|Region||Bulgaria, European Turkey, Southern Serbia parts of the region of Macedonia (including Paeonia), parts of Northern Greece, parts of Bithynia in Anatolia. Probably also spoken in parts of Dardania|
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The Thracian language (//) is an extinct and poorly attested language, generally considered to be Indo-European, spoken in ancient times in Southeast Europe by the Thracians. The linguistic affinities of the Thracian language are poorly understood, but it is generally agreed that it exhibited satem features.
A contemporary, neighboring language, Dacian is usually regarded as closely related to Thracian. However, there is insufficient evidence with respect to either language to enable the nature of this relationship to be decided.
The point at which Thracian became extinct is a matter of dispute. However, it is generally accepted that Thracian was still in use in the 6th century AD: Antoninus of Piacenza wrote in 570 that there was a monastery in the Sinai, at which the monks spoke Greek, Latin, Syriac, Egyptian, and Bessian – a Thracian dialect.
Other theories about Thracian remain controversial.
These are among many competing hypotheses regarding the classification and fate of Thracian.
Little is known for certain about the Thracian language, since no phrase beyond a few words in length has been satisfactorily deciphered, and the sounder decipherments given for the shorter phrases may not be completely accurate. Some of the longer inscriptions may indeed be Thracian in origin but they may not reflect actual Thracian language sentences, but rather jumbles of names or magical formulas.
Enough Thracian lexical items have survived to show that Thracian was a member of the Indo-European language family and that it was a satemized language by the time it is attested. Besides the aforementioned inscriptions, Thracian is attested through personal names, toponyms, hydronyms, phytonyms, divine names, etc. and by a small number of words cited in Ancient Greek texts as being specifically Thracian.
Other ancient Greek lexical items were not specifically identified as Thracian by the ancient Greeks but are hypothesized by paleolinguists as being or probably being of Thracian origin. Other lexical items are hypothesized on the basis of local anthroponyms, toponyms, hydronyms, oronyms, etc. mentioned in primary sources (see also List of ancient cities in Thrace and Dacia, List of Dacian plant names) .
Below is a table showing both words cited as being Thracian in classical sources, and lexical elements that have been extracted by paleolinguists from Thracian anthroponyms, toponyms, etc. In this table the closest cognates are shown, with an emphasis on cognates in Bulgarian, Albanian, Baltic, Slavic, Greek, and substratum and/or old-layer words in the Eastern Romance languages: Romanian, Aromanian, et cetera. See also the List of reconstructed Dacian words.
Significant cognates from any Indo-European language are listed. However, not all lexical items in Thracian are assumed to be from the Proto-Indo-European language, some non-IE lexical items in Thracian are to be expected.
There are 23 words mentioned by ancient sources considered explicitly of Thracian origin and known meaning
|asa||colt’s foot (Bessi)||Dioskurides||Lit. dial. asỹs ‘horse-tail, Equisetum’, Latv. aši, ašas ‘horse-tail, sedge, rush’|
|βόλινθος (bólinthos)||aurochs, European bison||Aristotle||Proto-Slavic *volъ ("ox"). Pre-Greek, according to Beekes 2010: 225.|
|βρία (bría)||unfortified village||Hesychius, compare the Toponyms Πολτυμβρία, Σηλυ(μ)μβρία, and Βρέα in Thrace.||Compared to Greek ῥίον (ríon; "peak, foothills") and Tocharian A ri, B riye ("town") as if < *urih₁-. Alternatively, compare Proto-Celtic *brix- ("hill").|
