The Language of the Thracians, Ivan Duridanov

IV. The Thracian onomastics


   D. Names of deities

Bendis (Herodian, Choer., Hesych. and in inscriptions) - a Thracian goddess, identified by the Greeks with Arthemis or Hekata. Her name is interpreted as ‘binder’, ‘patroness of the marriage, the family life’, from the IE *bhendh- ‘to bind, to join’, in the Avest. bandayaiti ‘to connect’, the Old-Ind. bándhana- ‘connection’, the Goth., Anlo-Saxon bindan, the German binden ‘to bind’. The cult of Bendida was also spread in Bythinia, Asia Minor.

The Thracian deity Sabázios (Orph., Aristoph., etc.), Sabádios (Artem., etc.), venerated also by the Phrygians, was thought to be identical to Dionysus-Bacchus, or more correctly - it was an epithet of Dionysus. The name is derived from the IE *sobhodhi-()o-s, related to the Old-Bulg. svobodə ‘free’. This interpreteation is further supported by the fact that one of the Greek epithets of Dionysus-Bacchus is Eleutherós (eleutherós = ‘free’). Zabazios is thought to be a Thracian name because in it the IE o is a, and di is zi, which is characteristic of the Thracian language.

Another deity common to Thracians and Phrygians was Semelē, a goddess of the earth, Dionysus’s mother. The name is related to the Phrygian zemelō ‘mother-earth’, related to the Old-Bulg. zemlja, the Russ. zemlja ‘land’, the Lith. zeme, the Latv. zeme, etc., and its initial form must have been *zeml’a with an epenthetic l, as the Slavic word from the IE *g’h(d)ma. The insertion of -e- between m and l in the Greek rendering of the name is explained by the lack of the ml combination in Greek.

One of the most popular deities in Thracia and the neighbouring regions was Zbelthurdos (variants: Zbelthiurdos, Zbelsurdos, Zbeltiurdos, Zberthurdos, Zberturdus). The name also occurs as Zeus’ epithet. It is a two-component one: Zbel- (Zber-) belongs to the Latv. zibele ‘shining’, the verb zibelêt ‘to flash, to twinkle, to shine’; -thurdos is related to the German stürzen ‘to overthrow, to fall’, the Old-HighGerman sturzen from the IE *(s)td-o-. The name meant ‘to hurl thunders, lightnings; thunderer’, corresponding to the Greek epithet for Zeus - Zeus keráunios, from the Greek keraunós ‘thunder, lightning’.

The epithet Pyrumērulas (variants: Pyrmērulas, Pyrymērylas, Pirmerulas), which occurs as an epithet of the Thracian deity of Heros, is obviously a two-component word. The first component is linked to the Greek pӯrós ‘maize, corn’ from the IE *pūro-, compare also to the Lith. pūrai ‘winter maize’, the Latv. puri ‘maize’, the Church Slavonic pəiro ‘spelt’, etc.; the second component is an extension of the stem of the IE verb *mēr- ‘big, great’ in Slavic personal names, ending in -mērə (Vladimer), the Old-HighGerman -mār in names suc as Volk-mār, Hlodo-mār, the Gal. -māros in names as Nerto-māros ‘great-in-strength’, the Old-Icel. mār ‘big’.

The epithet Germetitha for Diana (in an inscription from the Pleven district) is a two-component name. The second component is etymologically linked to the Greek tito ‘morning, day’, the Alb. ditë ‘day’; the first component Germe- is compared (not very convincingly) to the place name Germanía from the basis germ- < IE *germ- ‘warm’.

Inscriptions from Aegean Thracia mention “the great god” Rincaleus (or Ringaleus), whose name may be translated as ‘quick, adroit’ from the IE *urngh-, from the IE verb *urengh-, in the Greek rhimpha ‘quickly, skillfully’, the Old-HighGerman (ge)ringi ‘light’, the Middle German (ge)ringi ‘light, quick, quickly preparing’.

One of the most frequent epithets of Asklepius, who is identified with the Thracian god Heros, is Zymydrēnós (variants: Zymdrēnós, Zymlyzdriēnós, Zymyzrēnós, Zylmyzdrēnós, etc.). It is a two-component word, which first component is related to the Old-Bulg. zmьia ‘a snake’ with an epenthetic l in Zyml-. Recently Vl. Georgiev proposed a better interpretation - ‘water dragon’: zyml- ‘dragon’ and -udrēnos ‘water’, from *udr- ‘water’, similar to the Greek án-ydros ‘waterless’, hydrinós ‘referring to water, water’.

[Previous] [Next]