Web page of D. Trifonov

                                                                                                            Bulgarian alphabets
(Jan 2005),
                                                                                                            Written monuments
(May 2005)


Cyrillic, Glagolithic, Preglagolithic

1. Aethicus Ister's alphabet (4 c. AD);   2. Ulphila's "gothic" alphabet (4 c. AD);
3. Glagolithic (Glagolitza) (9 c. AD);      4. Cyrillic (Kirilitza) (9 c. AD);
5. Present-day Bulgarian alphabet (Bulgarian Cyrillic).


1. Aethicus Ister alphabet (4 c. AD):  Preglagolithic  (22 letters)* 

* Copy of Fig. 2 of the paper B. Peychev, Filosofska misal, 1979, issue 2, p. 72-85. (in Bulgarian), which reproduces a page of St. Hieronimus translation of the Aethicus Cosmography, edited by H. Wutke (Leipzig, 1853).  It is believed that Aethicus has written his Cosmography with these letters in a Slavic (Bulgarian(?)) language.

The author Peychev (Pejtscheff) argues that the Glagolithic, which was used in Croatia even in 19 c. AD, is an amended (by Saint. Hieronymus, 4 c. AD) version of Aethicus Ister alphabet.
The scholar Aethicus, "a native schytian of noble descendence" ("natione Schitica nobile prosapia parentum", as written by St. Hieronymus) is, according to Peychev, and some other historians as well, a slav/bulgarian from the ancient town of Istria (Histria) in Schytia Minor (present Dobrudzha (or Dobruja)). This Histria is about 65 km north from present Romanian Constanta, and in those times was a Black Sea port. According to H. Wuttke, the 19 century historian, the native place of Aethicus is the ancient Historio, the present village Sratzimir near Silistra town in Bulgaria.

  It is commonly accepted that Ister/Istr is the ancient name of the Danube river. According to the "Getica" of Jordan (Jordanes), the well known gothic (gethic) historian, the name Ister comes from the language of old thracian Bessi.   In view of the facts that: 1) the above mentioned  Istria/Histria is not on the Ister river, and 2) there are other ancient settlements Istria far from the Danube (e.g. in the Rhodos island) (there is present-day town Istra as well - about 40 km west from Moscow ), it is more probable that the native place of the philosopher Aethicus, "the native schytian of noble descendence", is some known ancient "schytian" town on the Ister river, such as Silistra for example. Silistra is the most eastward bulgarian town on the Danube. It seems natural even to relate the origin of the name of this town, Sil-Istra, Sil-Istria, to the old thracian Ister, in distinction to the conventional assertion that `Silistria' is a turkish adaptation of Drastar (the backward chain is 'Silistria - Drastar - Dorostol - Durostorum', where `Durostorum` is the Roman name, given in 105 AD (1900 years ago) to the already existing town with a name probably close to Istra / Istria ). The town name Silistria was in use already in the beginning of 13 c. AD - see the W.R. Shepherd map of the Balkan and Mediterranean Lands about the year 1204 (the time of Fourth Crusade) - karta1204 (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/shepherd/mediterranean_1204.jpg).
  Toward the popularity of the ancient Durostorum let us add that this town is noted by Jordanes as a native place of general Aetius, the chief commander of Roman-lead armies in the famous Catalaunian battle (in 451 AD) against the armies lead by Attila. The Patrician Aetius was of "the bravest Moesian stock". Thus "The Last Roman" (as they called later Aetius), is in fact a noble Moesian. And St. Hieronimus writes (in the 4th century, see below) that ‘Moesia this is Bulgaria’. (See two pictures of Aetius and Attila) As to the popularity of Silistra in later times (9 c. AD) let us mention here that the Dorosltol archbishop Damian was elected (in 927 AD) as a first Patriarch of the Bulgarian independent Church. And the Patriarch chair was in Dorostol too.

<>.  Aethicus Ister alphabet
.                                 ----------------------------------------
      The first two phrases after the Alphabet: 'Explicit liber Aethici phylosophi cosmographi natione Schitica nobile prosapia parentum. Ab eo enim ethica philosophia a reliquis sapientibus originem traxit;' (the phrases are believed to belong to St. Hieronymus).



