A concise interpretation of the Elaia disc and Tiryns disc, relying on the translations by Derk Ohlenroth, proposing a different historical background, with many illustrations // © 2008 Franz Gnaedinger


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Provisional English translation of the inscription on the Elaia disc as deciphered by Derk Ohlenroth: Enter Elaia’s grove, kindle peeled wood (stripped from the bark), beat the earth round about the smoke rising from the sacrificial fire, and neigh suddenly like a pair of horses: Aio aé! come, Noble Late ‘Night’, always born anew by the goddess … The disc shows Elaia’s grove in Phigalia, in the center field a baking oven (Evans 7) symbolizing Demeter Elaia, resembling the oven of the Bird Goddess in the shrine at Sabatinovka in the Southern Bug Valley, Moldavia, Early Cucuteni    Next to the oven is a wave (Evans 45) representing Poseidon who was originally the river god. Poseidon followed Demeter Elaia, she fled him and turned into a mare, whereupon he turned into a stallion and raped her. Demeter Elaia became Black Demeter Melaina the angry one and caused a famine. She bore a child and gave birth to a daughter by the name of Despoina, Her secret name was Nyx ‘Night’, and she was an alter ego of Gaia. The above formula evoked her and made her speak through her priestesses and thus give oracles.


The author of this paper believes that the Vinca culture of Old Europe, a term coined by Marija Gimbutas, partly survived in Arcadia. A Vinca spiral meant life. A rectangular spiral is found in the center of the loaf-shaped clay plaque from Banjica near Belgrade, Early Vinca    . Round spirals appear on another loaf-shaped clay plaque from Vrshac, Vinca culture, c. 5000 BC or early fifth millennium BC  . A double spiral is seen on the womb of the pregnant goddess from Medvednjak, Vinca culture, between 5000 and 4500 BC  . The spiral on the disc has the same meaning of life: performing the horse ritual brings Nyx to life …


Now for a fable.


The priestesses of Demeter Elaia the friendly one and Black Demeter Melaina the angry one knew a lot about gardening. They imported edible olives from Crete and planted them in their grove. Around 1700 BC a hopeful young man was raised in Lycaion. He worshipped the supreme god at an altar on top of Mount Lycaion, wherefrom he had a splendid view over the Peloponnese, and spent considerable time in Elaia’s grove learning about agriculture. As a young man he traveled to the Argolis, where he was considered such a prodigy that the king of Tiryns who resided in the beautiful Circular Building on top of the limestone hill and had no son adopted him for his prince. The Mycenaeans worshipped Sseyr, Middle Helladic name of Zeus. The young man said: ‘We worship a supreme god residing on top of Mount Lycaion, he resembles your Sseyr, he must be the same god …’ It came to happen that a famine menaced the Argolis, whereupon the young man traveled to Elaia’s grove, evoked Nyx, and got her oracle via her priestesses. The wise women told him to plant edible olives in the Argolis, and to be as industrious as a bee. Well, the young man took olive twigs and portable beehives from Phigalia to Tiryns, and, with the help of willing and laborious people, turned the Argolis into a flowering garden that nourished everybody. He declared Sseyr from Tiryns and the god from top of Mount Lycaion to be one and the same god. He worshiped Sseyr in a shrine in the Circular Building, and Demeter Elaia in a complementary shrine. He placed portable beehives on the walls in honor of Demeter Elaia, and kept falcons and eagles in honor of Sseyr, even tamed some of the birds and made them hunt for snakes. He was very inventive and found a solution to almost every practical problem. Thus he luckily averted the famine, and when the old king died he was appointed new king of Tiryns. People liked him, some feared him, and a few said he was no genuine Argivian, just a stranger from Lycaion. He tried to convince the latter by caring about the safety of Tiryns and of the Argolis in general. He installed guards on top of the Circular Building and along the walls of Tiryns. Moreover he founded a union for the protection of the Argolis  . The emblem of this union was the watchful Eye of Argos: a circle of dots around a central dot   . The king presented himself as the lion-wolf-dog-bee king – the lion being the Mycenaean emblem of power, the wolf being the Lycaian emblem of power, the dog a useful guard, and the bee an emblem of industry, sacred to Demeter Elaia.


