian/Sarmatian eorpata 'Amazon' signifies literally 'a killer of a husband' accoring to Herodotus (IV: 110). I read it as follows: e or pata '(she) is a killer of an Aryan'. Scythian/Sarmatian pata 'killing, hewing; cutting; killer' correlates with Old Indian pat 'to hew; to cut' (2).

The third inscription reads IANR, i.e. Ia-n(a)r. I translate it as follows: 'Heroic'. The key words to this text are Old Indian aa 'from' and nr 'hero' (3). One can offer the meanings of Scythian/Sarmatian words: ya 'from' (cf. also Scythian/Sarmatian a 'from', Old Church Slavonic i 'and; and even', Russian ya 'I', Old Indian ya 'who') and n(a)r- 'hero'. I believe that this text is the parallel of the Greek text of a pendant (4): BASILEWS SKUL ALKIM 'Of the brave king Skyl'.

NOTES

1. See Rjabchikov 2001b; 2002: 7ff.

2. See Rjabchikov 2001c.

3. See also Rjabchikov 2000: 11.

4. See Ryabova and Lezhukh 2001.

REFERENCES

Afanasiev, A., 1996. Proiskhozhdenie mifa. Stat'i po fol'kloru, etnografii i mifologii. Moscow.

Levi, E.I., 1985. Ol'viya: Gorod epokhi ellinizma. Leningrad.

Propp, V.Y., 1998. Morfologiya/Istoricheskie korni volshebnoy skazki. Moscow.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 2000. Tmutarakanskie graffiti. Krasnodar.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 2001a. The Interpretation of Scythian Inscriptions. The web site "The Slavonic Antiquity": http://slavonicweb.chat.ru/sl28.htm.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 2001b. On Scythian and Sarmatian Records Written by Greek Letters. The web site "The Slavonic Antiquity": http://slavonicweb.chat.ru/sl39.htm.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 2001c. The Interpretation of Scythian, Sarmatian and Meotian-Sarmatian Motifs and Records. The web site "The Slavonic Antiquity": http://slavonicweb.chat.ru/sl29.htm.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 2002. Skifo-sarmatskie istoki slavyanskoy kul'tury: Materialy Yuzhnorossiyskoy fol'klorno-etnograficheskoy expeditsii. Krasnodar.

Rjabchikov, S.V., 2004. Novye dannye po skifskim, sarmatskim i meotskim verovaniyam. Krasnodar.

Ryabova, V.A. and I.P. Lezhukh, 2001. "Chernaya arkheologiya" i istoriya skifskogo tsarya Skila. Vostochnoevropeysky arkheologichesky zhurnal, vol. 9(2): http://archaeology.kiev.ua/journal/020301/ryabova_lezhukh.htm.

Shilov, Y.A., 1995. Prarodina Ariev: Istoriya, obryady i mify. Kiev.

Toporov, V.N., 1992. Sur'ya. In: S.A. Tokarev (ed.) Mify narodov mira. Vol. 2. Moscow, pp. 477-8.


Copyright © 2004 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.

Published 27 December 2004.

Sergei V. Rjabchikov, Krasnodar, RUSSIA.


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See also Rjabchikov, Sergei V., 2005. A Scythian Inscription of the Scythian King Skil: An Alternative Interpretation. The web site "THE SLAVONIC ANTIQUITY": http://slavonicweb.chat.ru/sl54.htm.


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