2/19/2010 Phrygian language, relationship of ancient records to Phrygian monuments.



The Phrygian language
Translation of Phrygian scripts (continued : Phrygian1L.html)
Notes on Pausanias, and other ancient records

 by Mel Copeland
(Based on a related work, Etruscan Phrases,
first published in 1981)


Notes with a discussion on ancient records of Pausanias, etc.

Extracts from texts as they may relate to the Phrygian culture and religion
and its relationship to the Etruscans.

This page contains:
Notes on the origin of the Phrygians and Muski

The origin of the Phrygians is as much of a mystery today as it was 2,000 years ago, during Strabo's time (died 24 A.D.). They seem to be related to the Muski, mentioned in the Assyrian records as allies of the Armenians. Tacitus' Annals also make mention of the Muski as allies of Rome who took over the wilds of Armenia. What happened to the Muski after the Parthian war has yet to be discerned by the author. Some of this will be a repetition of the Phrygian1k.html, here positioned within the context of examining their origin and eventual disappearance from history. This document was composed in the context of responding to a reader's (K. Mushka) question on the origin of the Muski.

Strabo identified the Phrygian lands thus:
Book II, chapter 5 :"the so-called Cis-Halys country, which embraces, first next to the Pontus and to the Propontis, Paphlagonia, Bithynia, Mysia, the so-called "Phrygia on the Hellespont" (of which the Troad is a part); and, secondly, next to the Aegean and to the sea that forms its continuation, Aeolis, Ionia, Caria, Lycia; and, thirdly, in the interior, Phrygia 130 (of which both the so-called "Galatia of the Gallo-Grecians" and "Phrygia Epictetus"196 form a part), Lycaonia, and Lydia." He identifies the Phrygians with the Thracians who occupied modern Romania and Bulgaria.

Strabo Book VII, chapter 3: "And the Phrygians themselves are Brigians, a Thracian tribe, as are also the Mygdonians, the Bebricians, the Medobithynians,59 the Bithynians, and the Thynians, and, I think, also the Mariandynians. These peoples, to be sure, have all utterly quitted Europe, but the Mysi have remained there."
"10 It is but fair, too, to ask Apollodorus to account for the Mysians that are mentioned in the verses of Homer, whether he thinks that these too are inventions142 (when the poet says, "and the Mysians, hand-to-hand fighters and the proud Hippemolgi"), or takes the poet to mean the Mysians in Asia. Now if he takes the poet to mean those in Asia, he will misinterpret him, as I have said before,143 but if he calls them an invention, meaning that there were no Mysians in Thrace, he will contradict the facts; for at any rate, even in our own times, Aelius Catus144 transplanted from the country on the far side of the Ister into Thrace145 fifty thousand persons from among the Getae, a tribe with the same tongue as the Thracians.146 And they live there in Thrace now and are called "Moesi" — whether it be that their people of earlier times were so called and that in Asia the name was changed to "Mysi,"147 or (what is more apposite to history and the declaration of the poet) that in earlier times their people in Thrace were called 'Mysi.' "
Book VIII Fragments:
And one might suspect that it was from this Cissus that Homer's Iphidamas came, whose grandfather Cisseus "reared him," Homer says, in Thrace, which now is called Macedonia.
25 Mt. Bermium,525 also, is somewhere in this region; in earlier times it was occupied by Briges, a tribe of Thracians; some of these crossed over into Asia and their name was changed to Phryges.
25a The Geographer points out that the Phrygians too were called Brigians.
38 Some represent the Paeonians as colonists from the Phrygians, while others represent them as independent founders.

The Moschi appear to have been a tribe that lived in the area of Colchis, including modern Georgia, and the southeastern corner of the Black Sea. These are the people that were allied with the Armenians, whom the Assyrians battled, but they must have been part of Phrygia since they also vied for the territory of Que, the area of Tarsus, with the Assyrians. Mixed in with these peoples of the Caucus Mountains were, interestingly, the Albanians.

Strabo 17 "...Above the rivers which I have mentioned in the Moschic territory is the temple of Leucothea,38 founded by Phrixus39 and his oracle, where a ram is not sacrificed.

