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On Latin and Slavic cognates

There are hundreds of Latin words in all European languages and we can easily trace their origins back to the times when Roman legions were paving the way for the civilization as we know it. However, in this article, we will focus on the trully ancient vocabulary, and try to see why are so many of these “Indo-European” words shared between Latin and Slavic languages.

NOTE: This is by no means a definitive list, and I will keep updating this article. Also, the Slavic words are based on the Serbian language, but most of these words are common for all Slavs. A few words come from Russian and Bulgarian as they do no longer exist in modern Serbian.

A few basic terms

Nature

MARE – MORE (SEA)  IGNEUS – OGANJ (FIRE) ULIGO – VLAGA (HUMIDITY) NEBULA-NEBO (CLOUD-SKY)

Animals:

MUS – MISH (MOUSE) AGNIS – JAGNJE (LAMB), OVIS – OVCA (SHEEP) CABALLUS – KOBILA (HORSE) MUSCA – MUSICA (FLY)

Body parts:

OCULUS – OKO (EYE), POLLEX – PALAC (THUMB), CRUOR – KRV (BLOOD), OS – USTA (MOUTH), PED – PETA (FOOT/FEET)

Verbs:

MOLO – MLETI (MILL, TO GRIND) STO – STOJATI (TO STAND), SEDEO – SEDETI (TO SIT), VIDEO – VIDETI (TO SEE), ITIO – ICHI (TO GO) SECCARE – SECHI (TO CUT), PROSECO – PRESECHI (TO CUT OFF)

Misc

LAEVUS – LEVI (LEFT) DOMUS – DOM (HOME) TU – TI (YOU), TIBI – TEBI (TO YOU) OLEUM – ULJE (OIL) PRAE – PRE (BEFORE), PROD – PRED (IN FRONT), PROVIDUS – PROVIDJENJE (PROVIDENCE) CASTUS – CHIST (PURE), CASTITAS – CHESTITOST (MORAL PURITY) VOLUNTAS – VOLJA (WILL) DIABOLOSDIAVOL (DEVIL) CUPA – ćUP – CUP, URCEUS – VRC (JUG), SUCUS – SOK (JUICE, RESIN), GRANUMZRNO (GRAIN)

POLIS (CITY) – POLJE (FIELD)

This is where it gets really interesting. In Latin “Polis” means “city”, but in Slavic “polje” means “field”. Constantinople, for example, is   “Konstantinopolj” in Slavic and these words are obvious cognates. However, the Roman goddess of pastures is “Pales“, which does not make any sense, unless related to the Slavic meaning of “field”.

SUUS, (but in gen, dat, voc and nom SVAE) – SVOJ (of oneself, belonging to oneself, his own, her own, his, her, its, their)

SUM – SAM (I AM), EST – JESTE (IT IS)

In both of these words, we see that Slavic form is more complex, as “sam” is just a short form of “jesam” (I am). It is therefore impossible that Slavs took this word from Latin.

VIVIR / VITA (TO LIVE / LIFE) – ZHIV / ZHIT

The sound “ZH” is typical for Slavic languages, although it survived in French and Portuguese as well. Latin did not have it, so it became “V”. It is possible that “ZH” becomes “V” but not vice-versa, meaning that the Slavic pronunciation is older.

Lux – Luch (Light), Nox – Noch (Night)

Now, we know that the letter “X” came to Latin via Greek “Chi“, where it was (apparently) pronounced as “Kh”. This means that if we read Latin with the original Greek pronunciation we get very close to Slavic words. (!) In Balkans, unlike in Russia and Ukraine, it is actually two sounds of different softness (Ч + Ћ). Also, it seems that this was not only a pre-Roman sound. It can still exist today in Italian and Spanish (ie. Buena noches in Spanish)

And while the etymology of the word “lux” in Latin is unknown, the Slavic one is related to the wood of the pine tree that is drenched in resin. When the wood is cut it excretes resin in order to heal itself. This type of wood is perfect for starting the fire, as it is easy to light and it burns for a very long time. The word for the resine is “luch”, and comes from “luchiti” which in Slavic means “to drench, secrete”. Obviously, this is the reason that the light is called “luch” in Slavic. Here is the Wikipedia article about luch (only in Serbian unfortunately).

