Thracian Ezerovo ring inscription

After flourishing for several millennia on the Balkan peninsula, the Thracian language ceased to exist somewhere around the 5th century AD. Thracian was without any doubt an Indo-European language. But scholars are still indecisive when it comes to its heritage in terms of modern languages. Today there are two main theories, one inks it with the Albanian language, and the other which to Balto-Slavic.

Now, one of the main reasons for this debate is a fact that we have only a handful of Thracian inscriptions longer than a few words. And one of the longest and clearest of these is the Ezerovo ring inscription. Discovered in 1912 in a burial mound, this golden ring dates to the 5th century BC.

The Ezerovo ring and its inscription

anus-ring-thracian-ezerovo-inscription

Luckily, the text is easy to read, and it goes as follows:

ΡΟΛΙΣΤΕΝΕΑΣΝ
ΕΡΕΝΕΑΤΙΛ
ΤΕΑΝΗΣΚΟΑ
ΡΑΖΕΑΔΟΜ
ΕΑΝΤΙΛΕΖΥ
ΠΤΑΜΙΗΕ
ΡΑΖ
ΗΛΤΑ

(this last word is not visible in the picture above, as the text continues on the side of the ring, but all of the sources that deal with the inscription have it)

A few translations of the Ezerovo ring inscription

During the past years, I have seen more than a dozen different translations of this text. I realized that the only thing that is sure is that there is no consensus about what it says. Besides the fact that there is very little material in Thracian to start with, another problem is that the words in the inscription are not clearly separated. This leaves a lot of space for different interpretations.

In order to better illustrate this I will give you a few of the most popular translations up to date:

Translation by Mr. Dimitar Dechev:

Rolisteneas Nerenea tiltean ēsko Arazea domean Tilezypta miē era zēlta
“I am Rolisteneas, a descendant of Nereneas; Tilezypta, an Arazian woman, delivered me to the ground.”

Translation by Vl. Georgiev:

Rolistene, as Nerenea Tiltea nesko arazea do mean tilezyptam, ie eraz elta
“Rolistene (=You, Rolisten), I, Nerenea Tiltea, die peaceful next to [you] my dear deceased,
[I] who nourished (brough up) the children.”

It seems that both of the above-quoted authors believe that the purpose of the ring was to accompany the deceased into the underworld. In the following translation by Małgorzata Rządkiewicz we see a different, romantic approach:

“Rolistos, husband of Nea, to you (Nea) give your adornments For you I (Nea) alone wrote it (these words)

The list of such attempts goes on and on. Each author separates the words according to his own beliefs and intuition.

Most common problems with the traditional approach

I still haven’t seen a translation that seemed convincing enough, and that is because:

  1. If we compare the other similar ring-inscriptions of this period, written in ancient Greek, Egyptian and Latin, languages we can understand, we see that in most of the cases the rings were either used as seals, (obviously not the case here), or they were used for protection, with inscriptions being some sort of magical formulas.
  2. If the purpose of the ring was magical protection, it would also mean that the ring is made for the living, not for the dead.
  3. A typical “protection formula” would have to contain the name of the owner, the word “ring” or “amulet”, and perhaps a name of a deity.
  4. Even though the words have (almost) no spacings, one would expect that there are no unnecessary breaks and transitions to another raw, except when the scribe had no more space to work with.

Opting for the Balto-Slavic theory in relation to the Thracian language, I came up with the following proposal.

My interpretation of the Ezerovo ring inscription

Line 1:

Original text: ΡΟΛΙΣΤΕΝΕΑΣΝ
With my spacing: ΡΟΛΙΣΤ ΕΝΕΑ ΣΝ
Transliteration: Rolist, enea sn
Translation: Rolist, the 9th son

Explanation:

Virtually everyone seems to agree that the first word is a variation of the name that starts with “Rolist”. I decided to make a break earlier because “enea” was a personal name in Ancient Greece. It meant “9th born”, “9th child” Source

As for the “ΣΝ”, it could easily be a common Indo-European word for “son” as in English, or “sin” in Balto-Slavic. I am also saying this because the other famous Thracian inscription from the Kjolmen begins with: EBAR ZEΣAΣN, which scholars translate as “Ebar, son of Zesa” Source

The reason that the vowel is not present between S and N could be the lack of letter that describes Slavic sound “Ь “.

Line 2:

Original: ΕΡΕΝΕΑΤΙΛ
With my spacing: ΕΡΕΝ Ε ΑΤΙΛ
Transliteration: Eren e Atil
Translation: (of) Eren and Atil

Explanation:

These could be the personal names of the parents of Rolist. Both of the names sound Scythian.