18 "...The territory of the Moschi, in which is situated the temple, is divided into three portions, one of which is occupied by Colchians, another by Iberians, and the third by Armenians. "

"...when we know that names are subject to many changes, more especially among barbarians. For example, a tribe of Thracians were called Sinties, then Sinti, then Saii, in whose country Archilochus is said to have thrown away his shield: `one of the Saii exults in having a shield, which, without blame, I involuntarily left behind in a thicket.' This same people have now the name of Sapæi. For all these people were settled about Abdera, they also held Lemnos and the islands about Lemnos. Thus also Brygi, Briges, and Phryges are the same people; and Mysi, Mæones, and Meones are the same people. ' "

"...A proverbial saying is applied to the Phrygians and Mysians, `The boundaries of the Mysi and Phryges are apart from one another,' but it is difficult to define them respectively. The reason is this; strangers who came into the country were soldiers and barbarians; they had no fixed settlement in the country of which they obtained possession, but were, for the most part, wanderers, expelling others from their territory, and being expelled themselves. All these nations might be supposed to be Thracians, because Thracians occupy the country on the other side, and because they do not differ much from one another.
"...The Phrygians and Mysians were masters of the country after the capture of Troy; afterwards the Lydians; then the Æolians and Ionians; next, the Persians and Macedonians; lastly, the Romans, under whose government most of the tribes have lost even their languages and names..."
". The Phrygians and Mysians were masters of the country after the capture of Troy; afterwards the Lydians; then the Æolians and Ionians; next, the Persians and Macedonians; lastly, the Romans, "
"...To assign the confines of the Mysians and Phryges.--
(3) The Lydians also, and the Mæones, whom Homer calls Meones, are in some way confounded with these people and with one another; some authors say that they are the same, others that they are different, nations. Add to this that some writers regard the Mysians as Thracians, others as Lydians, according to an ancient tradition, which has been preserved by Xanthus the Lydian, and by Menecrates of Elæa, who assign as the origin of the name Mysians, that the Lydians call the beech-tree (Oxya) Mysos, which grows in great abundance near Olympus, where it is said decimated persons5 were exposed, whose descendants are the [p. 327] later Mysians, and received their appellation from the Mysos, or beech-tree growing in that country. The language also is an evidence of this. It is a mixture of Lydian and Phrygian words, for they lived some time in the neighbourhood of Olympus. But when the Phrygians passed over from Thrace, and put to death the chief of Troy and of the country near it, they settled here, but the Mysians established themselves above the sources of the Caïcus near Lydia. 4...The accounts respecting the Phrygians and the Mysians are more ancient than the Trojan times."

Pliny, Chap. LVI.
"The first inventers of diverse things" says "the Phrygians invented first the waggon and chariot with four wheels."

All of the historical evidence points to an origin of the Phrygians from the area of Southeastern Europe, being related to the Thracians. (Strabo makes an interesting point that the Ligurians - of southern France, who had migrated there from Germany - were similar to the Thracians) Archeological evidence tends to corroborate this, in particular the erection of barrows (tumuli) in which to bury their dead. While Phrygian borrows are not abundant, it appears, beyond Gordion, the fact is that the plain near Sardes, known as Lydian, is littered with them. There are so many they can be easily viewed from satellite images provided by google.earth. On the other side of the Hellespont in Thrace there is another profusion of barrows.

The religion of the Thracians, based upon a chthonic deity named Zalmoxis, was similar to the Phrygian, involving Cybele and Attis. However, from mythology we know that somewhere along the coast of Phrygia, among the "Taurians" the worship of Diana (Artemis) was dominant; this is told in the story of Iphiginia, daughter of Agamemnon, who was supposed to be sacrificed but was shipped off to the Taurians to serve as the priestess of Diana. The Taurians had a practice of sacrificing foreigners to Diana, and Jason and the Argonauts faced the same fate were it not for Iphiginia's saving them. When the Argonauts arrived in Colchis to filch the Golden Fleece they were faced with the same threat but saved by the king's daughter, Medea.

