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Mihaly Mellar :
Making Sense after Rudolf Wächter I. (Boiotia)


The transliteration into modern Greek from the different ancient handwritings is done by H. R. Immerwahr and others, which in turn is transcribed by me, using this simple ABC table, at the same time backfilling the left out vowels, to reconstruct the inscriptions in today's spelling.


This work is based on Rudolf Wächter's book, entitled Non-Attic Greek Vase Inscriptions. Would be advisable to have the book at hand to follow the “scientific” side of the interpretations, because I have only pasted the descriptions of the depicted scenes as the readings I'm putting up are in organic engagement with these scenarios. (It is not very ethical to promote this, but those, who otherwise cannot afford the book, can download it for free from the Booksee website:

In the Introduction R. Wachter states these general points: ”(1) We cannot deal with individual elements of the inscriptions without considering the inscriptions by an individual (e.g. a painter) in their entirety. (2) We must not consider the inscriptions outside their pictorial context.But than he observe that: “first, the majority of the words that we shall discuss are personal names, both heroic and non-heroic; and secondly, not very many individual items are longer than one word.” By this “observation” he contradicts his (2) point, as the ”personal names” especially of non-entities are not really reflecting in any substantial way on the pictorial context. And it is unwarranted and prejudiced statement that the items on the inscriptions are only individual words. A separated group of letters could be a word, but also a phrase or a whole sentence, as they indeed often are.


The vases in Wachter's book are categorised epigraphically, by the locally used variant of the alphabet, into 22 groups named after these localities. We will follow this line, only breaking the text up into more easily manageable pieces. Due to the limitations of our browsers, we use only the transliterations of vase inscriptions to modern Greek alphabet, which in turn we transliterate, using the table in the Alphabets blog, into Magyar ABC and read the inscriptions by backfilling the left out vowels.



Vases from Boiotia


~ @ BOI 1 A-B ~



(A) Ring aryballos from Greece (bought from Geladakis in 1897), and

(B) Plastic vase in the shape of a sandalled r. foot from Thebes (1898 or earlier).

Date: within a generation of 550.

Following R. Wachter’s profound analysis, we can with great certainty assume that the vessels make up a bonded pair and their inscriptions should be considered combined and read as such in tandem or if individually than twice each.


(A) Γρυτονεποιϝεσε > eGéR[1]-ÚTON ÉP ÖJV ESZE/ESZ-E > egér-úton ép ölyv esze/esz-e (on mouse’s escape root is a sound hawk’s mind/does eats)

(B) Γρυτονεποιϝεσε > eGéR-ÚTON E PÖJe VESZ E’ > egér-úton e pöl(y)e vesz el (on mouse’s escape root this dormouse gets lost)


Egér-úton ép ölyv esze. (Egér-úton ép ölyv esz-e?) Egér-úton e pöl(y)e vesz el. (A sound hawk’s mind is on the mouse’s escape root. (Does a sound hawk eats on the mouse’s escape root?) This dormouse gets lost (will be eaten) on the mouse’s escape root.)


Against these uncommonly clever and deeply meaningful double readings, R. Wachter has came up with a very laconic “interpretation”: Potter’s signatures! The name Gryton is derived from γρύτα ‘container for ointments’, it only occurs here and as Grytes on a graffito. So, let us see that graffito from the Ashmolean Museum 1956. 314. Oxford:


Γρυτεςερμαιαιεδοκε > eGéR-ÚT EZER MAJA IjEDŐKKE’ > Egér-út ezer malya ijedőkkel. (The mouse’s escape root has thousands of dark nooks with the easily frightened.)


In the Greek reading of the graffito, –  Γρύτἐς Ἐρμαἰᾱιἒ δōκε – the  linguists are not sure about the second name: a female Ἐρμαἰα or a male Ηερμαἰας, but definitely they go for the easy way out: make the hard nuts into personal names and the problem is solved, no more questions. So, the dispute here is not just about language, Greek or Scythian, it is the way we look at the world. Is it the “Joe was here” type meaningless environmental pollution of a nobody or is it a universal message, although limited in extent? Science here cannot help, you are on your own. Do you believe that ancient Greece was full of egoistic louts putting their names everywhere or civilised humans with some message for posterity?