Line 3:

Original: ΤΕΑΝΗΣΚΟΑ + ΡΑ from line 4
With my spacing: ΤΕ ΑΝΗΣ ΚΟ ΑΡΑ
Transliteration: Te anYs ko ara (Y as in “yes”)
Translation: This ring as protection (prayer)

Explanation:

Line no. 4 begins with “RA” which seems like a leftover from the previous line.  Now, the most dramatic innovation that I made here is to assume that the value of a letter H is “Y”. I did this inspired by the works of other authors who assumed that this letter was an undetermined vocal in Thracian. One such example:

Two Phonological Curiosities of the Thracian Language, Krzysztof Tomasz, full text here

I read this word HE as a Russian E (pronounced YE) and gave a value of Y to H. Indeed, “Y” and “H” were interchangeable in many Indo-European languages.

Assuming that this unknown vocal was “Y” allowed me to get the word “anys” – quite similar to “anus” which meant “ring” in Latin, as we see in the example below, taken from the Wiktionary.  If I am right about this, it would mean that again the Slavic soft sign is missing, and that the pronunciation was very similar to modern French l’anneau – ring.

Analyzing the rest of the words, I came with the possible solution for ARA – as “protection” preserving the original context of the sentence. The following examples are in ancient Greek, Latin and Proto-Indo-European, all taken from Paleolexicon:

As we can see, the original sense of the PIE word ARA was something supernatural, an altar, a prayer, a curse. This is why I allowed for the sense of (supernatural) protection.

Once I had these two words in place I simply read the rest in Slavic – TE, as “this” (Taj, To in Slavic) and KO which literary means AS – therefore “this ring as protection”

Alternatively, TE can be read as Indo-European “You”, present in Slavic, Etruscan and Latin. In this case, the meaning would be just slightly altered – “you, ring, as a protection” in a sense of talking to the ring directly, as to a magical, living force.

Line 4.

Original text: ΖΕΑΔΟΜ
With my spacing: ΖΕ ΑΔΟΜ
Transliteration: Ze Adom
Translation: Took Adom

Explanation:

Adom sounds as another personal name, while ZE could be translated via Slavic, for example Serbian “uze”, Bulgarian “ze”.

Line 5.

Original text: ΕΑΝΤΙΛΕΖΥ + Π from the line 6
With my spacing: Ε ΑΝΤΙΛΕΖΥΠ
Transliteration: E antilezup
Translation: and against evil speech

Explanation:

According to Paleolexicon, the word “antileus” means “to speak against, gainsay, contradict”. The word in our inscription is a much closer match without the “P” in the end, but I decided to add it here as I could not make any sense with it in the next line (that could be wrong though). In any case, the word “anti” – against something is clearly readable, and this word with this precise meaning is listed in all the Thracian dictionaries.

Alternatively, line 6 begins with PTA, relating to the important Thracian goddess, IPTA.

Line 6:

Original text: ΤΑΜΙΗΕ
With my spacing: ΤΑ ΜΙ ΗΕ
Transliteration: Ta mi ye
Translation: That is my

Explanation:

Read in Slavic, “Ta mi ye” would mean “That is my”, for example: “To mi ye” in Serbian. Compare with the Latin “mihi” – to me.

Lines 7 and 8:

Original text: ΡΑΖ + ΗΛΤΑ
With my spacing: ΡΑΖΗΛΤΑ
Transliteration: Razylta
Translation: Resilience
Explanation:

This word could be cognate with Latin “resilio” from which the words “result” and “resilience” are derived in English.

The full text of the Ezerovo inscription

The full translation of the Ezero ring inscription would read as follows:

ΡΟΛΙΣΤ ΕΝΕΑ ΣΝ ΕΡΕΝ Ε ΑΤΙΛ ΤΕ ΑΝΗΣ ΚΟ ΑΡΑ ΖΕ ΑΔΟΜ
Ε ΑΝΤΙΛΕΖΥΠ ΤΑ ΜΙ ΗΕ ΡΑΖΗΛΤΑ

(To) Rolist, the 9th son of Eren and Atil, this ring as protection took Adom
and against evil speech that is my resilience.

So there you go, this is just my take on the subject. The main points are the magical purpose of the ring and the Balto-Slavic language as a base. Of course, I could be wrong about this, but to me, this transliteration sounds just how one would imagine the language of the 5th century BC Balkans to sound – a mixture of pre-Greek and a language that came with the Sarmatian tribes from the steppes – a language that could be related to Balto-Slavic.

