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by Sergei V. Rjabchikov

This article is dedicated to the study of some proper names, place-names and ethnicons of Scythians, Sarmatians and Meotians (Sindians), otherwise Indo-Aryans or Proto-Slavs. As a result, several Scythian/Sarmatian records are decoded.

The languages (dialects) of the Scythians, Sarmatians and Meotians - Barbarians in the Greek terminology - are closely related to the Old Indian language, moreover, some connections of these languages with the Iranian and other Indo-European languages may be traced. The Barbarians lived not only at their own territories, but also in antique towns at the Black sea, in antique towns of the Bosporan kingdom (the vast area near the Black sea and the Sea of Azov). Here I use results of my own decipherment of their writing system, otherwise the Scythian/Sarmatian script. This writing is based on the syllabic Linear A (B); besides, some inscriptions contain original ideograms, determinatives, Greek letters. The Scythian, Sarmatian and Meotian names are an important key to Scythian/Sarmatian texts.

Let us study two patronymics, Radamyw(n)tos and Raqagwsou, of inhabitants of the antique town Olbia (the Ukraine) (Treshcheva 1977: 164). In the first case I distinguish the following original Scythian/Sarmatian words: Rada M- pso-*(n)t-, i.e. the names Rada (Lada, Rata) and Ma (Mai) of the supreme goddess of the sun and fire of the Scythians, Sarmatians and Meotians known also as Tabiti (Rjabchikov 2002a: 3ff). The Scythian goddess Tabiti 'Heating' is related to the Indo-Aryan god Agni 'Fire' (Afanasiev 1868: 24; Raevsky 1994: 204-5). According to the History of Alexander the Great (VII: 8, 34) by Quintus Curtius Rufus, a Scythian ambassador spoke about the brightness of the great sun deity. Undeniably the worshipping this deity (in different forms and rites) was a basis of the archaic religion. Scythian/Sarmatian pso-*(n)t- consists of the root p(a)s- 'cattle' and the suffix *(n)t- signifying the plural. Scythian/Sarmatian pas- 'cattle' is comparable with Old Indian pacu 'cattle' (Rjabchikov 2002a: 18ff) (1). The second name contains Scythian/Sarmatian Rata go s- '(The goddess) Rata - the sun, cow - the sun', cf. Scythian/Sarmatian go 'the sun; cow', so 'the sun; shine' (Rjabchikov 2002a: 7-9). Let us study a Bosporan proper name, Radam... (Struve 1965: 764, No 1277). Here I read Scythian/Sarmatian names of the sun goddess, Rada and M-. Let us study a Bosporan proper name, Radamofourton (Struve 1965: 765, No 1278). Here I read Scythian/Sarmatian Rada, Mo (the names of the sun goddess) and *fur-t 'fires', cf. Old Indian vilas 'to shine', English fire.

According to a Bosporan Greek text, the people of the Bosporan kingdom worshipped the goddess Ma (Struve 1965: 82, No 74). I conclude that Ma (the Maiden) is the main Bosporan (Scythian/Sarmatian) goddess of the sun (2); cf. Scythian/Sarmatian ma 'the sun; solar; solstice; fire; funeral pyre' (Rjabchikov 2002a: 5ff; 2003).

It is known from a Greek text that the citizens of the antique town Chersonesus (the Crimea, Ukraine) made a vow to the god Zeus, the earth, the sun, the Maiden, the Olympian deities (Latyshev 1902). I believe that the Maiden by the archaic name Ma is relevant to the earth (ground, agriculture) and to the sun. Four lines of a Greek text are preserved on a fragment of a Bosporan slab; the text is very damaged (Struve 1965: 532, No 949):

