Greek in Italy

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The homecoming of an Odyssey

In the final lines of Hesiod’s Theogony (1011-1016), we are told that Odysseus had two (or three) sons by Circe: Agrios and Latinos (and perhaps Telegonos), who ruled the Tyrsenians (a people in Italy [with the ethnic suffix -ηνός commonly found in Asia Minor and the Levant], if not actually the Etruscans who were later referred to as Tyrsenians/Tyrrenians). The parentage of this Latinus is problematic. Virgil does (Aeneid 12.164) and does not (Aeneid 7.47) present Circe as his mother. Hyginus (Fabulae 127) has Telemachus as his father.

One point of interest, although for another day, is the quantity of the i vowel in the suffix (assuming that it is a suffix): Λατῖνος. This is not the Greek suffix used to form adjectives (of material), such as λίθινος ‘made of stone’.

That is all by way of introducing a post on the Odyssey of Homer, not least because the Teubner edition by M.L. West has recently been published, but mainly because nearly two weeks ago I obtained a copy of the Odyssey as edited by Arthur Platt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1892), one of the ‘Cambridge Homer’ volumes.

‘The principle on which this edition is made is that of going back as far as is reasonably possible to the original language of Homer’ (Introduction, vii). For Platt, ‘original language’ means that digammas abound and contractions are resolved (infinitives in -εμεν from -ειν before Bucolic diaeresis; aorist 2 infinitives in -έεν from -έειν), among other instances of antiquing. This Odyssey has the complete Vulgate text in order (V 1-42, VIII 266-369, XI 568-629, and XXIII 297-end of XXIV, ‘the wretched conclusion’, are present, but bracketed). This Homer is thoroughly Ionic.

Here is the beginning of Book VIII (lines 11-25 featured in last year’s Part 1B exam and I, at least, have set them for a supervision later this term).

Platt Od.8.1-53

All this is far less radical than the ‘Aeolic Homer’ of Augustus Fick (Ilias, Odysseia). Here is the ‘same’ passage, now a third part (γ) in Part III, the (second) Return of Odysseus.

Fick Od.8.1-28 III nostos Odysseos G.1-27

Digammas abound, but also the original long a-s for the eta of Ionic. Gemination is found for compensatory lengthening. Rosy-fingered Dawn is squarely Aeolic βροδοδάκτυλος Αὔως (line 1) and Odysseus has dual, not plural shoulders (line 19). I shall say no more, but leave readers and my supervisees to consider other points of linguistic interest in these restorations with the help of these visual aids.

For Fick, the Odyssey, or rather Part II, the Revenge of Odysseus, ended thus (cf. Od.23.296, the τέλος): ἀσπάσιοι λέκτροιο παλαίω θέσμον ἴκοντο (‘Glad they approached the assemblage of the old bed.’). (θεσμός was one of my first words for the Cambridge Greek Lexicon Project…).

This volume is no insignificant second-hand outdated book. For starters, I have had in mind to obtain a copy of Platt’s Odyssey ever since my Latin-Greek-Ancient History school master gave me his copy of Platt’s Iliad before I came up to Cambridge (a casket copy, if you will). Therein, Platt simply refers to his Odyssey for an explanation of his approach. Second, the marginal reference to Munro’s Homeric Grammar beside line 48 is not the only annotation.

Platt Odyssey

This copy was bought from W. Heffer & Sons of Cambridge and belonged to none other than the Classical philosopher F.M. Cornford. Complete with a Heffer’s book mark, this Odyssey, bought online from Wigtown, has indeed come home. Not bad for £8 + P&P!

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The Palermo Stone-cutters

A paper that I co-wrote with my colleague, Moreed Arbabzadah, will appear any day now in the next issue of Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik (ZPE or ‘Zippie’): ‘New and Old Interpretations of the Stone-cutters Bilingual Inscription (IG XIV 297 = CIL X 7296) from Palermo’, ZPE 205 (2018) 145–150.

The inscription, depicted below, from Palermo, Sicily shows Greek on the left and Latin on the right and is a typical ‘bilingual bi-version’ (two versions in different languages of the same content). Epigraphic services for sanctuaries and public buildings are advertised in ‘both languages’.

