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The cult of the "Thracian horseman" spread over much of the Balkans during the Roman period.

Paleo-Balkanic religion is a rubric that entails the gods and goddesses worshipped by the Dacians, Thracians, and Illyrians. Unfortunately, little is known about the mythology of the Iron Age Balkans in general.

One notable cult that is attested from Thrace to Moesia and Scythia Minor is that of the "Thracian horseman", also known as the "Thracian Heros", at Odessos (Varna) attested by a Thracian name as Heros Karabazmos, a god of the underworld usually depicted on funeral statues as a horseman slaying a beast with a spear.[1][2][3]

Contents

Daco-Thracian

Detail of the main fresco of the Aleksandrovo kurgan. The figure is identified with Zalmoxis.

Dacian or Thracian deities:

  • Sabazios, the Thracian reflex of Indo-European Dyeus, identified with Heros Karabazmos, the "Thracian horseman". He gained a widespread importance especially after the Roman conquest. After Christianity was adopted, the symbolism of Heros continued as representations of Saint George slaying the dragon (compare Uastyrdzhi/Tetri Giorgi in the Caucasus).[2]
  • Zalmoxis,Gebeleïzis[4], Darzalas, two other important gods of the Dacians[5] and Thracians[citation needed]. Zibelthiurdos (also Zbelsurdos, Zibelthurdos) like Zeus it is said he too was the wielder of lightning and thunderbolts. Derzelas (also Darzalas) was a chthonic god of health and human spirit's vitality.
  • Kotys (Cotys, Cottyto, Cottytus), a goddess worshipped with much revelry by Thracian tribes such as the Edonians in the festival Cotyttia. A cult of Cottyto existed in classical Athens. According to Greek sources her priests were called baptes or "washers" because their pre-worship purification rites involved bathing. Her worship included midnight orgies. Her name is believed to have meant "war, slaughter", akin to Old Norse Höðr "war, slaughter".[6]

Several Thracian deities show close analogy to the Greek cult of Dionysus, Orpheus and Persephone (the Dionysian Mysteries):

Known Dacian theonyms include Zalmoxis, Gebeleizis and Derzelas. Kogaion was the name of a holy mountain of the Dacians.

Illyrian

The mythology of the Illyrians is only known through mention of Illyrian deities on Roman Empire period monuments, some with interpretatio Romana.[8] There appears to be no single most prominent Illyrian god and there would have been much variation between individual Illyrian tribes. The Illyrians did not develop a uniform cosmology on which to center their religious practices.[9]

Some deities are known exclusively from Istria,[10] such as Eia, Malesocus, Boria and Iria. In Liburnia, Anzotica is identified with Venus. Other local theonyms[11] include Latra, Sentona and Ica. Bindus, identified with Neptune, was worshipped among the Japodes.[12] Further north, the hot springs of Topusko[13] were dedicated to Vidasus and Thana, identified with Silvanus[14] and Diana. From the eastern Balkans, the cult of the Thracian horseman spread to Illyria during the early centuries CE. The god Medaurus[15] mentioned in a dedication at Lambaesis in Africa by a Roman senator and native of Risinium appears to be identical to the horseman, being described as riding on horseback and carrying a lance. The Delmatae had Armatus as a god of war.[16]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Lurker, Manfred (1987). Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Devils and Demons. p. 151. 
  2. ^ a b Nicoloff, Assen (1983). Bulgarian Folklore. p. 50. 
  3. ^ Isaac, Benjamin H. (1986). The Greek Settlements in Thrace Until the Macedonian Conquest. p. 257. 
  4. ^ Hdt. 4.94,Their belief in their immortality is as follows: they believe that they do not die, but that one who perishes goes to the deity Salmoxis, or Gebeleïzis, as some of them call him.
  5. ^ Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898),(Zalmoxis) or Zamolxis (Zamolxis). Said to have been so called from the bear's skin (zalmos) in which he was clothed as soon as he was born. He was, according to the story current among the Greeks on the Hellespont, a Getan, who had been a slave to Pythagoras in Samos, but was manumitted, and acquired not only great wealth, but large stores of knowledge from Pythagoras, and from the Egyptians, whom he visited in the course of his travels. He returned among the Getae, introducing the civilization and the religious ideas which he had gained, especially regarding the immortality of the soul. Herodotus, however, suspects that he was an indigenous Getan divinity ( Herod.iv. 95)
  6. ^ Also cognate: Irish cath "war, battle", early German Hader "quarrel", Greek kótos "hatred", Old Church Slavonic kotora "fight, brawl", Sanskrit śatru "enemy, nemesis", and Hittite kattu "spiteful". See Orel, Vladimir. A Handbook of Germanic Etymology. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2003: 165.
  7. ^ Theoi Project - Bendis
  8. ^ Wilkes, J.J. The Illyrians, 1992, p. 245, ISBN 0631198075. "...Illyrian deities are named on monuments of the Roman era, some in equation with gods of the classical pantheon (see figure 34)."
  9. ^ Wilkes. "Unlike Celts, Dacians, Thracians or Scythians, there is no indication that Illyrians developed a uniform cosmology on which their religious practice was centred. An etymology of the Illyrian name linked with serpent would, if it is true, fit with the many representations of..."
  10. ^ Wilkes. "...dominant Illyrian deity and some were evidently worshipped only in particular regions. Thus several deities occur only in Istria, including Eia, Malesocus, Boria and Iria. Anzotica was the Liburnian Venus and appears in the traditional image of the classical goddess."
  11. ^ Wilkes. "Other local deities were Latta, Sentona and the nymph Ica, praying in relief sculpture), Knez 1974 (ritual vessel), Baçe 1984 (temple architecture in Illyrian Albania)."
  12. ^ Wilkes. "...including altars dedicated by chiefs of the Japodes at the shrine of Bindus Neptunus at a spring near Bihaé (see figure 30). The first reported contact between Japodes and Romans occurred..."
  13. ^ Wilkes. "North of the Japodes, the altars to Vidasus and Thana dedicated at the hot springs of Topusko reveal the local Roman Illyrians..."
  14. ^ Wilkes. "...identities of Silvanus and Diana, a familiar combination on many dedications in the territory of the Delmatae."
  15. ^ Wilkes. "...the short cloak streaming out behind. The Illyrian town Rhizon (Risinium) on the Gulf of Kotor had its protective deity Medaurus..."
  16. ^ Wilkes. "...Armatus at Delminium (Duvno) who was evidently a war god of the Delmatae, and the Latin Liber who appears with the..."

References

  • Wilkes, John. The Illyrians. Blackwell, 1992.
  • Tacheva, Margarita. Eastern Cults in Moesia Inferior and Thracia (5th Century BC-4th Century AD), 1983, ISBN 9004068848.
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