Strabo  identifies the Muski as occupying the peninsula between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, which would appear to be the area of the Araxes river (The Caspian Sea was thought to be part of the ocean.) This area and much of Anatolia (Phrygia) was dominated by the Hittites, another Indo-European people, from about 1800 B.C. to 1180 B.C., when the capitol of Hattusa was destroyed. Since the destruction of the Hittite empire occurred at the same moment as the 1,000 ship invasion of Achaeans of Troy, we can assume that the invasion of the Greeks and the assembly of the Trojan allies and the consequences of the Trojan War would have resulted in a dispersal of warriors all over the Eastern Mediterranean, recorded by the Egyptians in the Western Mediterranean as Sea Peoples. The Aeneid records the Roman romance associated with this dispersal and the Odyssey records the earlier episode. The voyage of the Argonauts, according to the story, was prior to the Trojan War, and possibly a forerunner of it. Wikipedia has a good survey of the Sea Peoples. If the Muski were counted among them the association of them as a Sea People would have to be through the connection of the territory of Que (city of Issus) which they possessed. In theory one might view them as being in possession of the lands of Cappadocia from Sinope to the port of Issus or later Tarsus. Otherwise it would be hard to imagine people from the southeastern corner of the Black Sea being involved in pirate expeditions, unless it would involve one similar to the Colchian pursuit of Jason and the Argonauts after they sailed off with the Golden Fleece and Aetes' daughter, Medea.

Before the Hittites and Phrygians was the Yamnaya culture, of 3,000 B.C., which occupied all of the lands from Thrace to the lands between the Black and Caspian seas, spreading northward to the Volga-Ural region. Strabo, etc. reported that region to have been occupied by the Scythian tribes. A tribe of them, the Cimmerians (from whom the Crimea is named), ended up entering Anatolia and destroying Gordion and the Phrygian kingdom about 700 B.C. After that it appears that the Lydians picked up the pieces, and  Lydia was soon conquered by Cyrus the Great. A good summary of the Phrygians is at: http://www.ancientanatolia.com/historical/phrygian_period.htm

Strabo's note that the Phrygians invented the four-wheeled wagon seems to point to a very ancient heritage for these people, in any event. That they carried forth the mother-goddess image, shown in Cybele, may be attributed to the artifacts of Kultepe which in turn are related to the Cretan mother-goddess. Mythology relating to Crete and Troy shows migrations of people from Crete which appear to be confirmed in the archeology. As I recall, there was a very stable bronze-age population in Eastern Anatolia, particularly the Transcaucasia region. Those people inhabiting the region adjacent to Assyria were influenced by and dominated by the Assyrians, in many cases wearing similar eastern dress, as described by Strabo. Those adjacent to the islands of Cyprus, Crete and Rhodes would have been influenced by them. The "gulf" where Issus is located, including Tarsus, thus becomes important since it leads to the Cicilian Gates which are the entry to the interior of Anatolia, through Cappadocia. The two rivers, including the Ceyan river, that empty into the coast lead northward, on the eastern side of the Tarsus Mountains. There were two main passes through the Tarsus Mountains towards Syria and Assyria, the southern one leading to Tarsus. These were the traditional gates used by the Assyrian kings to plunder the Armenians. They were also the gates used for trade throughout history. The Cicilian Gates opened to the cities of Cappadocia (Kanesh-Kultepe, modern Kayseri); Kanesh was an important trading center of the Hittites and possibly an early capital referred to as Nisas. An important part of the city had a colony of Assyrians. Since the area around the city of Ceyan on the Ceyan river controls the gates into Cappadocia, on the north, and Syria on the east, that land would have been hotly contested. The Assyrians recorded the land by the name of Que. The lands directly east of it, on the other side of the Tarsus mountains, was Commagene, (see map www.atamanhotel.com) a tributary state of the Assyrians. Based upon geographical considerations and the likely movement of peoples, as corroborated by mythology and artifacts, one may conclude that the Phrygians, like the Hittites before them, had occupied most of Anatolia (excluding Caria, Cilicia, Lycia, to the south of them). They may have been like other Indo-Europeans, conquering the indigenous population and absorbing their "higher" culture (gods).

What happened in terms of the language is interesting. Although the Assyrians spent hundreds of years ravaging and dominating the Armenians, the Armenian language prevailed. We know that the Phrygians and Thracians (possibly also the Ligurians) spoke a similar language, and the remnants of the Thracian language appears to be remembered in the Romanian language, just as the Celtic-Anglo-Saxon elements are remembered with Latin in the English language. Of course English has other elements, such as French and Greek. In comparison, we know that the Gauls took over much of Phrygia, which became known as Galatia and the Iberians settled in the area of Georgia. But neither of the two languages survived in that area as far as I know. Neither has the earlier Phrygian survived, giving way to Latin and now to the Turkish language. But in southeastern Turkey the Kurds - related to the Persians and Afghani Pashtuns -  hold onto their traditions and language. The Kurds are believed to have moved from the steppes into Anatolia. Thus we know that some languages of Anatolia did survive in the remote regions. The people of the populated cities would have adapted the language of their conquerors: the Greeks, Romans, Persians and finally the Turks.

