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Some "Translations" of the Epioi fake

This page, like the '"Translations" of the Lemnos stele' page, is given for interest only and shows further examples of how not to translate or decipher an ancient text by

  • first deciding what language the inscription is written in,
  • then "translating" the inscription according to that language (always possible with imagination, patience and determination),
  • and thus "proving" that the inscription is written that language!

Introduction

This page gives some "translations" of the Epioi inscription. I said on the Epioi inscription page that the brevity of the text and the ambiguity of the Linear symbols made it remarkably easy to "translate" this inscription and relate it to any language one wished with a little imagination and patience. This page is evidence of that.

In his article "TRANSLATION OF ETEOCRETAN EPIOI INSCRIPTION" Pavel Serafimov states that: "Brown .. also presents possible Celtic and Semitic translations, but he himself calls them mistranslations - a spoof." This is not correct.

Even though I do consider all the "translations" to be, in fact, mistranslations, I have never called them all spoofs. A spoof is a deliberate hoax, or parody or 'take-off.' Only three of the "translations" on this page are spoofs: mine, Michael Hahn's and Karen Fisher's - no others.

Nor is it correct to say that I present possible Celtic and Semitic translations. I most certainly do not!

I have made it clear both on 'The "Epioi" inscription' page and in my 1982 thesis [R.A. Brown, Pre-Greek Speech on Crete, Amsterdam, 1984, pages 343 sqq.] that the so-called "Celtic Translation" is not a possible translation. I stated quite explicitly that it was a deliberate spoof, i.e. it is a hoax which parodies the way the text has been translated by others.

Also I had already made it clear both on this page and in my thesis [R.A. Brown, op.cit., Amsterdam, 1984, pages 341 sq.] that the two "Semitic translations" given are not possible, if only by virtue of the translators misreading the alphabetic text itself.

So, in the hope that no one will misunderstand me, what follows on this page are nine "translations" (Serafimov suggests three "translations"), none of which I think are possible, namely:

Three "translations" which were seriously made and obviously considered correct by their authors:
  • Semitic "translation" by Cyrus Gordon (1966)
  • Hittite "translation" by Simon Davis (1967)
  • Semitic "translation" by Robert Stieglitz (1976)
Three spoof "translations" made to show how easy it is to find a language and then "translate" the text:
  • My Celtic spoof "translation" (1982)
  • Michael Hahn's Proto-Egyptian spoof "translation" (2007)
  • Karen Fisher's Classical Chinese spoof "translation" (2018)
Three suggested "translations" seriously made in the face of Dr Kritzas' evidence:
  • Slavic "translations" by Pavel Serafimov (2007)
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Cyrus H. Gordon's "Semitic Translation" (1966)

επιθι (epitʰi)
ה-פתח (h-ptḥ) = "the engraved monument"
ζηθανθη (zētʰantʰē)
ז-יתמת (z-jtnt) = "which I have set up"
ενετη παρσιφαι (enetē parsipʰai)
Gordon does say that this line is problematic. He suggests:
ע-מחת-י (῾-nḥt-j) = "over my resting place"
ב-ארץ יפי (b-᾿rṣ jpj) = "in land of beauty"
3 Linear symbols
read as i-pi-ti and taken to be a repetition of the first line.
Thus the whole text reads:
ה-פתח ז-יתמת ע-מחת-י ב-ארץ יפי - ה-פתח (h-ptḥ z-jtnt ῾-nḥt-j b-᾿rṣ jpj - H-PTḤ)
"The engraved monument which I have set up above my resting place in the Land of Beauty - THE ENGRAVED MONUMENT"
Gordon explains that the "Land of Beauty" is what the Greeks called the Elysian Fields.

Source: C.H. Gordon, Evidence for the Minoan Language, New jersey, 1966

Comments

  1. The 4th letter of the 1st line is incorrectly read as θ. The first word is certainly επιoι (epioi).
  2. The word division παρσ ιφαι (pars ipʰai) is incorrect. The inscription shows a small gap between ρ (r) and σ (s); there is none between the σ and ι (si).
 
