Macedonian names and makeDonski pseudo-linguistics: The case of the names Mantas and Manta

By Miltiades Elia Bolaris

“Manta. The noun “mantija”, that exists in the present day Macedonian language represents a type of long garment. In 19th century Macedonia one finds the same female name Manta.” Quote was taken from: “Similarities between ancient Macedonian and today´s´ Macedonian Culture (Linguistics and Onomastics)” by Aleksandar Donski, celebrity “historian” and propagandist of pseudo-Makedonism from FYROM.

Manta/Μάντα – Mantas/Μάντας

The name Manta / Μαντα for female and Mantas / Μαντας for male is not very well known. We were not able to find any mention of this name in any literary or historical document and not a single known person in ancient history is known to have it. But when we search the ancient Greek epigraphic record it comes up as a rather well attested name, in certain areas.

The first inscription we located is from Thessalonike:

Regions : Northern Greece (IG X) : Macedonia : Mygdonia

IG X,2 1 846, Makedonia (Mygdonia) — Thessalonike — 1st c. AD

Ἀγάθων ∙ Διοσκουρίδου ∙ ἥρως ∙ Διοσκουρίδης ∙ Δρυλεους

καὶ Μαντα ∙ Ἀγάθωνος ∙ τῶι τέκνωι.

Agathon son of Dioskourides hero. Dioskourides son of Dryalos

and Manta daughter of Agathon to their children.

The mention of Hero, of the well established Thracian hero cult, especially in the part of Macedonia that used to be Thrace, makes us immediately aware of the fact that the persons of the inscription have a Thracian set or religious beliefs on the afterlife. Let us keep this in mind. The rest of the names are Greek, except Manta, whose etymology at the moment escapes us.

The next inscription is also from Thessalonike:

Regions : Northern Greece (IG X) : Macedonia : Mygdonia

IG X,2 1 307, Makedonia (Mygdonia) — Thessalonike — 3rd c. AD — Grabdenkmäler mit Porträts (1998) 81, 90

Αὐρήλιος Διονύσις ὁ κὲ Στυνδηρας καὶ Αὐρηλία Μαντα

ἡ σύμβιος τῷ εἰδίῳ τέκνῳ μνείας χάριν.

Aurelius Dionysis also known as Stynderas and Aurelia Manta

his wife to their own child in memory’s grace.

Here the situation is a bit complicated but explainable: The Latin names Aurelios / Aurelia means that we have a husband, Stynderas and his wife,Manta, both obviously of Thracian descent, who are Roman citizens. The husband uses also a Greek name by which he contacts himself in the Greek speaking Thessalonican society: Dionysis. Small details like this speak volumes about what was the dominant culture and language of ancient Macedon, even among the ethnic minorities of the era, like the Thracians and Paeonians.

The next inscription is from Berrhoia, a city in Northern Greece, known from the New Testament as on of the Macedonian cities that St. Paul visited:

EKM 1. Beroia 142, Macedonia : Bottiaia: Beroia

Πόντιος Ῥεκέπτου̣

Ἀπολλόδωρος Μάντας

Φίλιππος Φιλίππου

Pontios son of Rekeptos

Apollodoros son of Mantas

Philippos son of Philippos.

Pontios, Apollodoros and Philippos are Greek names. The patronyms Rekeptas and Mantas are not.

From Edonis, by the Pangaion mountain, in the modern prefecture of Serres, Macedonia, Greece, come the next two tombstones with the ages of the deceased and their names. The first one is Mantas son of Mestes and the person in the second inscription is Mantas son of Dionysios.

Dodone 18 159

Macedonia : Edonis: Philippoi: Rodolivos

ἔτους σιϛʹ, μηνὸς Ἀρτ-

εμεσίου κηʹ. Μαντας Με-

στου ἐτῶν με·


Dodone 18 160

Macedonia : Edonis: Philippoi: Rodolivos

ἔτ]ους ενσʹ, [Δεί]-

ο]υ ζʹ. Μαντα[ς Διο]-

νυσίου ἐτῶν

West of Thessaloniki is the recently excavated Thrako-Macedonian city of Kalindoia/Καλίνδοια:

Meletemata 11 K9, Macedonia : Mygdonia: Kalindoia


Σύρος Μάντας,

Κότυς Καρβερένθου,


Syros Mantas

Kotys son of Karberenthos

Except for Dioskourides (the son of Zeus) and Syros (the Syrian), the other two are Thracian names. Kotys is a name of several famous Thracians with at least five known Thracian kings bearing the name Kotys. It is also part of the name of the Roman emperor Hadrian/Adrianus/Ανδριανος, who was a Thracian by descent. Karberenthos has a very Thracian ending: “-kenthos”, “the child of”. Karberenthes simply means “the child of Karberes”.

