senryu – oceans of colour = océans de couleurs

senryu – oceans of colour = océans de couleurs

sorcerer moon
through my photo’s filter –
oceans of colour

oceans of colour 620

océans de couleurs
dans le filtre photo 
lune ensorcelante

Richard Vallance

senryu – your old cat, Renoir = ton vieil chat, Renoir

senryu – your old cat, Renoir = ton vieil chat, Renoir

your old cat, Renoir
I implore Renoir to sketch
in midnight hues

Pierre-Auguste Renoir chat endormi 1862 620

ton vieil chat, Renoir,
Renoir le dessine pour toi
en nuances noires

Richard Vallance

painting, the sleeping cat (1862), by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

peinture, le chat endormi ( 1862 ), par by Pierre-Auguste Renoir ( 1841-1919 ) 

autumn haiku d’automne – never mind the rain = peu importe la pluie

autumn haiku d’automne – never mind the rain = peu importe la pluie

never mind the rain
falling on us, fallen leaves –
cherish our colours

rain on maple leaves autumn 620

peu importe la pluie
sur nous, les feuilles tombées –
chéris nos couleurs 

Richard Vallance

The full range of marvelous, rich colours the Minoans at Knossos used on their stunning frescoes!

The full range of marvelous, rich colours the Minoans at Knossos used on their stunning frescoes!


We notice right away that the colours they had at their disposal ran from various shades of yellows (saffron) and oranges to blues and various shades of purple. The Minoans at Knossos, Pylos, Thera (Thira, Santorini) and elsewhere were unable to reproduce green pigment.  This minor drawback had little or no perceptible effect on the splendid results they almost invariably came up with in their breathtaking frescoes, the likes of which were not reproduced anywhere else in the Occidental ancient world, except perhaps by the Romans, especially at Pompeii. The Romans were able to reproduce greens. 

Two lovely frescoes from Pompeii:




Translation of Linear B tablet K 04-28 from the Knossos “Armoury”

Translation of Linear B tablet K 04-28 from the Knossos “Armoury”

Knossos tablet 04-28 N a 15

The translation of this tablet is relatively straightforward. The first line speaks for itself. On the second line we have  “opoqo kerayapi opiiyapi”, which could mean either “with horse blinkers of horn with parts of the reins” or “with horse blinkers with horn parts of the reins”,  since the Mycenaean Greek does not make it clear which part of the phrase – kerayapi – = “horn” modifies, the first or the second. Nevertheless, the second makes considerably more sense, since the poor horses might suffer injury if their blinkers were made of horn and they happened to shatter.  Certainly, the reins could be at least partly made of horn. So there you have it.

Finally, we are confronted with the perfect participle passive – metakekumena – . Chis Tselentis takes a wild guess that it means “dismantled?” , though it is quite obvious that he is very unsure of himself, given that his translation is followed by a question mark (?). Besides, when we consider the context of the physical attributes of the chariot in which this word is set, it does not make much sense that anyone would want to dismantle a chariot which has been painted crimson by someone else, as that would simply undo the work  of the painter. Not a pretty scene. The scribe would have had one angry painter on his hands. On the other hand, the translation “(fully) refurbished”, which is practically identical with L.R. Palmer’s, makes a lot more sense. In said case, the scribe and the painter would have gotten along fine with one another. I am not saying that Tselentis’ translation is outright wrong. But the problem is that there exists no ancient Greek verb which fits the orthographic conditions of the perfect participle passive – metakekumena –  . On the other hand, the ancient Greek verb – komizo – is a pretty close match, even though its own perfect participle passive does not match. But – komizo – is Classical Greek, while – metakekumena – is far more archaic Mycenaean Greek. So there really is no way to tell for sure. But since the translation matches up so well with the context of the actual physical appearance of the chariot, I am much more inclined to favour it over that of Chris Tselentis.

Linear B tablet K 04.5 from the Knossos Armoury: the redoubtable challenges for translation

Linear B tablet K 04.5 from the Knossos Armoury: the redoubtable challenges for translation

04.5 iqiya piriniyo opoqo keryapi opiiyapi

 Linear B tablet K 04.5 from the Knossos Armoury: the redoubtable challenges for translation

While some of the military tablets from the Knossos Armoury dealing with the construction and design of chariots pose a few problems in the translation of certain words which yield at least two or possibly even three different possible meanings, others are much more of a challenge to the translator. Some vocabulary in the more challenging tablets proves to be much more fractious. There are several reasons for this phenomenon when we are dealing with Mycenaean Greek vocabulary, let alone that of any truly archaic ancient language, such as Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics. These are:

1 Some words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Homeric Greek or Classical Greek, conveying the same or a similar meaning. Such is the case with – wanax – = “king” in Mycenaean Greek.
2 Some of the words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Homeric Greek, and yet not convey precisely the same meaning or might even mean something more remotely associated, such as – qasireu – , which does not mean the same thing as “basileus” = “king” in Homeric Greek. A – qasireu – in Mycenaean Greek is merely a local leader of a town, citadel, redoubt or similar small centre and nothing more.   A king in Mycenaean Greek is a – wanax – , for which there is an almost exact match in Homer’s Iliad.  
3 Some words in Mycenaean Greek may look like variants of later Homeric or Classic Greek words, although they are spelled in a fashion alien to the latter, never appearing in them. 
4 Some of the words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Classical Ionic or Attic Greek, and yet convey an entirely different meaning.
5 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may be archaic Greek which later fell entirely out of use even prior to Homeric Greek, in which case it may be next to impossible to confirm that such words are even archaic Greek at all.
6 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may possibly be proto-Greek or even more ancient proto Indo-European, but we can never be certain of this at all.
7 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may possibly or even likely be Minoan or of Minoan origin. Such is the case with the word – kidapa – on tablet KN 894 N v 01, the very first tablet I translated in this series of tablets on chariots. L.R. Palmer assumes this word refers to a kind of wood, and I agree. This assumption is based on the fact that two other kinds of wood are referenced on the same tablet, i.e. elm and willow. With this evidence in hand, I have gone even further than L. R. Palmer and have taken the calculated risk to identify this word as meaning “ash (wood)”, a wood which Homer uses for weapons.
8 Just as is the case with Classical Greek, in which a few thousand words are not of Indo-European origin, Mycenaean Greek contains a fair proportion of such vocabulary. Words such as – sasama –  (sesame) & – serino –  (celery) come to mind.