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Simon Davis' "Hittite (Nesite) Translation" (1967)

επιoι (epioi)
Epioi is a proper name, akin to a name which appears in Hittite as Epiui or Epiai, there being no written /o/ sound in the cuneiform script of the Hittites.
ζηθανθη (zētʰantʰē)
Zitanti is the dative singular of Zitantaš, a Hittite goddes.
ενετη παρσιφαι (enetē parsipʰai)
This line is read as three words eneti parsi pai thus:
  • eneti is the dative singular of a Hurrian loan-word eni- = "deity".
  • parsi has no known cognate but is conjectured from the text to mean "offering" or something similar.
  • pai is the 3rd person singular, present tense of the Hittte verb "to give".
3 Linear symbols
read as i-ne-ti and taken to be a repetition ενετη (enetē) in the third line.
Thus the whole text reads:
Epioi Zitanti eneti parsi pai E-NE-TI
"Epioi gives an offering to the goddess, Zitantaš - TO THE GODDESS."

Source: S. Davis, The Decipherment of the Minoan Linear A and Pictographic Scripts, Johannesburg, 1967

Comments

  1. Although, unlike Gordon, Davis does read the first line correctly, he also has not read the 3rd line correctly. The word division παρσι φαι (parsi pʰai) is certainly mistaken. The inscription shows a small gap between ρ (r) and σ(s); there is none between the ι and φ (ipʰ).
  2. The reading of παρσι (parsi) is also unsatisfactory in that there is no known cognate and the meaning has to be inferred from a context of just five words in which two are proper names. As for the three others: one is a Hurrian loan-word, another is an unknown word inferred from the context, and only the third is an attested Nesite word.
  3. Oddly, this inscription from 3rd century BCE Crete seems to anticipate the change of η (ē) to Byzantine and modern Greek /i/ by some 4 centuries or more. There is no evidence for this change until the middle of the 2nd century CE.
 
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Robert R. Stieglitz's "Semitic Translation" (1976)

επιθι (epitʰi)
Steiglitz takes this as corresponding to ה-פתוח (h-ptwḥ) which he demonstrates could have been pronounced h-p(i)ti at Ugarit and in Mycenaean Crete. It means, however, much the same as Gordon's, i.e. "the engraved monument"
ζηθανθη (zētʰantʰē)
ז-יתמת (z-jtn᾿t) i.e. read the same as Gordon's; but Stieglitz translates: = "which I have donated"; Stieglitz does, however, suggest an alternative:ז-יטמאת (z-jṭn᾿t) = "which I have erected".
ενετη παρ σιφαι (enetē par sipʰai)
Enete Par-Siphai (Enete son of Siphai)
  • Enete is a proper name, cognate with Punic ᾿ntḥn and the Biblical עמתות (῾ntwt) - see Nehemiah 10: 20; 1 Chronicles 7:8 and 8:24 - which, according to Stieglitz, would appear as ῾ntj or ῾nt᾿ in north-west Semitic.
  • par corresponds to Aramaic bar "son".
  • Siphai is a proper name which Stieglitz considers akin to the Biblical Sippai, a Philistine hero and colleague of Goliath, born to the Rephaim at Gah and killed by one of David's heroes at Gezer (1 Chronicles 20:4. Interestingly, the name is written as Saphai in the Vulgate version).
3 Linear symbols
read as i-pi-ti and taken to be a repetition of the first line, serving to emphasize the importance of the monument.
Thus the whole text reads:
"The engraved monument which I, Enete son of Siphai, have donated - THE ENGRAVED MONUMENT"
or
"The engraved monument which I, Enete son of Siphai, have erected - THE ENGRAVED MONUMENT"

Source: R.R. Stieglitz, "The Eteocretan Inscription from Psychro" Kadmos 15, Berlin, 1976.

Comments

  1. Unlike both Gordon and Davis, Stieglitz does observe the actual word division the 3rd line. BUT...
  2. He follows Gordon in reading the 1st line incorrectly as επιθι (epitʰi) and not επιoι (epioi) as it should be.
 
