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Greek wanax and basileus: A final solution finally? :P

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  • Glen Gordon
    Hey everyone, I searched the archives of the list to make sure that this wasn t mentioned before at great length and I couldn t find anything, so here goes...
    Message 1 of 9 , Jun 3, 2001
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      Hey everyone,

      I searched the archives of the list to make sure that this wasn't
      mentioned before at great length and I couldn't find anything,
      so here goes...

      I can't help but notice that Greek /wanax/ and /basileus/ "chief"
      are without any secure etymology. For a person obsessed with
      deduction and extrapolation, I wanna take a crack at it and see
      if we can't come to an appealing solution for everyone.

      I recently was given a message from another, avidly interested in
      comparative linguistics who had came across my new page on Hattic.
      We shall call this person "Ned". I was glad that my site evoked
      some great questions within him. This was one of his ideas,
      which I consider thought-provoking:

      "Is it possible the Homeric Greek 'wanax', king, could be
      derived from Hattic 'wurun-katti', used not as the proper
      name of the war god, but as a literal meaning of 'ruler
      of the realm' (and if not from wurun-katti,
      wurun-<some other suffix>?"

      At first glance, it's easy to dismiss such a suggestion since
      it is clear to anyone with enough understanding of
      historical linguistics that Hattic and Mycenaean could not have directly
      affected each other, nor could I see any likelihood that
      Hattic could have possibly lent such important words to a
      language so far away to the west within historical times. It
      seems commonly accepted that /wanax/ and /basileus/ must be from
      a native tongue and not one from something so afar as Hattic.

      However, this perspective changes drastically if we consider the
      possibility that the Hattic language is a prehistoric immigrant
      from the west. This is in fact what I've just recently concluded
      after, for the longest time, taking it for granted that Hattic is
      related to the Nakh-Daghestinian (NEC) language instead of the
      Abkhaz-Adhyghe (NWC) languages.

      If we take Ned's suggestion further and add it to the hypothesis
      that Hattic had migrated around the west side of the Black Sea,
      through the Balkans, before arriving in its historically attested
      location in Anatolia, we obtain a new interpretation of both
      /wanax/ and /basileus/ that might prove profitable.

      Here's what I'm suggesting and I welcome whatever criticism on
      this idea one can find. Let's say Proto-Hattic is situated along
      the Mediterranean coast line from Greece to the Balkans at about
      the same time as the entry of the proposed Semitish language into
      Europe starting c. 6500 BCE. This hypothetical language has a term
      *kWati "chief" (Hattic /katti/ "king") which is used in compounds
      like *wunun-kWati "king of the realm" (Hattic /wurun-katti/).

      When the Tyrrhenians arrive on scene from 5500 to 5000 BCE, they
      borrow some terms from Proto-Hattic. Thus, we have Tyrrhenian
      **kWati "chief" or *kWati-lewe "chief of the people" (Note the
      characteristic reverse ordering of the Tyrrhenian compound, an
      IndoTyrrhenian phenomenon discussed at length in previous posts!)
      and also we have Tyrrhenian *wenakti/*wenatti "chief; God of War" (Etruscan
      Vanth). After that, the Hattic tongue is gradually
      pushed into Anatolia by the growth of Tyrrhenian languages as I've
      already proposed.

      It is only after the spread of Indo-European that Hellenic
      finally arrives in Greece, but by this time, surely any traces of
      Hattic would be minimal to non-existent. Rather, Tyrrhenian and
      Anatolian would have the greatest influences on Hellenic. Thus,
      Hellenic borrows the Tyrrhenian terms *wenakti and *kWati-lewe
      as *wanakt-s and *gWatileu-s. This is then inherited
      into Mycenaean, written as [wa-na-ka] (wanax/wanakt-) and
      [qa-si-re-u] (gwasileus) respectively.

      Summary:

      PHattic Tyrrhenian Hellenic ----> Mycenaean
      ------- ---------- ------------------------
      *kWati > *kWati-lewe *gWatileus [qasireu]
      *wunun-kWati > *wenakti *wanakts [wanaka]

      Hopefully I haven't frightened yous too much with my theorizing.
      Please respond. I'm lonely <:(

      - gLeN


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    • Glen Gordon
      I just had two added thoughts... even tho no one is REALLY listening to my craziness :) I mentioned Tyrrhenian *kWati-lewe. Technically, we should say
      Message 2 of 9 , Jun 3, 2001
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        I just had two added thoughts... even tho' no one is REALLY
        listening to my craziness :)

        I mentioned Tyrrhenian *kWati-lewe. Technically, we should
        say _EtruscoLemnian_ (abbreviated to EL), which is the
        southern Grecian branch of Tyrrhenian, and I should have written
        it properly with inaspirate voiceless stop *gW-. Only *gW- would
        explain its entry into Hellenic as *gWatileus with voiced initial,
        not aspirate *kW-. EL certainly had no voiced stops if Lemnian
        and Etruscan are to be trusted.