~ @ BOI 2 A-D ~


(A) Aryballos from Thebes (1887 or earlier), Paris, Louvre CA 128,

Aryballos(B) Gourd aryballos from Koroneia (?) (found ?), Athens, P. & A. Canellopoulos Mus. 737,

(C) Pomegranate-shaped aryballos from ? (1910 or earlier), Bonn, Akademisches Kunstmus. Der Univ. 2128,

(D) Piriform alabastron from ? (bought in the 19th cent.), Heidelberg, Antikmus. Des Arch. der Univ. Z 1.


Scene: None. Date: (A), (C), and (D) 1st h. 6th cent. (Raubitschek, p. 162). (B) within a generation of 550 (Raubitschek, p. 161, referring to P. N. Ure (1946), 49); 1st h. 6th cent. (Raubitschek, p. 162); towards mid-6th cent.


(A) Μεναιδασεμεποιƒεσεχαροπι > MÉN AJJaDÁS EME BŐJe VÉSSZE’ GYÁRÓ BŰ > Mén aljadás eme bője: vésszel gyáró bű. (This abundance of baseness/vileness is going on: wealth/abundance accompanied with catastrophe.)

(B) Μεναιδασεμεεποιƒεσεχαροπι > MÉN AJJaDÁS ÉME(j)E BŐJe VÉSSZE’ GYÁRÓ BŰ > Mén aljadás émelye, bője vésszel gyáró bű.  (This sickness of baseness/vileness is going on: its wealth/abundance accompanied with catastrophe is a spell.)


and/or alternative reading for both (B) and (C):


 (C) Μεναιδασεμεεποιƒεσεχαροπι > MÉN AJJaDÁS-ÉME’ E BŐJe VÉSSZE’ GYÁRÓ BŰ > Mén aljadás-émely e bője: vésszel gyáró bű.  (This abundance of debasement/degradation sickness is going on: wealth/abundance accompanied with catastrophe.)

 (D) Χαροπιεμεποιƒεσεμεναιδας > GYÁRÓ BŰ EME BŐJe VÉSSZE’ MENő AJJaDÁS > Gyáró bű eme bője vésszel menő aljadás. (This running abundance of wealth/spell is with catastrophe accompanied baseness/vileness.)


R. Wachter gives this interpretation: “Potter’s signatures and dedications (to a human?)” where the potter is Menaidas and the dedication is addressed to Charops,  but he has some reservations: “The interpretation of these inscriptions is not easy, since we do not know for sure who Charops was. I would think that he was a human.” Does it really matter who or what this Charops is? Compared to these messages, which are more timely than ever in the past two and a half thousand years, a dedication to a nobody would be a trifle.


~ @ BOI 3 ~


Cup (‘à oiseaux’, Maffre) from ? (found ?), Athens, P. & A. Canellopoulos Mus. 941

Scene: None. Date: 3rd q. 6th cent. (Maffre, pp. 423/5); probably c.550


Επιχεμεποιεσεθειοισπερικαλδειαδορα > EB ÜGYE íME BŐ IjESZETJE JŐ IS PERI KALoDa ÉJi Á'DÓRA > Eb ügye íme bő, ijeszetje (ijesztése) jő is: peri (perbéli) kaloda éji áldóra! (Look, his dog cases are in abundance, its frightening comes: quarrelling pillory on (his) night prayer/blessing!)


 Wachter’s interpretation: “Metrical potter’s signature (and dedication?): ‘Epiche made me for the gods. Beautiful gifts (he makes)!


~ @ BOI 4 A-C ~

A: Ring aryballos from Boiotia (Thebes?) (1900 or slightly earlier), Athens, Nat. Mus. 12218.

B: Ring aryballos from Boiotia (1899 or earlier), Boston, Mus. of Fine Arts 99. 513.