From ancient Paionia, in today’s FYROM, comes the next inscription:

Spomenik 71 (1931) 68,151

Macedonia : Paionia: Kavadarci

Ἀ]λέξανδρος Μάντας

ἀ]νέθηκεν ἡαυτο̑ ζ[ῶν]

Alexandros son of Mantas

dedicated while still alive (meaning that he had his funerary monument done and erected before he had died)

Finally in the island of Samothrace in the North Aegean, we find a thanks-giving inscription dedicated to the sanctuary of the Great Gods Kaveiroi by a group of liberated ex-slaves:

IG XII,8 195, Northern Aegean (IG XII,8): Samothrace

Γλαυκίας Γλαυκίου· Διο-

νύσιος, Μαντᾶς, ἀπελεύθε-

ρ]οι· Βῖθυς Γλαυκίου, Κότυς

Glaukias son of Glaukias Dio-

nysios, Mantas, emancipated

freemen. Bithys son of Glaukias, Kotys

The names, as expected for names of emancipated slaves, are mixed: either Greek (Dionysios, Glaukias) or Thracian (Bithys, Kotys).

Searching through the epigraphic record for the name Mantas we notice that in this format it is concentrated in a fairly compact land, that used to be either Thrace or Paeonia, and but later was incorporated into the Macedonia state. Obviously many of the Thracians and Paeonians who remained living there, whether free men, slaves or emancipated freemen (apeleutheroi) still used their Thracian names or patronyms along with Greek and later Roman names too (Roman names only if were granted the Roman citizenship).

Leaving antiquity for a moment, we take a forward journey into the 20th century and read about a legendary modern Greek poet: Costas Varnalis/Κωστας Βαρναλης was born in Burgas (Pyrgos/Πυργος in Greek) of Bulgaria, in 1884. His family’s roots were from Varna as his last name implies. He studied in the Greek community schools of Bulgaria, in Pyrgos/Burgas and in Philipoupolis/Plovdiv, before continuing his studies in Athens and in Paris. In Paris he became a Marxist and joined the communist movement, which, along with poems like the one below, cost him his professorship in 1926. He received the Lenin prize of USSR for literature in 1959, after being awarded three years earlier the highest price of the Company of Hellenic Writers. He died in 1974.

We read parts of one of his poems, “The balad of sir-Mentios / Ἡ μπαλάντα τοῦ κυρ-Μέντιου”. Kyr- / Κυρ- acts as a short version of Kyrios/Κυριος, meaning a Lord, a Sir. “The ballad of sir-Mentios” is a poem about a donkey named Kyr-Mentios. This donkey is suffering all his life, toiling, beaten to submission, exploited by his boss, praying to the higher powers, being told to hope for a better tomorrow in afterlife, always working and following orders: Kyr-Mentios is the “eternal Symbol”, as Varnalis calls him, of the toiling and exploited masses of the working class:

Kyr-Mentios complains:

“Daily work, toiling for others while

everyone is beating me: bosses and slaves…”

and then:

“Up the village, down the village

going up and coming down

during heat and during rain

till no strength is left in me…”

Praying to God:

“Save sir-Mentios, the old fellow,

from the injustice of his boss…”

But the poet urges Kyr-Mentios to revolt:

“If you want justice my dear

through the right of war’s might

you will find it. Who desires

freedom takes a sword!”

And Varnalis continues:

“Come on you victim, you big fool,

come on, eternal Symbol you!

Once you wake up, at once the

world will turn upside-down…”

Kyr-Mentios/Κυρ-Μεντιος/Sir-Mentios or Lord Mentios is the generic name that Greeks lovingly use when referring to a particular donkey, any specific donkey, in the same way that Americans use “Fido” as the generic name for a dog. What most modern Greeks do not seem to realize is how ancient the colloquial “Kyr-Mentios” donkey name is and how intricately woven it is into our ancient Greek and indeed our prehistoric Indo-European roots.

When a visitor to Olympia goes into the Museum, he is awestruck by the raw expressive power of one of the lightest-footed sculptures ever created in marble. It is a statue of Victory: Nike/Νικη of Paionios, as it is known, was created between 425-421 b.C. It was a votive offering to Olympian Zeus by the grateful Messenians and Naupactians after their victory over the Spartans at Sphacteria in 425 b.C.

Nike, her drapes sensuously revealing the contours of her divine body are flowing behind her as she seems ready to step out and fly into thin air, away from her pedestal. Her pedestal has the votive inscription and the name of the creator: ΠΑΙΩΝΙΟΣ ΕΠΟΙΗΣΕN ΜΕΝΔΑΙΟΣ/PAIONIOS EPOIESEN MENDAIOS: Paionios created this, the Mendaian.