|βρίζα (bríza)||rye||Galen||Perhaps of Eastern origin, compare Greek ὄρυζα, Sanskrit vrīhí- ("rice").|
|βρυνχός (brynkhós)||guitar||Compared with Slavic *bręčati "to ring".|
|βρῦτος (brŷtos)||beer of barley||many||Germanic *bruþa- ("broth"), Old Irish bruth ("glow"), Latin dēfrŭtum ("must boiled down").|
|dinupula, si/nupyla||wild melon||Pseudoapuleus||Lithuanian šùnobuolas, lit. ("dog’s apple"), or with Slavic *dynja ("melon").|
|γέντον (génton)||meat||Herodian., Suid., Hesych||Taken from IE *gʷʰn-tó-, cf. Sanskrit hatá- ‘hit, killed’|
|καλαμίνδαρ (kalamíndar)||plane-tree (Edoni)||Hesych.|
|κη̃μος (kêmos)||a kind of fruit with follicle||Phot. Lex.|
|midne||village||inscription from Rome||Latvian mītne ("a place of stay")|
|Πολτυμ(βρία) (poltym-bría)||board fence, a board tower||Old Norse spjald ("board"), Old English speld ("wood, log")|
|ῥομφαία (rhomphaía)||broadsword||many||Compared with Latin rumpō ("to rupture"), Slavic: Russian разрубать, Polish rąbać ("to hack", "to chop", "to slash"), Polish rębajło ("eager swordsman")|
|σκάλμη (skálmē)||knife, sword||Soph. y Pollux, Marcus Anton., Hesych., Phot. L||Albanian shkallmë ("sword"), Old Norse skolm ("short sword, knife")|
|σκάρκη (skárkē)||a silver coin||Hesych., Phot. Lex.|
|σπίνος (spínos)||a kind of stone (?)||Arist.|
|τορέλλη (toréllē)||a refrain of lament mourn song||Hesych.|
|ζαλμός (zalmós)||animal hide||Porphyr.|
|ζειρά (zeira)||long robe worn by Arabs and Thracians||Hdt., Xen., Hesych.|
|ζελᾶ (zelâ), also ζῆλα (zêla), ζηλᾱς (zelās)||wine||many||Compared with Greek χάλις (khális; "unblended wine") and Macedonian κάλιθος (kálithos; "wine")|
|zibythides||the noble, most holy one||Hesych.||Lith. žibùtė ("shining")|
An additional 180 Thracian words have been reconstructed.
The proposed Thracian words in the Ancient Greek lexicon are not numerous. They include the parth- element in Parthenon; balios ("dappled"; < PIE *bhel-, "to shine", Bul. bel/bial (бял) "white" or bljaskav 'bright, shiny'; Pokorny also cites Illyrian as a possible source, the non-Greek origin is argued on phonological grounds), bounos, "hill, mound".
The Thracian horseman hero was an important figure in Thracian religion, mythology, and culture. Depictions of the Thracian Horseman are found in numerous archaeological remains and artifacts from Thracian regions. From the Duvanli ring and from cognates in numerous Indo-European languages, mezēna is seen to be a Thracian word for "horse", deriving from PIE *mend-. Another Thracian word for "horse" is hypothesized, but it looks certain, there is no disagreement among Thracologists: aspios, esvas, asb- (and some other variants; < PIE *ekwo , the Thracian showing a satem form similar to Sanskrit áśva-, "horse", Avestan aspa, "horse", Ossetic jäfs, Prussian aswinan ‘mare milk’, Lithuanian ašvíenis ‘stallion’, ašvà, dial. ešvà ‘mare’), from Outaspios, Utaspios, an inscription associated with the Thracian horseman. Ut- based on the PIE root word ud- (meaning "up") and based on several Thracic items, would have meant "upon", "up", and Utaspios is theorized to have meant "On horse(back)", parallel to ancient Greek ephippos (epi-hippos).
The early Indo-European languages had more than one word for horse; for example Latin had equus from PIE *ekwo- and mannus ("a pony") from another IE root, later receiving cabalus as a loanword.
In many cases in current Thracology, there is more than one etymology for a Thracian lexical item. For example, Thracian Diana Germetitha (Diana is from Latin while the epithet Germetitha is from Thracian) has two different proposed etymologies, "Diana of the warm bosom" (Olteanu; et al.?) or "Diana of the warm radiance" (Georgiev; et al.?). In other cases, etymologies for the Thracian lexical items may be sound, but some of the proposed cognates are not actually cognates, thus confusing the affinity of Thracian.