C: Ring aryballos from Greece, said to be from Thebes (before 1939), Kilchberg, E Peters Coll.

Scene: None. Date: (A)–(C) within a generation of 550 (Raubitschek, p. 161, referring to P. N. Ure (1946), 49); 1st h. 6th cent. (Raubitschek, p. 162); (C) 550–525? (Hansen).


(A) Μνασαλκεσποιεσε > MiNő AZZA’ LaK E’ S BŐ IjESZE > Minő (amilyen valaki) azzal lak el (lakik jól) s bő ijesze. (One is what one eats and plenty is one’s fear.)

(B) Μνασαλκεποιεσε > MiNő AZZA’ LaK E’ BŐ IjESZE > Minő (amilyen valaki) azzal lak el (lakik jól), bő ijesze. (One is what one eats, plenty is one’s fear.)

(C) Μνασαλκεσ π[. . . . . .]εμπεδιονδαι Αυτ[.]ρ hοδοκεφερονφιλοτ ασιοναισχυλ οιαυτο > MiNő AZZA’ LaK E’ S B[Ő IjESZE T]EMPED JÓ NaDÁJ A VéTő[K]Re HÓDO’ Ki E VÉRÖN FŰLÖTT A SZű JÓNÁ’ IS GYÚL Ő JAVíTÓ > Minő (amilyen valaki) azzal lak el (lakik jól) s b[ő ijesze. T]emped (tömörül) jó nadály (pióca) a vétő[k]re, hódol ki e vérön fűlött. A szű jónál is gyúl, ő javító. (One is what one eats and p[lenty is one’s fear. T]ickens the good leech on the sinners, it pays respect for this blood it heated on. Even the good people’s heart ignites, it (the leech) is an improver.)


Again, the question who (Mnasalkes) made it for whom (Empediondas) and passed it to whom (Aischilos)  is really matters? Isn’t the little treatise on obesity and the curing of high blood pressure with leeches more useful than the names of those nobodies? The receiver of a gift knows his/her own name and knows the giver, than why vesting on them the precious writing surface? These “names” turning up everywhere are only a pathological casting back into the past our own egoistic world.


~ @ BOI 5 A-B ~


(A) Gourd aryballos from Greece (1897 or earlier); ex Tyszkiewicz coll., lost.

(B) Ring aryballos from Thebes (1896 or earlier), Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Mus., IV 1864.

Scene: None. Date: within a generation of 550 (Raubitschek, p. 161, referring to P. N. Ure (1946), 49); 1st h. 6th cent. (Raubitschek, p. 162).


(A) Φιθαδασεμεποιƒεσε > FITY-ADÁS EME’ BŐJe VESZ E’ > Fity-adás (fricskázás) emel, bője vesz el. (Giving a flip of it is uplifting, plenty of it takes away.)

(B) Φιθεμεποιƒεσε > FITY EME’ BŐJe VESZ E’ > Fity (fricska) emel, bője vesz el. (A flip of it is uplifting, plenty of it takes away.)


More than adequate guidance on a flask for eau de cologne!


R. Wachter’s interpretation: “Potter’s signatures”, Phithadas and Phith(?).


~ @ BOI 6 A-E ~


(A) Fr. of an aryballos from Thebes (1887 or earlier), Paris, Louvre L4 (CA 70).

(B) Plastic vase (‘rhyton’) ending in a bull’s head from Boiotia (1898 or earlier), Paris, Louvre CA 938.

(C) Plastic vase in the shape of a coiled snake from Thebes (1895 or earlier), Paris, Louvre CA 638.

(D) Plastic vase in the shape of an animal’s head (‘panthère’, Ducat) from Greece (Attica, Helbing) (1899 or earlier), Paris, Louvre CA 1634.

(E) Plastic vase in the shape of a seated monkey from ? (1912 or earlier), Boston, Mus. of Fine Arts 13. 115.

Scene: None. Date: (A) 1st h. 6th cent. (Waiblinger). (B) 1st h. 6th cent. (Raubitschek, p. 162); 2nd q. 6th cent. (Waiblinger). (C) and (E) 1st h. 6th cent. (Raubit schek, p. 162). (D) 1st h. 6th cent. (Raubitschek, p. 162); towards mid-6th cent. (Waiblinger).


