Paleo-Balkanic mythology

Paleo-Balkanic mythology

Paleo-Balkanic mythology 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. [cite book |last=Lurker |first=Manfred |title=Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Devils and Demons |page=151 |year=1987] cite book |last=Nicoloff |first=Assen |title=Bulgarian Folklore |year=1983 |page=50] [cite book |last=Isaac |first=Benjamin H. |title=The Greek Settlements in Thrace Until the Macedonian Conquest |year=1986 |page=257]


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).
* "Zalmoxis", "Darzalas", two other important gods of the Thracians. 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. 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". [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.] .

Several Thracian deities show close analogy to the Greek cult of Dionysus, Orpheus and Persephone (the Dionysian Mysteries):
*"Bassareus" was a Thracian version of Dionysus. The name derives from "bassaris" or "fox-skin", which item was worn by his cultists in their mysteries. [Erwin Rohde, "Psyché", p. 269]
*"Bendis" was a Thracian goddess of the moon and the hunt [ [ Theoi Project - Bendis] ] whom the Greeks identified with Artemis, and hence with the other two aspects of formerly Minoan goddesses, Hecate and Persephone.
*"Semele" (cf. Phrygian "Zemelô")

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


The mythology of the Illyrians is only known through mention of Illyrian deities on Roman Empire period monuments, some with "interpretatio Romana". [Wilkes, J. J. "The Illyrians", 1992, p. 245, ISBN 0631198075. "...26 Illyrian deities are named on monuments of the Roman era, some in equation with gods of the classical pantheon (see figure 34)."] There appears to be no single most prominent Illyrian god and there would have been much variation between individual Illyrian tribes. According to John Wilkes, the Illyrians did not develop a uniform cosmology on which to center their religious practices. [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..."]

Some deities are known exclusively from Istria, [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."] such as "Eia", "Malesocus", "Boria" and "Iria". In Liburnia, "Anzotica" is identified with Venus. Other local theonyms [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)."] include "Latra", "Sentona" and "Ica". "Bindus", identified with Neptune, was worshipped among the Japodes. [Wilkes. "...including altars dedicated by chiefs of the Japodes at the shrine of Bindus Neptunus at a spring near Bihaé (see figure 30).17 The first reported contact between Japodes and Romans occurred in 171..."] Further north, the hot springs of Topusko [Wilkes. "North of the Japodes, the altars to Vidasus and Thana dedicated at the hot springs of Topusko reveal the local 246 Roman Illyrians..."] were dedicated to "Vidasus" and "Thana", identified with Silvanus [Wilkes. "Life and Death among Illyrians 247 identities of Silvanus and Diana, a familiar combination on many dedications in the territory of the Delmatae."] and Diana. From the eastern Balkans, the cult of the Thracian horseman spread to Illyria during the early centuries CE. The god "Medaurus" [Wilkes. "...the short cloak streaming out behind. The Illyrian town Rhizon (Risinium) on the Gulf of Kotor had its protective deity Medaurus..."] 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. [Wilkes. "...Armatus at Delminium (Duvno) who was evidently a war god of the Delmatae, and the Latin Liber who appears with the..."]


ee also

*Paleo-Balkans languages
*Scythia Minor
*Scythian mythology
*History of the Balkans
*Prehistoric Balkans


*Wilkes, John. "The Illyrians". Blackwell, 1995 ed. pp. 244-247.
*Tacheva, Margarita. "Eastern Cults in Moesia Inferior and Thracia (5th Century BC-4th Century AD)", 1983, ISBN 9004068848.

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