2. Ulphila's "Gothic" alphabet (26 letters ) (see characters also in   http://tribal.abv.bg).

Invented by Bishop Ulfila  (Ulphila, or Wulfila - 4 c. AD) in Roman town Nicopolis ad Istrum, the present village Nikup in the central northern part of Bulgaria (20 km north from the former capital Veliko Tarnovo).

Interesting   research articles about  Ulfila, Aryans, ‘Goths’ and ‘Geths’ can be found in the very recent book ‘Goti i Geti’ (Editor (and author of the main research paper) A. Chilingirov, ‘Ziezi ex quo Vulgares’ Publishers, Sofia 2005 (in Bulgarian)). In particular the correct name Urphila is noted (by A. Chilingirov) there instead of  commonly used   Ulphila (Ulfila) and Wulphila (Wulfila)..

Ulphila 'gothic' alphabet


3.   Glagolithic  (41 characters)  (see example of Bulgarian old glagolithic text (the end of 10 c. AD) Zograph monastery Gospel )

It is almost commonly accepted that the Glagolithic was created by Saint Constantine-Cyril the philosopher in the middle of 9 c. AD in connection with his mission in Moravia. However some scholars argue that the Glagolithic may be regarded as an amended and extended version of the Aethicus - Hieronymus alphabet (Preglagolithic, see e.g. item 1. above). 






























(hard sign)


(soft sign)










4.   Cyrillic (33 letters) (see letters also in http://tribal.abv.bg, and an example of Bulgarian old cyrillic text Napissanie. The latter is a later transcript of a literary work by St. Constantine-Cyril himself)

In the Chernorizetz Hrabar narrative "O pismeneh" (9 c. AD) it is said that Saint Cyril invented 38 letters.  There are at least three assertions about the origin of the Cyrillic alphabet: 
a) created by Saint Cyril disciple Kliment Ohridski (this is most popular version); 
b) formed during a long evolution period  (assertion of acad. E. Georgiev); 
c) invented by the Saint Cyril himsef before Glagolithic in his mission in Bregalnitza in 855 (this is according to the Thessaloniki legend, where one speaks about "32 or 35" letters). 

Cyrillic alphabet


5. The present day Bulgarian alphabet

(Bulgarian Cyrillic, 30 letters) (see letters with Cyrillic (Windows) encoding)
































· The first known text written with Aethicus ‘Preglagolitic’ probably is that of Aethicus Cosmography dated the middle of 4 c. AD. The Cosmography is translated into Latin by St. Heronimus. The translator didn’t point out the original language. However many historians accept (Hrabanus, Perz, Wuttke, Pejachevich – see the B. Peychev paper, cited above) that the author, ‘the native schytian of noble descendence’ is of Slavic origin. Therefore it is natural to accept that the Cosmography was first written in a Slavic (Old Bulgarian) language.
  A comparison between the above provided alphabets shows some common features of Glagolithic and Aethicus letters. However if one compares the latter with the characters of the so called 'Asparukh and Kuber Bulgarians alphabet’ ('proto-Bulgarian alphabet'), provided in the P. Dobrev, book The language of the Asparukh and Kuber bulgarians (
"Ogledalo" Publishers, Sofia, 1995 (in Bulgarian)) (see also the web-pages P. Dobrev ) one would discover much more common features (however there are no fully coinciding letters).
    Stone inscriptions with characters of ‘proto-Bulgarian alphabet’ (provided and argued in the Dobrev book, and in
the web-pages) are discovered e.g. in Dobrudzha (village Murfatlar, Romanian Dobrudzha). The Murfatlar incriptions have been first published by Romanian historians ( I. Barnea, S. Stefanescu, Bizantini, romani si bulgari la Dunarea de Jos , Din Istoria Dobrudgei, v. III, Bucuresti, 1971).  

