Lives Journal 12

Anthony Ambrozic

 

GORDIAN KNOT UNBOUND

(Slovenetic inscriptions in Ancient Anatolia)

 

I

Old Phrygian Inscriptions – Historical Introduction

 

The final denouement of Hitite history in Anatolia is difficult to reconstruct. What appears to be certain is that, with the fall of their empire, the Hitites were swept out of their homeland on the Anatolian plateau in Syria. In the mass movement of peoples into the area that ensued, the predominant group was that of the Phryghians. However, it appears that these early Phryghian migrants were not organized into a strong central combination.

Mountain ranges along the Black Sea coast and along the northern Mediterranean inhibit north-south traffic. Accordingly, the plateau afforded easier east-west passage and served as a land bridge between Europe and Asia.

The geography the newcomers found lent itself to the formation of a number of small potentates. By degrees, however, what evolved between the 12th and the 10th centuries BC was a gradual Phryghian consolidation of most western and central Anatolia. To the west, a number of Greek city-states established themselves on the Aegean coast.

Greek tradition has it that the Phryghian migration dates to the era of the Trojan war (the early 12th century). The Greeks were also convinced that the Phryghians had come from Macedonia and Thrace. Later, by the middle of the 8th century, the Assyrians, who were then becoming a power in the Near East, called them Mushki.

By the 9th century, the Phryghians had formed an organized kingdom with its centers at Gordium and Midas City. Occupying the Anatolian plateau west of the Halys (now Kizilirmak) River right up to the Greek coastal city-states, this kingdom in its heyday in the 9th and 8th centuries could in geographical term be called the political heir to the disintegrated Hitite Empire. Excavations at Gordium and Midas City attest to the credibility of the Greek legends about the great wealth of the Phryghian rulers, especially that of King Midas.

These excavations also attest to the high level of perfection in construction and fortification techniques. The same is true of their metal work, ivory carving, and woodcutting. Ancient writings also laud the excellence of Phryghian textiles.

However, the early 7th century brought an end to the existence of Phryghian as a major political power. The culprit was the Cimmerian sweep through Anatolja.1

 

Excavations at Gordium clearly point to the destructive Cimmerian incursion around 690 BC.

The resulting power vacuum brought a Lydian incursion followed by a two-century long Persian control. However, what is significant for our purposes is that despite the Ldian domination (from the late 7th to the mid-6th century) and the subsequent Persian rule to the latter half of the 4th century, not a single Phryghian stone inscription has been found in Phryghia containing a trace of Lydian or Persian.2 Accordingly, we can safely conclude that the Phryghian language continued to be used without introduction of foreign accretions.3

In 334-333 BC, the Macedonians under Alexander the Great wrested Anatolia from the Persians. By popular account, it was at Gordium that Alexander cut the Gordian knot through with his sword. However, even such drastic solutions to political problems could not prevent his empire to be short-lived. With his early death, quarrels among his successors brought about its fragmentation even before 300 BC. Phrygia became a Seleucid satrapy.4

 

 

II

The Inscriptions

 

Greek governance was the death knell of the Phryghian language. What remains from the period that followed are some 100 Neo-Phryghian inscriptions. Written in standard Greek characters, the Neo-Phryghian, already substantially adulterated by Greeks, was now seldom used as a language of the entire inscription. Generally, the inscription was in Greek, with only a supplicatory formula added to it in Neo-Phryghian.5

Because of its substantial and protracted exposure to the Greek language, the Neo-Phryghian had separated from its Old-Phryghian base to a degree that offers no valuable points of comparison.  The pristine state of linguistic preservation of the Old Phryghian, on the other hand, proffers ample parameters of comparison to word roots and meaning of the dialectal and literary Slovenian language of today.

The Old Phryghian comes to us, literally, »cast in stone« and from a small number of non-fragmented rock inscriptions in a script which in several characters resembles those found also in the Pelasgic, Etruscan, and Venetic alphabets.

Even though the Old Phryghian and Greek alphabets share most of the letters, the old Phryghian contains half-a-dozen letter symbols not used by the Greek alphabet. It would appear, therefore, that the two alphabets drew their writing from a common source, each adapting relevant symbols to the dictates of their phonetic needs.

