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Images of Thraco-Dacians deities.

The Thraco-Dacians at all have not left written certificates on the religion. Knowledge of it we are compelled to scoop from not numerous certificates of antique authors and, mainly - Thracian art. As writes Adrian Dalicovitchin: "It there was polytheistic religion inside which the main deities were Zalmoxis (a chthonic deity), Hebeleyzis (a heavenly deity), Bendis (the goddess like Greek Artemis) and a deity like Roman Mars. <...> According to Jordanes, the Dacians suspended sacrifices to the god of war". On other data, "the Greeks of Istria and Odessa where Greek-Thracian connections were close, recognised Supreme Thracian 'the Great god' <...> The tribal ancestor-hero-protector could be the highest personal concept in Thracian religion" (Hoddinott, 1981). According to the Greek certificates, the Thracians during a thunder-storm shot at clouds to strike enemies of the god. Hoddinott writes, that it specifies connection of the last with the sun and cites as an example a coin 6-th c. B.D., where the person in a horned helmet is represented. He goes on a chariot, in which harnessed the bull. Between them the solar disk is placed.

But we should understand, that the listed names mean they belong to what types of gods. About Hebeleyzis it is impossible to tell anything certain. Not clear, whether it was the God of Thunder or the God of Clear Sky. As for Zalmoxis we have some information. Herodot speaks about him as about divine defender of people. The Greek certificate was kept. Affirmed, that Zalmoxis was a Thracian, who was serve of Pithagor, and joined to his wisdom. After homecoming, he started to preach to fellow tribesmen idea of personal immortality, but has met mistrust. Having invited dear people of Thrace on a feast, Zalmoxis has predicted the future troubles. When troubles have really come, all were threw to search for a wise man, but could not find, for that has beforehand left in a certain secret refuge. Zalmoxis again was to fellow tribesmen in some years and those, having made sure of his wisdom, have accepted the doctrine and began to esteem him as the god. The given certificate is typical of Greeks who tried to attribute the majority of achievements of next peoples to the influence. However in there are important data: idea of personal immortality of the person achievable through the help of the divine defender and connection Zalmoxis with chthonic type of the dying and reviving god. The information on the mythical character in which it is possible to see features of the Cultural Hero was kept also. "According to Iliad to us the most ancient Thracian hero-ancestor is known Rhesus. The late version (Philostratos, Heroica 691) tells about him as still living, planting the horses, going in an armour and hunting. Wood animals offered themselves to him in a victim <...> About Rhesus also it was spoke, that he protected his country from epidemics" (Hoddinott, 1981). Now more or less clearly, that Zalmoxis and so-called Thracian Mars or the God of Earth Powers and the Cultural Hero, or both represent the Hero (a difference is not important in this case). The Thracians shot from bows at clouds with the purpose to save the hero from the God of Thunder, recognising by them as hostile force. So, despite of originality of the similar fact, from our point of view it is quite explained.

As for Bendis then all is clear. Her attributes healer goddesses, connection with a cult of three Thracian nymphs of sources, and an identification with Greek Artemis (which though it was esteemed in classical epoch as the maiden, but patronized birth) are known. There are features of the Great Goddess.

The Studying of the Thracian art deepens our understanding of their mythology. From 10 - 7-th centuries B.D. the bronze subjects were kept - the edges of axes decorated bull heads, sculptures of the deers speaking about agrarian, chthonic cults. Their style represents typical product of the Bronze Age. Later times (it is especial 4-th c. B.D.) Have left to us rich arts and crafts, whose samples find basically in pool of Danube. These are the decorated gold helmets and where the men gallop on horses or unknown animals are represented, battling with the snakes, sitting with a horn for drink in a hand. These are precious cups and vessels where images West Asian art are fancifully combined with the Greek and Scythian ones: the goddess holding for paws of two predators; horses with wings and a human head; east type of the griffins (with the ram horns); bulls; images of torment. There are the separate images of the Great Goddess. We can see them in northern Thracians art also. In one of Sarmizegetusa sanctuaries the terracotta medallion on which image of Diana with Roman coins dated 80-ages B.D. is reproduced was found. It connects with a cult of goddess Bendis. In general, the Dacians showed a human figure seldom. The small bronze masks representing the woman, presumably Bendis were exception.