Note that this type of parallel does not exist in Latin. The word resin has the same root as English – resina. But there is another Latin word – lac. The official etymology is on an image below.

Mach – Makh (Sword)

The Latin word “machaera” comes from the Greek Makhaira (μάχαιρα), which itself comes from the word mákhē, meaning “battle”. However, the Slavic word for sword is “mač“. Once again, we see that the Greek letter chi (X) corresponds to Slavic “ch” sound, just like in the example above with LUX and NOX.

Also, it could be that the English word “match” (as in football match) also comes from the Greek mákhē – battle. Official etymologies do not mention this theory, but if I am correct, it is just another proof that the Greek chi corresponds to sound “ch” and not “kh” as the scolars claim.

Caminus – Kamen (Stone hearth)

The Latin word Caminus, comes from the ancient Greek “kámīnos“. According to Wiktionary, the suffix “-ῑνος” is pre-Greek and the etymology is unknown. The only suggested connection is with Slavic kamen – stone, as the ancient hearths were made of stone.

Procus – Proci / Prosac – Prosci (Suitors)

The Latin word Procus (genitive Proci), meaning “wooer, suitor” actually comes from ancient Greek, and it is at least as old as the Odyssey. Namely, this was the term used for the suitors of Penelope in 750 BC.

The Indo-European root of this word, reconstructed as “Prek” is fairly common in many languages, from Sanskrit and Tocharian, to Indo-Aryan, Balto-Slavic and Celtic.

However, most of the modern derivates have undergone certain changes. In Slavic languages, however, the word is virtually unchanged – “prositi” means both “to ask” and “to propose”. At the same time, the term for suitors would be “prosci”, strikingly similar to the “proci” of the Odyssey.

Masculin – Muskarac (Male)

This two words are obviously related and belong to the same Indo-European corpus. However, we don’t really see this connection in etymological dictionaries. And still, apart from the rhotacism of the L-R sounds in the second silable, these words are virtually the same. Also, we may see this root in the name of the Iron age people from Anatolia, known as Mushki. (men) They in turn, have been identified as Phrygians, people whose roots were in the Balkans.

Humilis / Humus – Zemlya (Earth) and Homo – Zemljak (Human)

The words “humility” and “humiliation” come from the Latin “humilis“, which itself is derived from “humus” – “earth”. Modern scholars derive the word “humus” from the reconstructed PIE word *dʰéǵʰōm – “earth”, ignoring the fact that the Slavic word “Zemlya” is much closer. S and Z sounds were often replaced by the softer H, for example, “Sindu” – “Hindu”.

The idea behind this is that the humble (or humiliated) person is “down to earth”.

Moreover, the word “zemelos” existed in the Phrygian language, a language much older than Latin. It meant “human”, and scholars relate it to the same root – “humus”, earth. For this reason, the Phrygian earth-goddess was Semele, whose name also meant (mother) “Earth”.

The connection between the words “human” and “earth” (earthling) is very interesting, as it reminds us of the etymology of the name of the Biblical Adam.

Even in standard Arabic, a Semitic language, the root Z-M-L meant “modest, humble” and many Arabic names are derived from it. For example Zameel, Zamil, Zemeel, etc.

As the Phrygians were people who originated in the Balkans, but then migrated to Turkey and the Middle East, we can assume that the root of this word comes from their language. Interestingly, the only real cognate lies in the modern Slavic languages.

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Bes, Egyptian God that is not Egyptian

Bes was one of the most popular deities of ancient Egypt. He was a god of the common people, not a god of the ruling class. Here are some quick facts about him:

  • Bes was a protector god – he was so dreadful that he was scaring away the evil spirits themselves. He was a dwarf, and his statues decorated the doorsteps of Egyptian houses, similar to statues of dwarfs in modern house yards.
  • He was a god of dance and music – his symbols are drums and bells.
  • He was a god of war and his animal is a lion.
  • He was a god of fertility.
  • According to some authors, he was a prototype for Christian devil
  • He was never worshiped in temples, but many masks are found indicating some form of a ritual.
  • He was often portrayed with his tongue sticking out, feathers on his head and unlike all other deities of Egypt, he was never drawn in profile!
  • Because of the last fact, there was a widespread opinion is that he was not an Egyptian god at all!