We know the name of the sculptor, Paeonios, and the city where he was from: Mende/Μενδη, a town in Chalcidice / Χαλκιδικη, in the north part of Greece, in Macedonia / Μακεδονια.

On an inscription from Torone, a city in the Sithonia peninsula of Chalkidike, we read the plight of a merchant-less merchant who sent a letter to his commercial associate:

SEG 43:488 Macedonia : Chalkidike: Torone

․․․․]τος Τεγέαι χαίρειν· [ξύ]λα οὐκ ἔχω ἐμ Μ̣[ένδηι(?)][ὠνε]ῖσθαι· σὺ δὴ ἀπόστειλον ἡμῖν εὐ̣[θέως] εἰ πλο[ῖον ἔχεις],

tos to Tegaia rejoicing. Wood

I do not have in Mende

to sell. And you therefore must send to us

immediately, if you have a boat,

On another inscription from the middle of the fifth century, this time from Athens, which enumerates a number of allied Greek city states, and among other cities, we also find:

Regions : Attica (IG I-III) : Attica

IG I³ 264, Att. — stoich. — 448/7

Σκαβλαῖοι / Skavlaioi

Μεδαῖοι / Mendaioi

Κύθνιοι / Cythnioi

Καρύστιοι / Carystioi

This, in adittion to such other cities as the cities of the

Μυκόνιοι / Myconioi, Θάσιοι / Thassioi, Ἀθεναῖοι / Athenaioi, Βυζάντιοι / Byzantioi, Χαλκιδε̑ς / Chalkides, Νεοπολῖται / Neapolitai…

Mende, as we mentioned earlier, was a city in Chalkidike. In ancient times, Chalcidice was part of Thrace until Philip II’s Macedonians moved in and took over it. But before the Macedonians, other Greeks mostly from Euboia and especially from Chalkis (hence the name Chalcidice) begun around the 8th century BC to settle in the area. They slowly established themselves and founded cities such as Mende, Torone, Scione, and Stageira the birthplace of Aristotle. Some sources mention Aristotle’s father, Nicomachos / Νικομαχος although a Stageiran by descent was actually said to have been born in Mende.

The main export of Mende was wine, and not just any wine: white wine. It is difficult for us today to believe it, but in ancient times, there was no such a thing as anything but red wine. White wine was first produced and sold by the citizens of Mende, and wine lovers around the world sipping their Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling or Pinot Gris, have none other than the Mendaioi to thank for it.

The coins of Mende proudly displayed their vines and the God of wine and drunkenness, Dionyssos himself. Traditionally, when Dionyssos was shown in the presence of an animal he was usually siting on a panther. Curiously, and exceptionally on Mende’s coins Dionyssos is always portrayed laying on the back of a donkey. And this is Mende’s second claim to fame: Her donkeys. Mende was known for her special race of Mendian donkeys, famous around the ancient world, and always displayed on her coins, even when no Dionyssos or vines were to be seen on them. The donkey as it is apparent, was the symbol of Mende. In fact the identification of the city of Mende with her symbol, the donkey was so strong to the other Greeks, that as we saw earlier in Varnalis’s poem, every donkey in now modern Greece is called the Lord from Mende, a Kyr-Mentios (Kyr-Mendios)/Sir-Mendios/Κυρ-Μεντιος.

Going back now to Byzantium, find Procopius of Caesaria / Προκόπιος ο Καισαριας. He was a 6th cAD historian who wrote extensively on the reign of Justinian, emperor of Byzantium, the Eastern Roman empire. Procopius (Procopii opera omnia VI. De aedificiis / Περι Κτισματων, VI) mentions a place in Mysoia called Mούνδεπα or Μάνδεπα where Justinian had built a castle. The etymology is a combination of the word that created the toponym Mende in Chalcidice and the ending “-apa”.

The original form of the name is *Μένδαπα : Μένδη + -απα. Apa means “river” in Thracian “Apa, aphus ´water, river; a spring´ [Old-Pruss. ape ´river´, apus ´spring´, Old-Ind.  p- ´water´]”. And also:

“upa ´river´ [Lith. ùp ´river´, Latv. upe ´river, stream´]. And we see this word also as an ending of hydronyms like apa, aphus ´water, river; a spring´ [Old-Pruss. ape ´river´, apus ´spring´, Old-Ind.  p- ´water´]” and also: upa ´river´ [Lith. ùp ´river´, Latv. upe ´river, stream´]”, according to Ivan Duridanov (“The Language of the Thracians”). He mentions as examples *M sypa/Μοσυπα (´mossy river´), Rhodópe/Rhodopa/Ροδοπη/(Θρακιστι Ροδοπα, which is now a name for a mountain range but it started as a hydronym for a river, a tributary of Ebros) and further north, in Upper Mysia we locate ZaldapaΖαλδαπα.