_ _ dama _ _
_ _ mhtr _ _
_ _ iae _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The second segment reads [Dh]mhtr (?) (Ibid.). I read it as [Dh]mhtr[i]' Demeter' (in the dative) (cf. Greek Dhmhthr 'Demeter' in the nominative). Apparently, the text is devoted in particular to the Greek goddess of fertility Demeter. In the light of the obtained data the beginning of the text can be restored as [Ra]dama[is], i.e. as a form of the name of the native goddess Rada Ma(i). So the record begins with the words: '(This text is devoted to the goddess by names) Rada Ma(i), Demeter'. Taking into account several Bosporan Greek texts (Struve 1965: 647, No 1112; 746, No 1255; 746-7, No 1256), I restore the letters _ iae... as [d]ia e [pimeleias] (e[pimelhtwn]) 'because of the care of somebody'. Then two letters that follow the name of Demeter may be read as [gh], cf. Greek gh 'earth' (the nominative and dative). So I translate the inscription as follows: '(This text is devoted to the goddess by names) Rada Ma(i), Demeter, (the earth). Because of the care of (a name/names) (this stele was erected...)'.

Interestingly, Old Church Slavonic zhivomaia signifies 'inhabited part of the earth; the Universe' (Vereshchagin 2001: 511). Here I recognise the archaic root mai- 'the sun (situated in different levels of the Universe)'. Besides, the Old Russian goddess Mokosh'/Makosh' (< Ma kosh) is "the mother of harvest" (Rybakov 1987: 126).

The name of the goddess Lada (the elder goddess in childbirth) is mentioned in different Russian folk-songs (Rybakov 1994: 406, 362, 364). Let us investigate the text of a Circassian lullaby (Gatsuk 1974: 84, 233, 380). It contains the unclear word Rede-Rede. I think that here the name of the goddess Rada of the Scythians, Sarmatians and Meotians is preserved. Besides, one can mention the name Alardy of the Ossetic deity of child's diseases (Pchelina 1937). In this name I distinguish Scythian/Sarmatian ara Rad- 'the quick/fiery (deity) Rada'. As a parallel one can offer Russian rodimchik 'disease of pregnant women, women in childbirth, and infants' which derives from the name of Rada, too. It is possible that the name of the well known mountain Ararat coincides with the archaic form ara Rad-.

Now one can study a pair of Olbian proper names, Amnozos and Abnozos (Treshcheva 1977: 164). I read them as Scythian/Sarmatian A-m- *noz- and A-b- *noz- respectively. In the first case the root m- (ma) signifies 'the sun'. Here the word a 'from' is a prefix that forms adjectives (Rjabchikov 2002a: 126), hence the word a-m- means 'solar; belonging to (the goddess) Ma'. I translate the form *noz- as 'knife; sword', cf. Old Iranian (Avesta) naeza- 'spike', Old Church Slavonic nozh', nozh'', Old Russian nozh' 'knife; sword', Russian nozh 'knife' (3). Greek akinakhs 'Scythian sword' comes in my opinion from the Scythian/Sarmatian form *akin-/agin-ak- 'fire' (*ak- is a suffix), cf. Old Indian agni 'fire', Agni 'the god of the fire'. According to the History (IV: 62) by Herodotus, the sword is an attribute of the Scythian god of war. I suggest that this god is the male hypostasis of the supreme deity of the fire, and the goddess Ma (Tabiti, Aga, Rada/Rata) is the female hypostasis of the same deity. So it is no wonder that the knife and sword are attributes of the sun goddess. Scythian/Sarmatian b- (be) 'beat; axe; reproduction; clan' is an epithet of such Scythian/Sarmatian deities: the god-thunderer Tara (Targitai; the Indo-Aryan god Indra) and the sun goddess Ma (the Indo-Aryan god Agni) (Rjabchikov 2002a: 33ff). It is felt that the Scythian/Sarmatian god of war/fire has some features of the Scythian/Sarmatian god-thunderer and vice versa (cf. Scythian/Sarmatian tara 'fire; horse; carrying across; saviour; protector; clean; clear', Old Indian tara 'fire; horse; carrying across; saviour; protector; clean; clear', Old Iranian (Avesta) atar 'fire'). The word A-b- means 'as an axe; belonging to the beating (deities)'.