        The second thought involves the hypothetical first component
        **gWati. It should mean "chief" and if we are to find it attested
        in Etruscan, we are looking for a form like *cathi, however...

        We could still get away with a reconstruction of EL *gWate-lewe
        for Hellenic *gWatileu- with *-e in the 1st word. Why
        opt for this reconstruction instead? Well, because *gWate _IS_ attested in
        Etruscan as Catha (tho' sometimes Cautha), the
        sun deity. The relationship between the sun and the chief is
        clearly an old mythological concept found around the Mediterranean
        and mentioned in previous posts. Thus we might reconstruct an EL
        sun god/goddess named *GWate who was the mythological alterego,
        father or mother of the chief, also referred to as *gWate, the
        first word of the compound *gWate-lewe which entered Mycenaean as
        gWasileus (basileus).

        I know this is wild speculation but you have to admit, it's a fun
        etymology (and sadly, possibly the only quasi-serious one) for
        /wanax/ and /basileus/. Piotr, you know Hellenic like the back
        of your hand, what thinkest thou?

        - gLeN


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      • MrCaws@hotmail.com
        ... I find the idea of Khattic words in Homeric Greek intriguing, but for an entirely different reason. I think it could be evidence of older pre-IE Greek
        Message 3 of 9 , Jun 3, 2001
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          --- In cybalist@y..., "Glen Gordon" <glengordon01@h...> wrote:


          I find the idea of Khattic words in Homeric Greek intriguing, but for
          an entirely different reason. I think it could be evidence of older
          pre-IE Greek cultural and linguistic similarities with Anatolia. The
          distance between mainland Greece and Khattic land may be large, but
          the distance from W. Anatolia isn't nearly so unreasonable. Since
          Mycenaean Greece was heavily influenced by the Minoan and Maritime
          Troia cultures, then old Pre-IE Anatolian vocab could still be around
          from those times. Terms like chief seem like words that might survive
          linguistic shifts better than most because of the connections with
          tradition that such terms carry.