( and V.Besevliev “Zur Deutung der Kastellnamen in Prokops Werk De aedificiis ´´, Amsterdam, 1970

So, now we know that Mandepa or Mendapa means river of something, of “mende”. Yet we still do not know what Mende the name of the city or mende of Mendapa means, to explain both of them. We need to dig even further.

It is well known that the Thracian language is an extinct language surviving only in hydronyms, toponyms and scattered words and names, mostly from Greek inscriptions and Greek literary references. Hardly any Thracian inscriptions have survived, and of the three or four worthy of the name one is of interest to us. It is the inscription in the Thracian language on a golden ring found close to Philippoupolis / Plovdiv, at the village of Duvanli. It dates to the 5th century BC. The inscription is not complete, since only 16 of the original 21 letters are legible. In the middle of the ring there is an image of a Thracian horseman. The inscription reads:


The great Bulgarian linguist and philologist Vladimir I. Georgiev interpreted the Duvanli inscription as follows:

eys, ie ….dele, mezenai.

“(You) powerful, help … protect, (you) horseman!”

Ivan Duridanov tells us that: “The image of the horseman clarifies the word mezena as meaning ´a horseman´. The Thracian mezena (mezenai in the text) is almost identical to the name (the epithet) of the Messapian deity of (Iuppiter) Menzana, the “horse deity” to which were sacrificed horses. It also corresponds to the Albanian mes, mezi (´a stallion´) and the Romanian menz (´a stallion´). The latter is Dacian in origin from the IE *mend(i)- ´a horse´. The Thracian mezena and the Messapian Menzana – from the IE *mendiana mean ´a horseman´.”

There are two modern languages that are directly derived from Dacian (the ancient language of the Dacians, the language most closely related to Thracian): Romanian and Albanian. Romanian is considered to be a fully Latinized Dacian and Albanian is essentially a partially Latinized Dacian language, according to most linguists. Both Romanian and Albanian share a base of residual Dacian words. Our Albanian friends who have been hammered by Enver Hoxha’s regime propaganda about the “Illyrian descent” of the Albanian people will of course disagree, but the linguistic and historical evidence is there for anyone to check. The Bulgarian linguist Georgiev has indeed done a splendid work explaining this and so has the noted University of Chicago linguist Eric P. Hamp .

We check what Ivan Duridanov tells us and indeed we find that Albanian mës, mëzi, mëz, mâz means “pony” or “colt” in Albanian and mînz or mânz means “stalion” or “colt” in Rumanian.

As it turns out, there was indeed a Menzana Jupiter, a “horse deity” in Messapian, an Illyrian-derived language spoken on the Adriatic shore of Italy, to whom horses were being sacrificed. Manda meant “pony” in Illyrian, and therte was also a city with a horse-related etymology called “Manduria” in Apulia. According to the Russian Словари и энциклопедии на Академике (Academic Dictionary and Encyclopaedia –, the original equastrian-related word was *”mandos”, and it was in turn related to the toponym mandela in Latium, close to Rome. Mandela’s original meaning was “small stables”. The same meaning appears in the Sanskrit word “mandura” which is describing a “stable for horses” and also in the Greek word for stable : “mandra / μανδρα”, a word still used today for animal enclosure.

On the other side of the Mediterranean, at the area where Spain touches France and both are watered by the Atlantic ocean, the Basques speak the only truly indigenous language of Europe. Their Basque language, although not related to Indo-European, has taken in several words from other languages, including Latin, Celtic and Arabic. From the Celtic language the Basques have taken the word “mando”, which became incorporated into their language and to them it means “mule”.

“If Alb. mëz really joins Basque mando ‘mule’, as Bari (Hymje 57) has it, then these go with the -st- suffix above.”

Eric P. Hamp, “The Position of Albanian”, University of Chigaco (Ancient IE dialects, Proceedings of the Conference on IE linguistics held at the UCLA , April 25-27, 1963)

The “Dictionary of Continental Celtic Place-Names” by A. Falileyev, 2007 informs us that “mandu- has an uncertain meaning that probably means “young animal” (OIr menn, W myn young goat, kid? GPC: 2533;

LEIA: -38; cf. Galo-Lat. mannus “smal pony” (cf. Basque mando “mule”) se PNRB: 411-12,

IEW: 729 (root *mend- : suck, suckle; young animal?), cf. W. Meid, Die Terminologie von Pferd.”