Let us consider a Kerch slab covered with many Scythian/Sarmatian signs (the ancient town Panticapeum, the capital of the Bosporan kingdom; Kerch, the Crimea, Ukraine) (Drachuk 1975: table XXXV). The word 08-80 a-ma is presented in this inscription. Let us examine Scythian/Sarmatian signs engraved on sculpture No 1 of a lion from Olbia (Drachuk 1975: table XLV). The lion's growl is akin to the peals of thunder, therefore the lion's representation can be an image of the deity of the sun, fire and thunderstorm. The word 08-80 a-ma is presented in this record as well. This word is associated with the name of the sun deity. Now one can investigate records written down in the Greek and Scythian/Sarmatian languages engraved on a slab from Olbia (Solomonik 1959: 74-5, figure 29). The Greek text is dedicated to the Greek sun god Apollo. I read the Scythian/Sarmatian signs as 08-72 a-be. I think that this word corresponds to the Scythian/Sarmatian god Tara (Targitai) of the sun and thunderstorm. Let us examine Scythian/Sarmatian signs engraved on the handle of a Sarmatian knife (Skripkin and Dvornichenko 2003: 169-70, figures 1 [2] - [5], [7]). I read the signs depicted in figures 1 [3] - [5] as 76 ra, cf. Scythian/Sarmatian ra 'the sun; fire' (Rjabchikov 2002a: 3ff; 2002b: figures 6-8, 10, 11). From my point of view, figure 1 [7] contains signs 33 ra and 72 be that mean 'the sun' and 'the beat' respectively, otherwise they are the epithets of the deities of the sun and thunderstorm (Rjabchikov 2002b: figure 11). Figure 1 [2] contains sign 33 ra (cf. Scythian/Sarmatian ra 'the sun; fire') and the ideogram "two horses". The Rig-Veda (I.6.2; I.7.2), a collection of Indo-Aryan sacred hymns, tells of two horses of Indra. Thus, certain Scythian/Sarmatian records correlate with the Barbarian proper names.

Let us study the following Olbian proper names: Pourqaios, Pourqakhs, [P]ourf[akhs] (Treshcheva 1977: 166; Knipovich and Levi 1968: 71). In all the three cases I destinguish the form pur-. I read the Scythian/Sarmatian words as follows: pur- tai-, pur- ta- (*(a)k-/(a)g- is a suffix), pur- *f-. The form pur- signifies 'the sun; fiery', cf. Old Indian purvi 'the sun; sunrise, east' (< *pur- vi), vi 'horse; bird', Russian burya 'storm', English burn. In the third case the words pur- *f- (v-) correspond to Old Indian purvi exactly. Besides, Scythian/Sarmatian ta means 'the sun; fire' (Rjabchikov 2002a: 43). On the other hand, the segment ta may be a Scythian/Sarmatian suffix signifying the plural. Let us study a proper name, Aspourgos, known in the Bosporan kingdom and in Olbia (Struve 1965: 666, No 1134; Treshcheva 1977: 164). Here I distinguish the Scythian/Sarmatian words, as- and pur-, where the word as- (a-s-) means 'solar; clear', cf. Russian yasny 'clear'.

Let us study a Bosporan patronymic, Balwdiou (Struve 1965: 768, No 1279). Here I distinguish Scythian/Sarmatian *balo Di- 'the strength of the god of the sky Di', cf. Scythian/Sarmatian *bala 'strength', da 'heat', Di, Ti 'the name of the god of the sky' (Rjabchikov 2002a: 10ff).

Let us study a Bosporan proper name, Aphmantos, and an Olbian patronymic, Maniagou (Struve 1965: 671, No 1137; Treshcheva 1977: 166). In both cases I distinguish Scythian/Sarmatian *man- 'reproduction', cf. Old Indian manu 'man', Russian mnogo 'many', razmnozhenie 'reproduction', English man, many (Rjabchikov 2002a: 30). The form *ape is comparable with Scythian/Sarmatian a-be 'as an axe; reproduction; belonging to the beating (deities)'. The words *ape man-t- mean 'the reproductions; fertility; abundance'.