          > Hey everyone,
          >
          > I searched the archives of the list to make sure that this wasn't
          > mentioned before at great length and I couldn't find anything,
          > so here goes...
          >
          > I can't help but notice that Greek /wanax/ and /basileus/ "chief"
          > are without any secure etymology. For a person obsessed with
          > deduction and extrapolation, I wanna take a crack at it and see
          > if we can't come to an appealing solution for everyone.
          >
          > I recently was given a message from another, avidly interested in
          > comparative linguistics who had came across my new page on Hattic.
          > We shall call this person "Ned". I was glad that my site evoked
          > some great questions within him. This was one of his ideas,
          > which I consider thought-provoking:
          >
          > "Is it possible the Homeric Greek 'wanax', king, could be
          > derived from Hattic 'wurun-katti', used not as the proper
          > name of the war god, but as a literal meaning of 'ruler
          > of the realm' (and if not from wurun-katti,
          > wurun-<some other suffix>?"
          >
          > At first glance, it's easy to dismiss such a suggestion since
          > it is clear to anyone with enough understanding of
          > historical linguistics that Hattic and Mycenaean could not have
          directly
          > affected each other, nor could I see any likelihood that
          > Hattic could have possibly lent such important words to a
          > language so far away to the west within historical times. It
          > seems commonly accepted that /wanax/ and /basileus/ must be from
          > a native tongue and not one from something so afar as Hattic.
          >
          > However, this perspective changes drastically if we consider the
          > possibility that the Hattic language is a prehistoric immigrant
          > from the west. This is in fact what I've just recently concluded
          > after, for the longest time, taking it for granted that Hattic is
          > related to the Nakh-Daghestinian (NEC) language instead of the
          > Abkhaz-Adhyghe (NWC) languages.
          >
          > If we take Ned's suggestion further and add it to the hypothesis
          > that Hattic had migrated around the west side of the Black Sea,
          > through the Balkans, before arriving in its historically attested
          > location in Anatolia, we obtain a new interpretation of both
          > /wanax/ and /basileus/ that might prove profitable.
          >
          > Here's what I'm suggesting and I welcome whatever criticism on
          > this idea one can find. Let's say Proto-Hattic is situated along
          > the Mediterranean coast line from Greece to the Balkans at about
          > the same time as the entry of the proposed Semitish language into
          > Europe starting c. 6500 BCE. This hypothetical language has a term
          > *kWati "chief" (Hattic /katti/ "king") which is used in compounds
          > like *wunun-kWati "king of the realm" (Hattic /wurun-katti/).
          >
          > When the Tyrrhenians arrive on scene from 5500 to 5000 BCE, they
          > borrow some terms from Proto-Hattic. Thus, we have Tyrrhenian
          > **kWati "chief" or *kWati-lewe "chief of the people" (Note the
          > characteristic reverse ordering of the Tyrrhenian compound, an
          > IndoTyrrhenian phenomenon discussed at length in previous posts!)
          > and also we have Tyrrhenian *wenakti/*wenatti "chief; God of War"
          (Etruscan
          > Vanth). After that, the Hattic tongue is gradually
          > pushed into Anatolia by the growth of Tyrrhenian languages as I've
          > already proposed.
          >
          > It is only after the spread of Indo-European that Hellenic
          > finally arrives in Greece, but by this time, surely any traces of
          > Hattic would be minimal to non-existent. Rather, Tyrrhenian and
          > Anatolian would have the greatest influences on Hellenic. Thus,
          > Hellenic borrows the Tyrrhenian terms *wenakti and *kWati-lewe
          > as *wanakt-s and *gWatileu-s. This is then inherited
          > into Mycenaean, written as [wa-na-ka] (wanax/wanakt-) and
          > [qa-si-re-u] (gwasileus) respectively.
          >
          > Summary:
          >
          > PHattic Tyrrhenian Hellenic ----> Mycenaean
          > ------- ---------- ------------------------
          > *kWati > *kWati-lewe *gWatileus [qasireu]
          > *wunun-kWati > *wenakti *wanakts [wanaka]
          >
          > Hopefully I haven't frightened yous too much with my theorizing.
          > Please respond. I'm lonely <:(
          >
          > - gLeN
          >
          >
          >
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        • ehlsmith@worldnet.att.net
          ... for ... The ... around ... survive ... When I wrote to Glen with my speculations, my thoughts were pretty much the same as MrCaws . I hadn t considered the
          Message 4 of 9 , Jun 3, 2001
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            --- In cybalist@y..., MrCaws@h... wrote:
            > --- In cybalist@y..., "Glen Gordon" <glengordon01@h...> wrote:
            >
            >
            > I find the idea of Khattic words in Homeric Greek intriguing, but
            for
            > an entirely different reason. I think it could be evidence of older
            > pre-IE Greek cultural and linguistic similarities with Anatolia.
            The
            > distance between mainland Greece and Khattic land may be large, but
            > the distance from W. Anatolia isn't nearly so unreasonable. Since
            > Mycenaean Greece was heavily influenced by the Minoan and Maritime
            > Troia cultures, then old Pre-IE Anatolian vocab could still be
            around
            > from those times. Terms like chief seem like words that might
            survive
            > linguistic shifts better than most because of the connections with
            > tradition that such terms carry.

            When I wrote to Glen with my speculations, my thoughts were pretty
            much the same as MrCaws'. I hadn't considered the possiblity of
            earlier contact in the Balkans- but I do find Glen's thoughts on the
            derivation of "basileus" very intriguing. It would be interesting,
            but hardly unique, if the same word entered another language by two
            routes, in two different guises. [Just as it would be interesting,
            but hardly unique, if my original idea re wanax is completely wrong,
            but Glen's subsequent idea re basileus sparked by it is correct :-) ]

            To continue with my speculations- IMHO a word formed from "ruler of
            the realm" implies a more complex level of socio-political
            organization than is necessarily implied by one formed from "ruler of
            the people" [the "people" can be anything from a small band to the
            population of China; but "realm" suggests not only a settled society,
            but one covering more than the immediate neighborhood]. If a more
            complex entity arose in Central Anatolia before similar ones arose in
            western Anatolia then it might be plausible that a word needed to
            describe the leader of such an entity would be borrowed as the
            neighboring societies to the west evolved toward a similar level.