Eponymous Tiryns also introduced an ingenious lunisolar calendar from Asia Minor: a year has 12 months of 30 days, plus 5 and occasionally 6 days, while 63 continuous periods of 30 days – or 270 weeks of seven days – yield 1,890 days and correspond to 64 lunations. Actually he used a variant of this calendar: a week has nine days, five weeks are 45 days, 8 periods of 45 days are 360 days, add 5 and occasionally 6 days and you get a year of 365 and sometimes 366 days. 21 continuous periods of 45 days – or 105 weeks of nine days – are 945 days and correspond to 32 lunations. This calendar was visualized in a simple yet appealing way: as a flower of eight petals, each petal representing 45 days or five weeks, while the 5 and occasionally 6 additional days of the solar year were represented by a small circle in the center. The flower was at the same time a symbol of the sun that rules the year and makes the cereals grow and the flowers bloom …


Now the king had good friends in southern Central Crete, where he liked to spend winter. Crete in the Middle Helladic / Middle Minoan period of time was a laboratory of writing. So the king consulted a good friend among the scribes, elaborating an idea of his own, telling him he would like to convey Elaia’s grove at Phigalia and his beloved Tiryns on a pair of gold discs that he could wear on his shoulders. The Tiryns disc should also tell about his success as king. The pair of gold discs should bear inscriptions conveying stories in a double form, both as texts and as pictures. How can this be achieved? with a new script that renders single sounds like A or E or S or L in the form of tiny pictures that can be assembled to visual messages. The same sound can be represented by several different pictures, allowing for more graphic possibilities. For example S may be given by several signs, among them a soldier [Evans 2], O can again be written by more than one sign, one of them being the shield of a soldier, and this shield may be decorated with the emblem of the Argos Eye [Evans 12]. On the linguistic level, shield O followed by soldier S would yield the frequent Greek ending –OS, while on the visual level a shield and soldier represent a guard. Guards must bee seen all over Tiryns, protecting the polis, especially the gate, and watching over the sea and plains (Tiryns, by then, was close to the shore). Spirals would be nice. The Tiryns spiral should begin with Sseyr in the center --- emphatic Ss given as the calendar flower of eight petals [Evans 38], Ey as profile of the king, bearing a tattoo on the cheek, a pair of tiny circles for sky and earth [Evans 3], and R as ear of grain, speaking for the king’s concern about the Argivian fields [Evans 10]. The spiral text must unify Sseyr with the supreme god residing on top of Mount Lycaion, a shining god reflected in the shining town, while he, the king, personifying the town, may be equated via the godlike polis with the shining god himself. The text along the margin should be a magic enforcement of the protection granted by the walls around Tiryns. And here is what the king and his friend the scribe managed to write on the Tiryns disc. Spiral text: Sseyr is the shining one also when Sseyr is the Lycaian one whose women give birth to his equal, and if shining Tiryns resembles the shining god, also I, personifying Tiryns, resemble the god … Text along the margin: Marked by the god and lonesome evermore and without hope for salvation and deprived of a shadow shall return who tries to enter without permission … The banning formula warding off potential intruders begins again with the emphatic Ss of Sseyr. The visual message conveys how well Tiryns was protected, by so many guards:    There are more visual messages, for example two waves on the margin indicating the former course of the river Manesse (Evans 45), the woman with the mane and protruding face showing Demeter Elaia as she turns into Black Demeter Melaina (Evans 6), portable beehives on the wall (Evans 24), a falcon catching a snake (Evans 31), and so on 


The king and later his successors wore the pair of gold discs on their shoulders, recognizable as minute spirals on the gold signet ring from Tiryns, where we see Eponymous Tiryns before Demeter Elaia, raising a libation jug, appearing as lion-wolf-dog-bee king, behind him three successors, in between the kings three olive twigs growing out of olives, practically the same sign as Evans 13. Ears of grain are seen on Demeter Elaia’s gown, and as rain in the sky. Behind the happy goddess hides the eagle of Sseyr      . The gold discs are lost – perhaps waiting for discovery in an as yet unexcavated part of Tiryns? Luckily the scribe and friend of Eponymous Tiryns made a clay copy of the pair of gold discs and baked them together into a single disc. The copy was kept in the palace of Phaistos in the fertile Mesara plain in southern central Crete, where Luigi Pernier found it in the evening of July 3, 1908. The scribe of the discs, or one of his colleagues, inscribed a bronze double axe that was placed in the cave near Arkalochori and devoted to Lousia the angry one, Cretan equaivalent of Black Demeter Melaina. Translation by Derk Ohlenroth: I belong to the goddess Lousia. This short inscription shares three signs and the so-called thorn with the signs on the discs. Elaia in her boat with the bow in the shape of a horse can be seen on the gold ring from Mokhlos in Crete, and the bee as her industrious companion does not miss on this charming work of a Cretan goldsmith 


Homer, finally, paid homage to Eponymous Tiryns in the Odyssey, where he appears as Lord Laertes the gardener who planted the olive tree around whose trunk Odysseus and Penelope build their immovable bed, symbol of the ever lasting Greek civilization.



