Macedonian names and makeDonski pseudo-linguistics: The case of the name Sitas

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Macedonian names and makeDonski pseudo-linguistics: The case of the name Sitas

 Balkan Illusion – phantasia archaica:

“…it is very interesting to note that many of the authentic ancient Macedonian words, according to their etymology and pronunciation, have a striking resemblance to the appropriate words used in the modern Macedonian language (and other so called “Slav”[sic] languages). ” Sita. A name that is identical to the present day Macedonian adjective “sita” (eating to satisfaction). The male name Sitko is present in todays’ Macedonian onomasticon.” Quote taken from: “Similarities between ancient Macedonian and today’s’ Macedonian Culture (Linguistics and Onomastics)” by Aleksandar Donski, celebrity historian from FYROM.

Sitas/Σίτας – Sita/Σίτα

In the archaeological museum of Gloucester in England someone can stare at a curious funerary stele. It is a rough but beautiful carving of a Roman horseman in relief. His head is protected by a Roman helmet and he is holding an oval shield on his left hand. He is holding a spear on his right hand, attacking a local barbarian who has already fallen to the ground and is desperately making a last ditch effort to defend himself with his sword.

The Latin inscription at the bottom of the stele reads as follows:


Rufus Sita, Horseman of the Sixth Cohort
of Thracians; 40 years (old); paid (for) 22 (years);
His heirs, according to his will, had this made.
Here is the site (of his grave)

The stele gives us a wealth of information about the deceased soldier. His name was Rufus Sita. Rufus, his first name being Latin, was already a Roman citizen. His original name was Sita, but after joining the army and adopting the Latin name Rusus as his first name, the Thracian name Sita became his second, family name. He was a horseman of the VI / sixth Cohort of Thracians: Cohors Sextae Thracum equitata – The Sixth Cohort of Thracians – part mounted . He served 22 of his 40 years in the Roman army. He died in Britannia, far from his native Thrace, serving the Imperial Roman army as a cavalry man.

His heirs, dutiful to the Thracian religious legacy of the “Thracian horseman” (a recurrent theme of almost all Thracian funerary stelae) had Sita’s image carved showing him as a knight. This image fused Sita’s imperial army military function as a Roman cavalry man with his native Thracian religious legacy as a Thracian horseman, fighting evil for the good of mankind. The only substitution is the desperately fighting British barbarian trampled underneath his horse, instead of the agriculturally destructive Boar that would have been the more proper Thracian imagery. Sitas the Roman is shown defeating the barbarian as Sitas the Thracian would be defeating the wild boar. He is defending the Pax Romana instead of the tree of life. In Thracian religious imagery the tree of life, with its chthonian snake hanging from the branches, is the symbol of the agricultural land and its produce and the wealth derived from it. The chthonian snake is the tree of life’s protector dragon.

The mythology of Sita’s beloved Thrace is thus merged and integrated with this soldier’s legacy as a Roman frontier defender. The docile chthonian snake entangled in the branches of the Thracian agricultural tree of life is fused with the people of the Roman Empire whose duty it is for Sitas to defend. The land of his native Thrace, after all, was an integral part of this same Roman Empire. The British barbarian who is viewed as the destructive force that endangers with his raids the well-being of the dutiful Roman citizenry and the wild boar whose raids on the fields of his native Thrace brought destruction to the fields and the agricultural wealth of the Thracian farmer were thus being defeated by Sitas. Sitas was in this imagery commissioned by his heirs openly identified with the Thracian Hero-Pyrmeroulas. Pyrmaroulas’s name is derived from pyros/πυρός, a Greek-Thracian isogloss meaning the wheat and barley seed.

Sitas was there to defend both. This was his realm. This was what he lived, fought and died for. He was a true Thracian horseman, a Hero/ Ήρως both in real life and in post-mortem legend.

The name Sitas is fairly common in Thracian onomastics. Aleksandar Donski claims that this is somehow a Slavomacedonian, a “Makedonski” name, but Sitas has no relation to the Modern Slavic inhabitants of FYROM, nor was it a name common to the Greek speaking Macedonians. It is definitely a Thracian name. In John Wilkes’ book on The Illyrians, we read that: “The Illyrian component is markedly stronger in Dardania, including Das(s)ius, Scerviaedus and Andia, but Thracian names are also found, Sita and Nanea…”
Ancient Dardania is the same land that the Byzantine Greeks later called Kossyfopedion/Κοσσυφοπέδιον which the Slavs shortened to Kosovo and Metohia / Косово и Метохија, Μετόχια indicating lands belonging to Greek Orthodox monasteries. The Dardanian city of Scupi is modern Skopje, a city that, while Dardanian and Kossyphopedian by history and geography now strives to be recognized as “capital of a (misplaced and misnamed) Macedonia, a Slavonic Makedonija”.