Let us study an Olbian proper name, Inarmazos (Knipovich and Levi 1968: 82). In my opinion, it corresponds to Scythian/Sarmatian *i-nar- maz-. The first word is comparable with Scythian/Sarmatian *nar- 'manly; courage; fury; force', Hittite innara 'force', Old Indian narya 'manly', Old Russian naroi 'fury; striving', Russian norovit' 'to strive', Lithuanian narras 'courage; fury' (Rjabchikov 2002a: 245-6). The second word corresponds to Scythian/Sarmatian maz-/mas- 'stone; mountain', cf. Circassian myzh''o 'stone', Latin massa 'lump, piece', German Masse 'thickness, layer', and Lycian masana 'deities' (Rjabchikov 1998: 23; 1999; 2005). This proper name is a hint of Amazons, otherwise brave Scythian, Sarmatian and Meotian (Sindian) female warriors. Greek Amazwn 'Amazon' derives from Scythian/Sarmatian a-maz-/mas- '(belonging to) the stone, mountain' (Rjabchikov 2002a: 23ff). Now let us study an Olbian patronymic, Koukodwnos (Knipovich and Levi 1968: 82). Scythian/Sarmatian don- signifies 'river; water' (4). What does the form *kuko mean? As has been shown by the author earlier (Rjabchikov 2002a: 20ff), Scythian/Sarmatian mara signifies 'priestess'. In the Abazin mythology chints and marakuas are enemies of narts (Salakaya 1975: 326). In fact, chint signifies 'Sindian' (Alieva 1969: 304). I think that the term nart 'mythical warrior' presented in epics of the peoples of the Northern Caucasus comes from Scythian/Sarmatian *nar-t- 'too brave', it is a designation of warriors of the Scythians, Sarmatians and Meotians. I believe that the term marakua bears on the Amazons who were female warriors, in addition priestesses and fortune-tellers. I divide it into two parts, mara and *ku-. The term *ku (ku-ku-) compares with Old Indian kukkuta (< *kukku ta) 'cock; hen; fire-brand; spark of fire', kuksi 'stomach; womb', Russian kukla 'doll', kuksit'sya 'to grumble' (dut'sya 'ditto', it means figuratively 'to be pregnant') (5). Moreover, the term *ku- (ku-ku-) can be connected with beliefs about Amazons, cf. Russian kukushka 'cuckoo' as well as the unclear word kuku in a Slavonic charm (Rjabchikov 2002a: 127ff; 2002c). The proper name *Kuko don- may be a hint of Amazons who worshipped their deities near rivers (ideas "water", "abundance", "fertility", "rains"). Scythian/Sarmatian *ku- is comparable with Old Indian ku 'earth'. One can offer Old Indian ku 'to cry; to make any noise', too. Let us study the name of a Meotian tribe, Mardi, mentioned in the Natural History (VI: 16) by Pliny the Elder. I read this ethnicon as Mar- D- 'A priestess (worshipping the god of the sun and thunderstorm) Da/Di'. On the other hand, the ethnicon reads Ma R(a)d- '(the goddess) Ma Rada'.

Let us study an Olbian proper name, Ramanagos (Treshcheva 1977: 174). Here I distinguish Scythian/Sarmatian ram- 'ram', cf. Old Indian remi 'ram', ramb 'lamb', English ram, lamb (Rjabchikov 2002a: 215). According to the Rig-Veda (I.51.1), the god-thunderer Indra is incarnated in the ram. In an Olbian burial of the Scythian type there were bones of a ram near a human skeleton (Kaposhina 1950: 207). I think that in this case the ram is a symbol of the successful transition of a soul (a dead person) from this world to other one (literally Russian tot svet 'that light'). On the other hand, this name may include Scythian/Sarmatian Ra man- 'The sun - the reproduction, abundance, fertility'.

Let us study an Olbian proper name, Azamhos (Treshcheva 1977: 173). Here I distinguish Scythian/Sarmatian a-z- (a-s-) Me- 'the solar (goddess by the name) Me/Ma'. In the light of this interpretation let us examine the ethnicon Iazamatai 'Yazamatae'; as it is customary, this name is pertinent to the Meotians (Kamenetsky 2000: 230). I read it as Ya-z- (a-z-, a-s-) Ma-*t- 'the solar (goddesses by the name) Ma'.