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My "Celtic translation" spoof (1982)

επιoι (epioi)
It is difficult to dissociate pioi from Welsh pwy /puj/, Cornish pyou and Breton piv /piw/ = 'who?'. The initial e- is odd. It is probably a redundant use of an interrogative particle, perhaps cognate with Welsh and Cornish a but, unlike the latter, causing no mutation of the following consonant.
ζηθανθη (zētʰantʰē)
That is: zē-thanthē
  • zē- is a proclitic. It is to be compared with Cornish dhesy, dhejy, an emphatic pronoun meaning "thou, thyself" (cf. Welsh: tydi, ythdi, tithau). In this dialect [ð] had obviously weakened to [z] and thus the original pronoun would have been [zeːsi] ← [ðeːsi]. As a proclitic, a weakened grade [zeːs] had developed which before a consonant lost the final [s], causing the familiar spirant mutation of that consonant.
  • thanthē is the verb tanthē with initial consonant mutated. This verb is somewhat obscure but is likely to be an archaic form which generally disappeared later but survived in the defective Cornish imperative tan (plural tanneugh) = "take!".
ενετη (enetē)
That is. ene-tē
  • ene is to be compared with Cornish ena, Breton ene = "soul" (cf. Welsh enaid).
  • -tē is an enclitic and is clearly cognate with the Cornish enclitics -ta, -ty (you/ your [sing.]), Welsh ti. In Welsh, pronouns are commonly suffixed to possessive forms, thus, e.g. d'enaid or d'enaid ti = "thy soul". In this Cretan dialect the used of the prefixed possessives had died out, possession being shown by suffixed pronouns only, thus ene-tē = "thy soul".
παρ (par)
cf. Cornish par = "as, so".
σιφαι (sipʰai)
the stem of this verb, siw-, is cognate with the stem seen in Welsh safaf "I stand", saf- [sav] being from ProtoIE *stʰəm- an extended form of the root *stʰə- (stand).
The vocalization of the Cretan form was caused by a following [i] or [j] which disappeared, cf. Welsh sefyll, Cornish sevel "to stand" Breton sevel "to raise" ← *stʰəm-ilis. Unlike the Welsh, Cornish and Breton where the verb stem alternates between /sav/ and /sev/, the Cretans made /siw/ standard.
The verb is subjunctive, formed by adding -h- to the stem, thus /siw/ + /h/ → /siph/, cf. Cornish present subjunctive saffo, imperfect subjunctive saffa ( /ff/ ← /v/ + /h/. Modern Welsh has lost the /h/ sound in this position). The ending -ai, however, is a little odd; it looks like an imperfect subjunctive ending, cf. Cornish saffa, Welsh safai. The Cretan dialect had possibly lost the distinction between the present and imperfect subjunctive, using but one subjunctive tense.
3 Linear symbols
The first two signs are clearly cognate with the Linear B signs for re and a. The third is obscure, but must have had a value like nja, the name *Reanja being akin to Welsh rhiain (pl. rhianedd) = "maid", "maiden". This is the goddess the Greeks called 'Persephone' or 'Kore' (Κόρη) "Maiden", the daughter of the Earth-Mother Δημήτηρ (Demeter). REANJA answers the question and the signs are used to keep the name secret from non-believers.
Thus the whole text reads:
"Ah, who takes for thee thy soul that it may stand [in Paradise]? THE MAIDEN."

Source: this was first given in an appendix to a thesis I presented to Birmingham University in 1982 for the degree of M.Litt. The thesis was published by Hakkert of Amsterdam two years later (Pre-Greek Speech on Crete, Amsterdam, 1984).

Comments

  1. The readings are correct and there are no proper names, i.e. no jokers, BUT...
  2. I have no doubt that any serious Celtic scholar would find objections to some of the above proposals;
  3. and the idea that a language in 3rd century BCE Crete should be showing similar developments to those going on in Britain something like a millennium later is not exactly likely.
 
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Michael Hahn's "Proto-Egyptian translation" spoof (2007)

επιoι (epioi)
e- is clearly what is called "i-augment" in Egyptology (especially Edel, Altaegyptische Grammatik § 449-454), therefore -pio- is likely to be a verbum tertiæ radicalis infirmæ. The only verb which fits here is pȝỉ "(past converter)" which is regularly followed by an infintive. -i must be Egyptian - "my, I".
ζηθανθη (zētʰantʰē)
This word can only be understood as an feminine infinitive of a verbum quartæ radicalis infirmæ. There is only one possibility, namely sdnỉ  "to punish (a thief)" with the infinitive sdn.t.
ενετη (enetē)
That is:
  1. enet- is clearly a pseudo-participle (or old perfective) form of ỉntỉ  "to give way", as the context proves, of 3rd person plural.
  2. : remainder of the preposition r "to", which finally became e in Coptic.
παρ (par)
Egyptian pr "house", vocalization: *par
σιφαι (sipʰai)
surely identical with sf "yesterday".
3 Linear symbols
The final linear symbols belong to a different inscription, which is to be separated from the remainder of the stone.
i-zo-si:
The first part is clearly related to Egyptian ỉz "grave". The second part is derived from Proto-Afroasiatic *-su "his", which was replaced by -f in Egyptian.
Thus the whole text reads:
  1. Egyptian: ỉ.pȝ=ỉ sdn.t ỉnt.w r pr sf
    English: "I punished [the thief], after he had fled into the house yesterday."
  2. Egyptian: ỉz=s
    English: "His grave."