Franz Gnaedinger, September 2008 (written for a conference)



Postscript (October 2008)


In my fable I say that the kings of Tiryns resided in the beautiful Circular Building on top of the limestone hill, close to the former shore of the bay and the former mouthing of the river Manesse. Actually, the Circular Building burned down by the end of the Early Helladic period of time, but I assume that a wooden structure replaced the former version in the Middle Helladic period of time – sort of a palace combined with storage rooms, a Zeus sanctuary, a lighthouse, and a watchtower. A big rosette of supporting blocks at the base of the former Circular Building is still extant in situ, one more reason for the rosette in the center of the Tiryns disc. My formula for understanding early civilization – simple yet complex – also helps in the case of the two discs, and in shedding light on the Middle Helladic period of time in the Argolis, on which we still know so very little.


Owing to the wonderful decipherments by Derk Ohlenroth – Elaia disc, Tiryns disc, inscription on the bronze double axe from Arkolochori, inscription on the altar stone from Mallia – we can now have a glimpse behind the veils of time. The first Greeks, coming from Dimini in Thessaly, arrived in the Peloponnese in around 2 800 BC and settled in the Argolis. The clash between the old civilization of the goddess (revealed by Marija Gimbutas) and the Indo-Europeans, fond of their bridled horses, are evoked on the Elaia disc, by the baking oven as emblem of the goddess and the river as emblem of the god in the center field, by the Elaia text, and the underlying myth. Poseidon, originally the god of rivers who created the horse, fell in love with Demeter Elaia from Phigalia, chased her, she fled him, turned into a mare, he turned into a stallion and raped her, whereupon she caused a famine, becoming Black Demeter Melaina in Phigalia and Lousia the angry one in Crete. Eponymous Tiryns, hero of the Tiryns disc, reconciled the two civilizations and thus enabled the Greek wonder. He and his successors are commemorated on the Tiryns disc, on the gold signet ring from Tiryns, on numerous seals from various regions in the Peloponnese, and as Lord Laertes the gardener in Homer’s Odyssey, along the lineage Zeus – Arkeisios – Laertes – Odysseus – Telemachos. Let me propose the following timetable:


Zeus  2700 BC – the Middle Helladic name of the god was Sseyr (Doric Sseus), which I see as emphatic form of Magdalenian* TYR meaning: he who overcomes in the double sense of rule and give. Tyr- may have been the name or title of the first Greek king arriving in the Argolis


Arkeisios  2200 BC – Magdalenian* ARK means bear, Ark- may have been the name of a big and strong Argivian king ruling with a powerful ‘paw’


Laertes  1700 BC – gardener, would have introduced the edible olive in the Argolis, Argos Eye, watchful union of Argivian towns, Argonauts, gold, gold discs worn on the shoulders by Laertes and his successors


Odysseus  1200 BC – the root of the name means hate (Ialian odio), Trojan war caused by beautiful Helen, symbol of tin that came from the Ore Mountains in Middle Europe or from Central Asia and was in either case bound to pass Troy, which was symbolized in Polyphem. Odysseus and Penelope (a pun on the Peloponnese) build their immovable bed, symbol of the eternal Greek civilization, around the trunk of the olive tree that had been planted by Lord Laertes


Telemachos  700 BC – Homer’s time, Messenian wars, Homer fearing for the unity and stability of the Greek civilization, Gyges on the horizon, danger of a new Polyphem as motivation for uniting the material of dozens of bards into the Iliad and Odyssey that mark the begin of the European literature



* As for Magdalenian:  lascaux01.htm / lascaux02.htm  (having reconstructed an amazing lunisolar calendar from ideograms in the Lascaux cave in early 2005 I need a matching language and try to reconstruct one, relying on the approach to early language by Richard Fester. For example his KALL became my KAL meaning Underworld, once a beautiful place – Greek kalos means beautiful –, a word of many derivatives, among them Helen Hellenes keltoi Celts Helvetii, referring to ancient miners who got precious metals from the ground)