It is beyond any doubt that Thracian shares many cognates with Slavic languages. Many examples can even be seen in the Wikipedia article from the beginning of this article. Perhaps in the near future, I will write another article about it.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Hello
    I saw your translation and i found it very interesting..You ve got a good point…But, I have some questions though..Shouldn’t there be at least one article in the original text? The (t) – il could it be an article of the thracian language, eversince the Romanian language, the Aromanian language and finally the Bulgarian language have their articles at the end of the word as a heritage of the ancient Thracian language? Furthermore, could the ΣΝ be ΑΣΝ by the meanining of year or years or as you say Son? I m saying that because it fits better when i read the Kjolmen inscription as following : ΖΕΣ(A) – ΑΣΝ (Lived years) or ΖΕΣ- ΑΣΝ … NY – AΣΝ – ΛET – EΔ- NY – EΔ- ΝΕΙΝ- ΔΑ(-) ΚΑΤΡ (Here probably are the years, the months and the days(?) the dead person lived..or a date) Also i thought the best translation at the end of the ring was RAZ HΛΤΑ (King or queen ΗΛΤΑ) but, could it be ΡΑ ZHΛΤΑ (Zelt) the gold in Letonian (zolto -protoslavic) Σαλδοκελλα ( Saldokella -in ancient Thracian the golden spring).. Anyway i think none should take for granded the ancinet greek letters that the ancient Thracian inscriptors were using because they probable were amateurs in using the ancient greek alphabet…perhaps letters were not beeing used properly because of the vocal differences of the thracian language or some letters were not used..
    Keep up the good work!!
    Your’ s Antonis

    • Hello, thanks for the comment, for some reason i am only seeing it now. Definately some interesting feedback here.. There are probably many flaws to my translation but I just wanted to give a whole different perspective on the nature of the text. Would be curious to see what you came up with, post the link here once you publish! Regards N

  2. Tracian =Romanian = English translator
    ΡΟΛ = ROLA =ring , ROLL
    ΙΣΤΕΝΕ= ACEASTA =this
    ΑΣΝΕΡΕΝΕΑΤΙ-Λ = TINETI-L = keep
    ΤΕΑΝΗ = TINE = TO YOU
    ΣΚΟ= KA = for
    ΑΡΑΖΕΑ =EREA= = he is
    ΔΟ = DE, LA = from
    ΜΕ = MEU = me
    ΑΝΤΙΛΕ = ANTAI = first
    ΖΥΠΤΑ = SUPT = under
    ΜΙΗ = MINE = me
    ΕΡΑΖΗΛ= EREA = to be
    ΤΑ = TU =you
    ring keep it to you for.
    that given to you first,
    under me to be obedient
    RAPAN MARIUS 2019

  3. The best and only sensible read-out is made by polish self-learned scientist Ireneusz Ćwirko on his blog. Read In Deutsch:
    http://universumskristall.blogspot.com/2015/02/entzifferung-einer-2500-jahre-alten.html
    In Polish:
    https://krysztalowywszechswiat.blogspot.com/2015/01/sowianski-napis-sprzed-2500-lat.html

    He looked at some unusual things, for example repeating “ae” he took as space, some dots were to guess letters underneath, some phrases were on the edge. The whole thing is a puzzle, which he solved. Must read!

    He is very good in reading ancient texts which almost always appear to be slavic. He read also “laminae Pyrgienses” – and found it to be a cure book. He wrote several articles about this and translated sentence by sentence. There is no doubt, when you know the letters, you can read this ancient slavic by your own and understand what is written (well, some practice needed).

  4. ΡΟΛΙΣΤΕΝΕΑΣΝΕΡΕΝΕΑΤΙΛΤΕΑΝΗΣΚΟΑΡΑΖΕΑΔΟΜΕΑΝΤΙΛΕΖΥΠΤΑΜΙΗΕΡΑΖ

    ΡΟΛΙΣΤΕΝΕ ΑΣ ΝΕΡΕΝΕΑ ΤΙΛΤΕΑΝΗΣ ΚΟΑ ΡΑΖΕΑ ΔΟ ΜΕΑΝ ΤΙ ΛΕΖΥ ΠΤΑ ΜΙ ΗΕ ΡΑΖ

    “Аз, Нернеа Тилтеанс, която написа това, до мен ти легни съпруже мой. Написах!”

    Rollisttene, I Nernea Tilteans, who wrote / cut / “this”, to me you lay down master / husband / mine. I wrote it! / I cut it out – this can be read entirely in Bulgarian, like a marriage oath.

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