This is the scenario which confronts us in the translation of at least two of the words on this tablet, namely, – piriniyo – and – mano –, both of which are certainly open to more than one possible interpretation. The first word - piriniyo – meets the criteria outlined in 1 & 3 above. It probably means “an ivory worker”, but we cannot be sure of this. Since the latter – mano – may not have any relation to later Homeric or Classical Greek at all, it is a crap shoot to try and translate it. This word meets the criteria in 1,2 and 4 above. But I took the chance (as I always do), on the assumption, however fanciful, that – mano – may be related to the Classical Greek word – manos – , meaning “thin”, as defined in Liddell & Scott.

And what applies to Mycenaean vocabulary on this and all other tablets dealing with chariots, whether or not they originate from Knossos, equally applies to all of the vocabulary on each and every tablet in the military sector of the Mycenaean economy. By extension, this principle must also apply to all of the vocabulary on Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes etc.) and regardless of the sector of the Mycenaean economy with which they are concerned. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. In short, the 8 criteria outlined above must be applied on an equal footing, through the procedure of cross-comparative extrapolation, to all of the vocabulary of Mycenaean Greek.

We shall return to this phenomenon in our article on chariot construction and design, which is to appear on my

 account under the auspices of Koryvantes, the Association of Historical Studies (Athens):

Koryvantes Association of Historical Studies Athens Category Linear B & the Iliad
sometime later this winter.

Samples of Colours on Frescoes at Knossos: Les Parisiennes & The Bluebird

Samples of Colours on Frescoes at Knossos: Les Parisiennes & The Bluebird [Click to ENLARGE]:

Knossos Frescos Blue Bird and Les Parisiennes details

See NOTES on the previous post.

Samples of Colours on Frescoes at Knossos: The Griffin Fresco

Samples of Colours on Frescoes at Knossos: The Griffin Fresco in the Queen’s Megaron (Click to ENLARGE):

Knossos Griffin fresco Queen's throne room

In this splendid example of colours on frescoes at the Palace of Knossos, “The Griffin Fresco in the Queen’s Megaron”, I have given the names of the most common colours used on Minoan/Mycenaean frescos.   The Linear B characters and their Latin equivalents are shown for the first 6 colours in this illustration.  In the next post, you will be able to view portions of the famous fresco, the so-called “Les Parisiennes” and the equally lavish “Blue Bird or Caravanseri'” fresco, with the Latin equivalents of the Linear B characters shown for the next 6 colours [7] – [12].

Minoan Frescoes & the Prevalence of Colour in Linear B Vocabulary

Minoan Frescoes & the Prevalence of Colour in Linear B Vocabulary (Click to ENLARGE):

Dyes Colors Colours Frescos Cloth Purple in Linear B

Minoan Frescoes & The Prevalence of Colours in Linear B Vocabulary:

Despite the paucity of Linear B vocabulary on extant Mycenaean/Minoan tablets (estimated as some 2,000 words more or less), colours play a predominant rôle. What is so striking about the Linear B vocabulary for colours is its precision and richness. Linear B not only has the standard words for several colours, white, red, purple and black, it even has words for (often highly) unusual variants of the some colours, such as the colour of the yellow water lily (instead of just plain “yellow”); aquamarine (instead of plain “blue”); saffron (from the crocus); crimson, which is directly derived from the Linear B word for “Phoenician”, meaning of course that the colour we know as “crimson” is in actuality, “the Phoenican colour”; “painted/dyed red”, in addition to just plain old red; and “shell purple” as well as “purple”. Shell purple is a gorgeous marbled purple from sea shells. So to summarize, the Minoans were extremely conscious of the power and magnificence of colours, and they sure knew how to “put on the Ritz” in their generous application of them. One look at any single surviving Minoan/Mycenaean fresco speaks volumes to the exquisite taste the Minoans and Mycenaeans had for colour in art, as attested by their absolutely stunning frescoes! Few, if any, civilizations, ancient or modern, have ever attained the heights of brilliant artistry in frescoes as did the Minoans. I for one consider Minoan/Mycenaean frescoes to be far superior to the rather stiff frescoes and iconic art of the early Christian and Medieval churches. But of course I am biased.

Now, one seemingly perplexing question remains. Where is the colour green? The answer is much simpler than you might imagine. In spite of all their talent for producing a dizzying array of lustrous colours on their frescoes, the Minoans – or for that matter – none of the ancients in the Western world at that time – were unable to produce green, which is why all the trees in their frescoes are blue. But we can forgive them for this omission, considering the spectacular and enduring beauty of their frescoes.

In the next post, I will display for your delight and artistic appreciation 2 of the most magnificent frescoes from Knossos, illustrating the highly imaginative application of colours the Minoan artisans lavished on their frescoes. I will tag these frescoes with the colours applied with their Linear B, Greek and English names.