Palermo Stone Cutters

There has been a great deal of discussion about oddities in the Greek and in the Latin alike and what they tell us about the primary language of these stone cutters: was it Greek that prompted odd Latin, Latin that prompted odd Greek, or another language that prompted oddities in the Greek and the Latin alike?

In a ‘work-in-progress’ seminar last February, Moreed suggested that the odd use of cum (here spelled qum) with a genitive (not an ablative) in qum operum publicorum (last two lines  on the right) could be explained as ‘Latin-Latin’ (my term) without recourse to seeing it as the result of interference from Greek (‘Greek-Latin’, my term). The Greek text would then be a translation of the Latin, not vice versa.

I asked about the phrase aidibus sacreis ‘sacred houses’ (three lines up on the right: Classical Latin aedibus sacris), which seemed unproblematic, and its Greek counterpart ναοῖς ἱεροῖς ‘sacred sanctuaries’ (three lines up on the left), which did seem distinctly odd: either ναοῖς or ἱεροῖς alone would adequately reflect aidibus sacreis.

As far as I have found, the various scholars who have discussed this bilingual inscription have not commented on these counterpart phrases.

I suggested that ναοῖς ἱεροῖς was a ‘calque‘ of aidibus sacreis, an element-by-element translation of a phrase from another language and, in this case, one that results in odd Greek and so betrays its origins. Although the general word aedes ‘house’ needs some clarification, neither ναός nor ἱερόν (‘sanctuary’) does. In other words, the Greek text must be a translation of the Latin, not vice versa.

My chief contribution to the paper was to lay the foundations for Moreed’s Latin explanation of the use of cum (oddly with a genitive) by opening up a new argument from this curious Greek phrase for the primacy of the Latin text over the Greek (pp. 145-146). That paves the way for parallels for cum with a genitive in the context of ellipse of a familiar ablative (pp. 147-149). That phenomenon is then along the lines of English ‘I am going to St Paul’s’, in which a genitive ‘St Paul’s’ seems to be the accusative of the goal of motion after the verb, while an accusative, ‘Cathedral’, is readily understood.

To paraphrase A.N. Whitehead, it might seem nowadays that Latin philology is ‘a series of footnotes’ to J.N. Adams. This paper is indeed one such footnote, but, we hope, one that furthers the study of this inscription, of Greek and Latin bilingualism, and of Greek in Italy.

A PDF offprint/Sonderdrucke/separatum of the paper is available on request: please e-mail.


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More on the dangers of diglossia

I am very pleased to see that the Bellum Catilinae of Sallust is back on the schedule of Latin texts for Cambridge undergraduates and I look forward to drawing on it in Linguistics and Philology teaching once this term is underway. (The companion site for a recent edition is a very welcome resource.)

One of Sallust’s purple passages is his ‘portait of a lady’, Sempronia (25). She is largely incidental, it seems, to the work as a whole and to Catiline’s conspiracy. She did provide a venue later on (40.5: ille eos in domum D. Bruti perducit, quod foro propinqua erat neque aliena consili propter Semproniam; nam tum Brutus ab Roma aberat. ‘He led them into the house of Decimus Brutus, because it was next to the forum and not unfamiliar with his plan, because of Sempronia; for at that time Brutus was away from Rome). However, the conspiracy was betrayed by another woman, who gets no such portrait: Fulvia (23.3-4, 26.3, and 28.2). Still, Sempronia has a prominent place in the history of the end of the Roman Republic, as the mother of Decimus Junius ‘Et tu, Brute’ Brutus (cf. 40.5 again).

sed in eis erat Sempronia, quae multa saepe uirilis audaciae facinora commiserat. haec mulier genere atque forma, praeterea uiro liberis satis fortunata fuit; litteris Graecis et Latinis docta, psallere, saltare elegantius quam necesse est probae, multa alia, quae instrumenta luxuriae sunt. sed ei cariora semper omnia quam decus atque pudicitia fuit; pecuniae an famae minus parceret haud facile discerneres; lubido sic accensa ut saepius peteret uiros quam peteretur. sed ea saepe antehac fidem prodiderat, creditum abiurauerat, caedis conscia fuerat: luxuria atque inopia praeceps abierat. uerum ingenium eius haud absurdum: posse uersus facere, iocum mouere, sermone uti uel modesto, uel molli, uel procaci; prorsus multae facetiae multusque lepos inerat.