(A) Πολονεμε[. . .] > áPOLÓN EME’ > Ápolón emel. (Taken caringly, it lifts one up.)

(B) Πολονεποεσε > áPOLÓN EBBŐ’ ÉSSZE’ > Ápolón ebből ésszel.  (Caringly take from this with reason.)

(C) & (D) & (E) Πολονεμεποιεσε > áPOLÓN EME’ BŐ IjESZE > Ápolón emel, bő ijesze. (Taken caringly, it lifts one up, plenty is one’s fear.)


R. Wachter’s interpretation: (B)–(E) Potter’s signatures; (A) less certain.


~ @ BOI 7 A-B ~


(A) Oinochoe from excavations made by farmers at Tanagra (1872 or earlier). Paris, Louvre MNB 501.

(B) Aryballos probably from Thespiai (1870 or earlier), London, British Mus. 1873. 2-8. 2.

Scene: (A) Shepherd with cattle, not related to the inscrs. which are painted inside the lip and on the frieze. (B) and (C) none.

Date: (A) 1st h. 6th cent. (Raubitschek, p. 162); c. mid-6th cent. (Waiblinger); early 2nd h. 6th cent. (Kilinski II, p. 65). (B) 1st h. 6th cent. (Raubitschek, p. 162).


(A) & (B) Γαμεδεσεποεσε > éGi AMi ÉDES, EBBŐ’ E SÉ > Égi ami édes, ebből e sé (pici folyás). (All the sweet is heavenly, from this: a little run.)


Wachter's interpretation: Potter’s (or potters’?) signatures. (C) is attributed to Gamedes by C. Fossey, and K. Kilinski II ( per litt.) accepts this view; it seems uncertain to me, however.


~ @ BOI 9 ~


Exaleiptron from Boiotia (bought in 1906, found ?). Berlin, Antikensammlung V. I. 4859.

Scene: None. Date: c.575 (Gehrig et al.); mid to 3rd q. 6th cent. (Kunisch, because of the palmette ornaments); 2nd q. 6th cent. (K. Kilinski II, per litt.).


(a) Πολυτιµιδασκαλοσπανχυτοεκαλος > áPOLi ŰT ÍM IDő ÁSKÁLÓ SZóBAN aGY ÜTi Ő E KALLÓS > Ápoli (zápíti)[2] űt ím idő, áskáló szóban agy üti, ő e kallós (aki ütögetéssel /kelmévé/ képez). (Look, time makes it bad, in intriguing words the brain hits it, it is what hammers it into felt.)

(b) Ποkυτιµιδασκαλοσπανχυτ[. . .]αλονα[.] > éPÖLi/áPOLi ŰT ÍM IDő ÁZiK A LOCSÁBAN aGY ÜTi [éSZ Ki ŐR]ÁLLÓ NÁ[La] > Épöli/Ápoli[3] űt ím idő, ázik a locsában (locspocsában) agy, üti[4] [ész ki őr]álló ná[la]. (Look, time tends it, the brain soaks in its sludge, the reason, who is the guard at it, hits it.)


Wachter's interpretation: Kalos-inscriptions (each perhaps a short dialogue): ‘Polytimidas is handsome. Yes, very handsome (indeed)!’


 ~ @ BOI 12~


Fr. of kantharos, from near the Kabirion at Thebes81 (1938 or earlier). Reading, Univ., Ure Mus. 38. IV. 9.

Scene: Reclining dwarf with a bird on his r. hand (where Kabiros would hold a cup, see BOI 16).

Date: mid-5th cent. (Ure (1951), 194; (1954) ).


ϜΟΕΝΗΣ ϜΟΕΗΣ > VŐ E NőHöZ VŐ ÉHöZő > Vő e nőhöz, vő éhező. (Son-in-low to this woman is son-in-low starving.)


Wachter's interpretation: Labels? Nonsense inscription?