So if not Egyptian god, whose god was it? The most popular theory is that he is an import from Nubia and that he is of African origin. Why – because he wears feathers on his head, just like some African tribal chiefs. And also, one of his titles was “Lord of Nubia” while “besa” means “cat” in Nubian. (but note, it does not mean “a lion” – his sacred animal)

Bes and the sea peoples

Truth be told, Bes was much more popular in Phoenicia and Cyprus than in Nubia. And even in Europe of those days, feathers were a big fashion trend too. Warriors wore them in the exact manner of native American Indians. Remember, Bes was also a god of war.

Egyptians portrayed their notorious foes, “sea peoples”, with feathers on their heads. These pirates started attacking Egypt in the period of the New Kingdom. In the end, a lot of them were captured and forced to join the ranks of the Egyptian army. This is roughly the same time when an almost forgotten Bes became more popular than ever.

So what is the deal with feathers? According to some theories, a warrior would get one feather whenever he defeated an enemy. Hence, the more feathers the fiercer the warrior.

There are some indications that this custom survived for quite a long time in Europe, all the way to Hussars – the famous Polish Calvary. However, not many people are aware that Hussars originated in Balkans, and that in the early days even their Polish ranks consisted predominantly of Serbs. Wikipedia mentions this fact only as a sidenote. By the way, Hussar means “pirate“.

Bessi / Bessoi – a Thracian tribe

A Thracian tribe of Bessi dwelled on the territory of what is now Serbia and Bulgaria, from the times immemorial. Bessi were fierce warriors, and as Thracians, they could easily be one of the tribes of “sea peoples”. Thracians had a strong naval force long before the Romans and Greeks. A small remote island of Samothrace is just one small reminder of that. One of the tribes of the sea peoples was Shardani. modern scholars connect them to Sardinia and the city of Sard but neglect the fact that the ancient name of Sofia was Serdika.

But that is not all, in 570 AD, Antoninus Placentius mentions that in the valleys of Mount Sinai there was a monastery in which the monks spoke Greek, Latin, Syriac, Egyptian and… Bessian. (?)

On proven genetic connections between Sardinia and Balkans check out my post: Genetics speaks – Who is who on Balkans

The masked rituals of Balkans

Alright, so we have a Thracian tribe with a similar name to this god, and possibly some feathers… so what does that prove? Nothing really, until a third and most important element of the story kicks in. It is an ancient Thracian custom, still preserved all over the Balkans – the Kukeri ritual.

Traditions of Kukeri is so ancient that it has many parallels in Africa and Asia. However, it has been present in Europe since times immemorial, especially on the Balkans. Even the Carnival of Venice draws its roots from there.

Basically, at a specific time of the year, people would put on their demonic masks and walk through the village. They would go from door to door, singing, and dancing and clapping their bells. All this with a goal to chase away evil spirits and provide fertility for the next year. (Word “kukur” means “grain” ie “kukuruz” = “corn” in Serbian). So no need for a temple. Also, they became demons with the arrival of Christianity. These are in a nutshell, all the main attributes of the god Bes, from the beginning of this article.

Since Bessi were a Thracian tribe, we can almost be certain that their ritual was similar to that of modern Bulgarians. Nowadays, the most popular location for this festival is in the city of Pernik – in the very heart of the ancient Bessi tribe territory!