In Pokorny’s monumental Indo-European Lexicon (Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, Bern: Francke, 1959, reprinted in 1989), we see that the original meaning was:

“mend-, mond- (mn•d-?) : English meaning: to suck (breast), to feed; breast”

From this it eventually took the meaning of the small suckling animal and in many instances the small horse, which was arguably the most important animal to the Indo-Europeans, and later on to the Thracians, from whom we started.

The originally Thracian and later Greek city of Mende / Μενδη, had a donkey as her symbol and a name to go along with it : Mende / Μενδη : the donkey place. The Greek settlers probably had no idea that Mende / Μενδη meant “donkey-place” in the language of its previous inhabitants but they still continued stamping the humble donkey on their city’s coins: traditions as always are hard to die.

Now let us look at some other inscriptions and see how the name Manta would appear in the epigraphical record in alternate spellings and phonetic developments. We need to keep in mind that the Greek alphabet was not tailored to the Thracian language and some borderline sounds could go either way. An “ae” sound for example could be written either as either as an “a” or an “e”. We have the example above of one toponym called alternatively Mούνδεπα/Moundepa, Μάνδεπα/Mandepa or Μένδαπα/Mendapa.

There are three inscriptions from Thracian Moesia and the name Mantas appears here as Mentes/Μεντης. It is actually very close phonetically to the town’s name: Mende/Μενδη (“d” is pronounced as “t” ). The other difference of course is that Mende/Μενδη is feminine while Mentes/Μεντης, being masculine takes an “s” in the end.

IGBulg I² 47(2)

Thrace and Moesia Inferior

Αὐρ(ήλιος) Θιας Ἑστιαίου

Αὐρ(ήλιος) Μέντης Ἀγαθήνορος

Ἰούλιος Ἀντώνιος

Aurelios Thias son of Estiaios

Aurelios Mentes son of Agathenor.

Ioulios Antonios

The names Aurelios and Ioulios are of course Latin, but here we see them Hellenized. In a Greek speaking country such as Macedonia, they are being rendered in a Greek form. Aurelios, in order to stay true to the original Aurelius should have been written, transliterated as Αυρηλιους / Aurelious and Iulios in order to stay true to the Latin Iulius should have been transiterated as Ioulious/Ιουλιους. The same holds true for Antonios/Ἀντώνιος. Moreover they are not even written in the Latin script, but in Greek letters. Details like these, as we mentioned earlier, speak louder than whole volumes of books on Macedonia by learned professors who never sat down to learn its Greek language and study its original sourses. Thias, Estiaios and Agathenor are Greek names.

Now let us step back several centuries to a heroic past, to the epic age of Mycenae. Let us follow the Achaean Greeks, on their return to their native cities, after the sack of Troy, early in the 12th century. Some made it safely some not, some wandered in the sea from place to place, like Odysseus, before their eventual return home. In the first book of Odyssey, Homer speaks of Athena (Αθηνη in the text) disguised as a tin merchant, sailing across the “wine dark sea” to land of the river “Temeses”, today’s Thames, in Britain to barter copper for iron. On his way to what is now England he stops by Ithaca and talks to Menelaos, Odysseus’ son. But he is no ordinary merchant, as we already know, he is “Glaucopis [blue-green eyed] Goddess Athene” herself /θεά, γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη, in disguise. This is how Homer tells it:

“τοιγὰρ ἐγώ τοι ταῦτα μάλ᾽ ἀτρεκέως ἀγορεύσω.

Μέντης Ἀγχιάλοιο δαΐφρονος εὔχομαι εἶναι

υἱός, ἀτὰρ Ταφίοισι φιληρέτμοισιν ἀνάσσω.

νῦν δ᾽ ὧδε ξὺν νηὶ κατήλυθον ἠδ᾽ ἑτάροισιν

πλέων ἐπὶ οἴνοπα πόντον ἐπ᾽ ἀλλοθρόους ἀνθρώπους,

ἐς Τεμέσην μετὰ χαλκόν, ἄγω δ᾽ αἴθωνα σίδηρον.”

Ομηρου Οδυσεια, Α, 179-184

“To you I will indeed speak openly.

I can tell you that my name is Mentes,                                              

son of the wise Anchialus, and king

of the oar-loving Taphians.  I’ve come,

as you surmise, with comrades on a ship,                             

sailing across the wine-dark sea to men

whose style of speech is very different, 

on my way to Temese for copper,

and carrying a freight of shining iron.