Only four Thracian inscriptions of any length have been found. The first is a gold ring found in 1912 in the village of Ezerovo, Bulgaria; the ring was dated to the 5th century BC. On the ring an inscription is found written in a Greek script and consisting of 8 lines, the eighth of which is located on the edge, the rim, of the rotating disk; it reads: ΡΟΛΙΣΤΕΝΕΑΣΝ / ΕΡΕΝΕΑΤΙΛ / ΤΕΑΝΗΣΚΟΑ / ΡΑΖΕΑΔΟΜ / ΕΑΝΤΙΛΕΖΥ / ΠΤΑΜΙΗΕ / ΡΑΖ // ΗΛΤΑ
Dimitar Dechev (Germanised as D. Detschew) separates the words thus ΡΟΛΙΣΤΕΝΕΑΣ ΝΕΡΕΝΕΑ ΤΙΛΤΕΑΝ ΗΣΚΟ ΑΡΑΖΕΑ ΔΟΜΕΑΝ ΤΙΛΕΖΥΠΤΑ ΜΙΗ ΕΡΑ ΖΗΛΤΑ i.e. Rolisteneas Nerenea tiltean ēsko Arazea domean Tilezypta miē era zēlta proposing the following translation
A second inscription, hitherto undeciphered, was found in 1965 near the village of Kyolmen, Varbitsa Municipality, dating to the sixth century BC. Written in a Greek alphabet variant, it is possibly a tomb stele inscription similar to the Phrygian ones; Peter A. Dimitrov's transcription thereof is:
A third inscription is again on a ring, found in Duvanli, Kaloyanovo Municipality, next to the left hand of a skeleton. It dates to the 5th century BC. The ring has the image of a horseman with the inscription surrounding the image. It is only partly legible (16 out of the initial 21)
The meaning of the inscription is 'Horseman Eusie protect!'
These are the longest inscriptions preserved. The remaining ones are mostly single words or names on vessels and other artifacts.
The Thracian language in linguistic textbooks is usually treated either as its own branch of Indo-European, or is grouped with Dacian, together forming a Daco-Thracian branch of IE. Older textbooks often grouped it also with Illyrian or Phrygian. The belief that Thracian was close to Phrygian is no longer popular and has mostly been discarded. The Thraco-Illyrian grouping has also been called into question. Daco-Thracian or Thraco-Dacian is the main hypothesis.
No definite evidence has yet been found that demonstrates that Thracian or Daco-Thracian belonged on the same branch as Albanian or Baltic or Balto-Slavic or Greco-Macedonian or Phrygian or any other IE branch. For this reason textbooks still treat Thracian as its own branch of Indo-European, or as a Daco-Thracian/Thraco-Dacian branch.
The generally accepted clades branched from the Proto-Indo-European language are, in alphabetical order, the Proto-Albanian language, Proto-Anatolian language, Proto-Armenian language, Proto-Balto-Slavic language, Proto-Celtic language, Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Greek language, Proto-Indo-Iranian language, Proto-Italic language, and the Proto-Tocharian language. Thracian, Dacian, Phrygian, Illyrian, Venetic, and Paeonian are fragmentarily attested and cannot be reliably categorized.
|Change||o > a||r > ir, ur (or)
l > il, ul (ol)
|m > im, um (om)
n > in, un (on)
|kʷ, gʷ, gʷʰ
> k, g (k), g
|ḱ, ǵ, ǵʰ
> s (p), z (d)
|p, t, k
> pʰ, tʰ, kʰ
|b, d, g
> p, t, k
|bʰ, dʰ, gʰ
> b, d, g
|sr > str||tt, dt > st|
|*r̥, *l̥||ri||ur (or), ur (ol)||al|
Note: Asterisk indicates reconstructed IE sound. M is a cover symbol for the row of voiced stops (mediae), T for unvoiced stops (tenues) and TA for aspirated stops (tenues aspiratae). ∅ indicates zero, a sound that has been lost.