~ @ BOI 15 ~


Lekane from ? (c.1874 or earlier). Paris, Louvre MNC 743.

Scene: A warrior (a) on horseback to r., seconding a gigantic warrior with spear (b). The latter is fighting an archer to l. (c) who is backed by a woman (d) who is about to throw her spear.

Date: last q. 5th cent.


(a) Αρες > A RÉSZe > a része (his share)

(b) Γαγενες > iGA éGEN ES > iga égen es (yoke on the sky also)

(c) Ηερακλες > HÉRA KeLÉSe > Héra kelése (Hera's abscess)

(d) Αθανα > ATYÁNÁ' > atyánál (at the father)



A része iga égen is. Héra ökle is atyánál. (His share is also the yoke on the sky. Hera's fist is also at the father.)


R. Wachter's interpretation: Herakles and (a) Gegenes (labels).


~ @ BOI 16 ~


Fr. of a big deep bowl from the Kabirion (1887/8). Athens, Nat. Mus. 10426.

Scene: A man to r. (a) and a woman to l. (b) standing close to him with one hand on his shoulder; a boy to l. (c) watching them, his hands folded in front of him. To their r. a youth to l. (d) is about to dip an oinochoe into a large krater, and the deity (e) is leaning back (head to r. facing l.) and stretching out his arm with a kantharos (as if to have it refilled). On an isolated fr. there is the face of a woman with her chiton pulled over her head (f ). The figures (a), (c), and (f ) have grotesque faces, the others not. The whole painting shows strong Attic influence.

Date: after 440 (Wolters–Bruns, p. 125); late 5th to early 4th cent. (LIMC i); 410–400 (Braun–Haevernick, p. 6; LIMC vi, vii).


(a) Μιτος > Mi' ITOS > mily itos (what an alcoholic)

(b) Κρατεια > KúRA TE(J)A/TEJ A' > kúra te(j)a/tej a' (cure tea/milk)

(c) Πρατολαος > BoRRA TŐLe A' ŐS > borra tőle a' ős (for vine from it the old)

(d) Παις > aPA IS > apa is (father also)

(e) Καβιρος > KÁBa ÍRÖS > kába írös (írt használ) (dazed on medication)

(f ) Σατυ[. . .] > Σατυ[ρα] > S ATTú' Ú[R A'] > s attól ú[r a'] (and due to that he is a gentleman)


Mily itos kúra te(j)a/tej a' borra, tőle a(z) ős apa is kába írös (írt használ) s attól ú[r a']. (What an alcoholic cure tea/milk is for vine! From it, the old father also dazed on medication and due to that he is a gentleman.)


R. Wachter's interpretation: Probably a sacrificial procession (labels).


~ @ BOI 18 ~


Deep bowl (with horizontal handles) from ? (1892 or earlier), Oxford, Ashmolean Mus. G. 249 (v 262).

Scene: Caricature of a bearded man (a) leaping to the l. over (a raft made of) two amphorae which are floating on the waves of the sea. He points a trident down into the water, apparently just missing a fish. To the r. a bearded head with inflated cheeks (b), as if suspended from the wall, seems to blow upon the man’s back. On the reverse of the vase there is a scene with Odysseus and Kirke (no inscrs.).

Date: 410–400 (Braun–Haevernick, p. 8); 400– 375 (Webster); late 5th to early 4th cent. (LIMC i); 440–430 (LIMC iii); late 5th cent. (Moret, p. 229; LIMC vi, ‘Odysseus’); 3rd q. 4th cent. (sic, LIMC vi, ‘Kirke’).


Ολυσευς Βοριας > Ő aLU' SE ÚSZóBó' ÓRIÁS > Ő alul se úszóból óriás. (He is not even from underneath a giant in swimming.)


R. Wachter's interpretation: Odysseus on his raft, and Boreas (labels). (They are actually on the other side, and anyhow the name is of "non-Greek" origin (§254)!)