Homer Odyssey, Book I, 179-184

Here now we have Homer, putting down in rhymes in the 8th century or earlier, epic legends sung for four centuries before him, mentioning Mentes. Βut this Mentes is not from Thrace. He is from the island of Taphos / Τάφος in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Acarnania in western Greece. It is the home of the pirates and merchants Taphians/Τάφιοι. The Taphians are also mentioned by Euripides in Iphenigea at Aulis (Eur. IA 277) who tells us that The Taphians live by the Echinades/Εχιναδες islands :

Αἰνιάνων δὲ δωδεκάστολοι

νᾶες ἦσαν, ὧν ἄναξ

Γουνεὺς ἆρχε: τῶνδε δ᾽ αὖ πέλας

280Ἤλιδος δυνάστορες,

οὓς Ἐπειοὺς ὠνόμαζε πᾶς λεώς:

Εὔρυτος δ᾽ ἄνασσε τῶνδε,

λευκήρετμον δ᾽ Ἄρη

Τάφιον ἦγεν, ὧν Μέγης ἄνασσε,

285Φυλέως λόχευμα,

τὰς Ἐχίνας λιπὼν

νήσους ναυβάταις ἀπροσφόρους.

Moreover there was a squadron of Aenianian sail under King and next the lords of Elis, stationed near’-them, whom all the people named Epeians; and Eurytus was lord of these; likewise he led the Taphian warriors with the white oar-blades, the subjects of Meges, son of Phyleus, who had left the isles of the Echinades, where sailors cannot land.

Taphos has been identified as the island of Meganísi/Μεγανησι just east of the island of Leucas/Λευκας. This is far from Thrace, and the Taphians are definately not Thracians. They are Greek in speech, otherwise they would not speak of the ancient Brittons as “men

whose style of speech is very different”. Therefore, we must assume that Mentes as a colt-derived name which must have existed in the Greek language too, as a cognate to the Thracian. The Greek word mantra / μαντρα, the stable, which we saw earlier above gives us a hint of it. Due to its antiquity and the geographic distance from Thrace, we have to consider it therefore as an old issogloss to the Thracian name Mentes. How can we be sure? Because Homer gives us the answer himself. Homer actually mentions a Thracian Mentes too, a king of the Thracian tribe of the Kikones/Κικονες:

ἔνθά κε ῥεῖα φέροι κλυτὰ τεύχεα Πανθοΐδαο

Ἀτρεΐδης, εἰ μή οἱ ἀγάσσατο Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων,

ὅς ῥά οἱ Ἕκτορ᾽ ἐπῶρσε θοῷ ἀτάλαντον Ἄρηϊ

ἀνέρι εἰσάμενος Κικόνων ἡγήτορι Μέντῃ:

καί μιν φωνήσας ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα:

Oμηρου Ιλιας, ιζ’, 70-74

Full easily then would Atreus’ son have borne off the glorious armour of the son of Panthous, but that Phoebus Apollo begrudged it him, and in the likeness of a man, even of Mentes, leader of the Cicones, aroused against him Hector, the peer of swift Ares. And he spoke and addressed him in winged words:

Homer, Iliad, Book 17, 70-74

Who were Mentes’ Kikones? Homer tells us that they were one of the Thracian tribes:

αὐτὰρ Θρήϊκας ἦγ᾽ Ἀκάμας καὶ Πείροος ἥρως

845ὅσσους Ἑλλήσποντος ἀγάρροος ἐντὸς ἐέργει.

Εὔφημος δ᾽ ἀρχὸς Κικόνων ἦν αἰχμητάων

υἱὸς Τροιζήνοιο διοτρεφέος Κεάδαο.

Oμηρου Ιλιας, β’, 845-848

But the Thracians Acamas led and Peirous, the warrior, even all them that the strong stream of the Hellespont enclosed. And Euphemus was captain of the Ciconian spearmen, the son of Ceas’ son Troezenus, nurtured of Zeus.

Homer, Iliad, Book II 845-848

The land of the Thracian Kikones was, according to Herodotus ,in coastal Thrace, between Rhodope mountains and the Aegean sea, now part of Thrace in Greece. Let us hear how Herodotus describes how Xerxes with his huge Persian army passed through these lands:

διαβὰς δὲ τοῦ Λίσου ποταμοῦ τὸ ῥέεθρον ἀπεξηρασμένον πόλιας Ἑλληνίδας τάσδε παραμείβετο, Μαρώνειαν Δίκαιαν Ἄβδηρα. ταύτας τε δὴ παρεξήιε καὶ κατὰ ταύτας λίμνας ὀνομαστὰς τάσδε, Μαρωνείης μὲν μεταξὺ καὶ Στρύμης κειμένην Ἰσμαρίδα, κατὰ δὲ Δίκαιαν Βιστονίδα, ἐς τὴν ποταμοὶ δύο ἐσιεῖσι τὸ ὕδωρ, Τραῦός τε καὶ Κόμψαντος.

