Bearer of luck of the mother

I just found something really cool.

A bone tablet was discovered on Berezan Island where the Black Sea and the Dneiper meet, a short distance from Olbia. It contains a cult hymn to Apollon with some unusual epithets, a sequence of mystical numbers, and most importantly – something that appears to be actual musical notation!

Translation of the text:

2 A A A A À A A A A
3 Bearer of victory of Boreas (the North wind)
4 Seven – She-wolf without strength,
5 Seventy – Mighty, powerful lion,
6 Seven hundred – Most loved Bowbearer,
7 Mighty gift – a Healer,
8 Seven thousand – Wise dolphin.
9 Blessed peace!
10 I bless the City!
11 There I bear remembrance to Leto.
12 Seven
13 To Apollo,
14 The Didymaian,
15 The Milesian.
16 Bearer of luck of the mother (or the motherland),
17 Bearer of victory of Boreas (the North wind).
18 Didym(a)

Here’s an account of a presentation that Anna Boshnakova gave on it, and here’s a more in depth paper she wrote.

And if you’re interested in Apollon’s presence in the region, check out Patrick Bisaillon’s The cult of Apollo in the Milesian colonies along the coast of the Black Sea: an inventory of archaeological data.

4 thoughts on “Bearer of luck of the mother

  1. Highly intriguing!

    Could the “notes” just be (as if there is ever a “just” in such matters!) voces magicae/vowels for chanting, as found in so much magical textual materials?


    1. Quite possibly. That’s how Boshnakova interprets the sequence of As, at any rate. And while the argument that the other letters = musical notation is compelling and exciting in its implications, I think an alternative explanation of mystical signs or charaktêres is equally plausible. (And possibly even more so, as they appear on the bone tablets found at nearby Olbia, likely dating from a contemporaneous period.)


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