|*b, *d, *g||b, d, g||p, t, k|
|*p, *t, *k||p, t, k||ph, th, kh|
|*e (after consonant)||ie||e|
For a big number of the 300 Thracian geographic names there are cognates within the Baltic toponymy, most similarities between Thracian and Balto-Slavic personal and geographic names were found, especially Baltic. According to Duridinov the "most important impression make the geographic cognates of Baltic and Thracian" "the similarity of these parallels stretching frequently on the main element and the suffix simultaneously, which makes a strong impression". According to him there are occasional similarities between Slavic and Thracian because Slavic is related to Baltic, while almost no lexical similarities within Thracian and Phrygian were found. This significant relatedness show close affinity and kinship of Thracian with Baltic. The following table shows the cognates:
Cognates of Thracian and Baltic place names
|Thracian place||Lithuanian place||Latvian place||Old Prussian place||cognates|
|Alaaiabria||Alajà||Lith. aléti ‘to be flooded’|
|Armonia||Armona, Armenà||Lith. armuõ, -eñs ‘a swamp, bog’, arma ‘the same’|
|Armula||Armuliškis||lit. arma ‘mud’|
|Arpessas||Varpe, Varputỹs, Várpapievis||Warpen, Warpunen||Latv. vārpats ‘whirlpool’, the Lith. varpýti (-pa, -pia) ‘to dig’|
|Aspynthos||Latv. apse, the Old-Pruss. abse, the Lith. apušẽ|
|Asamus||aśman- ‘stone’, Lit. ašmuo, ašmenys,|
|Vairos||Vaira||Lit. vairus ‘diverse’|
|Beres||Bẽrė, Bėrẽ, Bėr-upis, Bėrupė||Bēr-upe, Berēka||Lit. bėras, Latv. bęrs ‘brown, swarthy’|
|Bersamae||Lith. béržas, the Latv. bẽrzs, Old-Pruss. berse|
|Veleka||Velėkas||Lit. velėklės ‘place in the water’|
|Bolba bria||Balvi, Bàlvis, Bolva||Lith. Bálvis 'a lake', the Old-Pruss. Balweniken|
|Brenipara||Messapian brendon, Latv. briedis ‘deer’|
|Calsus||Kalsi, Kalsiņš, Kals-Strauts ‘dry stream’||Latv. kalst, kaltēt ‘dry’|
|Chalastra||Lith. sravà ‘a stream’, the Latv. strava ‘stream, torrent’|
|Daphabae||Lith. dãpas ‘a flood’ , Old-Pruss. ape ‘river’|
|Dingion||Dingas, Dindze, Dingupite||Dinge||Latv. dinga ‘a plant’ and ‘fertile place’|
|Dimae||Dūmė||Dūmis||Dumen||Lit. dūmas ‘dark (for beef)’, Latv. dūms ‘dark-brown’|
|Gesia||Gesavà||Dzêsiens||Gesaw||Latv. dzēse ‘heron’|
|Ginula||Ginuļi||Ginulle||Latv. g'inis, g'inst ‘to spoil’|
|Armonia||Armona||Lit. armuo, -ens ‘quagmire’|
|Iuras||Jūra Jūrė, Jūrupis||Lit. and Latv. jūra ‘sea’|
|Kallindia||Galindo, Galinden, Galynde||Galindai, Lit. galas ‘end’|
Latv. kãpa, kãpe ‘long mountainous strip, dune, slope’, the Lith. kopà ‘sandy hill’
|Kurpisos||Kurpų kámas, Kurpulaukis||Kazūkurpe, Kurpesgrāvis, Kurpkalns||Lit. kurpti ‘to dig'|
|Kersula||Keršuliškių kaimas||Lit. keršulis ‘pigeon’|
|Knishava||Knisà||Knīsi, Knīši, Knīsukalns||Lith. knìsti ‘to dig, to rummage’|
|Lingos||Lingė, Lingenai||Lingas, Lingi, Lingasdikis||Lingwar||Lit. lengė 'valley’|