Bies – A Slavic demon

And finally, if we look for the etymology of the name “Bes” in Slavic languages of Balkans instead of Nubia, we get a meaning “demon, evil spirit”. In my opinion, this is much more appropriate for this type of “deity”. (Bulgarian – “Byas”, Croatian – “Bjes”, Serbian – “Bes”) This word exists in Northern Slavic countries as well – see Bies

Well, perhaps Bes could be a Thracian origin after all. However, a tongue sticking out (as well as the whole Kukeri ritual) is more reminiscent of the cultures of Asia. Its purpose is to ward off the evil spirits. If you would like to know how this connection could have happened, and what could be the link between the citizens of Bessipura (capital of Bessi) and lions – sacred animals of Bes, you can read my previous post on Singidunum.

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Did Serbs construct the tower of Babel?

Wait!!!

Before you start throwing rocks at me I have to tell you that this is not my idea – it comes from a famous medieval text – “the chronicle of Dalimil”! Still, chances are that you never heard of this text and for me, this is a good enough reason to make a post about it.

So what is this “Chronicle of Dalimil” you ask now? Well, it is a very important document for the Czech people. It is the first known text in the Czech language, written somewhere in the first quarter of the XIV century. The text was also translated to German and had many re-editions in this part of the world due to its enormous popularity.

“Chronicle of Dalimil”

In brief, this text provides us with the chronological history of the Slavs, starting with the most ancient of times and finishing with the important events of the XIV century. The author, unfortunately, does not provide us with sources for its claims, which was normal practice at the time, but it is assumed that some of his ideas are based on the older chronicles written in Latin, not preserved today, as well as on some oral tradition of the Slavic tribes.

So, to cut long story short, what is so striking about this text is that at its very beginning, right after the introduction, the author connects the origin of Slavs with the construction of the tower of Babel! BUT as if this is not enough of a shocker, he does not use the word “Slavs” at all, but the word “Serbs” instead! Did ethnonym “Slav” exist in the XIV century? Yes, in the 6th century AD Procopius mentions Slavs in Byzantine Greek, and he refers to them as Σκλάβοι Sklaboi. The first mention in Old Church Slavonic is from the 9th century and reads Slověne. So why “Serbs” and not “Slavs”? It is a mystery, but this text states that after God’s punishment those Serbs who lived in Babylon moved to the Mediterranean region.

“Mezi jinými Srbové,                  (Amongst other Serbs)
тu kdežto bydlí Rekové,             (where Greeks dwell)
podle more se usadili,                (near the sea settled)
až do Ríma se rozminožili.”       (and to Rome they spread)

Chronicle of Dalimil (Chapter 1, lines 29-32)

Immediately after these lines, the origin of Slavic tribes is explained in the following manner:

V srbském jazyku jest země,      (In Serbian language there is a country)
jiež Charvátci jest jmě.                (named Croatia)
V tej zemi bieše lech,                   (in whom there was a Pole)
jemuž jmě bieše Čech.                 (named Czech)

Chronicle of Dalimil (Chapter 2, lines 1-4)

So this just gets more and more enigmatic as we see. Is the author trying to make a chronology of Slavic tribes here? He is stating that Czech was a Polish man, who came from Croatia, that was a Serbian country? We don’t know what he meant by that. True, there was another white-Croatia and another white-Serbia in the general area of Bohemia, of what is now Poland, so does he speak of the Balkan countries or these ones?

Opinions on this vary. My opinion is that he speaks of the Balkan countries and I say this for the two reasons:

1. This text comes immediately after the passage where he connects Serbs with the Mediterranean

2. In the continuation of the text, he states that Czech needed to leave Croatia after he had killed a man, so he settled in the new country. (some other chronicles also mention this event). If he really wanted to run away, it would not make much sense to just move to another village I guess.

So, are there any other known sources connecting the origin of Slavs to Balkan? Yes! Probably the most famous of all medieval Slavic texts, “Nestor’s chronicle” is written in the first quarter of the XII century, some 200 years before the chronicle of Dalimil. Nestor states that the origin of all Slavs is on Balkans, from where they were pushed away by Roman armies (?). Here is the whole passage:

“Over a long period the Slavs settled beside the Danube, where the Hungarian and Bulgarian lands now lie. From among these Slavs, parties scattered throughout the country and were known by appropriate names, according to the places where they settled. Thus some settled by the river Morava, and were named Moravians, while others were called Czechs. Among these same Slavs are the White Croats, the Serbs and the Carinthians. For when the Vlakhs (*Romans) attacked the Danubian Slavs, settled among them and did them violence, the latter came and made their homes by the Vistula, and were then called Lyakhs. Of these same Lyakhs some were called Polyanians, some Lutichians, some Mazovians, and still others Pomorians…”

And there you go, I am not bringing any claims here, but I think that it is really interesting and important to know that in middle ages it was a wide-spread belief that Slavs originated from Balkans and that Serbs were one of their oldest tribes.

