Greek in Italy

Project Research Blog

Greek in Italy at the BSR

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Wednesday 29 March saw the Greek in Italy team in Rome for a one-day workshop looking at the impact of the Greek language on the languages of ancient Italy. I think I can speak for everyone in the Greek in Italy team, and for our invited speakers, in saying that the conference was a huge success. We were extremely fortunate to be able to make use of the excellent offices of the British School at Rome, and to make use of their fabulous lecture hall, accommodation and dining facilities. Thanks go especially to the Director, Christopher Smith, and the residence manager, Christine Martin for their superb generosity and efficiency.

JpegWe were very pleased to have enjoyed excellent papers from our three invited speakers. Marina Benedetti discussed the treatment of Greek terms in Latin grammatical works, and included a fascinating discussion of the Ars of Dositheus, a grammatical work written in Latin with interlineal translation into Greek. The Greek terms include those which seem to be calqued back from Latin, such as συζευκτικός for coniunctivus, and show that grammarians understood there to be an equivalence between the Latin suffix –ivus and Greek -ικός, a relationship that doesn’t seem to hold in other domains, such as medicine.

Albio Cassio spoke about some Greek dialect terms of Magna Graecia which we know mainly from ancient glossaries. These show not only how much we don’t know about the Greek dialects spoken in the area, but also some fascinating glimpses of the interactions between Greek and local languages. One case in point is a word for bread, πανὀς (and related terms), found in Greek comic playwrights, including the intriguing Blaesus, born in Capri in the second or first century BC and whose attributed works include a Saturnus and Mesotribas (meaning something like ‘The man who rubs his genitals’).

As Albio Cassio pointed out, Blaesus has a fascinating name: in Greek βλαισός means ‘distorted’ or ‘splay-footed’, but in Latin blaesus means ‘lisping’ (it is thought to be borrowed from Greek with shift in application from the feet to the tongue). Blaesus is not uncommon as a Roman cognomen (and Blaesius as a nomen), and is also found used as a cognomen in a fourth-century Oscan curse-tablet (in the form Blaisiis). In Greek, however, excepting Romans recording their names in Greek, the playwright Βλαῖσος is the only instance of the name recorded. The example of Blaesus was an appropriate taster for Paolo Poccetti’s paper, a tour de force of linguistics and onomastics, in which he gathered many examples of interaction between Greek and local languages from personal names. As with the name of Blaesus, in many cases it was difficult to be sure about whether a feature was local or a Greek import, and in some cases it is probably impossible to disentangle the two.

2017-03-29 18.10.48The Greek in Italy presentation (which attracted famous bloggers from the other side of Rome) showcased some of our recent work, and the event was a very enjoyable opportunity for the whole team to get back together. All six current and former project members were there, so we nearly filled up an entire table in the BSR dining hall and made serious inroads into the BSR’s stocks of limoncello.



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