winter haiku d’hiver – swiftly December = décembre étale swiftly December unfurls its snowy wings on the silent temple décembre étale ses ailes enneigées sur la pagode Richard Vallance
Linear B tablet, Pylos ER 312, tax collection for wheat for the temple in the palace:
This most fascinating of Linear B tablets, Pylos ER 312, clearly deals with the temple in the palace (both words in the locative singular). The tablet deals with taxation of seed for wheat and for wheat as such, where the units of wheat a large, and measured in something like bale-like units. Now it is obvious that in the Minoan/Mycenaean era, wheat and other grain crops were not measured in bales, but there was a standard large unit of measurement for them, which probably approximated bales. As the tax collector is mentioned, we know this tablet deals exclusively with taxation for wheat seeds and wheat. The taxes raised by the tax collector are for the temple in the palace. In line 7, we have worokiyoneyo eremo, which prima facie is somewhat mystifying. However, as my research colleague, Alexandre Solcà, points out, eremo is the adjective corresponding to the noun, eremo, the latter signifying “desert”. So the attributive of this word probably means “devoid of”. It certainly makes sense in context, given that the word preceding it is worokiyoneyo (genitive singular) for “of an offering ”, so the sense would be, literally, “devoid of an offering”, hence, “a free offering”. This clears up any ambiguity in the text.
Is the Minoan Linear A labrys inscribed with I-DA-MA-TE in Minoan or in proto-Greek? PART B: OR is it in proto-Greek? “What?” I hear you asking, “... is that even even remotely possible?” The keyword here is remotely. Remotely, yes, but only remotely. Recall that in the last post, in which I postulated that the four consecutive supersyllabograms ID + DA + MA + TE might conceivably stand for the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of 4 consecutive Minoan Linear A words, though which ones among God knows how many possibilities it is exceedingly difficult to determine. On the other hand, the four consecutive supersyllabograms ID + DA + MA + TE might conceivably stand for the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of 4 consecutive proto-greek Greek words, most likely proto-Mycenaean. If that is the case — and, mark my words, it is far more likely than not that it is not the case — we are once again confronted with a myriad of combinations and permutations of proto-Greek words which have the potential, however thin, of standing in for the 4 consecutive supersyllabograms I + DA + MA +TE. So be forewarned. The putative decipherment of these 4 supersyllabograms into the one possible decipherment I have arbitrarily posited among hundreds is just that, putative and tentative, and nothing more. The tentative decipherment I have come up with runs as follows when the Mycenaean Greek of which it is the apparent forerunner is Latinized: The supersyllabograms in turn might conceivably mean (but only as a long shot): I = iyereya (feminine nominative singular), meaning “priestess” DA = Damateroyo (feminine genitive singular), meaning “of Damater” MA = Matereteiyai (feminine dative singular, meaning “to Mater Thea (the Divine Mother” TE = temenoi (masculine dative or locative singular), meaning “(in) the temple” yielding this Latinized decipherment (which is but one possibility out of 100s): iyereya Damateroyo ... matereteiyai (eni) temenoi ... which roughly translates as: The priestess of Damater... (is making offerings -or- sacrificing to) Mater Thea (i.e. the Divine Mother) (in) the temple. In this partial sentence, the phrase (is making offerings -or- sacrificing to) and the preposition eni = “in” do not appear in the original supposed proto-Greek text, which I have extrapolated forward to Mycenaean Greek to make it fully accessible. Although these words are in fact absent from the original putative proto-Greek, they be supplied with relative ease to fill in the gaps. This proto-Greek translation is neatly encapsulated in this chart: On closer examination, it turns out that, although this decipherment is only one among 100s of possible candidates, it is nevertheless one of the most plausible decipherments, for the following reasons: 1. If as I have pointed out in the previous post, Idamate is an actual Minoan word, as well as being in addition a series of 4 supersyllabograms. Thus, in the Minoan language it may very well mean something along the lines of Damate in Mycenaean Linear B: in other words, Idamate in the Minoan language may be the approximate equivalent of Damate in Mycenaean Linear B and of Demeter in ancient Greek. And if that is the case, the second supersyllabogram (DA) in my parallel proto-Greek translation, which I have deciphered as Damate, almost perfectly matches the Minoan word. This co-incidence, if co-incidence it is, is far too great to be ignored, and it lends a great deal of credence to my proto-Greek translation extrapolated forward to Mycenaean Greek of the second supersyllabogram DA in idamate. 