Tobias Verhaecht – The tower of Babel

Sources:

Full text of “Chronicle of Dalimil” (unfortunately only in Czech) http://web.archive.org/web/20070804091914/http://people.fsv.cvut.cz/~gagan/jag/litera/dalimil.htm

Wikipedia links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronicle_of_Dalimil

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primary_Chronicle

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English and Slavic parallels

Most languages of Europe belong to a big Indo-European family and therefore it is not strange to find some words which are shared by English and Slavic languages. However, on this list, there are more than one hundred such words. I tried to include only the words which were in used since ancient times.

Note: In many Germanic words, the original Indo-European sound “P” at the beginning of the word was exchanged for the sound “F”. For example pater-father, fire-pyr, fish-pesces, for-por… In the same way, some English words starting with F, have Slavic cognates starting with the P sound.

Nature: SUN – SUNCE, EAST – ISTOK, DAY – DAN, SNOW – SNEG, LAKE – LOKVA, SEMEN – SEME, DOLINE – DOLINA, FLAME – PLAMEN, FUEL – PALITI (to burn), TREE – DRVO

Food and drink: MILK – MLEKO, WATER – VODA, WINE – VINO, MEAD – MED, SOUP – SUPA, LEEK (Old English for “onion”) – LUK, FRY – PRZITI, FRESH – PRESNO, CHEESE – KISEL (SOUR), SOUR – SIR (Cheese)

Family relations: MOTHER – MATER, SISTER – SESTRA, BROTHER – BRAT, SON – SIN, DAUGHTER – DUSHTER (Old Church Slavonic), CHILD – CHELJAD, NEPHEW – NECAK, WIDOW – UDOVA

Body parts: NOSE – NOS, RIB – REBRO, BROW – OBRVA, BEARD – BRADA, HEART – SRCE (via German Hertz), FIST – PEST

Animals: WOLF – VUK, MOUSE – MIS, GOOSE – GUSKA, CAT – KOTKA, LION – LAV, SWINE – SVINJA, EWE – OV(CA), WOOL – WULNA, HERD – KRDO, COW – GOVEDO, HEDGE(HOG) – JEZ (both words share the same PIE root “h₁eǵʰis”. In Old English the name for hedgehog was “igil”, a cognate with Slavic “igla” – needle, coming from the same PIE root as above)

Objects: BARREL – BURE, STOOL – STOL(ICA), DOOR – DVERI, CROWN – KRUNA, PATH – PUT, GRAIN – ZRNO, WHEAT – ZITO, DESK – DASKA (wooden board), CUP – ĆUP, HOOK – KUKA

Misc nouns: GUEST – GOST, STEP – STOPA, STEPS – STEPENICE, LIE – LAZH, LUST – SLAST, WILL – VOLJA, DEVIL – DIAVOL, FLEET – PLUTATI (to float) FREE and FRIEND – PRIJATELJ (officially via Sanskrit priya, dear, beloved) CURVE – KRIVA, CRY – KRIK, CREAM – KREMA, TRAP – TRAP (PIT, HOLE, CAVITY, DITCH)

Misc verbs: TO ASK – ISKATI, TO LOVE – LYUBITI (via German Liebe), FLOAT – PLUTATI, TO FALL – PAL, PASTI, TO BREAK – (VIA PROTO-GERMANIC “BREKANA”) – PREKINUTI, TO PREACH – PRICHATI (TO TALK, VIA PROTO-SLAVIC PRITCHA – TALE, STORY), TO TALK – TOLKUVAT, FROM PROTO-SLAVIC tъlkъ – INTERPRETATION), TO TOUCH – TACI

