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Nostratic Languages.… / Ancient Greeks in Ukraine

Ancient Greeks in Ukraine

The Greek language began to form in ethno-producing area between the Lower Berezina, Dnieper, Pripyat, and Sluch Rivers. Under pressure of Germanic tribes, which area of was beyond the Sluch (lt of the Pripyat), as well as, obviously, for other reasons, during the "å "First Great Migrations" Greeks have moved in search of new places of settlement. However, as is always accured in case when moving large masses of people, some of them remained in their homes. Undoubtedly migrants used the waterway along the Dnieper, moving to the Black Sea and along its shores to the mouth of the Danube. A further way to the Peloponnese came up the Danube and then through the Balkans.

No doubt that during this long way some of the migrants remained for residence in comfortable places, as the Greeks did not have an ultimate aim of resettlement in a certain place, they are just looking for free land. However, Ukraine, especially in the steppe part, was dominated by the Turks at the time, so most of the Greeks just had to move on.

We have facts that give reason to believe that the Greek settlers in Ukraine have not been assimilated by other nations for a long time, and lived with them in peaceful coexistence. Herodotus remembers an agricultural tribe of Callipidai in his History. He asserted they were Hellenic Scythians and inhabited the territory along the Hypanis River (Southern Bug) west of Borisphen (Dnieper). Obviously, the reason of Herodotus' beliving Callipidai as semi-Greeks could be given by their tongue, developed from the common Greeks parent language, but to a certain extent different from the classical Greek after several centuries of its development in isolation from the majority of the Hellenes. Just they could be the ancestors of those Greeks, who stayed in Ukraine from ancient times.

Right: Bilsk hillfort

On the other hand, Herodotus, describing the wooden town of Gelonos in the land of Budinoi, said that it was inhabited by Budinoi and Gelonians. Gelonos is associated with Bilsk hillfort on the Vorskla River and Budinoi are identified confidently by historians confidently with Mordvins that left many traces in the toponymy on the banks of the Vorskla, Sula, and Psel Rivers. Describing the inhabitants of Gelo, Herodotus wrote: "…the Gelonians are originally Hellenes, and they removed from the trading stations on the coast and settled among the Budinoi; and they use partly the Scythian language and partly the Hellenic" (HERODOTUS. Book 4: 108).

The reasons for relocation could not exist, therefore because M.I. Artamonov, tying Gelonos with Bilsk hillfort, pointed out that the reason for Herodotus identifying Gelonos residents with the Greeks was only harmony "Gelonians – Hellenes" (ARTAMONOV M.I., 1974: 93) and considered Gelonians as one of Scythian tribes. However, there are also striking similarities of Iranian ethnonym "Gilanian" with the name of the city of Gelonos and its inhabitants. Exploring kinship of Iranian languages (see the section Iranian Tribes in the Eastern Europe at the Bronze Age), we localized the area of the formation of Gilan language lying between the upper the Seversky Donets and Oskol Rivers, that is adjacent to Gelonos. Some Greek-Gilaki lexical parallels suggest the possibility of contacts Gilanians with Greeks:

Gr. κορη "a girl" – Gil. kor"a girl";

Gr. δάμαρ "a wife", δαμάζω "to conquer, marry" – Gil. damad "a son-in-law";

Gr. ῥοή "stream, flowing" – Gil. "way, path";

Gr. γάμος "marriage, wedding" – Gil. hamser "husband, wife";

Gr. φανός "light" – Gil. fanus "latern".

At the Pre-Scythian times all Iranian tribes occupied a large area between the Dnieper and Don Rivers, and other lexical coincidences between the Iranian and Greek languages may serve as evidence of the presence of the Greeks in these places during the II mill. BC. Some of these matches were found while researching. For example, Greek εσχαρα "hearth, fire" has parallels in the Iranian words meaning "bright": Pers ašekar, Gil ešêker, Kurd. aşkere, Yagn oškoro etc. Greek τιμωρεω "to protect" corresponds to Pers timar, Gil timer, Kurd tîmar, Tal tümo "care". Greek σασ "a moth" can be connected with Pers, Kurd sas "a bug", Gil. ses "id". Afg lamba "flame" was borrowed from Gr λαμπη "torch", "light", rawdəl "to suck" (Gr. ῥυφέω "to slurp, swallow") and Afg julaf "barley" could originate from Gr αλφι borrowed from Turk arpa "barley". Tal külos "a ship", "a trough" is similar to Gr γαελοσ "a bucket", "a cargo ship". However, one can not exclude the fact that some of the Greek words mentioned here penetrated into the Iranian languages during the Hellenistic period, which began after the conquests of Alexander the Great. This topic requires some careful research.

You can also find Greek loan-words in the Mordvinic languages. For example:

Mok vatraksh “a frog” – Gr. βατραχοσ “a frog”.

Erz vis’ks "shame" – Gr αισχοσ "shame".