 

 

The dating for the Old-Phryghian inscriptions is not precise and estimates for any specific passage may vary up to a century. However for the most part, it can be said that these epigraphic writings commence in the second half of the 8th century, are particularly manifested in the 7th, 6th, and the first half of the 5th centuries, and survive up to the Macedonian conquest in the 3rd century.6

Even though a good number of inscriptions suffer from weathering and damage, and, as a result, exact transcription for them is tenuous, a small number are in a good state of preservation. It is the latter that this work will endeavor to decipher. With all due caution, passages which are partly obliterated may serve as points of comparison. However, their handicaps should always be kept in mind. In the main, this study will focus on inscriptions which are, for the large part, complete and whose inscriptions are not in question.

 

 

III

Logistical Handicaps

 

A significant feature that will accompany us throughout is the bare E. Denoting a YE-sound (YE as in yellow) it will recur at the beginning of words time and again. The Slavic conversion for YE is JE. The Old Phryghian, as did Slavenetic of Gaul, invariably considered the bare E as adequate to represent the YE-sound value. To assist the reader acquainted with Slavic phonology, a J will precede the bare E in all such cases. Accordingly, the often encountered EDAES will read as JE DA JES(T). »so be it, may it be so, may it happen that.«

Even though the language of the Old Phryghian appears to be of a somewhat earlier cast in the Old Early Slavic mold than the Slavenetic of Gaul, there are many words they have in common. As we go along, the reader will be alerted to the relevant Slavenetic passages in which such shared words appear.

Although in many instances parallel to the Slavenetic of Gaul, the Old Phryghian emerges somewhat more dialectally and less literarily Slovenian and much less Kajkavian and Chakavian Croatian, or Serbo-Croatian words like IA, SVI, VRATOY, XTO (ŠTO), NAMAY, KOY, GOY, GOT, BIRA, JAKO, TILO, MICA, PEROCO, MI, TIECI MI, and I which were encountered in Gaul do not recur in the Old Phryghian of the inscriptions. IN most instances, even the Serbo-Croatian I – »and« is replaced by the Slovenian IN. »and«. As a result, the methodology of the word and meaning comparison herein shall be between the Old Phryghian of the inscriptions and the Slovenian, either dialectal or literary. (…)

 

 

IV
Inscription Dd-102

 

 

A right to left inscription on a silver drinking cup on which it, in a band, surrounds the inner center bottom (now no. AD 2386 at the Art and History Museum in Geneva).

 

Transcription:              ← surgastoy inas

Division:                       SURG GASTOY IN NAS

Sln. Lit. Translation:    SRK GOSTOV IN NAS

Eng. Translation:         »Slurp (i.e. toast) of guest and us.«

 

In their main concern to get the message across as economically and tersely as possible, the Phrygians here, in two instances, use a single letter to serve two different words.  The G serves both SURG nd GASTOY, and the N both IN and NAS. As with the Slaveneti, in Gaul, the objective was to communicate in as thriftly a manner as possible. Further, since they had no established phonological or grammatical guidelines to go by, they had to originate and improvise as best they could. Since we will frequently encounter the phenomenon of a single letter serving two different words in the passages that follow, we will henceforth refer to it as the »consecutive same-sound letter reduction.«

The onomatopoetic imitation of the »slurping« sound that SURG (G > K SRK – Sln. »slurp, sip«) makes precludes it from being included in the methodology of the word and meaning comparison.

 

Word and Meaning Comparison:

Original Phrase     Meaning       Lit. Sln.      Meaning

GASTOY (akn.)     »of guests«   GOSTOV    »of guests«

IN                              »and«           IN             »and«

NAS                           »us«            NAS           »us«

 

 

General Geography of Old Phrygian

Inscriptions – Site Locations

 

 

 

 

Old Phrygian Alphabet from W Sites

 

Left-to-right Texts               Right-to-left Texts

 

 

 

V

Inscription W-010

 

 

The inscription is from the so-called »Monument of Areyast(is),« located in a pine forest a mile north of the »City-of-Midas« excavations, the horizontal line running right-to-left and the vertical second line from bottom-up. The monument is on the side of the high ground which overlooks the route from Yazilikaya to Kücuk Yazilikaya.