On the contrary, the southern Thracians have created rich figurative art. As it was already spoken, the Persian and Greek influences were reflected in it. However Thrace finally has developed own original 'barbarous' style which brightest display became an image of 'the Thracian Hero' Rich products of arts and crafts especially silver plaquettes with gilding were kept in storehouse in Letnitsa. There is on one of them the stage of struggle between the hero and three-headed serpent. Some features of the image specify influence of Greek images of Hercules and Hydras. But the plot goes back to ancient Indo-European myth about a victory of the hero above three-headed dragon (which it will be in detail considered in connection with Scythian-Sarmatians). The Hercules's images are typical for the Thracians. In the centre silver phalar from Old Zagora we see the person struggling with a lion, and on perimeter - winged lions and griphons (in what has had an effect, the mixed Greek-Persian influence). The silver plate from Panagyurishte shows Hercules with club, a certain animal holding for a nape - whether a lion, whether - a Cerberus (as it was already spoken, these monsters go back to a uniform prototype). The Hercules's type - the person, for the feats and superhuman works of the reached divine status becoming an ancestor of Thracian people has merged with type of the national Hero.

Especially complated Thracian understanding of the Hero was expressed on a series of plaquettes from the same Letnitsa. Their four and everywhere the Hero is shown galloping on a horse (that not so typically for Greeks). On the first plaquette he is represented as great drinking, with a bowl in a hand. Behind, the wild boar skips. On other plaquette the Hero is shown with spear. On the third horse head behind a back of the horseman testifies to his riches and authority above the horses. The fourth and fifth plates show the hero, accordingly, with man and female heads behind a back that speaks about a role of a primogenitor of a tribe. One more plaquette testifies to same role from Letnitsa on which the Hero embracing woman. Itself same it is shown and separately, sitting on hyppocampa.

Other plaquettes with the horse hero were kept also. One of them shows similarity of a composition with mentioned in the chapter devoted to the Celtics and Germanics, Vendel helmets. The Thracian variant represents the Hero amazing with a spear of one predatory animal and a horse trambling down by hoofs of anothers. The similar composition as we saw, is traced and in Etruskan art. Other plaquette (Lukovit, 4-th. c. B.D.) represents iconography, survived millenniums. It is Saint George's prototype. Last, having the prototype of the real Roman aristocrat living in epoch of emperor Diokletian, has turned to an image combining features dying and a reviving agrarian deity with features of the hero, winning dragon or (is symptomatic) - the wolf.

In Hellenistic period and it is especial after the Roman gain of Thrace, the image of the Hero - the horseman was canonised in art. "The most widespread kind were carved relieves on stones, is usual 30 - 40 on 20 - 30 see. G. Katsarov identified three main groups with many divisions. In one horse hero rides, slowly coming nearer to the woman, an altar or a tree around of which it was twisted snakes. The second group includes the plates representing the hero with a dog, attacking a wild boar appearing from for a tree, (it happens it is replaced with an altar). On plates of the third group the hero comes back from hunting, carrying a killed deer. Sometimes there are also other figures; instead of a wild boar the lion (Hoddinott, 1981) can be shown. Hoddinott believes, that iconography relieves of the first group had the Greek roots, and the second - Persian (occurring from stella 400 B.D. in Thracian province of Persian empire). "The wild boar was heroic game in eyes of Greeks from them Hercules associations, it also was devoted to Artemis and had a reputation of general chthonic beast among the Indo-European peoples. The tree should be tree of lives and a symbol of fertility. The snake can symbolise immortality as it is not attacked by the hero and to personify apotrophic aspect which, irrespective of healer associations, conducts to images on sacred vessels. The woman occurs from the goddess, but in opinion of the Thracians can symbolise returning of the hero home. <...> The Hero identified with Apollo-healer, or with Dionysos. When the genre of funeral stellas has was extended in Southern Thrace (the Roman period), the dead person was frequently represented as the hero going by top, symbolising immortality. The majority of these stellas can be dated 2 - 3 centuries A.D., but them continued to put up to Rescript in Thessaloniki in 380 <...> After acceptance of Christianity and arrival of the Slavs, many relieves began to be considered as image of Saint George and Saint Dimitrios. In 1907 peasants still made some kind of pilgrimage to a tomb of the Hero per day Saint George to recover. One of relieves served as an icon in Plovdiv, another was built - in church Saint George in Izvorovo (Katsarov, 1958), the third is fixed into a wall near to the main gate of a medieval citadel in Ainos (the Casson, 1926, figs. 98). <...> Whether as Marco-Kralevitsh whether as Saint George, the horse hero continued to be represented both Byzantium and old Slavic church have brought this image in new Russian church" (Hoddinott, 1981).

Fantalov Alex


Speciality 24.00.01 - the theory and a history of culture

The dissertation on competition of a doctor degree of cultural science

Illyrian Mithra.




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