            I realize of course that this is all conjecture, and that the
            possible cognates in other IE languages suggested by Piotr may
            invalidate it completely.

            Ned Smith
          • Mark DeFillo
            I find myself rather confused and perturbed by a general assumption that physical distance between peoples precludes a connection between their languages. This
            Message 5 of 9 , Jun 4, 2001
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              I find myself rather confused and perturbed by a general assumption that
              physical distance between peoples precludes a connection between their
              languages. This comes up here in the issue of whether it is reasonable to
              find links between Khattic and Greek, and in many other situations. To me,
              it sounds like scholars are vastly underestimating the capabilities of
              pre-modern people, just like those who find it mysterious that ancient
              people could lift heavy stones, building pyramids, megaliths, etc. (These
              things are not hard, craftsmen working with only hand tools, can do them
              still, there is no mystery.) Similarly, to assume that distance precludes
              contact is a major underestimation. It is worth remembering that several
              ancient IndoEuropean peoples specifically had the custom of travelling long
              distances particularly for religious purposes, both sages and pilgrims. This
              custom continues to this day in India. And even the most "primitive" (ie
              non-technological, civilized, settled) people do the same thing... in
              Australian Aboriginal traditional religion, the holy sites that the men of a
              tribe were/are responsible for are often very far from their home area, so
              that they would (I don't know if they still do) often go on journeys of
              weeks or even months, entirely on foot, to perform their sacred duties.

              Possibilities prove nothing, of course, but it still seems foolhardy to me
              to ignore, eliminate, or discount the possibility of cultural and linguistic
              contact even across a considerable distance. Let us give our predecessors
              and ancestors due credit for what they could do without the awesome
              technology at our disposal. For that matter, there are still many people
              today to whom my current action of communicating simultaneously with people
              in many distant lands would be unimaginable.

              I hope this did not seem off-topic: my intent is to question what has seemed
              to me (and tell me if you think I'm wrong that the assumption is made) a
              flaw in basic assumptions behind linguistic research.

              Hoping this is helpful,
              Mark DeFillo
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            • Glen Gordon
              ... How is *w- attested in Tocharian? I see no *w- there. Plus, what is this IE **wnatk- supposed to literally mean? I think it s 99.9% probable that if such a
              Message 6 of 9 , Jun 4, 2001
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                Piotr explores a possible IE etymology for Greek wanax:
                >A correction: actually, Mark mentioned Tocharian A na:t�k, pl.
                >na:cki 'lord', na:s'i 'lady', not the "god" word cited above (and
                >also worth considering). The EIEC reconstructs a tentative PIE *w(n)natk- >
                >Greek wanak(t)-.

                How is *w- attested in Tocharian? I see no *w- there. Plus, what
                is this IE **wnatk- supposed to literally mean? I think it's
                99.9% probable that if such a word existed in the IE vocabulary,
                it could never have been a very old term because of its complex
                (if not convoluted) form. So either it is a recent compound, or
                it is a foreign word. If it is truely a compound of native
                elements, what does it mean? Personally, I see no meaning in it
                just like I see no way of segmenting *septm into native elements
                (but then this is an obvious Semitoid loan). And yet again, we
                come back to the only conclusion.

                Whether /wanax/ comes from IE or not is a lesser issue and only
                changes the immediate source of the Hellenic term. It does not
                change the likeliest ultimate source of the word - a non-IE
                language.

                Ned joins the debate (Hey Ned):
                >To continue with my speculations- IMHO a word formed from "ruler of the
                >realm" implies a more complex level of socio-political organization than is
                >necessarily implied by one >formed from "ruler of the people"

                The definition of the name /Wurun-Katti/ as "ruler of the realm"
                is what one site mentioned and so this is what I have on my page.
                However, "realm" can mean lots of things, as I have mentioned
                to Ned. It might mean a vague area, it might mean a specific
                boundary, it might also mean worlds beyond our physical reality
                believed by these people. English definitions of foreign words can
                sometimes be deceptive and its best to keep an open mind of all
                the possibilities before stressing that they must have had a
                complex level of socio-political organization due to _one_
                interpretation of "realm".

                For instance, a hypothetical ProtoHattic *wunun-kWati could have
                meant more along the lines of "chief of the (otherworldly) realm"
                for all we know. If the Hattic war god is anything like the war
                gods of other Middle-Eastern religions (and it probably is due to
                influence), then Wurunkatti, like Baal, was doing battles with malevolent,
                otherworldly creatures. In this sense, Wurunkatti
                could very validly be conceived of as ruler or master of the
                realm (the _otherworldly_ realm).

