Trilingual stele from ancient Letun: cross-linguistic Greek-Lycian-Aramaic inscription

(ORDO NEWS) — The Letun trilingualism, or Xanthos trilingualism, is an inscription in three languages: standard Lycian or Lycian A, Greek and Aramaic, covering the faces of a tetrahedral stone stele called the Letunsky trilingualism, discovered in 1973 during archaeological research of the Leto temple complex (dedicated to the goddess Leto) near Xanthos, ancient Lycia, on the territory of modern Turkey. It was created when Lycia was under the rule of the Persian Achaemenid Empire.

The inscription is a public record of the decree authorizing the establishment of the cult, mentioning the deities and provisions for the new cult’s members. Lycian requires 41 lines, Greek 35, and Aramaic 27. These are not literal translations, but each contains some information not found in the others. Aramaic is somewhat abbreviated.

Although the use of the term “Letoon” in relation to the inscription and stele is unequivocal, there is no standard name for them. The trilingual Xanthos is sometimes used, which should be distinguished from the bilingual Xanthos meaning the stele of Xanthos.

However, sometimes the Xanthos stele is used to refer to the trilingual stele at Lethon, as well as the tomb at Xanthos. Moreover, the term Xanthos trilingual (Lycian A, Lycian B, Greek) is sometimes used for the tomb at Xanthos. In the last two cases, only the context can tell which stele is meant. The Aramaic inscription is known as KAI 319.

Trilingual stele from ancient Letun cross linguistic Greek Lycian Aramaic inscription 2

Part of an inscription in Lycian.


Lines 1-5 of the Lycian text date the inscription to the reign of Pixodaros.

Lines 5-8: the Xanthians introduce the cult of two gods, “Kaunian ruler and king Arcesimas”.

Lines 9-11: A certain Simias becomes a priest, his priesthood will be hereditary.

Lines 12-20: definition of the territory belonging to the temple and the salary that will be given to the priest.

Lines 20-24: A new tax is introduced on behalf of the temple, which will be levied upon the emancipation of a slave.

Lines 24-30: The proceeds from it are to be spent on sacrifices at the usual time.

Lines 30-36: The citizens of Xanth and the territory of Xanth swear to uphold these decrees.

Trilingual stele from ancient Letun cross linguistic Greek Lycian Aramaic inscription 3

Aramaic inscription.


The following is a transliteration of sample strings with English translations:

1-2. When Pixodarus son of Hecatomnes became satrap of Lycia, (1) Ẽke: trm̃misñ: xssaθrapazate: pigesere: (2) katamlah: tideimi:

2-5. he appointed Hieron (ijeru) and Apollodotos (natrbbejẽmi) as rulers of Lycia, and Artemelis (erttimeli) as ruler (asaxlazu) of Xanthos. sẽñneñte- (3) pddẽhadẽ: trm̃mile: pddẽnehm̃mis: (4) ijeru: senatrbbejẽmi: se(j)arñna: (5) asaxlazu: erttimeli:

5-6. The townspeople (arus) and the surrounding people of Xanthia decided mehñtitubedẽ: (6) arus: se(j)epewẽtlm̃mẽi: arñnãi:

7-8. set up an altar to the Kaunian ruler and king Arcesimas (7) m̃maitẽ: kumezijẽ: θθẽ: xñtawati: (8) xbidẽñni: se(j)arKKazuma: xñtawati:

9-10. and they elected Simias, son of Kondorasis (9) sẽñnaitẽ: kumazu: mahãna: ebette: (10) eseimiju: qñturahahñ: tideimi:

11. and the one closest to Simias (11) sede: eseimijaje: xuwatiti:

12. and they exempted him from taxes (arawã). (12) seipijẽtẽ: arawã: ehbijẽ: esiti:


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