~ @ BOI 19 ~


Deep cup (with horizontal handles) from Exarchos in Lokris (1882 or earlier). Athens, Nat. Mus. 442.
Scene: Lively scene in a potter’s workshop, grotesque silhouette-painting, palmette decoration under the handles. The inscr. has no obvious connection with the figures. Date: late 5th cent.?


Σιβωνκαλος > űZI BŐNeK ALOSa > Űzi bőnek alosa (aljosa). (The vile of plenty hunts him.)


R. Wachter's interpretation: Kalos-inscription.


~ @ BOI 20 ~


Fr. of a bf. jar from the Kabirion (1887/8). Athens, Nat. Mus. 10470.

Scene: Probably a sacrificial procession; not directly related to the inscr.

Date: c.400?


Σµικρος > SeMMI KáROS > semmi káros (nothing adverse)

ανεθεκε > ανεφεκε[5] > A NEVEKKE' > a nevekkel (with names)

Καβιροι > Ki A BIRÓJa > ki a birója (who is its bearer)


Semmi káros a nevekkel, (de) ki a birója (hordozója). (Nothing adverse with names (but) who is its bearer.)


R. Wachter's interpretation: Dedication. "Smikros is either the potter himself or a customer." or nothing adverse or egoistic as who to whom, just a bit of kitchen-lecture for all of us!


~ @ BOI 23 ~


Deep bowl from the Kabirion (1887/8), Athens, Nat. Mus. 10425.

Scene: Caricature pygmy wearing a petasos, running after his dog and a fox (the ‘Termessan fox’) who is looking back. On the other side a cart laden with four amphorae (wine supply for the Kabirion?).

Date: 3rd q. 4th cent. (Braun–Haevernick, because of the ‘Rebrankenverzierung’, see BOI 22); mid-4th cent. (LIMC).


Κεφαλος > Ki E FALÓS > Ki e falós? (Who is this sucker/who victimizes?)


R. Wächter's interpretation: Kephalos and the Termessan fox (label).


~ @ BOI 30 ~


Alabastron, Boiotian imitation of Corinthian, from ? (1898 or earlier). Boston, Mus. of Fine Arts 98. 899.

Scene: Bearded creature with wings running to the l., on the other side a cock.

Date: 6th cent.?


(a) ABΕΣΙΗΠΤΣΞ[6] > AVVa' ESZI Ha BeTeSZi KöZé > avval eszi ha beteszi közé (you eat it by putting it between)

(b) ΞΦΕ > KeZéVE' > kezével (with your hand)


Avval eszi ha beteszi közé kezével. (You eat it by putting it between (your teeth) with your hand.)


R. Wachter's interpretation: Nonsense inscription.


[1] Someone would rightly note that reading γρ as eGéR even in defective notation of vowels writing system is a bit odd, because the usually marked first vowel here is not indicated. By way of an excuse, let me say that these readings are not an exact reconstruction of the Scythian language spoken at the time, but its reading in today’s pronunciation. We don’t have a recording of the spoken words of that time, but we have a root-word G_R for a rodent to match the context: a staple food for hawks and a relative of the pele/pöledormouse’. In today’s Hungarian this is the eGéRmouse’, which in the time of the inscription could sounded more like GöRénypolecat/skunk’ or something similar. While we only could guess this, we can say for sure that the root frame G_R did not change, as these invariable root-frames are the essence of agglutinative languages. By the way, in Hungarian the rodents are called rágcsálók, which translates as ‘the constantly chewing ones’, where the root-word R_G is the mirrored G_R root.

[2] See Footnote 2.

[3] "... az ellentétek igy állanak: ép, áp; épìrìdik, áporodik; épìrìdìtt, áporodott." CzF. Wich means: ápul = zápul; ápol = zápít <=> épül (betegségbõl); épöl =épít (éppé tesz, ma ápol/apol: apaként gondot visel).

[4] Word-play: ût (õt) 'it' <=> üt 'hit', where hitting or beating is used as allusion, it is the technological term of felt making from wet unwoven fabric.

[5] The ʘ character is a Φ, not a Θ!

[6]  Ξ = Κ_Σ = K_S/Z