Ηροδοτου Ιστοριαι, 7.109.1

After he had crossed the dried-up bed of the river Lisus, he passed by the Greek cities of Maronea, Dicaea, and Abdera. He passed by these, and along certain well-known lakes near them: the Ismarid lake that lies between Maronea and Stryme, and near Dicaea the Bistonian lake, into which the rivers Travus and Compsantus discharge.

Herodotus, The Histories7.109.1

Then Herodotus connects these Greek cities to the land of the Kikones / Cicones:

ταύτας μὲν δὴ τὰς πόλιας τὰς παραθαλασσίας τε καὶ Ἑλληνίδας ἐξ εὐωνύμου χειρὸς ἀπέργων παρεξήιε: ἔθνεα δὲ Θρηίκων δι’ ὧν τῆς χώρης ὁδὸν ἐποιέετο τοσάδε, Παῖτοι Κίκονες Βίστονες Σαπαῖοι Δερσαῖοι Ἠδωνοὶ Σάτραι. τούτων οἱ μὲν παρὰ θάλασσαν κατοικημένοι ἐν τῇσι νηυσὶ εἵποντο: οἱ δὲ αὐτῶν τὴν μεσόγαιαν οἰκέοντες καταλεχθέντες τε ὑπ’ ἐμεῦ, πλὴν Σατρέων, οἱ ἄλλοι πάντες πεζῇ ἀναγκαζόμενοι εἵποντο.

Ηροδοτου Ιστοριαι, 7.110.1

Xerxes marched past these Greek cities of the coast, keeping them on his left. The Thracian tribes through whose lands he journeyed were the Paeti, Cicones (Kikones), Bistones, Sapaei, Dersaei, Edoni, and Satrae. Of these, the ones who dwelt by the sea followed his army on shipboard; the ones living inland, whose names I have recorded, were forced to join with his land army, all of them except the Satrae.

Herodotus, The Histories7.110.1

Strabo the Geographer is even more specific:

μετα δε την αναμεσον λιμνην Χανθεια Μαρωνεια και Ισμαρος, αι των Kικονων πολεις. καλειται δε νυν Ισμαρα πλησιον της Μαρωνειας.

Στραβων, Γεωγραφικα 7α.7 (fragmenta)

After the lake, which is midway between, come Xantheia, Maroneia, and Ismarus, the cities of the Cicones. Ismarus, however, is now called Ismara; it is near Maroneia. Strabo Geography 7a.7 fragments

Maroneia, it should be noted, was built by Greek settlers in the land of the Kikones. It is not surprising that they adopted some of the Thracian symbols, beloved to their neighbors. This is not unusual. The equastrian and vine similarity of Maronia’s coins to those of Mende’s coins is stroiking and noteworthy.

It is indeed from this area of Thrace, close to Maroneia, Xantheia and Ismaros that the next two Mentes / Μέντης inscriptions are from:

IGBulg I² 183Thrace and Moesia Inferior:

Μέντης Νεικίου, γυνὴ

αὐτοῦ Αννι Ξένωνος

Mentes son of Nikeias, his

wife Anni daughter of Xenon.

IGBulg I² 227

Thrace and Moesia Inferior

Μέντης Μέντου

καὶ ἡ γυνὴ αὐτοῦ Αν-

Μέντης, ὦ παροδεῖτα, θανὼν ὅδε κεῖμ´ ἐνὶ τύμβωι

γηραλέου βιότου δόξαν ἀειράμενος.

Mentes son of Mentes

and his wife An-

Mentes, oh passerby, being dead, here I am lying in this tomb

carrying with me the reputation of a long lived life.

We stressed earlier the linguistic connection of Mantas and Mentes to mule, donkey and colt-related words, toponyms and names from Spain to Italy, Greece, Thrace and Sanskrit speaking India. Now let us look at a few inscriptions that are not so ordinary but are probably related. The first one is from Ionia, now at the Aegean part of Turkey, where we find the name Mentes / Μέντης and his phonetically similar sounding patronym Mentoukas / Μέντουκας:

JÖAI 1912:53,24, Ionia: Klaros

— — —]-

οφίλου, Μέντης Μέντουκα[ὶ]

ἱεροκῆρυξ Καλλισθένης Εὐτυ-

— — —]-

ophilou, Mentes son of Mentoukas

hierokyrex* Callisthenes son of Euty-

(*holy preacher)

In Athens we find a most interesting inscription that makes mention of a type of a tax common in Ionia, called Lepsimandes Foros.