In Iberia we can see a similar situation. Strabo mentiones the Basques as the Vascones. The Basques still maintain their identity in their mountain hideaway. Their tradition of identity continues even in the Sacramento Valley of California.

Strabo says that the Thracians and Ligurians, like the Celts, wore tatoos. The Phrygians, on the other hand, are not recorded as such and, to the contrary, they are shown as being quite civilized, by Roman standards. The Roman use of tatoos seems to have been reserved for marking slaves and was not seemingly a civilized practice from the Roman perspective.

While linguists have identified the Phrygian language as Luwian, related to Hittite, my work on the Phrygian grammar shows that it is more closely related to Latin. Linguists believe that Celtic and Latin were once one branch of the Indo-European languages. One could surmise, in fact, with this theory in the background, that the Thracians, Ligurians and Phrygians, being of the same stock, could have spoken a language similar to Latin (or more appropriately, a language that is neither Celtic nor Latin, marking a point when they separated). My work shows a similarity between the Etruscan and Phrygian languages. Of interest is another Northern Italian language, Oscan, which Strabo records as still being spoken in his day. Modern linguists have shown Oscan to be similar to Latin. The Phrygian and Etruscan languages - both of which were of the most mysterious peoples of the Trojan War era - ceased to exist by Strabo's time.

Strabo describes the Thracians and Scythians in similar terms, as they were very much alike in culture, some being agrarian and others living on wagons with felt tents (similar to the Mongolian herdsmen with their yurts today). However, the Scythians, except for the Cimmerians, seemed to be consistent, occupying the steppes of Ukraine to the Caspian Sea and beyond to the Ural Sea. They did invade as far as Damascus and were not able to hold the lands they conquered south of the Caucus Mountains. 

The Indo-European migrations entering southeastern Europe and Anatolia probably were led by the Hittites, then the Greeks and Celtic-Latins. The Celtic-Latins appear to have been "boat people" and could have migrated both by wagons and boats. In that group would be the Thracians and Phrygians, in my opinion.  At the same time a southeastern branch separated into two groups, Persians and Indians, whose languages are very closely related.

Nomadic groups moved both east and west across the Asian steppes, from Mongolia to Poland. When a group moves it displaces the indigenous people before it. As the Indians moved towards the Indus river, they would have displaced indigenous peoples there. The Vedas record that conflict, in fact, and interestingly they describe - or remember - destroying cities with "iron gates." This puts that invasion of Indo-Europeans into Northern India in the latter Bronze Age, early Iron Age, about 1200 B.C. The time period would be later than the invasion of Troy, for instance, because of the description of "iron" being used. In the Iliad the only use of iron that is mentioned is as a few iron-tipped spears and arrows given as prizes during the burial of Patroclus and also as a weight thrown in what would be a modern "stone toss" or shot put. The Greeks had not yet adapted iron as a utilitarian metal, but the invaders of India had met indigenous people living in walled cities with iron gates.

The Persians seemed to have moved into the lands they presently occupy, spreading perhaps through the Persian conquests into Afghanistan. Archeologists believe that the Scythians were Persian speaking people If the Scythians were the remnant of the Persian wave, in the context of the Hittite, Celtic-Latin, Greek movements, then their appearance would be surmised to be contemporaneous with the appearance of the Indians in the Indus Valley. Homer's Iliad places the Scythians in the scene of the Trojan War, about 1200 B.C. If the Persians had moved out of the steppes by 1200 B.C., leaving the Scythians in possession of the lands, then the split of the Indo-European groups would have been much earlier, with history recording the Hittites marking the earlier movement beginning about 2,000-1,800 B.C.

If we apply the same logic, assuming that the Thracians are remnants of an earlier movement of Phrygians, then noting that the Thracians are cited as participating in the Trojan War, being an old, established culture by 1200 B.C., we can place the Phrygians earlier. Likewise, we have the Dorian Greeks who were late-comers, entering from the north of Greece and being identified with "Grey Minyan" ware, that followed the Mycenaean Greeks. A considerable amount of Grey Minyan pottery was found in Troy's levels relating to the Trojan War. The Mycenaean and Minoan Greek civilization, like the Hittite, is traced to about 2,000-1,800 B.C. Can we place the Phrygians in the same generation of the Mycenaens? The Assyrian king lists date to 1700 B.C. and are considered the most reliable chronological record of the Near East. A solar eclipse of 763 B.C. establishes a fixed point in these records from which the dates are corroborated.