2. But there is more, much more. As it so turns out, there is a sacred cave dedicated to Zeus on Mount Ida, which is very close to the Minoan site of Phaistos. Another co-incidence? The name of the cave dedicated to Zeus on Mount Ida is the “Dictaean Cave”, as illustrated here: 3. It is nothing short of a remarkable co-incidence that Idamate, as inscribed on the labrys, may very well signify “Mount Ida”, as I have clearly indicated in the previous post. But what does that imply? I have to wonder whether or not there was a Minoan peak sanctuary on the summit of Mount Ida. This is what a Minoan peak sanctuary probably looked liked: And if there was, it was of course a temple. Referencing our proto-Greek translation of Idamate, we find that the last supersyllabogram, TE, may readily and realistically rendered as temeno, which in Mycenaean Greek means “a temple”. How fascinating! Does this imply that the priestess to Damater might have been sacrificing to Mater Thea in a temple or peak sanctuary which may possibly have existed on the summit of Mount Ida? The correlation is truly tempting. However, I must sound a strong note of caution. Such an interpretation of the last supersyllabogram of Idamate = TE, as the putative Mycenaean word, temeno = “a temple” as being a peak sanctuary is nothing less than a real stretch of the imagination. So it must be taken with a huge grain of salt. Nevertheless, it is possible, however remotely, that the temple in which the priestess of Damater is worshipping just might have been a peak sanctuary. But I wouldn’t bet my bottom dollars on it. It is thus remotely possible that Idamate signifies both “Mount Ida” in Minoan and “Mater Thea” in proto-Greek extrapolates forward to later Mycenaean Greek. Further credence is possibly lent to this decipherment by the fact that Mount Ida is clearly visible in the near distance behind the ancient site of Phaistos, as illustrated here and on map below: But we must be extremely skeptical of such an interpretation. Why so? Just as Pavel Serafimov and Anton Perdith erroneously read proto-Slavic into Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada), thereby grossly misinterpreting it, my own attempt to superimpose proto-Greek on the 4 supersyllabograms I + DA + MA +TE may amount to the same genre of fundamental (and gross) inaccuracy in the putative decipherment into proto-Greek of a Minoan Linear A text, in this case, of the word idamate inscribed on the labrys. So we must exercise extreme caution in hypothesizing that the 4 supersyllabograms I + DA + MA +TE are the first syllabograms, i.e. the first syllables of the 4 consecutive proto-Greek words I have arbitrarily assigned to them. So the fact remains that these 4 supersyllabograms are far more likely to be the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of 4 consecutive Minoan words than of proto-Greek words. I cannot stress this enough.
2 more haiku in Mycenaean Linear B, ancient Greek, English & French, this time about silence in the temple…
Mycenaean palace administrative hierarchy (POST 1,300): Although we will never know the exact details of the Mycenaean palace administrative hierarchy, the table above gives us a pretty good idea of the power-base hierarchy from the King or wanax on down to the higher administrative officials, the mid-level officers and lower-level administrators, followed by the subaltern freemen, craftsmen and farmers and finally by the slaves. The names of each of the positions top-down follow in Latinized Linear B: 1. wanaka = King. The official residence of the King, or the Palace was called the wanakatero. 2. rawaketa = Leader of the Host, i.e. Commander-in-Chief. Sometimes, as in the case of Agamemnon, the General who lead the host (i.e. the army) into the Trojan War, the King and Commander-in-Chief are the selfsame person. 3. qasireu = prince potentate (slightly below the wanax & the rawaketa in the power hierarchy. 4. eqeta = the followers, professional foot soldiers and the personal guard of the wanax and the rawaketa. Cf. the Praetorian Guards of the Roman emperors. 5. teretai = aristocrats, called aristoi = the best people in later ancient Greek. These are the wealthy, upper class people protected by the wanax and rawaketa. 