· First texts written with Ulphila ‘Gothic’ alphabet: It is accepted that this is the Bible, translated from Greek in the middle of 4 c. AD by the 'west gothic' bishop Ulphila himself (in the Nicopolis ad Istrum in central Moesia (present Bulgaria). This translated Bible is considered as the first literary monument of the German culture. The oldest available transcript of the translation known as Codex argenteus was made around a 100 years later in Ravena [see e.g. E. Staycheva, Literaturen forum, 12 (2002) 496 (electronic version:   estaycheva.htm , in Bulgarian)] (Addition, November 2006: see the recent response to E. Staycheva article by prof. Assen Tschilingirov at http://oshte.info/004/11/0511/02.htm , where quite different thesis about Ulphila and "Gothic alphabet" is argued). .  The alphabet pictures provided here reveal large similarity, including coinciding letters, between Ulphila alphabet and the Cyrillic one.    
  Many respectful scholars, ancient and modern ones (in particular Jordanes (6 c. AD) and G. Tzenoff and S. Lesnoy (20 c. AD) – see e.g. the above cited new book “Goti i Geti” (‘Goths and Geths’ ) by A. Chilingirov and the extensive bibliography there in) identify   Goths  from the lower Danube and Black sea area with the Geths of the same territory, and not with the German (Teuton) Goths (Gothones). In the light of this the Aryan bishop Ulphila (Urphila),  and his alphabet are ‘Gethic’. In the middle ages narratives the terms ‘Geths’ (Getas), ‘Goths’ (Gothos) or ‘Schyths' (Schitians) are frequently used for Thracs (Thracians), Slavs or Bulgarians.   For example, St. Hieronimus (4 c. AD, the translator of the Aethicus Cosmopgraphy) writes about ‘seven Getic or Gothic tribes  which live in the north, since Getas are called by the learned men  Gothos’ (‘Et certe Gothos omnes retro erudity, magis Getas … appellare…  -- this citation is taken from the G. Tzenoff book “The Huns”, Sofia, 2002 (first edition in 1940)), while on his World map St. Hieronimus notes ‘Moesia this is (also) Bulgaria’ (‘ Misia hec et Vulgaria’)). On the other hand it is commonly accepted that in the 4 c. AD Gothos (in particular the gothic bishop Ulphila) lived in Moesia. Thus, it appears that in the 4 c. AD Moesian Gothos are Getas, and at those times Moesia is also known as Bulgaria. (Note that in old narratives Vulgaria = Bulgaria: the change B --> V comes from Greek, where sound B is missing, the character B being pronounced as V). Let us provide one more citation: on p. 55 in the above mentioned G. Tzenoff' book one reads the following citation from the 6 c. AD Ravennati Cosmographus: 'Jordanes has told him "In Thrace, Macedonia and Moesia Inferior Bulgarians live only" ('Inter vero Thraciam vel Macedoniam et Mysiam inferiorem modo Bulgari habitant'. Ravennati Cosmographus, IV, 6.)'.

· First texts written with Glagolithic or Cyrillic alphabet. The saint brothers Cyril and Methodius translate from Greek several divine service books (‘Sunday gospel’, ‘Optional Apostle’, ‘Psalter and Selected ecclesiastical books’)  and create new products (‘Words about the transfer of the relics of Clement of Rome’,   ‘Canon in honour of Dimitrius of   Thessaloniki’ etc.), some of which are first written in Greek (e.g. ‘Words about the transfer of the relics ... ’), and later translated.  One can suppose that the translations are written with glagolithic letters. The point is that late cyrillic transcripts (after 12 c. AD) of these translations   (and of other products of that period)  have come to us only ( see for example a later cyrillic transcript of Constantine-Cyril work   'Napissanie na pravata vyara' ('Writ of the right belief').   One finds only some traces of glagolithic in cyrillic transcripts (e.g. in ‘St Methodius Extensive hagiography’, in K. Preslavski ‘Alphabetical prayer’, in ‘Bitolski tripod of 12 c.’ – see D. Petkanova, Konstantin Kiril  --  Dennitsa na slavjanskia rod, ‘Narodna prosveta’ Publishers, Sofia, 1983 (in Bulgarian)).  Text works written with glagolithic letters are also found, however they are dated from 10th or later centuries, and their authors usualy are unknown. Such are the Assemann Gospel (found in 1736, dated from the end of 10th century), the   Zograph monastery Gospel (found in 1843, dated from 10th century), etc.   The products and translations made by the authors of the famous Preslav literary school [K. Preslavski (Constantine of Preslav), Joan  (John) Exarch, king Simeon the Great and others] are written with cyrillic letters.  
One mostly asserts that the language of the first translations is Slavic. However one finds assertions about Bulgarian language as well. In the so-called Second hagiography of Naum one reads:  After performing the liturgy on all books translated from Greek into Bulgarian language, the Pope showed them to all …” (the Pope is Hadrian whom Cyril and Methodius presented the books to).  This hagiography is dated 10 c. AD, it came to us as a transcript of 16 c., and its author is unknown. In the so-called Brief hagiography of Cyril (the author unknown, transcript of 16 c.) we read: “He was native Bulgarian”, and next “And created for them letters in Slavic language”.  Assertions about translation into Slavic language:  In the ‘Methodius Extensive hagiography’ (with author St Clement of Ohrid (Kliment Ohridski) or Constantine of Preslav (?), known according to so called Uspenski transcript of 12 c.) we find that emperor Mikhail said to Cyril: “You are from Thessaloniki, and all Thessalonians speak pure Slavic”.  St Clement of Ohrid determines himself as a “Slavic bishop”.  The men of letters from the so-called Simeon Circle (Preslav literary school)  write that they translate from Greek into Slavic. Their translations too are known from later transcripts [see the collection A Reader on Old Bulgarian Literature, “Nauka i izkustvo” Publishers, Sofia, 1967, Eds:  P. Dinekov, K. Kuev, D. Petkanova  (in Bulgarian)]. 
Most earlier stone inscriptions with cyrillic, glagolithic and proto-bulgarian letters are found in Preslav area and Dobrudzha (Dobruja),  in the Murfatlar small churches again. Short incriptions with glagolithic letters, and with a mixture of cyrillic and proto-bulgarian letters were found in Preslav (the Bulgaria old capital, 9 - 10 cc.). The language of some of the above mentioned inscriptions is Slavic, while of some other ones it is a mixture of Slavic and Proto-Bulgarian. ( see copies and explanation (in English) in the electronic pages P.Dobrev ).  