Transcription      ataniyen / kurjaneyon / ta /negertoy

Division               ATA NI YEN KURYA NEY ON TA NEGER TOY

Pronunciational Guide and Punctuation:

                            ATA, NI JENKURJA NEJ ON TA NEGER TOJ!

Strained Lit. Sln. Translation:

                   OČE, NITI EDEN NAJ NE KURI TO NEHANJE TVOJE !

Sln. Looser Rendition:

                   OČE, NAJ NIHČE NE SEŽGA TEGA TVOJEGA TRUPLA!

 

Eng. Translation:

                   »Father, let no one burn this corpse of yours!«

A notable feature of the inscription is the use of the symbol for the letter Y, which corresponds to the sound value of the Sln. J.

ATA, colloquial for »father«, does not qualify for inclusion into the comparative methodology, not only because  its origins are in the early lip movement of children, but also because comparable form are used by a variety of languages having no genetic affinity, such as Turkish and Hungarian, just to name two.

 

 

Word and Meaning Comparison:


Original Phrase      Meaning           Lit. Sln.       Meaning

 

NI                             »no, not«           NI, NITI       »no, not«

YEN                         »one«                 EDEN (lit.)   »one«

EN, JEN (dial.)

KURYA                    »burns«              KURI             »burns, makes fire«

NEY                         »let, may,           NAJ (lit.)         »let, may, let it, may it«

                                  let it, may it«     NEJ (dial.)

ON                            »he«                  ON                 »he«

TA                             »this«                TA                  »this«

NGER                       »corpse«           (G>H) NEHANJE  »end, cessation, finish«

TOY                          »your, yours«     TVOJ (lit.)       »your,

                                                          TOJ (dial.)        yours«

 

 

VI Inscription G-136

 

 

 

From possibly as early as the 6th century BC. This inscription is from the excavations at Gordium. It appears on a small alabaster falcon, whose sculpted collar has a fold of rock and one of bronze. Found in 1963 in an embankment structure from the Persian era, it is now in the Museum of Archeology Ankara.

Transcription:     → tadoy / iman / bagun

Division:              TADOY IMA N BAGUN

Pronunciational Guide and Punctuation:

                            TADOJ IMA N∂BAGUN!

SIN. Lit. Translation:

                            TEDAJ NAJ (GA/JO) IMA BOG!

Eng. Translation: »Then, let god have (him/her)!«

 

Word and Meaning Comparison:


Original Phrase     Meaning       Lit. Sln.      Meaning

 

TADOY                   »then«           TEDAJ        »then«

IMA                          »has«             IMA            »has«

N                               »let, may,       NAJ (lit       »let, may, let it, may it«

                                  Let it, may it« N∂ (dial.)

BAGUN                    »god«            BOG            »god«

 

 

VII

Inscription G-144

 

 

The above inscription appears on the bottom of a black earthenware, glazed basin, and is attributed to the 5th century BC. It is now at the Museum of Archeology in Ankara.

 

Transcription      → estatoiavun

Division               E STAT OIAV VUN

 

Pronunciational Guide and Punctuation:

                            JE OSTAT OJAV V∂N!

 

Strained Sln. Lit. Trnslation :

                            NAJ OSTANE NEPLODNOST ZUNAJ !

Eng. Translation:

                   »Infertility, stay out!«

 

Please, note the consecutive same-sound letter reduction in the letter E. The Original Phrase here uses the JE (3rd prs. sing. of BITI – »to be«) as auxiliary in a situation where today’s Slovenian dialectical usage would call for one based on IMETI (DA) – »to have (to).« The French use of ETRE – »to be« and AVOIR – »to have« as auxiliaries for different verbs is analogous.

 

Word and Meaning Comparison:

Original Phrase     Meaning       Lit. Sln.      Meaning

 

E                                 »is«                 JE                  »is«

STAT                         »stay«              OSTATI (lit.) »stay«

                                              STAT (dial.)