6. konosia rawaketa = (literally) the palace of Knossos for the Commander-in-Chief, i.e. his official residence, but in Knossos only. In Mycenae, his official residence would have been called the rawaketero. 7. konosia qasireu = (literally) the palace of Knossos for the prince potentate, but in Knossos only. In Mycenae, his official residence would have been called the qasireuo. AT THE NEXT LEVEL, we find the mid-level administrators: 8. porokorete = the district governors, meaning the rulers of the districts in the Mycenaean Empire, such as the district of Mycenae itself, and the districts of Knossos, Phaistos, Pylos and the Hither Provinces (the closer provinces, such as Tiryns, Pylos, Argos, Lerna etc.) and of the Farther Provinces (Thebes, Orochomenos, Eutresis etc.) 9. korete = so-called mayors or chief administrators of cities or primary settlements, such as Knossos, and the centres of the Hither and Farther Provinces. These officials reported directly to the porokorete. AT THE NEXT LEVEL, we find 10 the freemen or woko of the cities or primary settlements, such as craftsmen, artisans, farmers and tenant farmers, fishermen and finally, AT THE LOWEST LEVEL 11. chattel (privately owned workers) doeroi = slaves, temple slaves = rawaiai or temenoio doeroi and nawoio doeroi = galley slaves. P.S. This one is specially for you, Rita!
Comprehensive Architectural Lexicon, Knossos & Mycenae (Part A): Since I have been posting scores of photos of the magnificent Third Palace of Knossos, Late Minoan IIIb (ca. 1450 BCE), I have decided to compile an Architectural Lexicon in 2 parts. This is the first. The vocabulary is relatively straightforward, with a few minor exceptions: 1 Decorated with spirals. The Minoans at Knossos and the Mycenaeans went crazy decorating many of their lovely frescoes and their walls with spirals. 2 Bathtub. You might be wondering, why on earth would I add this word?... because bathtubs were an integral part of room architecture, i.e. of the bathroom. The people of Knossos in particular were very clean. They even had an advanced hydraulics driven piping and drainage system, the likes of which was never again repeated until ancient Rome. And the Romans, unlike the Minoans at Knossos, made the terrible mistake of constructing their pipes of lead, leading to widespread lead poisoning. The Minoans used ceramics... nice and clean. Clever. No surprise there. 3 Mantles! Isn’t that what people wear? Well, yes, but they could also be used to decorate the top of windows, I imagine. Or maybe it is just my imagination. Correct me if I am wrong. 4 The word erepato, which is the equivalent of the Homeric Greek elefantos never means ivory either in Mycenaean or in Homeric Greek! 5 Crocus? - of course! ... used all over the place in the lovely frescoes! 6 Circles were likewise universal on the building friezes. And with good reason. They are geometrically perfect, a typically Greek characteristic.
Rams for ritual slaughter: KN 386 A 87 & KN 387 X c 57 joins: Here I am really digging deep into unknown waters in the decipherment of Linear B, deeper than I ever have. These two fragments were originally one tablet. The central part is missing. This has got to be one of the most fascinating challenges I have ever encountered in the decipherment of Linear B text, since, as with all Linear B joins, it requires the decipherer to attempt to fill in the blanks, so to speak, i.e. the missing part of the original tablet, which as you can see is in an inverted V shape. If at all possible, as much the text that originally was located within that V has to be restored. Since as everyone knows who visits our blog that I am never one to skip a challenge, no matter how tough, I took it upon myself to make a serious attempt at a plausible reconstruction of at least part of the missing text, and to my satisfaction, I believe I succeeded, in the sense that I have recovered what might plausibly have been some of the original text, at least conjecturally. Any other interpretation might suffice, provided that (a) it made sense in the context of the text preserved on the two adjacent sides & (b) that the missing vocabulary was consistent with the ritual of religious sacrifice of sheep, a common practice in many civilizations of the ancient world. Let us walk through my decipherment of the so-called missing text step by step. First of all, we have the left truncated syllabograms ... NO heading the first line of the right hand side of the original tablet (KN 387 X c 57). It is no easy matter to even make a stab at what the rest