The Ezerovo ring inscription is an ancient Thracian inscription found on a gold ring in the village of Ezerovo, Bulgaria. The inscription is written in a combination of Greek and Thracian and is believed to date back to the 5th-4th centuries BCE.
The inscription on the Ezerovo ring reads:
(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.
I decide to try to make my own translation as I still haven’t seen anything that seems convincing enough.
- 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, or vows. Also, the rings and the inscriptions are usually made for the living, not for the dead.
My interpretation of the Ezerovo ring inscription
Original text: ΡΟΛΙΣΤΕΝΕΑΣΝ
With my spacing: ΡΟΛΙΣTΕΝΕΑ ΣΝ
Transliteration: Rolistenea sn
Translation: Son of Rolist
“ΣΝ“, sounds like a common Indo-European word for “son”, or 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 “.
Take for example this oil flask, hosted in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The inscription clearly reads ESMO SN KOSM. However, scholars chose to add the word SN to the first word. They ended up with the reading ESNOS KOSN and concluded that the text is meaningless (?). You can see the full description here.
However, both ESMO and KOSM are well-attested personal names. This simply means that the inscription is not meaningless, even though it clearly has no connection to the mythological scene of the birth of the Dionysus that is depicted on the vase. In fact, this was probably just a mark of property, made by its Thracian owner ESMO. And to make sure that some other ESMO won’t claim it, he added his fathers name too. This would be an equivalent of modern last names, and quite similar to the Irish title MAC, meaning “son of”.
In the Balkans for example, Vukasin is a Slavic personal name, which in fact means “son of Vuk” (wolf).
With my spacing: ΕΡΕΝΕΑΤΙΛ
Translation: Ereneatil – A personal name
This could be a personal name as it contains some common elements found in various ancient Mediterranean languages. For example, the suffix “-til” may be a variant of the suffix “-tus” in Latin, which means “having” or “endowed with.” The prefix “erenea” could be derived from the Greek word “εἰρήνη” (eiréné), meaning “peace.”
So, one possible interpretation of “ΕΡΕΝΕΑΤΙΛ” could be a Latin name meaning “endowed with peace”.
With my spacing: ΤE ΑΝΗΣKOA
Transliteration: te Aniskoa
Translation: And Aniskoa (personal name)
The phrase “ΤΕ / ΑΝΗΣΚΟΑ” can be interpreted as two separate words: “ΤΕ” and “ΑΝΗΣΚΟΑ.” “ΤΕ” is a Greek conjunction that means “and,” and “ΑΝΗΣΚΟΑ” appears to be a proper name.
In Ancient Greek, the word “te” (τε) is a conjunction that can be translated as “and”. It is often used to link two words or phrases together to indicate that they are both part of the same idea or concept. However, “te” can also be used to emphasize the individuality or separateness of the words or phrases it is connecting, rather than just indicating their conjunction. In this context, “te” could be translated as “both…and” or “not only…but also”.
For example, in the phrase “Τε Ρωμαίων τε Λακεδαιμονίων φίλος ην,” which means “He was a friend both of the Romans and the Spartans,” the use of “te” emphasizes that the person was a friend of both groups separately, rather than just implying that he was a friend of them collectively.
Line 4. part 1
Original text: PAΖΕΑ
With my spacing: PAΖΕΑ
Translation: from Rhaegea (Ραιγεία)
Rhaegea (Ραιγεία) – a town in ancient Thrace located near the modern Bulgarian city of Sliven.
Rhaegea was an ancient Thracian city located in the region of modern-day Bulgaria. It is believed to have been founded in the 5th century BCE and was an important city during the Hellenistic period. The city was situated on the banks of the Hebros River and was an important center for trade and commerce.
In the 4th century BCE, Rhaegea was conquered by the Macedonian king Philip II, and it remained under Macedonian control until the arrival of the Romans in the 2nd century BCE.
The distance between Rhaegea and Ezerovo is around 130 kilometers / 80 miles.
