Omurtag's Tarnovo Inscription

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The Omurtag's Tarnovo Inscription.

The Omurtag's Tarnovo Inscription is an inscription in Greek language, engraved on a column of dark syenite found in the SS. Forty Martyrs Church in Tarnovo, Bulgaria. The inscription was known since 1858 when Hristo Daskalov from Tryavna managed to visit the church (which was converted to a mosque at that time) and to make a replica of the inscription.

Along with the Chatalar Inscription, the Tarnovo inscription testifies for the active construction during the reign of Kanasubigi Omurtag (r. 814-831). It is assumed that the inscription was made in 822. The historians are uncertain about the original location of the inscription (probably Pliska) and the location of the "new home on the Danube", for which the inscription was created - Silistra, the village of Malak Preslavets or the island of Păcuiul lui Soare (now in Romania).



+ Κα[ν]α συβιγη Ωμο<μο>ρταγ ις τον παλεον υκον αυτου μενο(ν) επυησεν υπερφυμον υκο(ν) ις τον Δανουβην κ(ε) αναμεσα τον δυο υκο(ν) τον πανφυμο(ν) καταμετρησας ις τιν μεσην επυισα τουμβαν κε απο τιν αυτη(ν) μεσην της τουμβας εος την αυλι(ν) μου την αρχεα(ν) ισιν οργηε μυριαδες β' κ(ε) επι τον Δανουβιν ισην οργιες μυριαδες β'. το δε αυτο τουβι(ν) εστιν πανφυμο(ν) κ(ε) μετρισα(ν)τες τιν γιν επυισα τα γραματα ταυτα. ο ανθροπος κ(ε) καλα ζον αποθνισκι κε αλος γενατε κε ινα ο εσχατον γηνομενος ταυτα θεορον υπομνησκετε τον πυισαντα αυτο. το δε ονομα του αρχοντος εστην Ωμορταγ καν(ν)α συβιγη· ο Θ(εο)ς αξηοσι αυτον ζισε ετη ρ'.


"Kanasubigi Omurtag, living in his old home, made a glorious home on the Danube and in the middle between the two most glorious homes, after he measured [the distance], he made a tumulus. From the very centre of the tumulus to my old palace there are 20,000 fathoms (ὀργυιά) and to the Danube there are 20,000 fathoms. The tumulus itself is most glorious and after they measured the land I made that inscription. Even if a man lives well, he dies and another one comes into existence. Let the one who comes later upon seeing this inscription remember the one who had made it. And the name is Omurtag, Kana su bigi. Let God make him live 100 years."


The final lines of Omurtag's Turnovo Inscription reveal Omurtag's message to future generations: "Even if a man lives well, he dies and another one comes into existence. Let the one who comes later upon seeing this inscription remember the one who had made it. And the name is Omurtag, Kana subigi. Let God make him live 100 years." These lines sound like a direct address to posterity: before his judgement, Omurtag rises with his life philosophy which is fundamentally different from the lachrymose Christian ideology and the salvation it offers in the promise of the soul's perpetual being. The Bulgarian ruler deliberates upon the meaning of human life, upon the great mysteries of birth and death, upon that which stands between them and which history itself sometimes grants immortality. In fact, Omurtag finds immortality in the course of human life without seeing the need to abstract beyond its earthly confines as evinced by the very last line which focuses on the prolonging of life on earth rather than redemption in an imagined afterlife. The philosophical premise here demonstrates a clear awareness of the continuity of history on a grand scale and the frailty and transience of a person's life in comparison with the only consolation here being that person's actions and accomplishments and their role in the lives of people yet to come - the core idea in Omurtag's philosophy. His concise and laconic words do not contain self-glorification, but rather Khan Omurtag seeks the meaning of human existence in a constructive genesis, and it is set in stone by the acknowledging voice of history before which the Bulgarian ruler rises with his remarkable deeds.

See also[edit]


  • Бешевлиев, Веселин. Прабългарски епиграфски паметници, С. 1981 , с. 120-130
  • Златарски, Васил Н. История на българската държава през средните векове, Т.І, ч. 1 Епоха на хуно-българското надмощие, С. 1918, с. 417-422, с. 580-584
  • Миятев, Кръстьо. Архитектурата в Средновековна България, С. 1965, с.44-47
  • Aндрeй Пaнтeв, Йoрдaн Aндрeeв. Бългaрскитe хaнoвe и цaрe: oт хaн Кубрaт дo цaр Бoрис III, Абагар, 2004, с.65

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