John Wilkes informs us that Sitas is a Thracian name that appears in the epigraphic record of Illyria and more specifically of Dardania. The proximity of Dardania to Macedonia and the phonetics of the name are enough to confuse someone into thinking that this Greek-sounding name could possible be an ancient Macedonian name, but it is not.
Dio Cassius (Δίων ὁ Κάσσιος) a Greek historian (born 155AD at Nicaea of Bithynia in Asia Minor, died about 240AD) wrote an extensive history of the Roman nation. In the 51st book of his history, where Dio Cassius is speaking of the army of Marcus Crassus we read about a blind Thracian king named Sitas/Σιτας, king of the Thracian tribe of the Dentheletae:

“ἐπεὶ δὲ τόν τε Αἷμον ὑπερέβησαν καὶ τὴν Θρᾴκην τὴν Δενθελητῶν ἔνσπονδον αὐτοῖς οὖσαν κατέδραμον,
ἐνταῦθα ὁ Κράσσος τὸ μέν τι τῷ Σιτᾷ τῷ τῶν Δενθελητῶν βασιλεῖ τυφλῷ ὄντι ἀμύνων, τὸ δὲ δὴ πλεῖστον περὶ τῇ
Μακεδονίᾳ φοβηθεὶς ἀντεπῆλθέ σφισι, καὶ αὐτοὺς ἐκ τῆς προσόδου μόνης καταπλήξας ἐξέωσεν ἀμαχεὶ ἐκ τῆς χώρας.”

“and once they crossed over Haemus and overran the part of Thrace which belonged to the Dentheletae, and was in treaty with the Romans, here Crassus, in part to defend Sitas, the king of the Dentheleti, who was blind, but mostly out of fear for (an attack against) Macedonia, went out to meet them and throwing them into a panic just by his approach, he pushed them out of the country without even a battle.”
Δίων ο Κάσσιος Ρωμαικη Ιστορια, Βιβλιον 51-23-4 / Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 51-23-4

Another Thracian name, similar sounding to Sitas but obviously related to it is Sitalkes. We know of several Thracians by this name, the most famous being Sitalkes son of Teres and father of Seuthes, all of them being great kings of the Odryssian Thracians. Sitalkes reigned between 431 – 424 BC. He is mentioned by the historian Thucycides. Sitalces was the son of Teres and King of the Thracians. Teres, the father of Sitalces, was the first to establish the great kingdom of the Odrysians on a scale quite unknown to the rest of Thrace, a large portion of the Thracians being independent.
Thucydides 2.29 – Athenian alliance with Sitalces (431 BC).

The Athenian comedy writer Aristophanes, in his comedy the Acharnians/Aχαρνεις mentions a Sitakes too:

(Κῆρυξ) προσίτω Θέωρος ὁ παρὰ Σιτάλκους.
Bring in Theoros, who has returned from the Court of Sitalces.
(Θέωρος) ὁδί.
(Theoros) (rising; he wears a Thracian costume.)
I am here.
(Δικαιόπολις) ἕτερος ἀλαζὼν οὗτος ἐσκηρύττεται.
(Dikaiopolis) Another humbug!
(Θέωρος) χρόνον μὲν οὐκ ἂν ἦμεν ἐν Θρᾴκῃ πολύν —
(Theoros) We should not have remained long in Thrace…
Αριστοφάνους Αχαρνείς / Aristophanes, Acharnians, 425 BC

Lastly, there is a Sitalkes (Σιτάλκης) taking part in Alexander’s Asian expedition as (very tellingly) the leader of the Thracian light armed troops, Alexander’s Thrakes akontistai/Θράκες ακοντισταί, the javelin men. He was a prince and most probably the son of the Thracian King Kersobleptes. This Sitalkes had been given a Government post in Macedonian occupied Media under Parmenion whom he assassinated under orders of Alexander. He was likewise also later himself executed on orders of Alexander, for brutal misgovernment, upon Alexander’s return from India.