Let us study an Olbian patronymic, Sousoulwnos (Knipovich and Levi 1968: 54). Taking into account the possibility of sound alternations u/i, l/r, I compare the form susulon- with Scythian/Sarmatian sisirna 'leathern tunic' according to the Vocabulary (VII: 70) by Julius Polydeucus. I translate Scythian/Sarmatian si- sir- as 'shining (and) hard = leathern tunic' (Rjabchikov 2002a: 6ff). In the book Toxaris, or the Friendship (47-48) by Lucianus there is the following report: Scythians used an oxhide to take an oath and to join with an army. Apparently, the oxhide symbolises the god-thunderer, a patron of warriors. According to the same source (Lucianus 40), if a Scythian who was taken prisoner wanted to pay ransom to Sarmatians, he cried the word zirin-. I suppose that this word (zir-, sir-) means 'oxhide = hard', i.e. the Scythian made a vow using the epithet of the god-thunderer.

Now one can study two Olbian proper names, Badagos and Badakhs (Treshcheva 1977: 164). I think that Scythian/Sarmatian *bad- presented in both instances correlates with Russian bodat' 'to butt' (cf. Old Church Slavonic bodl' 'thorn', bodyn'' 'funeral monument', Old Russian badati, bodati, bosti 'to butt', bodl' 'thorn', bos'' 'devil', Greek bous 'bull; cow'). The word *bad- is associated with cattle, Scythian/Sarmatian deities incarnated in the bull and cow (Targitai/Indra, Argimpasa/Usas) (Rjabchikov 2002a: 4ff). In the Mithradates' Wars (LXXIX) by Appianus there is a Scythian proper name, Sobadakos. Here I distinguish Scythian/Sarmatian So *bad- 'The sun (deity) is butting'. Let us examine a Meotian golden necklace found in the Karagodeuashkh barrow (the Krasnodar region, Russia) (Anfimov 1987: 160, photo, 161, photo). A figurine of the bull head united with a round bead is the central element of this ornament. I think that it is the symbolism of the god Indra or the god Agni (Rig-Veda I.54.2; I.7.2; I.31.5). The two extreme plates are covered with Scythian/Sarmatian signs, and each motif includes sign 12 so, cf. Scythian/Sarmatian so 'the sun; shine'. Seven bull skulls prepared for certain rite were discovered inside a cistern in Olbia (Levi 1985: 83). Let us examine a Scythian cauldron (Melyukova 1989: 351, table 46 [4]). Heads of bulls/cows and rounds are depicted on the upper part of this artifact. So the bulls/cows are solar symbols. The cult of the cow is associated with the cult of the great goddess in the Meotian beliefs; in particular, some parts or whole carcasses of cows were placed in several Meotian burials (Anfimov 1977: 116-7). Furthermore, it is known that bones of bulls were discovered in several Scythian burials (Bunyatyan, Cherednichenko and Murzin 1977: 79). In my opinion, in both cases we are concerned with an Indo-Aryan rite. According to the Rig-Veda (X.16.7), the enveloping of a corpse with a cow flesh precedes the application of the fire on it. According to the Geography (III: 6) by Claudius Ptolemy, a Crimean antique town is called Badatium. I restore the archaic name as *Bada Ti (Di) '(The god-thunderer) Ti/Di is butting'. There is a number of evidences that the solar cult connected with the cattle was widespread in the Scythian/Sarmatian time, hence elements of this cult could be reflected in different Barbarian names.


1. Cf. the name of the Scythian/Sarmatian goddess Argimpasa (Ar- gim- pasa) '(The transition to) the sun/summer (from) the winter - the cattle', it is a calendar symbol of the transition of the sun (goddess) from the winter to the summer.

2. See also Lurie 1948.

3. Cf. Russian zanoza 'splinter', vonzat' 'to plunge', pronzat' 'to pierce', see Vasmer 1987: 80.

4. Cf. Vasmer 1986: 528.

5. Cf. Russian nadut' 'to inflate'.


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Copyright © 2005 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.

Published 5 December 2005.

Sergei V. Rjabchikov, Krasnodar, RUSSIA.

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