Misc adjectives: SMALL – SMOL(EN), BROWN – BRAON, BLUE – PLAV, NEW – NOV, DEEP – DUBOK, ARABLE – ORANICA

Numbers: ONE – JED(AN), TWO – DVA, THREE – TRI

Basic grammar: YES – JESTE, NO – NE, TO BE – BITI, some forms of personal pronouns like (to) ME – MI, MENI, TO – DO, and so on…

But there are some other interesting parallels that are maybe less obvious. Here is my Top 10 list:

(Note: All English etymologies are taken from http://www.etymonline.com. You can go directly to the link by clicking the highlighted word.)

10. HAPPY – KOB

happy, (adj) from hap (n.) “chance, fortune”

So what is “hap” then?

hap (n.) from PIE *kob– “to suit, fit, succeed” (Sanskrit kob “good omen; congratulations, good wishes,” Old Irish cob “victory,” Norwegian heppa “lucky, favorable, propitious,” Old Church Slavonic kobu “fate, foreboding, omen”).

The English word “hap” comes from Proto-Germanic “hap”, which in turn comes from PIE “kob”. The original word, “kob”, exists only in Sanskrit and Slavic languages. Etymonline lists it here as “kobu” but that is incorrect. The word “kob”, meaning destiny, fate, omen, is still used in all Balkan languages, and even the Wiktionary lists it as Slavic – kob

9. SWAN – ZVONO

Officially, the etymology behind the name of the swan bird comes from PIE “swonh”, “to sing, to make the sound”. Slavic words zvono – bell, and zvoniti – ringing, come from the same root. However, the common Slavic word for this bird is “labud” meaning “white bird”.

8. STONE – STENA – STAN

stone (n.)  Old Church Slavonic “stena“, Russian stiena “wall”).

So “stone” was STAN in Old English. What does that mean?

-stan from Persian -stan “country,” from Indo-Iranian *stanam “place,” literally “where one stands,” from PIE *sta-no-, suffixed form of root *sta- “to stand”.

Every Slavic person knows that STAN means “dwelling”, STATI means “to stop” and STAJATI means to stand. It seems that this word remained preserved from those ancient times when people were still nomads so they called their rock (stone) shelters STAN?

7. PLOUGH (PLOW) – PLUG

plow (n.) a late word in Germanic, of uncertain origin. Old Church Slavonic plugu.

Ultimately, this word could be Slavic in origin, because there is no other etymology that can explain it in any other language. Namely, before the rhotacism R-L, this word could have sounded “Prug”. Proto-Slavic word “prǫga” meant “strip, streak, stripe”. In modern Serbian, for example, “pruga” means “stripe”, and it also means “railroad”. The process of making stripes is precisely what one does during the plowing process.

6. HLIEF (Old English for BREAD) – HLEB (preserved only in Slavic langauges)

5.Some words beginning with Q

QUEEN – ŽENA (ZHENA)

queen (n.) Old English cwen “queen, female ruler of a state, woman, wife,” from Sanskrit janis “a woman” The original sense seems to have been “wife”

I would never see this one coming without the etymological dictionary. It is interesting that in Slavic ZHENA means both, “woman” AND “wife”. The sound Q sometimes acts as Slavic ZH as we see in these other examples too:

QUERN – ZRNUVI

quern (n.) Old Church Slavonic zrunuvi “mills”

QUICK – ZHIV

quick (adj.) Old English cwicliving, alive, animate,” , from PIE root *gweie- “to live”

4. HAMMER – ČEKIĆ / MOLOT

I know, no connection at first glance. But the etymology of this word is the following:

hammer (n.) “tool with a stone head” , from PIE *akmenstone, sharp stone used as a tool” (cognates: Old Church Slavonic kamy, Russian kameni “stone”)

3. RED – RUDA

From all colors, the word for the red has the most commonly shared root in all Indo-European languages. We see it even in Sanskrit “rudhira”. However, the meaning behind this root is unknown. In Slavic languages, “ruda” related to the red ore, taken from the mine, which is “rudnik”. This word is probably Neolithic and could originate in the Balkans, where there are some of the earliest traces of mining activities known to history.

