Studi Slavistici XIX (2022) 1
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Silk in the Slavonic Scriptures

Ralph Cleminson
University of Oxford

Published 2022-05-28

How to Cite

Cleminson, R. (2022). Silk in the Slavonic Scriptures. Studi Slavistici, 19(1), 255–267.


Silk, as an imported commodity in Europe, is designated either by loan-words or neologisms in European languages. There are several of these in Slavonic languages, notably свила in South Slavonic and шьлкъ in East Slavonic. The use of the latter on two occasions in the Slavonic Book of Esther is part of the evidence for the East Slavonic origin of the Ausgangstext of this book. However, the word that it renders, either בּוּץ or βύσσος, does not mean ‘silk’, but ‘linen’ (although confusion between βύσσος and silk appears to be endemic throughout mediaeval Europe). On the one occasion on which silk really is mentioned in the Bible (Revelation 18:12), none of the established Slavonic words for silk is used, but, in most manuscripts, the hapax legomenon шикъ or сикъ, evidently a corruption of сирикъ for σηρικόν, left untranslated. The occasional substitution of чрьвлень further complicates the picture of how the word was, or was not, understood.


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