Source: Michael Hahn sent this "translation" to me in an e-mail dated 10th February, 2007, with the words: "to the pseudo-translations of the 'Epioi' inscriptions, I would like to add my Proto-Egyptian 'translation'."

Comments

  1. The readings are correct; even the three 'Linear characters' conform to a possible Linear B derived reading.
  2. I know far too little about ancient Egyptian or Proto-Egyptian to comment on the soundness of any of the proposals.
  3. It is, however, yet another example of how readily this inscription (which we now know is a forgery) can be "translated" and related to any language one wishes with a little imagination and patience.
 
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Karen Fisher's "Classical Chinese translation" spoof (2018)

επιoι (epioi)
e - 要 (ʔew) - waist
pi - 比 (pijʔ) - to compare
o - 傴 (ʔoʔ) - humpback
i - 咿 (ʔij) - forced laugh
Therefore, "I must fake mirth as they compare the fat to the hunchbacked."
ζηθανθη (zētʰantʰē)
zē - 禔 (dē) - happiness
tʰan - 幨 (tʰam) - to cut out. Reconstruction from Baxter-Sagart.
tʰē - 呫 (tʰep) - to taste
Therefore, "Happiness cuts out [strife?] and tastes [peace?]."
ενετη (enetē)
e - 伊 (ʔij) - it is
net - 日 (nit) - sun
i - 咿 (ʔij) - forced laugh
Therefore, "I must fake mirth, as it is the sun."
παρσιφαι (parsipʰai)
par - 藩 (par) - hedge
si - 死 (sijʔ) - to die
pʰai - 鈹 (pʰaj) – short sword
Therefore, "The hedge is killed [poss. destroyed] by a sword."
i-zo-si (3 Linear symbols)
i - 咿 (ʔij) - forced laugh
zo - 嬃 (so) - elder sister
si - 死 (sijʔ) - to die Therefore, "I must fake mirth as my elder sister dies."

Source: Karen Fisher sent this "translation" to me in an e-mail dated 14th June, 2018, with the words: "tSeeing the spoof translations made by you and Mr. Hahn, I have decided to see if I could read any Classical Chinese meaning into the text. Much to my surprise, I managed it. The only issue was with the letter “ζ”, which ended up becoming “d” in my Old Chinese reading."

Karen added the following comments:

  1. All Chinese data came from Sergei Starostin’s database, with the exception of one character, which is noted in the translation.
  2. Due to how laconic Classical Chinese is (whether they actually talked that way or were trying to save writing material), most of the spaces have been parsed as sentence breaks rather than word breaks.
  3. The Linear B equivalencies were used for the characters.
  4. There was no consultation given to grammar, except for a vague preference for SVO word order as in Mandarin.
 
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Pavel Serafimov's "Slavic translations" (2007)

Serafimov, in fact, sees "few possibilities for translation of the Epioi inscription", namely:

  • Here lie (are buried) Eneti most noble ones.
  • These buried (people are) Eneti most noble ones.
  • These buried (are) Eneti, come (God) bring your shine (upon them).

Those interested can read his interpretations by clicking onto the link to his article given in the introduction above. I will just add a few comments.

Comments

  1. Serafimov begins his article by writing: "This paper is an attempt to translate the so-called EPIOI – Eteocretan inscription with the help of Old Church Slavonic and other related languages." In other words, the author first decides on the language and then "translates".
    As Michael Hahn, Karen Fisher and I have shown above, this is not difficult and proves nothing.
  2. He gives the reading of the Greek text as ΕΠΙΟΙ ΖΗΘΑΝΘΗ ΕΝΕΤΗ ΠΑΡ ΣΙϜΑΙ. The reading of the third from last letter as Ϝ is patently incorrect; Ϝ (Ϝαῦ) [w] had survived locally and, indeed, occurs in Praisos #3. But the text on the Epioi inscription quite clearly shows Φ [pʰ]. He then compounds the error by transcribing ΣΙϜΑΙ as SIFAI, thus giving the Greek Ϝ a value it never had.
  3. He states, without any further discussion, that: "The Greek letter H (ita) now has the sound value I, whereas in the antiquity its sound value was E. What was the sound value of H in the Eteocretan language (E or I) cannot be determined with certainty."