OJAV                        »infertility«  JALOVOST (lit.) »sterility, infertility, infertile«

VUN                          »out«               VEN  (lit.)       »out«

                                              V∂N (dial.)

 

VIII

Inscription G-116

 

 

Found in 1958 in the grounds of a building from the Persian period, the inscription from the excavations at Gordium appears on a large orange earthenware jar.

 

Transcription → benagonos

 

We meet the phenomenon of betatism in BEN, which,as a result, becomes VEN – Lit. Sln. – »out«

OS, which will be encountered again in several inscriptions that follow, remained unaltered regardless of tense, mood, or voice called for in the relevant passage in which it appears. Its meaning may range from »stay, remain« to »let, allow.« US – »ruse« also follows this pattern. The form resembles an all-purpose aorist-cum-gerund, expressing a state or action without further implication or limitation.

 

Division:   BEN AGON OS

Dial. Sln.:   V∂  N OG ∂N  OSTAN!

Sln. Lit. Translation:

                   ZUNAJ, OGENJ ; OSTANI !

Eng. Translation:

                   »Stay out, fire !«

 

One should note that the inscription hails from the Persian period. The concern for the welfare of the departed is no longer with the forest devils and serpents of an earlier period, but rather with fire. The unquenchable fires of the Zoroastrian hell seem already to have been unthawing the serenity of Phrygian soul.

 

Word and Meaning Comparison:

Original Phrase     Meaning       Lit. Sln.      Meaning

 

BEN                            »out«             VEN              »out«

AGON                        »fire«             OGENJ         »fire«

OS                                »stay«           OSTANI        »stay«

(…)

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

The march of centuries has not been kind to the toil of the Phrygian stonemasons of ancient Anatolia. Barely one sculpted inscription for each elapsed century has survived undamaged into our time. Yet, there are enough (some twenty four) to give us a sense of the people who cultivated the ancient land, who built the fortified towns, and  over time organized themselves into an empire. They are enough to give us insight into the ethos of their culture and the spirituality which guided it. Above all, cast in stone, the passages give us an unadulterated imprint of the Old Early Slavic spoken on the Anatolian plateau 3,200 years ago. (…)

Regarding the use of Slovene language as the catalyst in decipherment, Dr. Bryant-Abraham, states that »indeed, Slovenian must henceforth take its place as the only surviving dialect of Venetic, and a most conservative at that … The high value of the ultra-conservative Slovenian dialects in the decipherment of these inscriptions has the potential of so enhancing the appreciation of Slovenian linguistics that those Alpine dialects may yet come to be collectively hailed as the ‘mother of all Slavic languages’.

 

 

 

Notes

1. Helen Hemingway-Benton, The New Encyclopoedia Britannica (Vol. 1, 1973-74 ed.), 819-20.

2. Claude Brixhe and Michel Lejeune, Corpus des Inscriptions Paleo-Phrygiennes: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations (Paris, 1984).

3. Helen Hemingway-Benton, The New Encyclopoedia Britannica. (Vol. 1, 1973-74 ed.), 823.

4. Ibid, 824.

5. Johannes Friedrich, Extinct Languages (Philosophical Library, 1957; Bames & Noble Books, 1993), 147

6. Helen Hemingway-Benton, The New Encyclopoedia Britannica. (Vol. IV, 1973-74 ed.), 700.

 

 

*Here are presented only chosen chapters and passages from this book and with the author's approval.

 

From the book: Anthony Ambrozic, Gordian knot unbound, Canada 2002

 

Selection and translation: Peter Amalietti

 

 

ANTHONY AMBROZIC, Canadian attorney (brother of Canada's cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic), tournament chess player and explorer of the history of Slovenian / Venetian people; the author of several books on that theme: Adieu To Brittany: A Transciption Of Venetic Passages And Toponyms (1999); Journey Back to the Garumna (2000); Gordian Knot Unbound (2002), the latter translated into Serbian in 2004. (Ed. n.)

 

 

Slovenian (gajica)

Slovenian (bohorichica)