of this word could possibly have meant, or for that matter, how many syllabograms, in other words, syllables, it contained. So I had to take the only recourse available to me, and that was to ransack Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon of at least 2,500 Linear B words for any word ending in NO which might possibly suit the context, keeping firmly in mind that this is the scene of a religious ceremony involving the ritual sacrifice of a ram or rams. I finally found the term which ideally suited the context, and it is temeno, which means a religious shrine or temple. It fits the context like a glove. So the likelihood that this was indeed the missing word ending with left-truncated NO is reasonably assured. On the second line of the same fragment (the right side), we have repa, the last two syllabograms or syllables of another missing word. The term which immediately leaped to mind was arepa = “cream” or “ointment”, and if that is a putative “correct” translation, it can be interpreted as meaning an “anointing cream”. Fits the bill. The third word on the third line of the right hand side of the fragment, ending in the single syllabogram WE, was much harder to divine. It could be one of a dozen things, but I finally settled on duwowe, meaning “a two handled vessel or urn”. This again suits the context, but it is only one of scores of possible interpretations, all of which would have equally suited the context. I was working on the assumption that the person making the sacrifice, presumably a priest, would have cremated the ashes of the ram(s) after the sacrifice. But this is definitely going out on a limb, since in most ancient societies, sacrificial slaughter of sheep or rams involved killing them and then roasting them on a spit for subsequent consumption in a religious feast honouring “the god” or if Hebrew, God. On the other hand, the Minoans and Mycenaeans may have (also) cremated the ashes of the sacrificed ram. If there is any researcher or archaeologist out there who visits this blog and can refute the notion of post-sacrificial cremation among the Minoans and Mycenaeans, please have at it and I shall revise my decipherment accordingly. Moving over to the left hand side of the join (KN 386 A 87), which contains considerably less text, we have on the second line the syllabogram QE, which by itself means “and”, but which in this case might possibly be the last syllabogram, i.e. last syllable of a Linear B word... except that scarcely any Linear B words end in QE, and any way the syllabogram QE in this context is written huge. So I am left with no other alternative than to interpret it as I have done = “and”. But “and” what? There you have me. I am stumped. On the next line, the third one down, we have the ideogram for “man” or “person” followed by the number 1, for “one person”, this in turn followed by the supersyllabogram SA, and then by the ideogram for “ram” and the number 1. The SSYL SA I have previously established on another tablet posted on this blog as most likely meaning sapaketeriya = “for ritual slaughter” or “for ritual sacrifice”. This too suits the context very well. You can see the downwards pointing arrow from the ideogram for “man” to the word Towaune = “Towaunes”, presumably the name of the man, on the fourth line. His name in turn is followed by a Linear B word, which, if complete, is doke, a variation on odoke, the aorist (simple past) of the verb didomi (in Linear B), which means “to give” or “to offer”, and in this context “to offer up” (for ritual sacrifice). So now the sense is complete, except for all those single syllabograms (qe wa & po) on the left side of the join, which I can make no sense of at all. And that is a pitfall. However, within these restraints, I have been able to come up with one possible, even plausible interpretation (among God knows how many others), which you can see in translation at the bottom of the figure above.
Linear B tablet KN 755 A e 01, The 14 Temple Door Guards: The Mycenaean Linear B word turateu is very similar to the ancient Greek word. It is clear (at least to me) that such door guards, in this case 14 of them, would have been responsible for guarding the doors of sacred temples, such as the Hall of the Double Axes, Knossos (if it was one). I have added the genitive, temenoio, which means “of a temple” to indicate that these 14 are temple guards. Notice the double doors to the Hall of the Double Axes (double doors, double axes, probably intentional). These are the kinds of door that would have been guarded at major ceremonies, such as for the King (wanaka) and the Queen (wanakasa).