· Other `Primary Bulgarian inscriptions’. There are several valuable written monuments (texts) from the period 9 - 10 c. AD, known as 'primary Bulgarian', which are written in greek and carved on stones, stone plates or columns. Such are the following:
1) 'The Tarnovo inscription of khan Omurtag' (816 - 831 AD), carved on a column available in the 'St 40 martyrs' church in Tarnovo (
"... The man even well lived, dies and another one is born ... ");
2) 'Chatalar inscription of khan Omurtag', found in 1905 in village Khan Krum near the town Shumen;
3) 'Chronicle inscription of khan Malamir', carved on a column, found in Shumen;
4) 'Inscription of king Boris from Balshi', found in village Balshi, Albania;
5) 'The Name-list of primary Bulgarian rulers’ ( 'Name-list of Bulgarian khans', or 'Name-list of Bulgarian kings' ). A transcript of this Name-list was found and published by Russian scholar A. Popov in 1866. It is not quite clear  when it had been written, in which language (Greek, proto- or old-Bulgarian), and what kind of a document was the original inscription. [
For details see e.g. the books (in Bulgarian): Mosko Moskov, Imennik na balgarskite hanove (novo talkuvane), "P. Beron" Publishers, Sofia, 1988;   Ivan Bogdanov, Imennik na balgarskite hanove, "Otechestven Front" Publishers, Sofia, 1981. The here provided Uvarov transcript is a copy from the above cited book  A Reader on Old Bulgarian Literature.
The reader can see that the text in this copy is written in Old Bulgarian language (known also as Old Church Slavonic language), except for several pairs of words, characterizing probably the birth year (or the time) of the corresponding 'knyaz' (king). Those pairs of words can be transcribed, in the order of their appearence, as follows:   'dilom tvirem' (the year of Avitokhol, of his successor Irnik, and of Kormisosh), 'dokhs tvirem' (the year of Gostun), 'shegor vechem' (the year of Kurt / Kubrat), 'shegor vem' (the year of Bezmer), 'vereni alem' (the year of Esperih / Asparuh), 'tekuchitem tvirem' (the year of Terven / Tervel), 'dvansh shehtem' (the year of ??), 'tokh altom' (the year of Sevar), 'shegor alem' (the year of Vineh), 'somor altem' (the year of Teletz), and 'dilom toutom' (the year of Oumor). ]

Version in  Bulgarian

Version in  Russian

ÓWeb page of D.A. Trifonov 
Created: Jan 2005.
2005:  'written monuments', a reference and some JPG added.
2007:  minor text additions

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