Since we are already close to India, let us leave the Thracian Kings Sitas and Sitalkes and the Τhracian prince Sitalkes who was in the service Alexander, and their native Thrace for a while and let us travel to the Orient even further to the far East, to lands Alexander the Great and his Macedonians never visited.
We hear that in distant Thailand, there is a Buddhist Goddess whose name in the Thai language is Nang Sida and in the Lao language is Nang Sanda. The same Goddess in nearby Malaysia is called Siti Dewi (Dewi means Goddess. The Latin word Deus-God, the Greek Dios/Διός, genitive form of Zeus and the Greek word Theos/Θεός-God as well as the words Divine and Deity in English are all derived from the same Indo-European root). Thai and Lao and Malay are not Indo-European languages of course. But nearby Northern India, where Buddhism started from speaks in Indo-European tongues, is. The ancient language of India was Sanskrit, one of the main pillars, along with Greek, Latin and Germanic, of modern Indo-European linguistic research.
Since Buddhism had its beginning in Hinduism, so we go searching for the Goddess Sita in India, and indeed we soon find her: Sita / सीता is the incarnation (avatara)
of the Goddess Lakshmi who in turn is the Goddess of wealth, prosperity and generosity. We need to remember this point. Sita is also the wife of Rama, the legendary king of Ayodhya, an ancient Indian city still in existence, whose wealth and prosperity on the northern plains of ancient India was fabled and lusciously described in Ramayana, one of the main Hindu epics. Rama was in fact considered the seventh incarnation (avatar) of the supreme God Vishnu. Laxshmi decided to descend to earth as Sita, and to toil and endure the hard life so as to become an example to mankind by showing men and especially women that through hard work and virtue wealth and prosperity can be reached. This is why Sita is considered the purest prototype of the proper Hindu woman.

Sita as legend has it was found as a baby in the fields in a furrow in a ploughed field, so everyone assumed her to be the natural daughter of Bhudevi, the Mother Earth Goddess. In fact the original meaning the Goddess Sita’s name in Sanskrit is “furrow”: the channel in the field produced by the slow pulling of the plough. It now becomes apparent that Sita is definitely an agricultural deity a deity of wealth that comes from ploughing the fields and the manual toil of agricultural activities. Sita / सीता is “someone of the furrow”, the deity “of a cultivated field”.
The word “situs” in Latin indicates something or a land in neglect, land that is in need of cultivation. The word Σίτος / Sitos in both modern and ancient Greek means wheat, corn and grain in general. In modern Greek it is also called Στάρι / Stari or Σιτάρι / Sitari. Σιταγωγέω / Sitagogeo in ancient Greek meant the transporting of the grain from the fields And Σιταγωγός / Sitagogos was the specially modified grain transport ship. The word Σιτεύω / Siteuo in both modern and ancient Greek means to fatten the animals by supplying them with plenty of barley seeds and Σιτοβολώνας / Sitobolonas is the field that produces plenty of wheat. Thessaly, in Greek is called the Σιτοβολώνας / Sitobolonas of Greece, for its importance in wheat production that feeds the country. In Dorian Greek (the “northwest” variance of which was spoken in Epirus, Aetolia and Macedonia) Σιτάθην / Sitathen was equal to the Attic and Ionian Εσιτήθην / Esitethen which is the past tense of Σιτέω / Siteo which means to feed someone (original : with grain and wheat). The modern Slavo-macedonian word sita which means to eat to fulfillment, having no Slavic equivalent leads us to believe that (like thousands of other Greek words in this Slavic dialect that borders Greek speaking areas) is most certainly a loan word from the Greek noun Sitari / Grain-Weat and its derivative verb Sitepsa /Σίτεψα, meaning I am already full of food or I became fat with too much food.

A Greek name that is etymologically and semiologically distantly related to Sitas is found on an inscription from the island of Euboea, where among numerous other Greek names we also encounter the name Sitarchos/ Σίταρχος:

Regions : Aegean Islands, incl. Crete (IG XI-[XIII]) : Euboia (IG XII,9) , IG XII,9 245, Euboia — Eretria — early 3rd c. BC — cf. Addenda Ultima p.VII — cf. IG XII,supp.183,24
Σώστρατος Θέωνος Ζαρ(ηκόθεν)
Αἴσωπος Νήσωνος ἐγ Ν(—)
Εὐαγόρας Λυσιστράτου ἐγ Ν(—)
Φιλώνιχος Φιλήμονος Ζαρ(ηκόθεν)
Χαίριππος Χαιριδήμου Ζαρ(ηκόθεν)
Δ̣ίμων Βύβακος Στυρ(όθεν)
Σκύθης Παραμόνου ἐγ Νε(—)
Κλεόδημος Δαφνίωνος Στυ(ρόθεν)
Σίταρχος Θέωνος Ζαρ(ηκόθεν)
Sitarchos son of Theon, from the town of Zarekos

Sitarchos was originally a trade name describing the official who was entrusted with the duty of procuring the grain necessary to feed (προς σίτησιν/ pros sitesin) the city. His office was called Sitarchia/Σιταρχία as this inscription from Cyprus indicates:

SEG 20:244 SEG 20:243 SEG 20:245
Fragmentary petition addressed to Ptolemy VI or Ptolemy VIII by troops
stationed at Paphos. Fragment of a stele of fine white marble.
Kypros — Nea Paphos (Kato Pafos) — ca. 154 BC? — AJA 65 (1961) 100, 4
[— — ἀπολ]ε̣λ̣ε̣ι̣μ̣μ̣ένοι(?) Λ̣[ύκιοι(?) — — — — — —] the devastated Lycians
[— φιλαν]θρωπηθῆναι ἀπ̣[ὸ — — — — — — — — —] philanthropically assisted by
[— βασι]λικῆς δόσεως [— — — — — — — — — — —] royal donation
[— — — —]ω̣ν τὰς Σιταρχί[ας — — — — — — — — —] the Sitarchies

An equivalent officer in South Italian Greek of Magna Graecia / Μεγάλη Ελλάς would be called Sitagertes / Σιταγέρτης, as is attested in the following inscription:
IG XIV 645 Italy, incl. Magna Graecia:
…ἄλλαι συνθήκαι γεγράπται. ℎότι δέ κα μὴ πράξει ℎο ἀνℎελόμενος κὰτ τὰν συνθήκαν ἢ μὴ
ἐν τοῖς χρόνοις τοῖς γεγραμμένοις, ℎυπόλογος ἐσσήται τοῖς πολιανόμοις καὶ τοῖς σιταγέρταις τοῖς ἐπὶ τῶ <ϝ>έτεος, καθὼς καὶ ἐν τᾶι ἄλλαι συνθήκαι γεγράπται…

…as written other treaties. Whatever responsibility the undertaker takes upon himself to complete according to the contract if he does not complete within the agreed time frames, he will be held accountable to the polianomoi (πολιανόμοις – the city law-officials) and to the sitagertai (σιταγέρταις – the city grain-officials) of that year as it is written in the related contracts…

In Macedonia, and more particularly in Paionia, we find the name Sita, on a double funerary inscription:

Regions : Northern Greece (IG X) : Macedonia , Spomenik 71 (1931) 74,174 , Spomenik 71 (1931) 75,175
Makedonia (Paionia) — Resava: Čakovec — date? — Dimitsas, He Makedonia 287 — cf. TIR K34,109 (prov.)
Γαΐᾳ Τίτου Βυρδί-
ων Σίτα τῇ συμ-
βίῳ καὶ ἑαυτῷ ζῶν.
Τίτῳ Βάκχα Νεικη-
σὼ τῷ ἀνδρὶ καὶ αὑτῇ
To Gaia, daughter of Titos Byr-
dion son of Sitas to his life-
companion and to himself while still living.
To Titos son of Bacchas, Neike-
So to her husband and to herself
while still living.

The names are mixed. Gaia and Titos/Titus are clearly Latin names, which indicates that this inscription is dated to the Roman era. Byrdion / Βυρδίων, as K.G. Kourtides in his “Istoria tes Thrakes”/History of Thrace (Κ.Γ.Κουρτίδου, Ιστορία της Θράκης, 1932) tells us is a typical Thracian name, along with Βύζος/Byzos, Βίτων/Biton, Βίττος/Bittos, Δέβειθυς/Debeithys, Δίτύβιατος/Ditybiatos, Πιατοϋς/Piatoys, Βίθυος/Bythios, Βείθίβτράλης/Beithybtrales, etc).
Bacchas / Βάκχας and Nikeso / Νεικησὼ are Greek names. This leaves us Sitas, which, as we saw in the beginning of this article is also a Thracian name. therefore, while this inscription is found in Macedonia, it is obvious that we are encountering Hellenized and Romanized Thracians, quite possibly intermarried with Greek speaking Macedonians and Hellenized Paionians.
This is the only inscription that we have been able to locate that the name Sitas is documented in Macedonia.

Moving away from Macedonia now, we move to western China, where we encounter the curiously Greek-sounding Tocharian-B language. Tocharian was spoken by an extinct and yet to be indentified indo-European-speaking people that inhabited what is now Xinjiang, a land now inhabited mostly by Turkic speaking Uigurs and Han Chinese. In the literary documents of the Tocharians we find the word “sito” which meant “grain field”.