Line 4. part 2
Original text: ΔΟΜΕΑΝΤΙΛΕΖΥ
With my spacing: ΔΟΜΕ ΑΝΤΙΛΕΖΥ
Transliteration: dome Antilezu
Translation: from the house of Antileos
Based on the context and similarities to other ancient languages, “dome” could be derived from the Thracian root word “dom-“, meaning “house” or “family”. Antileos is a well-attested personal name.
Lines 5. & 6.
Original text: ΠΤΑΜΙΗΕ ΡΑΖ
With my spacing: ΠΤΑΜΙ ΗΕΡΑΖ
Transliteration: Potami Heraz
Translation: Sacred rivers
The second part HEPAZ could relate to goddess Hera, who was often invoked in wedding vows to bless a marriage. Potami Heraz would mean Hera’s river. However, it is more likely that ΠΤΑΜΙ “potam(o)i” means “rivers”, and so ΠΤΑΜOΙ HEPAZ would mean “sacred rivers”.
In the Greek wedding ceremony, the couple often drank from a cup of water, which was poured from a vase called a “loutrophoros” that was filled with water from a sacred river, usually the River Cephissus or River Ilissus in Athens. This ritual symbolized the purification of the couple before their marriage and the union of their lives.
In Thracian wedding customs, the couple would also visit a nearby river or spring to collect water, which they would then use to wash each other’s hands and faces. This ritual symbolized the cleansing of the couple before their union and the fertility of the land that the river represented.
Sacred rivers were believed to symbolize the couple’s union and the fertility of the land. Furthermore, they were related to marriage vows. The river Styx was considered sacred and was believed to be a boundary between the mortal and divine realms. It was also associated with oaths and promises, as it was believed that anyone who swore an oath by the river would be bound to it forever.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 1, Chapter 19
- Theokritos, Idylls, 18: The Bride Adorned
The side of the ring – two options
Original text: ΗΛΤΑ or ZΗΛΤΑ
With my spacing: ΗΛΤΑ or Z from the previous line + ΗΛΤΑ
Transliteration: ? or ΖΗΛΟΤΑ
Translation: Artist’s name or jealousy, wrath
The last word, ΗΛΤΑ, inscribed on the side of the ring is quite problematic. It could be the name of the artist who made the ring, as all of the other words fit perfectly on the front.
However, it we break the words differently, we get “ΠΟΤΑΜΙ ΗΕΡΑ ΖΗΛΤΑ”, by adding the Z from the word HERAZ. The last wourd could then be “ΖΗΛΟΤΑ” (jealousy), and the full prhase “the river of Hera’s jealousy” or “the river of Hera’s wrath.” Perhaps the meaning of this would then be that rivers should take away the jealousy of Hera away from their perfect marriage. In my opinion, this would still be a bit of a strech, and I prefer the first option – Artist’s name, whatever it may have been, as it is obviously abbreviated.
My final translation of the Ezero ring inscription would read as follows:
ΡΟΛΙΣΤΕΝΕΑ ΣΝ ΕΡΕΝΕΑΤΙΛ ΤΕ ΑΝΗΣΚΟΑ ΡΑΖΕΑ ΔΟΜΕ ΑNΤΙΛΕΖΥ
Son of Rolist, Ereneatil (meaning “full of peace”), and Aniskoa (perhaps from “Agnes” meaning “pure” in deminutive), Rhaegean (woman), from the house of Antileos.
On the side: (Artist’s signature) HELTA, HELOT, or something similar.
Whatever the meaning of the last word is, what we have here was probably a wedding ring.
and contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
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
[…] it again was the following article, from a blog that I like, even though I often don’t agree. https://cogniarchae.com/2017/01/09/thracian-ezerovo-ring-inscription/ I could write about that in the future […]
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
The best and only sensible read-out is made by polish self-learned scientist Ireneusz Ćwirko on his blog. Read In Deutsch:
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).
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.