Some purported "translations" of the Lemnos Stele
This page is given for interest only and, in my opinion, gives examples of how not to translate or decipher an ancient text.
As I have shown in the '"Translations" of the Epioi text' page, it is painfully easy to 'discover' one's chosen language in a unique inscription and thus 'translate' it.
On the Pelasgian page, in the section "other theories about the Pelasgians", I said that the Romanian scholar, Nicolae Densuşianu, had "translated" this inscription as Proto-Latin, the Albanian poet, Nermin Vlora Falaschi, as Albanian, and the Turkish scholar, Polat Kaya, as Turkic. Clearly at least two of these "translations" must be incorrect. In my view, all three are incorrect; however, I leave it to readers to form their own judgments.
Order of Rows
|Front of the stele||Side|
|Order adopted by me||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||1||2||3|
|Bréal (1886), Densuşianu||1/2||3||4||5||6||8||7||1||2||3|
|Nermin Vlora Falaschi||1†||2||3||4||5||6||7||8‡||3||2||1|
|Polat Kaya||'Text 1'||'Text 2'||'Text 3'|
Nicolae Densuşianu's "Proto-Latin" translation
The Romanian scholar Nicolae Densuşianu (1846 - 1911) considered the Pelasgians to be a proto-Latin speaking people. In his study, Dacia Preistorica, he offered a translation for the Lemnos inscription. Unfortunately, the on-line English translations of this work are not complete; they do not contain the part we are interested in. I am undebted to a Romanian correspondent for details of Densuşianu's translation.
It appears that Densuşianu used the transscription given by Bréal. The glosses given below are, of course, Densuşianu's explanations - not mine. Indeed, by their indiscrminate references to Istro-Romanian, Macedo-Romanian, Raeto-Romanian, (modern) Romanian, Classical Latin and Greek, they bear all the hall marks of the "think of a language first, then read it into an inscription" type of approach and, indeed, remind me very much of the way I produced my own deliberately spoof 'Celtic translation' of the Epioi text.
A. Inscription on the front of the stele
Eolai ez = Eolai the old
(Eolai is a proper name, coresponding to Romanian Iolae, Greek
ez is cognate with Macedo-Romanian aus 'old man' )
na foth ziazi = in this grave sits
(an is Macedo-Romanian 'in' ;
foth is cognate with Latin hocce 'this';
ziazi corresponds to Romanian zace 'to sit, to lie')
maraz mav sialhveiz afiz = ill never, healthy was
(maraz is cognate with Greek marasmos 'a withering away', Macedo-Romanian
mav is cognate with Greek ma/me 'not';
sialhveiz coresponds to Latin salves 'healthy' ;
a fiz corresponds to Romanian a fi 'to be' )
e fistho zeronaith = it was burried
(e fistho corresponds to Romanian a fost, Latin fuit 'it
zeronaith corresponds to romanian ţaranat 'burried' )
zivai = lived
(zivai coresponds to Istro-Romanian jivi 'to live ')
famala sial zeronai = his family burried [him]
(famala coresponds to Macedo-Romanian fumeale 'family';
sia/sial cognate with Latin sua, Romanian sa 'his/her' )
morin ail a cer = dying he went to the sky
(morin is cognate with Romanian murind 'dying';
ail corresponds to Istro-Romanian ala 'that, he, etc' ;
a cer corresponds to Raeto-Romanian a tschell 'to sky')
taf arzio = grave burned
(taf is cognate with Greek taphos 'grave';
arzio corresponds to Romanian ars 'burned' )
B. Inscription on the side of the stele
Eolai fi = Eolai (the) son
(fi corresponds to Romanian fiu 'son')
focia siale = here dwells
(focia is cognate with Latin hocce, Romanian aicea
siale coresp italian sala, Romanian salas'dwelling')
zeronaith e fistho = burried was he
(see first inscription)
tof Eromarom Earalio = grave of Arimmii of Earalia
( Eromarom is cognate with arimi, Aromanians, ancient Pelasgian branch)
zivai eptezio arai = lived 18 years
(zivai - see first inscription;
arai a rhotacized form cognate with Latin annus 'year')
tan foce = till end
(tan is cognate with Macedo-Romanian tan, Romanian pana 'till' )
zivai afiz sialhviz = lived , was healthy
(For zivai, afiz and sialhviz see the inscription above on the front of the stele)
maranm afiz aomaith = dying was buried
(For maranm see morinabove; aomaith is cognate with Romanian inhumat 'buried')
The transcription seems to accept the western Greek value of Ψ as /kh/ or, here, simply h; but Η is transcribed in the eastern tradition as e. I assume this inconsistency is due to Bréal. But as this use of Η concerns only proper names in Densuşianu's translation it does not materially affect the validity or invalidity of his translation.
More serious is his treatment of Ϝ (wau or 'digamma'); in some places he (or Bréal) transliterates it as v, e.g. σιαλχϝειζ sialhveiz, ζιϝαι zivai; in other places, however, it is transliterated f, e.g. αϝιζ afiz, εϝισθοe fistho. The latter transcription is certainly incorrect.
e fistho also shows that occasionally extra 'white space' is assumed, although Densuşianu does adhere for the most part to the interpuncts as marked on the inscription. One oddity is the transcription of φ and χ as f and h respectively; presumably we should also understand that the transcription of θ as th is meant to be pronounced in in English think. In Greek of the period these symbols unquestionably represented aspirated voiceless plosives; they did not have fricative values until around the 1st century CE. Presumably Densuşianu thinks that his 'Proto-Latin' did possess these voiceless fricatives and that they used these Greek symbols to represent them.