Of interest is the fact that the earliest Phoenician alphabet (the Greek alphabet was identified as a Phoenician alphabet by Strabo and others) in the West was found in Gordion, the capital of Phrygia. Before them was the hieroglyphic and cuneform writing of the Hittites/Assyrians in Anatolia and in Greece and the Greek islands a syllabaries called Linear A and B, (Mycenaean scripts) and Cypriotic, which is similar to Linear A and B. There was also an unusual script of Phaistos that was composed of ideograms or hieroglyphs. Linear B was deciphered in the 1950's and found to be written in an ancient form of Greek. Linear A awaits decipherment. Concurrently in 1700 B.C. Egypt was using hieroglyphs.

As recorded in the Assyrian records, the Tubal and Muski (possibly the same people) were the power in Anatolia that resisted their encroachments beyond Armenia. The Assyrians had what might be best called a tradition of invading Armenia, and the kings often regarded it as Assyrian land.  We know that the Assyrians recorded the Muski as early as 850 B.C. Because of the contact we could suppose that the Muski (Phrygians) would have early trade relations with Syria / Lebanon, etc., as well as the Assyrians. Strabo says that the Phoenician alphabet came from the Syrians. We can entertain, in fact, this alphabet from Syria making its way through the gates of the Taurus Mountains into Phrygia, through one route, and by sea from the Troad by another route. Whether the Greeks got the alphabet in parallel or through Phrygia is debatable. The fact is Greek mythology shows a strong interplay between Greece and Anatolia, with the subsequent settlement of Ionia, the western coast of modern Turkey, by the Greeks. Miletus was one of the early and most important Greek colonies. In any event, we can suppose that because of the continuing links between the Phrygians and Greeks after the Trojan War shared interests, including shared lineage, would have continued. They had a shared history, typified by the Trojan War, probably from Mycenaean times, but today only the Greek language survives. Of course, if Aeneas was Phrygian as Virgil claims, and if his people settled Rome and founded the Roman Empire, speaking Latin, then we can say, assuming that Phrygian and Latin are related, that Phrygian also survives. I suspect that they both entered the West from the Russian steppes about the same time. When they disappeared from history is hard to establish, and perhaps Tacitus recorded the last moments of these people:

Tacitus, "Annals" 13.37, "War with Parthia," ...Then, for the first time, we won the friendship of the Moschi, a nation which became pre-eminently attached to Rome, and they overran the wilds of Armenia. Thus, the intended plans of Tiridates were wholly reversed, and he sent envoys to ask on behalf of himself and of the Parthians, why, when hostages had lately been given and a friendship renewed which might open up a way to further acts of goodwill, he was thus driven from Armenia, his ancient possession. 

(From an earlier e-mail to K. Mushka) The Assyrian records, which you can read on my Phrygian.html site, deal with many expeditions against Armenia for the collection of tribute. The records speak of the Armenians as rebellious people with rich assets in copper, bronze, gold and silver. Along with wagon loads of precious artifacts, the Assyrians took captives from their expeditions back to Nineveh. Some battle accounts describe canyons being filled with bodies, captives being placed on stakes and some defeated leaders being skinned alive and their skins nailed to the ruins. Markers were erected in their city squares, built out of the skulls of the defeated. And they speak of not only destroying hundreds of cities over the centuries but also their crop lands and abundant orchards. But after the Assyrians passed through, wreaking havoc, the Armenians rebuilt.

The Muski are also believed to be the Phrygians and 1st century A.D. Roman historians record the people of the Troad (Troy) as Phrygians. Virgil, in the Aeneid, records the people of the Troad as Phrygians as well. We don't know how far the Muski territory extended. But if they were the Phrygians, they would have populated much of Anatolia. Also, from the Assyrian records we know that Assyria and the Muski alternately possessed a land called Que. Que appears to have been a buffer state between them. Of interest, Alexander the Great defeated Darius III at Issus, a city located in the area formarly known as Que.

I suspect that the Muski / Phrygians inherited the old Hittite domain after the Hittite capital was destroyed about 1185 B.C., at the exact moment of the Trojan War (estimated to be ~1180 B.C.).


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