Looking deep into our common indo-European legacy, we find the common Indo-European root word *seh1i- whose original meaning was: “to sow”. This word seems to be the original root of all the Sitos-related cognates found in Greek, Latin, Tocharian, Sanskrit and Thracian. But this, as we will find out, is only the beginning.
The word sitos/σίτος means “wheat” in Greek. It is a very ancient word since it already appears documented as “si-to” in Linear B clay tablets of Mycenaean / Achaean Greek from the mid-second millennium BC. Sitos happens to be one of those rare words that are lost in the mist of the distant linguistic pre-history of the Eastern Mediterranean. The only other word which I can think of that is so widespread across diverse linguistic families, from Africa to Europe and the Middle East, is the word for “cat”, which also transcends linguistic family barriers, possibly due to its Egyptian origin.

The Greek “sitos” for wheat appears as an isogloss “zitu” in Basque (the only local
non Indo-European language of the European continent) and it means “cereal”. It also appears as “zid” in ancient Sumerian, a very ancient Semitic language of Mesopotamia, where it means “wheat flower”. The word for “wheat” or “corn” in ancient Egyptian is “sw’t”. In most Slavonic languages zito/ Житo means cereal (Russian, Bulgarian, Serbocroatian, Slovenian and Slavomakedonski among other languages and dialects. Сито/Sito means “sieve” in Russian and Serbian, and it is used mostly to describe the flower strainer used for cleaning up the flower from the grains, so it is related to sitos and to zito. In Greek an almost identical isogloss exists: sita/σήτα, meaning the strainer net, obviously related etymologically to the wheat grain. The white (wheat ) bread is called Sitnyj chleb / ситный хлеб in Russian, an obvious isogloss of sitos/σίτος and zito/Житo.

Aleksandar Donski is trying to convince us that “according to etymology and pronunciation” Sitas is a “name that is identical to the present day Macedonian adjective “sita” (eating to satisfaction).” But if we look into Russian, we find out that an almost identical and for sure related word exists in Russian too: Ситост/Sitost, eating to fulfillment. Сытный / Sitnij means ritchly nourishing in Russian. Are the Russian Makedonci too?

If you ask some delusional pseudo-macedonians in Skopje, professor Boshevski of the so called Macedonian Academy of the Arts and Sciences of Skopje, among others, they will answer in the affirmative: all the Slavs, the pseudomacedonians claim, are indeed Makedonci. If we are to retain some semblance of seriousness though, we will have to admit that sita and sitost and sitnij are Slavic isoglosses. Therefore, if we also remember the Greek verb siteuo, then the picture becomes very cleare: Since wheat became domesticated and was first cultivated somewhere around the middle east, deep in our human prehistory, almost ten thousand years ago, and since the early Indo-Europeans learned the trade of cultivation from the early inhabitants of Mesopotamia and Anatolia it becomes explainable why the word for wheat is so common to so many linguistically diverse people such as Egyptians, Greeks, Tocharians, Slavs, Basques and Sumerians, among others, all being related through the use of this rich and nutritious cereal.
Let us then return to the ancient Thracians. The word “Siros” meant the place where someone stores the grain, in the Thracian language, the granary.
( ).

The name of my hometown Serres / Σέρρες, an ancient city dominating the agriculturally fertile basin of Strymon / Στρυμών river in Central-Eastern Macedonia of northern Greece, whose preΗellenic name is Sirris / Σίρρις, according to Herodotus, is probably related to the Thracian word Siros, the granery. The name of a village in the nearby province of Drama, Sitagroi/Σιταγροί, the “Wheat fields”, shows that such a name would not be unusual. Sitagroi is a very ancient village after all, about 7000 years old: Prehistoric Sitagroi: Excavations in Northeast Greece, Ernestine S. Elster, Colin Renfrew, 1968-1970, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.06.21. Volume 2: The Final Report. Monumenta Archaeologia, 20. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, 2003. ( ).

Sitas, we can now say with a certain degree of certainty, was a Thracian name, which (while distantly connected as a word to the common -for many Indo-European and not only languages – word for the wheat grain) was nevertheless unrelated as a name to Greek, not necessarily derived from it. No stone inscription or other literary documentation exists that can tie this name to the Hellenic-speaking ancient Macedonians. On the other hand Sitas is most definitely not a Slavic name either. It is too ancient a name to be even considered as a south Slavic name. The Slavs did not arrive into the lower Balkans until the 7th century AD, several hundred years after the first attestation of this name by Thucydides and long after the Thracians had lost their linguistic and ethnic identity. The name Sitas, therefore (as well as the related Sitalces/Sitalkes and Sitalkas/Sitalcas), is most definitely and clearly a Thracian (Tracum, as the Rufus Sitas inscription reminds us) name whose original meaning was derived from the word for wheat-grain and the wealth that is derived from its cultivation.

Posted by Mιλτιάδης Μπ.

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