IG I³ 100, Attica

Ἰονικὸς φόρος]

Ληψιμανδῆς [∶ — — —]

Ionian tax]


Why should we say that this is interesting? Let us look at the etymology of the word: We break it in its two parts: ληψι and μανδῆς/lepsi and mandes. Lepsis/Ληψις means a taking, a seizing, an accepting a receiving, according to our Liddell and Scott’s Greek dictionary. It comes from the verb lambano/λαμβανω which of course means to take, to seize, to accept, to receive. The second part is: mandes/μανδῆς. This means that the person being taxed through the Ληψιμανδῆς/Lepsimandes tax had to pay not in money but had to give something to the state, to pay in kind. The word tells us what kind: mande/μανδῆ.

When Alexander the Great went through Pamphylia/Παμφυλια, the historian Arrian/Αῤῥιανός tells us, he dealt with the tax issue of the city of Perge/Περγη, in the following way. Let us hear Arrian tells us what were the taxes that the citizens of Aspendos/Ἀσπενδος (a city of in Asia Minor, not too far Ionia) were used to pay to the Persian Great King, and what Alexander the Great accepted from them:

ἐκ Πέργης δὲ ὡς προῄει, ἐντυγχάνουσιν αὐτῷ κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν πρέσβεις Ἀσπενδίων αὐτοκράτορες, τὴν μὲν πόλιν ἐνδιδόντες, φρουρὰν δὲ μὴ εἰσάγειν δεόμενοι. καὶ περὶ μὲν τῆς φρουρᾶς πράξαντες ἀπῆλθον, ὅσα ἠξίουν. πεντήκοντα δὲ τάλαντα κελεύει τῇ στρατιᾷ δοῦναι αὐτοῖς ἐς μισθὸν καὶ τοὺς ἵππους, οὓς δασμὸν βασιλεῖ ἔτρεφον. οἱ δὲ ὑπέρ τε τοῦ ἀργυρίου καὶ τοὺς ἵππους παραδώσειν ξυνθέμενοι ἀπῆλθον. Ἀλέξανδρος δὲ ἐπὶ Σίδης ἤει.

Αῤῥιανός, Αλεξάνδρου Αναβάσις, Βιβλίον Πρώτον 26

As he was advancing from Perga, he was met on the road by envoys from the Aspendians with full powers, who offered to surrender their city, but begged him not lead a garrison into it. Having gained their request in regard to the garrison, they went back; but he ordered them to give him fifty talents as pay for his army, as well as the horses which they were rearing as tribute to Darius. Having agreed with him about the money, and having likewise promised to hand over the horses, they departed. Alexander then marched to Side.

Arrian, Anabasis Book 1.26

I believe that this gives us a very clear idea of what the Ληψιμανδῆς/Lepsimandes tax was about. It was a tax paid by the subject city in colts, in horses.

It is obvious that Mantas, Mentes, Mendes are all mule, donkey, colt and horse connected names. It is not surprising at all, therefore, that a philippon (φιλιππον=horse-loving) and hippomachon (ἱππόμαχον=horse riding in battle) nation which bred the kallistous hippous (καλλίστους ἵππους=the best horses), an equestrian nation such as the Thracians would have names that are equestrian in nature, names like Manta/Μαντα and Mantas/Μαντας.

Incidentally, since Rome was built a little after Homer was finishing the last poetic touches on his Iliad and Odyssey, I seriously doubt that he had much of a chance to visit Rome, learn Latin and then use it for his several mentions of the name Mentes.

P.S. Those who believe that the Thracian name Manta is derived from the south Slavic “noun “mantija”, that exists in the present day” [Slavo-]Macedonian language [and] represents a type of long garment”, need to be informed that the south-Slavic “mantija” is directly derived from the Greek word mantila/μαντηλα. Mantila is the scarf used by women as head covering. In the neutral form it is called mantili/μαντηλι or mandeli/μανδηλι and it is a handkerchief or a bandana. In its more archaic form it takes an “n” at the end: mandelion/μανδηλιον, meaning the handcloth. The most famous mandelion is the Agion Mandelion/Ἅγιον Μανδήλιον = the Holy Handcloth, and in the Eastern Orthodox tradition it meant to describe an Acheiropoietos/Αχειροποιητος (not created by human hand) icon, the handcloth that was placed on Christ’s face and copied his features after he was taken off the cross. It was held as a relic in a church in Edessa of Syria (named after the Macedonian Edessa, but now called Urfa, in Turkey). It was eventually taken to Constantinople but was stolen by the Latins of the fourth crusade during the sack of Constantinople in 1204. It was probably similar to the well known Shroud of Turin. The Greek word mandelion is itself in turn a loanword from the Latin mantilium, a “hand cloth” and mantele, meaning a hand towel (manus = hand in Latin).

Many thanks to Soteria Tsimoura, a graduate student in Germany, for her tireless assistance in this and many other articles.

Source: American Chronicle

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