A Lovely Ode to the Archangel Michael in Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE NOTE that the English & French translations of my Ode to the Archangel Michael appear in the next post. Have you ever wondered what Mycenaean Linear B poetry would have sounded like? I know I have, many times over. I invite you to simply read aloud the Latinized version of the Ode in Mycenaean Linear B, even if you do not understand it. The point is to enjoy the music of the poetry, not to worry about your pronunciation or your accent. Nobody really knows how any ancient Greek dialect sounded anyway. Here a few hints on how to bring out the music in the Mycenaean Greek. 1. Whenever you see the ending, oyo (genitive singular), pronounce it like “oiyo”, but in a single breath. It will sing that way. 2. If you put a little stress on the second-last syllable (penultimate) of words such as “peDIra ”“euZOno” “doSOmo” & “paraDEso”, this will also assist the melody of the poem. 3. Be sure to pronounce all “u”s & “eu”s (euzono) as you would “u” in French, if you can. 4. The disposition of the phrase “para paradeso para meso” is very peculiar for Greek poetry... “meso ” should be on the same line as the previous words. But I did this deliberately, again for melodic reason. If you read this phrase like this, “PAra paraDEso PAra MEso”, it should sound very nice. 5. The word “mana” (“manna” in English) is obviously not Mycenaean, and not even Greek. It is Hebrew. But I could take liberties introducing this word into a Christian poem. So I did. 6. Recite “pamako atanatoyo” (medicine of the immortal...) like this “PAmako aTAnaTOyo”... So long as you are consistent and satisfied with how it sounds to you, that is all you need. Yes, and do read it aloud. Otherwise, you will not benefit from hearing the music and the harmony of the Mycenaean Greek, which is after all the earliest of the ancient East Greek dialects, the great-great-grandfather of dialects such as the Ionic & Attic. Besides, you can always allow yourself the pleasure of admiring the pretty Linear B script, however weird it may look to you at first. Just give it a chance. Being a poet of sorts myself, I decided to write this lyric ode, somewhat along the lines of Sappho (although I cannot even remotely claim a foothold on her astonishing lyrical powers!) It is by no means inconceivable that poetry may very well have been composed in the Mycenaean era, ca. 1450 – 1200 BCE. Simply because we do not have any evidence at all of such activity does not mean that the Minoan/Mycenaean scribes never wrote any poetry at all. The problem lies not with the non-survival of any Mycenaean poetry, but with the impossibility of conserving anything written on papyrus in a humid environment, such as that of Minoan Crete and of Mycenae. It is indeed fortunate, fortuitous and a great asset to us today that so many Egyptian papyri have been preserved intact since a distant period equal to that of the Mycenaean civilization at its apogee. Call it what you like, the extremely arid sand of Egypt was far far more favourable to the survival of ancient papyrus than the moist climate of Mycenaean Crete and the Mycenaean mainland. That is the real reason why we have no extant literature from their great civilization. But given the astonishing levels their civilization reached in so many areas, in art, architecture, fresco painting, the textile industry, crafts of all kinds, international commerce and even science, it strikes me as passingly strange that no literature of any kind survives, apart from the thousands of Linear B inventory, accounting and ritual tablets, which can hardly be called literature in any sense of the word. There are those who contend that in fact the Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad was derived from an earlier Mycenaean epic poem, no doubt in a much simpler and more earthy guise, stripped of much of the telling Homeric metaphorical language which is his hallmark even in the Catalogue of Ships. You can count me among these. For this reason, it strikes me as a distinct possibility that, if the Mycenaeans were able to tackle even a mini-epic poem, even if it were a much shorter, stripped down version of its descendant (if ever there was) of the Catalogue of Ships in the Iliad, they surely would have been up to the task of composing considerably shorter poems along the lines of this one you see posted here. Of course, they would never have written about angels and archangels. But that is beside the point. Simply by successfully composing this lyric poem, I believe I have demonstrated that such poetry was, at least conceivably, within the grasp of soi-disant Mycenaean bards. We shall never know, but it is well worth the speculation. A comment on the phrase epi pedira euzona. As a preposition, epi should take the dative. But here I have used the accusative plural. My reason is this: in archaic Greek, prepositions were less common than adverbs, and in many cases, what we would recognize as a preposition in classical, say, Attic Greek, could very well have been an adverb in Mycenaean Greek. This is how it should be read in this context... pedira euzona is thus to be seen as accusative of aspect or aspectual accusative, reading literally something like this: with his feet on them... I welcome comments on any aspect, as suggested above or otherwise, of my stab at composing a lyric poem in Mycenaean Linear B, Christian though it be. English and French versions to follow in the next post. Richard