2. SADDLE – SEDLO

saddle (n.) from PIE *sed- (1) “to sit” (Old Church Slavonic sedlo “saddle”)

Ok, perhaps we could call the root SED proto-indo-European, but  -LO is a typical Slavic suffix!

1. BOOK – BUKVA (letter) and TO WRITE – RITI

book (n.) Old English boc “book, writing, written document,” from Proto-Germanic *bokiz “beech” (cognates: German Buch “book” Buchebeech;” see beech), the notion being of beechwood tablets on which runes were inscribed, but it may be from the tree itself (people still carve initials in them).

So just like we have the word “paper” because of “papyrus”, the word “book” comes from the “beech” tree. So let’s see some parallels:

  1. ENGLISH: BOOK – BEECH
  2. GERMAN: BUCH – BUCHE
  3. SLAVIC: BUKVA – BUKVA

Well, it definitely seems that the English were not the first to write on a beech tree. Was it Slavs or Germans who brought it on the island is really the question. So let us have a look at the words for writing:

The German “Schreiben“, to write, originally meant “to scrape”

From Proto-Germanic *skrībaną, a late borrowing from Latin scrībō (“write”), meaning “to scribe, to scrape”.

The Slavic equivalent is “grebati“, or “zgrebati”, to be more precise.

So it’s a draw again. What about the English word?

write (v.) Old Saxon writan, Old Norse rita “write, scratch, outline,” Old High German rizan, German reißen “to tear, pull, tug, sketch, draw, design”), outside connections doubtful.

“Outside connections are doubtful?” How about the Slavic riti, meaning “to carve, engrave, dig”?

But Etymonline continues:

Words for “write” in most Indo-European languages originally mean “carve, scratch, cut” (Latin scribere, Greek graphein, glyphein, Sanskrit rikh-); a few meant “paint” (Gothic meljan, Old Church Slavonic pisati, and most of the modern Slavic cognates).

In conclusion, it is still hard to say who was the first to master writing, but what is for sure is that only the Slavic lexicon has the full specter of words – from the word for the beech tree, to book and the same words for the process of scraping and carving the letters, whether it was German or English language. Moreover, they have a bonus word, meaning to paint, relating either to walls or manuscripts.

In short, the words in this article show that Slavic languages are indeed ancient Indo-European and that in many cases they still preserve the oldest, original forms of words. But to have such linguistic similarities with Germanic languages simply means that Slavs had to be in Europe much longer than generally assumed. Perhaps, they were there even before the Germanic people arrived.

https://cogniarchae.com/2015/11/11/latin-and-slavic-cognates-top-15-actually-almost-30/

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Who really built Singidunum, modern day Belgrade?

The oldest recorded name of ancient Belgrade is Singidunum (or Singidun). Its first mention dates to the 3rd century BC. But even before that, the area was inhabited continuously – from Paleolithic cultures to Neolithic Vinca and later to Thracians and Schytians of the 6th century BC.

According to mainstream history, these later tribes were nomadic and did not have permanent settlements. So a few centuries later, when Celts first arrived on Balkans, they founded Singidunum. The poor nomads had the choice to go roam somewhere else or assimilate into the Celtic society.

This was the summary of the official version of Belgrade’s history – a few safe lines on prehistory, then a quick jump to the much safer ground of the Roman era.

On the etymology of Singidunum

In conclusion, even though on the territory of Belgrade we have material traces of all of the above-mentioned cultures, the credits for the foundation of the first settlement go to Celts. The reasoning behind this lies solely on the etymology of the name of the settlement. Apparently “dunum” means “hill” in Celtic. BUT… here is the thing… “dunum” means “hill” in Thracian too! And also, the Thracians were there first.