|Markellai||Markẽlis, Markelỹne||Marken||Lit. marka ‘pit’, merkti ‘dunk’|
|Meldia||Meldė, Meldínis||Meldine, Meldini||Mildio, Mildie||Zhemait. Melьdəikvirshe, Melьdəinəi, Lith. meldà, méldas ‘marsh reed’ , the Latv. meldi ‘reed’|
|Mygdonia||Mūkė||Mukas||Zhemait. river Muka, Mukja|
|Ostophos||Uõstas, Ũstas||Uostupe, Ũostup||Lit. pušynas ‘spurs forest’|
|Paisula||Paišeliai||Paissyn||Lit. paišai ‘soot’|
|Palae||Palà||Lit. palios ‘swamp'|
|Palnma||Palminỹs, Palmajos káimas||Paļmuota||Lit. palios ‘swamp'|
|Panion||Old-Pruss. pannean ‘swamp, quagmire’|
|Pannas||Panyen||Old Pruss. pannean ‘quagmire’, Gothic fani|
|Pautalia||Paũtupis||Pauteļi, Pautupīte, Pautustrauts||Pauta, Pauten||Lith. putà, pl. pùtos ‘foam, froth’, putóti ‘to foam’, the Latv. putas ‘foam’|
|Pizos||Pisa ęzęrs||Pissa, Pissen, Pisse, Pysekaym, Piselauk||Latv. pīsa ‘swamp’|
|Praizes Limne||Praustuvė||Lith. praũsti (prausiù, -siaũ) ‘to wash’, prausỹnės ‘washing’, the Latv. prauslât ‘to spray, to sprinkle’|
|Pusinon||Pusyne, Pušinė, Pušyno káimasPušinė||Lit. pušynas ‘spurs forest’, Zhemait. Pushina 'a stream', Pushine 'meadows'|
|Pupensis vicus(village)||Pupių káimas, Pupinė||Pupa||Pupkaym, Paupayn||Latinized vicus for ‘village', Lit. and Latv. pupa 'beans', kaimas 'village'(cf. Bobov Dol)|
|Purdae||Porden, Purde||Zhemait. Purdjaknisə Popelьki|
|Raimula||Raimoche||Lith. ráimas ‘motley, particoloured’|
|Rhakule||Rãkija, Rakavos káimas||Roklawken, Rocke||Lith. ràkti, rankù, rakiaũ ‘to dig out, unearth’, Latv. rakt, rùoku ‘to dig’, rakņât ‘to dig’|
|Rhamae||Rãmis, Ramùne||Rāmava||Ramio, Rammenflys||Lit. ramus ‘quiet’|
|Rhodope Mountains||Rudupe||Zhemait. Rudupja, Rudupə, Rudupi, Lith. rùdas ‘reddish, ruddy, dark yellow’, Lith. ùpė ‘river’|
|Rhusion||Russe, Russien, Rusemoter||Lith. rūsỹs (and rúsas) ‘a pit for potatoes; cellar, basement’, the Latv. rūsa ‘a pit’|
|Rumbodona||Rum̃ba, Rum̃ba, Rum̃b, Rum̃bas, Rumbai||Latv. rum̃ba ‘waterfall, river rapids’, Lith. rum̃bas, rùmbas, rumbà ‘periphery’|
|Sarte||Sar̃tė, Sartà||Sār̃te, Sārtupe||Zhemait. Sarta, Sarti, Lit. sartas ‘red (horse)’, Latv. sarts ‘ruddy’|
|Scretisca||Skretiškė||Lit. skretė ‘circle’|
|Seietovia||Sietuvà, Siẽtuvas||Zhemait. Setuva, Lit. sietuva ‘whirlpool’|
|Sekina||Šėkinė||Lith. šėkas ‘recently mowed down grass, hay’, Latv. sêks ‘the same’|
|Silta||Šiltupis||Siltie, Siltums, Siltine||Lit. šiltas ‘warm, nice’ , Latv. sìlts ‘warm’|
|Skaptopara, Skalpenos, Skaplizo||Skalbupis, Skalbýnupis, Skalbstas, Skaptotai, Skaptùtis||Lith. skãplis ‘a type of axe’, Lith. skaptúoti ‘to cut, to carve'|
|Skarsa||Skarsin, Skarsaw||Lith. sker̃sas ‘transverse, oblique, slanting’, Sker̃sė, Sker̃s-upỹs, Sker̃sravi|
|Scombros||Lith. kumbrỹs, kum̃bris ‘hill, top of a mountain; small mountain’, Latv. kum̃bris ‘hump, hunch’|
|Spindea||Spindžių káimas, Spindžiùs||Spindags||Lit. spindžius, spindis, 'clearing', Latv. spindis ‘spark’|