The main problem is that I am far from persuaded by his 'Proto-Latin' theory. I see no reason to suppose that Romanian is not derived from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, just as the other Romance languages are. The whole question of 'proto-languages' is, of course, difficult as there is usually no written evidence and much has to be intelligent guesswork. But I see no reason to suppose other than that Latin developed, like Oscan, Umbrian and other related Ialic languages, from Indo-European derived dialects in Italy itself.
Nermin Vlora Falaschi's "Albanian" translation
For details of the "translation" see 'Antichite Civilità Mediterranee - II, L'Etrusco Lingua Viva', Nermin Vlora Falaschi, Rome 1989, pages 67 to 70.
The order of rows adopted by Falaschi is given above. She does not discuss the alphabet and presumably assumes it to be a variant of the Etruscan version of the western Greek alphabet. Nor does she discuss its date; but the reading of the Greek ϝ (wau or digamma) as f is clearly an anachronism. She reads the sign I have transliterated a λ as p, but gives no evidence for doing this. It would be an unusual shape for pi, though a common enough one for lambda. She reads both sigma and zeta as either z or s, apparently at will. There are several instances where what is generally read as ο is read as h; φ is inconsistently transliterated as either th or h, again no reason is given for this. White space is liberally inserted at will even though the inscription clearly uses a symbol like our colon (:) as a word divider.
It will be seen from the preceding that her transcription is, by most people's standards, very faulty; however, it is given here for interest :
ZI A ZI MARAZ MAF ZI ARKH FEIS A FIS E FIS TH H ZER O NAI TH SI FAI AKER TAF AR ZI TH FAMA PA ZI AP ZER O NAI MORI NA IP HOPAIE ZI MATH H TH
SI FAI A FIS ZI ARKH FIS MARAKHN A FIS A O NAI RON HARAN O SI FAI EPI E ZI O AR AI TIKH HOKE LOT AI FSI HOKI AS I APE ZERO ZAI H E FIS TH H T H FER O NA
As I understand it, the "translation" reads:
Grief and grief, anguish, black veil, grief you gave to the kindred, oh kinsman. And the kinsman - th, h - has - th - seized - oh - us. For what fault? A grave, a throne of gold, grief - th - fame he saw; grief was spread. He was seized from us and taken away: great grief - h, th - assails us in the breast. For what fault? And, kinsman, you gave grief, kinsman, and affliction. And the kinsman - ah, oh! - makes the lineage - oh! - live on for us. For what fault did he also give grief? Oh! gold, he suffered the knife; that kinsman suffered tears; he did not even utter a sound - oh! - nor offense - h. And, kinsman, - th, h - you - h - have lacerated - oh - us.
Some may well see this as an example of "garbage in, garbage out." It is, however, meant to be a funeral lament, so the interjections of 'oh!' and 'ah!' might be expected. Rather odd, however, are the often repeated interjections 'h' and 'th'. According to Falaschi, they represent the weeping and sobbing of the inconsolable relatives (" ... la continua ripetizione dei segni «TH» e «H» come per rappresentare il suono del pianto e dei singhiozzi dei parenti inconsolabili.").
I leave it to the reader to form their own judgment as to validity of this "translation"!
Polat Kaya's "Turkic" translation
For details of the "translation" see 'Reading of the Lemnos Island Inscription' at www.compmore.net/~tntr/lemstelec.html
The order of rows adopted by Kaya is given above. Complete transcriptions are given on the website whose address is given above. He does discuss the script and rejects the commonly held view that it is a western Greek script of the 6th century BCE and maintains that it was derived from the 'runic' scripts of the Turkic Orhun and Yeniset inscriptions and other similar central Asian inscriptions.
In my opinion there is no good reason to suppose the script is not a variant of the western Greek alphabet of the 6th century; this set of alphabets was derived in turn from the Archaic Greek alphabets of the 8th & 7th centuries BCE which, as I have shown on the 'Archaic Cretan Alphabet' page (see menu bar on left) are derived from the Phoenician abjad. To reject this and posit a different source for the 'Lemnian alphabet' needs far stronger evidence than that given by Kaya.
However, deriving a 'Lemnian alphabet' from central Asian sources does mean that Kaya comes up with readings quite different from those commonly given. This clearly makes it easier for him to 'read' the inscription as Turkic.
Unfortunately Kaya gives only the Turkish words which correspond to his readings. My knowledge of Turkish is too limited to attempt an English version based on these readings. He does, however, state that the inscription shows that that the Pelasgians called themselves SAKA and that they worshipped a sky god whom they called SAIS. He further claims that the Greek 'Zeus' and the Etruscan 'Ais' are, contrary to commonly held views, derived from the same origin and that the name is akin to 'Ak Ayas' or 'Ayas' of central Asiatic people. Alas, a "translation" but on such unsupported evidence must surely be rejected.
Created May 2006 Last revision:
Copyright © Ray Brown