Erz. nartemks "wormwood" – Gr ναρτεχ (some plant).

Mok klek "good" – Gr γλυκυσ "sweet".

Gr στειρα "sterile" – Mok stir' "a girl".

J. Pokorny referred Gr Πινδοσ to PIE * kuei "to shine" ("leuchten"). This word has a match in the Moksha language – pindelf "to shine", an isolated word among all Finno-Ugric. Isolated words of Greek origin can be found in the Baltic-Finnish and Volga-Finnic languages. The Veps word poimen "a shepherd" is identical with the Greek ποιμην "a shepard" (a similar word is present also in Finnish), Mari kala "a mouse" corresponds Gr γαλη "a marten", "a weasel", "a ferret", Mari lake "a pit" is identical Gr λακη, Mari engyr "a rod" can be associated with Gr αγκυρα "a hook", Est. aur "steam" like Gr αηρ "air". All these examples of Greek-Iranian and Greek-Western-Finnish matches give reason to assume that once some Greek tribes settled adjacent to the Iranian and the Finno-Ugric regions.

The presence of the Greeks in the area of Gelonos is confirmed by a cluster of Greek place names along the banks of the Vorskla found while researching, but later it turned out that they sporadically can be find in other places:

Abazivka, a village of Zachepylivka district of Kharkiv Region – Gr. ἄππας "priest". There is the village of Abazsvka in the Poltava Region, but its name supposedly comes from the surname Abaza.

Khalepie, a village in Obukhiv district of Kiev Region – ãð. χαλεπός "heavy, hard, dangerous".

Khorol, a town in Poltava Region – Gr. χωρα, χωροσ "site, place, village".

Kovray, a village in Zolotonosha district of Cherkasy Region – Gr. κουρά "cutting hair, wool, branches".

Olbyn, a village in Kozelets district of Chernihiv Region – Gr. ὄλβος "prosperity, happiness", ὄλβιος "blessed, happy".

Poltava, a city and villages in Kharkiv, Lugansk and Rostov Regions – the name can have a different interpretation by means of Greek but the best Gr πόλις "a fortress, city" and ταΰς "great".

Saguny, a towt in Podgorevsk district of Voronezh Region, the village of Sahunivka in Cherkasy Region – Gr. σαγήνη "great fish net".

Stasy, a village in Dykanka district of Poltava Region and the village of Stasy in Chernihiv district – ãð. στάσις "a site".

Tarandyntsi, a village in Lubny district of Poltava Region – Gr. τάρανδος "elk, deer".

Takhtaulove, a village in Poltava district – Gr. ταχύς "swift, rapid, prompt", Θαύλιος – epithet of Zeus.

Trakhtemyriv, a village in Kaniv district of Cherkasy Region – Gr. τραχύς, "raw, rocky, rough", θέμερος "solid, sturdy, hard".

Ancient place names in Ukraine.

As can be seen, there is in many cases good phonetic closeness of names to the Greek words. In addition, the compact location increases the likelihood of made interpretations. Religious features of the area designated by the place names such as Abazivka, Tahtaulove were continued by Slavic population, which can be validated by the existence here villige havin the root bozh (Slavik "god") – Bozhks Bozhkove, Bozhkovske.

It is also interesting that in the Seversky Donets basin, and in the nearest neighborhood there are about a dozen of names containing a component part Liman. This word is not Slavic, and it is believed that it was borrowed by the Turkish, Crimean Tatar from the Greek (Gr λιμήν "standing water, lake, harbor") already in historical time. This may be true for place names in Black Sea space which we do not take into account, but borrowing is unlikely for the Kursk, Belgorod, and Voronezh regions in Russia.

So, we have enough evidences of the presence of the Greeks in the Left-Bank Ukraine, but it is unclear how the way they got there. Two options are possible. Or they are going down from their Urheimat along the Dnieper River, settled in the valleys of its tributaries, or they were Callipidai, who came from the shores of the Hypanis. There is reason to consider the first option, since some place names that can not be deciphered by any language other than Greek were found along the Dnieper and Desna Rivers and further towards Poltava. They could mark the migration path of the Greeks. We are talking about such settlements as the Stase, Olbyn, Khalepie, Trakhtemyriv, Kovrae, Khorol, and others.

The city of Kiev fit to this chain of names too. The etymology of its name is dark. Perhaps it is also of Greek origin, taking into account Gr. κίω "to set in motion". As the legend of the founding of Kiev is present in the Armenian literature, we suggested that the date of foundation of Kiev should be attributed to four thousand years ago (see "About the Origin of the city of Kiev "). If so, then the villages along the Dnieper were founded by the Greeks during their movement in the Balkans, and they were the ports to historical times.