                I think these possibilities undermine the certainty of societal
                complexity based on this single word.

                - gLeN

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              • ehlsmith@worldnet.att.net
                ... of the ... organization than is ... malevolent, ... Sorry, didn t mean to sound dogmatic. I m far from committed to any one possibility here. I was sort of
                Message 7 of 9 , Jun 4, 2001
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                  --- In cybalist@y..., "Glen Gordon" <glengordon01@h...> wrote:
                  > ...[snip]...
                  > Ned joins the debate (Hey Ned):
                  > >To continue with my speculations- IMHO a word formed from "ruler
                  of the
                  > >realm" implies a more complex level of socio-political
                  organization than is
                  > >necessarily implied by one >formed from "ruler of the people"
                  >
                  > The definition of the name /Wurun-Katti/ as "ruler of the realm"
                  > is what one site mentioned and so this is what I have on my page.
                  > However, "realm" can mean lots of things, as I have mentioned
                  > to Ned. It might mean a vague area, it might mean a specific
                  > boundary, it might also mean worlds beyond our physical reality
                  > believed by these people. English definitions of foreign words can
                  > sometimes be deceptive and its best to keep an open mind of all
                  > the possibilities before stressing that they must have had a
                  > complex level of socio-political organization due to _one_
                  > interpretation of "realm".
                  >
                  > For instance, a hypothetical ProtoHattic *wunun-kWati could have
                  > meant more along the lines of "chief of the (otherworldly) realm"
                  > for all we know. If the Hattic war god is anything like the war
                  > gods of other Middle-Eastern religions (and it probably is due to
                  > influence), then Wurunkatti, like Baal, was doing battles with
                  malevolent,
                  > otherworldly creatures. In this sense, Wurunkatti
                  > could very validly be conceived of as ruler or master of the
                  > realm (the _otherworldly_ realm).
                  >
                  > I think these possibilities undermine the certainty of societal
                  > complexity based on this single word.

                  Sorry, didn't mean to sound dogmatic. I'm far from committed to any
                  one possibility here. I was sort of just assessing greater likelihood
                  vs. lesser likelihood. But at the least I think my explanation was
                  one scenario of how the word MIGHT have traveled from central
                  Anatolia to the west, and from there to Greece.

                  Ned
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                • Glen Gordon
                  ... Alright, so what we have, then, is an initial element **wn- folk that is unattested on its own, a second element *xag^t- which is not the same as
                  Message 8 of 9 , Jun 4, 2001
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                    Piotr states:
                    >When we discussed it for the first time, I mentioned Anttila's
                    >suggestion that *wanakt- < *wn-h2ag^-t-, supposedly meaning >'folk-leader'.
                    >[...] (e.g. the well-know Myceanaean term ><ra-wa-ke-ta>, later <la:gete:s>
                    >< *lah2wo-h2ag^eto- 'leader of >[armed] people').

                    Alright, so what we have, then, is an initial element **wn-
                    "folk" that is unattested on its own, a second element *xag^t-
                    which is not the same as *xag^eto-, making the segmentation
                    doubly tentative, and an IE etymology for /wanax/ that is
                    just as tentative since its only attestation outside
                    of Hellenic is in a Tocharian word that isn't certain to be
                    related. This sounds very possible :)

                    - gLeN

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                  • Glen Gordon
                    ... Coincidence, it seems. The Greek stem seems to be /wanakt-/ with a -t- at the end. There is no -t- in /van.akkam/, therefore it can t work. Secondly, one
                    Message 9 of 9 , Jun 5, 2001
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                      Kalyanaraman offers a Dravidian solution:
                      >Any possibility of link with Tamil: van.akkam = obeisance? Or is
                      >it just coincidence?

                      Coincidence, it seems. The Greek stem seems to be /wanakt-/ with
                      a -t- at the end. There is no -t- in /van.akkam/, therefore it
                      can't work. Secondly, one would have to find motivation to place
                      Dravidian languages in the Balkans at such a late date. From what
                      I understand, Dravidian is most likely to have entered India
                      at approximately 5000 BCE (but certainly well before the Aryans arrived on
                      scene) and some further are inclined to relate it to
                      the Elamite language of Western Iran. Iran is not quite the
                      Balkans.

                      - gLeN

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