    What is his evidence that H in Eteocretan may have had the sound [iː] rather than [eː]? (I assume he does not question that H represent a long vowel) He gives none.

    It is generally assumed that those who wrote Eteocretan at Dreros and Praisos were using the Greek alphabet with, more or less, the values of the Greek of the time and locality in which the writers lived. The letter Η originally represented [ɛː]; by the end of the 4th century BCE the sound was beginning to heighten towards [eː], but this change does not seem to have become universal till the Common Era. The further heightening to [iː] is not attested until the latter 2nd century CE and probably did not become universal until a century or so later.

    Earlier, Serafimov had written: "The alphabet of the inscription is identified as Ionian from the 3rd century BC." Indeed it is. Therefore, he appears to be suggesting that here the Eteocretans were using the Greek alphabet and giving at least one letter a different value from that given it by contemporary Greeks and, indeed, we shall see below that he appears to suggest the Eteocretans, in the 3rd century BCE, were anticipating a value Η would not acquire in Greek till half a millennium later.

  4. Further on we read: "ENETE (or ENETI) represents the ethnonym ENETI."

    There is, as I have shown in (3) above, no grounds whatever for "(or ENETI)" and his assertion that ΕΝΕΤΗ represents the ethnonym 'Eneti' is, like his statement above, given without any supporting evidence. In fact, Eneti is one of the Latin forms of the ethnonym (the others are Heneti and Veneti). The Greeks called these people Ἐνετοί (Enetoi); indeed, the Latin Veneti suggests that in earlier Greek the ethnonym was Ϝενετοί.

    I leave it to the reader to decide how likely or not it is that in this inscription Η = [iː] or that the Eteocretans were using an ethnonym that coincided with its Latin version.

  5. He dismisses Dr Kritzas evidence of modern attempts to add patina to artificially age the object and disuse the cutting of the brick as due to inept handling by person who discovered the inscription, and adds: "Giamalakis and Marinatos (as professional scientists), however, did not question the authenticity of the object."

    Marinatos, we know, was working from a photograph (which caused him to misread the first line of the inscription) so he was hardly likely to be be able to tell if it was authentic or not. Serafimov acknowledges Giamalkis "failed to properly catalogue" the inscription. He puts this down to "lack of expertise." Personally, I find that difficult to believe; I feel quite sure Giamalkis knew how to catalog and document things. I suggest that his failure to document the inscription (it was documented by M.C. Davaras) may well have been because he himself did have doubts about its authenticity. Any lack of expertise was more likely, in my opinion, to have been in being able to detect whether it was a fake or not.

    Serafimov says nothing about Dr Kritzas' finding that the inscription in on a clay brick from the Roman period. But surely, if this is so then the inscription must be a fake.

    In 1976 I myself examined and handled the inscription. Why did I not notice it was a fake? Because I lack expertise in detecting fakes (unless, of course, they are patently obvious). But Dr Kritzas does have that expertise and, from examining and handling the inscription itself, found clear evidence that it is a fake. In my humble opinion, one can dismiss Dr Kritzas' evidence only if one has similar expertise and has examined and handled the inscription itself.

  6. I have referred both on this page and on the Epioi inscription page to the way Serafimov has, in several places, misrepresented what I have written in the past; above I have noted (2) his misreading of the Epioi text, (3) his willingness to ascribe phonetic values and (4) make identifications without sound backing and (5) to his summary dismissal of Dr Kritzas' evidence that the inscription is a fake. In my opinion, these are examples, sadly too often found, of not letting facts get in the way of a preconceived theory.
  7. I am sorry to say, it seems to me that the motivation for 1 and 6 above is the petty nationalism of the Balkans. I have regrettably learnt to accept that this has vitiated discussion of the Lemnos stele inscription. However, I am truly and deeply saddened to find that even Crete has not escaped this blight.
 
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