Staying for a long time on the territory of Ukraine, the ancient Greeks had a definite impact on the language and culture of the later population, in particular Ukrainians. In the area between the Lower Berezina, the Dnieper, the Pripyat and Lower Sluch Rivers after the Greek began to form the North German language, and then there lived Baltic tribes, whose language is unknown to us, but it has had some influence on the formation the Ukrainian language in the same area. By the principle of superposition, Greek cultural and historical substratum lasted until the settlement of the Slavs here. After the Ukrainians in the same place we settled Belarusians, so the Greek substratum can be found in the Belarusian language and culture.

During the studies the influence of the cultural substrate was not specifically examined. However, certain analogies in the culture of the Greeks and Ukrainians were found. For example, the ancient Greeks and Ukrainians had folk dances under the same name "Crane". Judging by the descriptions, the dances are very similar to each other. Therefore, this dance existed among the Greeks even five thousand years ago, they themselves have forgotten it, but the Ukrainians have kept it to this day. Undoubtedly the dance had to exist in the northern Germans who lived in the same area. Availability or lack of it can be important as science facts. We can also point to other Greek-Ukrainian cultural parallels having analogy also in other eastern Slavic peoples. Ukrainian words korovod, khorovid (Rus. khorovod, Br. karagod a.o.) have good Greek match χορεια «round dance» and χοροσ «chorus». Slavic words have no satisfactory etymology, so it is likely that they are the ancient Greek culture substratum, as well as the tradition to dance in this way. Greek cultural substratum can also be an Ukrainian games with a stick with a similar name skoperdin and shkopyrta, which are throwing a curved stick in such a way that it alternately hits the ground at both ends. Max Vasmer assigns to these words Gr.σκαπερδα "the game of boys while Dionysius", but later abandoned the idea because he believed that words could be borrowed from modern Greek, but such words are absent (VASMER MAX, 1971, 649-50). Fasmer did not supposed that the word, as the game can be a Greek cultural substratum have be got by northern Germans, and later by their ancestors Ukrainians. An excellent proof of this is that the Ukrainian word skoperdin is good decripted using Icelandic words skoppa "ricoshet" and jörðin "earth", exactly corresponding to the nature of the game. Judging by the description of H. Frisk, the Greecian game with a stick looked different.

Greek linguistic substratum is found in the Ukrainian language much better. Undoubtedly, a substrate word is *krene "a well, source", though most experts deny connection Ukr. krynytsia and Br. krynitsa with Gr. κρηνη (Aeolis κράννα) “the same”. However H. Frisk and F. Holthausen link this word as κρουνός "source, flow, stream, spray" with Old Norse hrønn "wave", OE hræn "wave, flow, sea". Clearly, the Northern Germans and Anglo-Saxons have adopted this word from the remnants of the Greek population, and from them the word in a narrower sense has been got by the ancestors of the Ukrainians, who have added the Slavic suffix –itsya to it, and then the Russians, Poles, and Belarusians borrowed the word from the Ukrainians.

Other examples of possible Greek-North German substrate

Gr. βλεμμα “look, eyes” – Old Norse blim-skakka “to squint” (Old Norse. skakka “curvature”) – Ukr. blymaty "to shimmer, glimmer".

New Gr. γλεπω ”I watch” – Dan. glippe, Sw. glippa “to blink, watch” – Ukr. hlypaty "to see, look.

Gr. κωβιοσ “gudgeon” (Gobio gobio) – Old Norse. kobbi “young seal”, Sw. kobbe “seal, sea-dog”) – Ukr. kovbyk “gudgeo”, Bel. kovbel “the same”. Similar words are present in the Baltic and Russian languages (À. LAUČIŪTĖ Yu.A., 1982, 143), but phonetically they are standing on. Perhaps it is a stray word.

Gr. σκαπερδα "a game of boys while Dionysius” – Icl skoppa “ricoshet” and jörðin “earth”) – Ukr skopyrdyn “some game, during it a stock is thrown to be struck on the earth with both ends in turn”.

Gr. σμῶδιξ "a stripe" – Icl. smuga “small valley” – Ukr. smuha "a stripe".

Gr. χαρισ “beauty” – Ukr. beautyful.

Isolated lexical correspondences between the Ukrainian and Greek languages have repeatedly attracted the attention of linguists. In particular, O.A. Ponomariv (PONOMARIV O.D., 1973,) gives a number of Greek-Ukrainian matches, including most of the relatively recent borrowings, including yegipta, yerodula, spudey, khalepa. These words have been never widely sread in the Ukrainian language (perhaps with the exception of khalepa) and were used mainly among the clergy and students, what explains the nature of the borrowing. However, words such as aterynka “a rudd”, dzema “soup”, lavuta “a fool”, lakata “fish net”, ramat “a type of female shawl”, skoroda “sedge”, though still not widespread, could in principle be of substrate borrowings from Greek, but not in the common Greek-Ukrainian ancestral home but somewhere in the Poltava region.

It is hoped that specialists will find more examples of the similarities in language and culture of the ancient Greeks and Ukrainians.


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