So what about the first part then – “Singi”? Will Celtic language be of any help? Well, actually no. I mean no theory is official yet. A few scholarly options that we have for the word “singi” are:

1. “round” (therefore round-hill)

2. a name of a Thracian tribe (therefore Thracian words, not Celtic) and even

3. sin-gui, from Gaelic “old prayer” (don’t really know what to say about this one…)

Singidunum – the lion hill

However, a quick search for similar words on Wiktionary leads to the word Singh – meaning “lion”.

This word comes from Sanskrit, the root of all IE languages, so let’s give it a shot. In this case, we get “Lion-hill”. Why does this name sound familiar? Oh yes, Singapore. It also means “lion-hill”. But wait, “pura” means “settlement, village” in Thracian. And according to Paleolexicon, we see it also in the Linear B script!

Also, Herodotus mentions a Thracian city of Singus in Sithonia, although he does not explain what this word means. And Singidava was an important city of Dacia, modern-day Romania.

But even though Herodotus does not give us the etymology of a name Singus, only a couple of sentences later he states that in this area lions existed until the time of Xerxes:

“In these parts, there are many lions and wild oxen… The boundary of the lions’ country is the river Nestus…” – Hdt. 7,126

So, could it be that Singidunum means “lion-hill”? Are there any other toponyms like that closer than Singapore? Yes, there are. And they seem to follow the migration routes of ancient Aryans. For example, there is one called “lion’s head”, a Thracian sanctuary above the Ropotamo river on the coasts of the Black sea. There is an ancient place called “Arslan tepe” in Turkey (literally “lion-hill”). Another example is in Armenia… and then back to Asia, to the famous rock of Sigiriya. These are just a few examples…

Singidunum Lion hill Arslantepe

Singh – the Vedic lion-warriors

So “lion hills” really exist, but if so, how did such an old, Sanskrit word, ended up in Balkans? There can be a very interesting reason for this. Singh is also a title of a warrior caste in India. Even today, it is extremely popular on the Indian subcontinent.

Could it be that the Aryans (who established the caste system) have something to do with Balkans? Are there any historical proofs of connections between Balkans and India? Well yes, everyone knows that Alexander the Great went as far as India, and he sure did like to portray himself as a lion. This was perhaps an allusion to the older hero, Heracles, who also roamed the steppes of Asia. But even before Alexander, Greek mythology tells us that Dionysus was the first to conquer India.

Could this explain why Balkans have the highest density of gypsies in the world? They undoubtedly come from North India, where Aryans once thrived? Are they the remainders of an ancient caste system, that was destroyed by the Roman war machine? Hard to tell, but interesting topic to think about.

Singidunum’s true location

Back to Belgrade, where is this lion hill today? Was there a lion-shaped stone of some sort on Kalemegdan fortress or was it only the name of a Celtic tribe? This is difficult to say as the landscape has drastically changed over the two and a half millennia of wars and continuous inhabitation.

However, there is one other very important hill, that could be lion-shaped with just a little imagination. The hill of Avala.

Avala hill is located 16,5 km south from Belgrade and even today stands like a Sphinx. It marks the entrance to the Belgrade area on the M1 highway, which is built on the exact route of an ancient Roman road. It was inhabited since ancient times and a few Roman mines are still visible on its slopes. In the middle ages, on top of this hill lied a Slavic fortress of Zrnov. But unfortunately in 1934. they destroyed the whole area with dynamite, in order to build a (masonic) monument to an “unknown hero”.

So what lies under the monument of Avala? Maybe we will never know. But what we do know is that on the map by Anselmo Maria Banduri (1675-1743), Belgrade and Singidunum are two different cities, Singidunum being very close to the hill of Avala.

An unknown hero, or Cyrus the Great?

But even the monument is interesting. Its purpose was to “commemorate a fallen Serbian hero”, but the inspiration behind it was a tomb of a Persian (Aryan) emperor Cyrus the Great, whose empire stretched from Balkans to the Indus river.

As for the Asian connections, there were at least five other Singapores in Asia once. They are Singapura of the Champa kingdom, Vietnam, Sing Buri in Thailand, Sangkapura, on the Bawean Island, Indonesia, Singapura – West Java, Indonesia, and Singapura, India. But besides India and Balkans, none of these countries had lions in their habitat.

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