|Stambai||Strũobas, Struõbas||Lit. stramblys ‘cob’, Old-Pruss. strambo ‘stubble-field’|
|Strauneilon||Strūnelė, Strūnà||Lit. sr(i)ūti ‘flow’|
|Strymon||Lit. sraumuo ‘stream’|
|Strauos||Latv. strava, Lit. srava ‘course’|
|Suitula||Svite||Lit. švitulys ‘light’|
|Souras||Sūris, Sūrupė, Sūupis||Sure||Lit. sūras ‘salty’|
|Tarpodizos||Tárpija||Târpi, Tārpu pļava||Lith. tárpas ‘an interstice’ and ‘a gap, a crack’, Zhemait. Tarpu kalьne, Tarpdovdəi|
|Tarporon||Lith. tárpas ‘an interstice’|
|Tirsai||Tirza||Tirskaymen||Lith. tir̃štis ‘density, thickness’ and ‘thicket, brush-wood’|
|Tranoupara||Tranỹs||Trani, Tranava||Lit. tranas ‘hornet’|
|Trauos||Traũšupis||Lith. traũšti ‘to break, to crumble’, traušus ‘brittle’, Latv. traušs, trausls ‘brittle, fragile’|
|Tynta||Tunti, Tunte||Thuntlawken||Lit. tumtas, tuntas ‘flock'|
|Urda, Urdaus||Ùrdupis, Urdenà||Urdava||Zhemait. Urdishki, Lit. urdulys ‘mount stream’, virti ‘spring’|
|Veleka||Velėkas||Lith. velėkles ‘a place, used for washing’|
|Verzela||Vérža, Véržas||Lith. váržas ‘a basket for fish’, Latv. varza ‘dam’|
|Vevocasenus||Vàive||Woywe, Wewa, Waywe||Latin vicus|
|Zburulus||Žiburių káimas||Lit. žiburỹs ‘a fire, a light, something burning; a torch’|
|Zilmissus||Žilmà, Žilmas||Latv. zelme ‘green grass or wheat’|
|Zyakozeron||Žvakùtė||Zvakūž||Lith. žvãkė ‘a light, a candle’|
According to Skordelis, when Thracians were subjected by Alexander the Great they finally assimilated to Greek culture and became as Greek as Spartans and Athenians, although he considered the Thracian language as a form of Greek. According to Crampton (1997) most Thracians were eventually Hellenized or Romanized, with the last remnants surviving in remote areas until the 5th century. According to Marinov the Thracians were likely completely Romanized and Hellenized after the last contemporary references to them of the 6th century. This theory holds as the main factor of immediate assimilation the Christianization of the Roman Empire.
A quick extinction would intensely contrast the avoidance of Hellenization at least by Albanian till the present, possibly with the help of isolated mountainous areas.
Another author considers that the interior of Thrace have never been Romanized or Hellenized (Trever, 1939). This was followed also by Slavonization. According to Weithmann (1978) when the Slavs migrated, they encountered only a very superficially Romanized Thracian and Dacian population, which had not strongly identified itself with Imperial Rome, while Greek and Roman populations (mostly soldiers, officials, merchants) abandoned the land or were killed. Because Pulpudeva survived as Plovdiv in Slavic languages, not under Philippopolis, some authors suggest that Thracian was not completely obliterated in the 7th century.
Ich bin Rolisteneas, Sprößling des Nereneas; Tilezypta, Arazerin nach ihrer Heimat, hat mich der Erde übergeben (d.h. begraben).