Friday, July 12, 2013

The Bulgar Calendar (done to death)

So I'm going to try to nail down my final interpretation of the Bulgar Calendar cycle.

Start with the Chatalar inscription, which has the year 821 in the Byzantine calendar, and sigor elem in the Bulgar calendar:

sigor, ox
elem, metal | white

Telets was defeated by the Byzantines in battle at Anchialus in 763.  If he reigned for three years, then somor altem, when he took the throne, must be on or after 760.  If altem = alem = elem, then that narrows it down to 760 or 761. As it happens, 761 was also an Ox year, and we know Ox was not somor, so we'll say he took power in 760:

somor, rat
altem, metal | white

Umor took the throne after Telets, so 763 or 764.  There are some caveats here: nomadic empires tended to choose their leaders by council (thus explaining why the different kings came from different clans), but also a new leader could not be chosen until the council had a chance to meet.  Not only that, but the first year of a reign was usually recorded as the first new year after taking power.  For now, let's be fuzzy about Umor's year:

dilom, rabbit (33%)  /  dragon (33%)  /  snake (33%)
toutom, water | black (33%)  /  wood | green (66%)

The reigns from Avitohol to Bezmer are partially legendary, so we can probably assume that the years and reigns make sense in the legendary context, even if we can't really tie them to historical events.  If there were two years from Gostun to Kurt, and Kurt took power in an Ox year (šegor večem), then Gostun must have taken power in a Boar year, so:

dohs, boar

Irnik's legendary 150-year rule would have started, then, in a Snake year (dilom tverim).  That settles the question about Umor's reign, which must have started in the Wood Snake year 765, so we can say:

dilom, snake
toutom, wood | green

If we assume Gostun's vtirem is a mistake for tvirem (which it should be based on the legendary reign lengths), then we know that tvirem and večem must be adjacent in the cycle of elements.  The cycle is Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and we've already identified Metal and Wood, so the only adjacent unknowns are Fire and Earth.  That means:

tvirem, fire | red
večem, earth | yellow

And, by process of elimination, the remaining unknown element must be Water.

Tervel is fairly well-documented, being first mentioned in 704, and last mentioned by Theophanes the Confessor in 718 or 719.  If he ruled for 21 years, then there is no way that he could have taken power in a Water year (692-693 or 702-703).  Despite the fact that tvirem looks like a king name based on the format of the list, it seems more likely to be part of Tervel's year, and that the name of the king after Tervel is simply missing.  In that case, Tervel could have taken power in the Fire Rooster year of 697 and ruled for 21 years till 718, so:

tekučitem, rooster

Between Tervel and Telets (718-760) there are around 42 years.  This is best accounted for by assuming that there was no ruler between Tervel and Sevar.  Sevar took power in a Metal year, so either the Monkey or Rooster years of 720-721.  Since we already have Rooster, that leaves:

toh, monkey

Kormisosh must have taken power in the Fire Ox year (šegor tvirem) 737, accommodating the 15 years of the reign of Sevar and a couple years of interregnum.  From 737 till 760 there are 23 years to accommodate the 17-year reign of Kormisosh and the 7-year reign of Vinekh.  There is no way to read Vinekh's year as a šegor alem year, since those fell on 701 and 761.  Reluctantly, we must follow the text, and say that imaše goralem is most likely the Water Dragon year of 752

imaše, dragon
goralem, water | black

That leaves the vereni alem of Asparukh's reign.  Asparukh reached the Danube around 674-678, and Tervel took power in 697.  If we believe the 61-year reign, then this should either be the Tiger or Rabbit years of 630-631.

Notes added 10/29/2013:

Some of these words have Turkic reflexes (definitions below taken from Clauson):

altem, alem, elem, metal | white; compare Old Turkic altu:n, gold
dohs, boar; compare Old Turkic toŋuz, 'pig'
dilom, snake; compare Old Turkic yıla:n (< dıla:n), 'snake'
tekučitem, rooster; compare Old Turkic takı:ǧu:, 'domestic fowl'

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