Now among these women was Sempronia, who had often committed many crimes of masculine daring. In birth and beauty, in her husband also and children, she was abundantly favoured by fortune; well read in the literature of Greece and Rome, able to play the lyre and dance more skilfully than an honest woman need, and having many other accomplishments which minister to voluptuousness. But there was nothing which she held so cheap as modesty and chastity; you could not easily say whether she was less sparing of her money or her honour; her desires were so ardent that she sought men more often than she was sought by them. Even before the time of the conspiracy she had often broken her word, repudiated her debts, been privy to murder; poverty and extravagance combined had driven her headlong. Nevertheless, she was a woman of no mean endowments; she could write verses, bandy jests, and use language which was modest, or tender, or wanton; in fine, she possessed a high degree of wit and of charm. (tr. J.C. Rolfe)

So, her linguistic attainments are reported with some ambivalence. In her defence, she could write verse. However, Sallust slips easily from his comment that she was ‘learned’ (docta) in Greek and Latin literature, not only to lyre-playing and dancing, but to greater ability there than an honest woman needs or should have: psallere, saltare elegantius quam necesse est probae. The infinitive psallere ‘to play the lyre’ is one of a handful of Greek loanwords in Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae and neatly associates Sempronia’s Greek learning with her conduct unbecoming a Roman matron and downright criminal.

(Sallust’s other Greek loanwords are (as far as I know at present): camera [καμάρα] ‘a vaulted roof’ in 55.4; machinor ‘machinate’ in 18.7 and 48.7 (a derivative within Latin from machina, a borrowing from ‘Doric’ μᾱχανά̄ and early enough to show vowel-weaking of unstressed <a> to <i>; then, tetrarches ‘tetrarch’ in 20.7 and toreuma ’embossed or relief work’ in 20.12, both on Catiline’s lips. Then, dolus ‘trick’ in 11.2, 14.5, 26.2, and 28.2 is not clear-cut. It appears as early as the XII Tables and could be either an early borrowing from Greek (and into Oscan, perhaps via Latin) or an inherited word related to doleo ‘I feel pain’. Both an inherited word and a loan would look identical.)

As we saw in an earlier post on the dangers of diglossia, bilingualism and, here, perhaps ‘only’ a reading knowledge of Greek, were not always seen as morally-neutral attainments.

After I wrote that post, James reminded me of Quintus Sulpicius Maximus, the Roman 11-year-old wunderkind, who died shortly after winning an honourable mention, in a contest of 52 poets, for his 43 Greek hexameters on Phaethon (GVI 1924, shortly after 94 CE).


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An esskazsiúm excursion

Ever since I’ve been going regularly to Naples, for the last decade or so, I’ve harboured an ambition to go to Punta Campanella, on the other side of the Bay. This is a nature resort at the very tip of the Sorrentine Peninsula, with fantastic views of Capri, Ischia and other islands: it’s absolutely beautiful, especially in good weather, as it was on the 23rd, when I finally got to make it there – in fact the weather was so good, I managed to get sunburn in December. But I doubt that any readers of this blog will be surprised to hear that there was another incentive for me: an Oscan inscription waiting at the very end.

Once upon a time there was a temple of Minerva on the hilltop. To reach it from the sea you disembarked at a cave far below and climbed a long and steep stairway between the walls of a narrow cleft in the cliff. The steps are still mostly serviceable, though they’ve crumbled away in parts; a little below where the steps enter the cleft, there is an inscription carved in the rock, recording the names of the magistrates of the temple who commissioned the building of the stairs (and including our only instance of the Oscan word esskazsiúm, which presumably means ‘stairs’ or ‘disembarcation point’).

The inscription was published some decades ago, but the major editions have worked from photographs and/or the cast in Naples Museum (it’s Surrentum 1 in Imagines Italicae, ed. Crawford et al., Cm 2 in Sabellische Texte, ed. Rix). I’m not surprised, because getting there is quite a physical effort, and the inscription is very hard to see unless you’re right in front of it – which requires climbing on to a narrowish ledge, high enough to make one reluctant to fall! Photos below, starting from the sea.

Thanks very much to Giovanni Di Maio and Donatella Guida for showing us the way.

Punta Campanella sea entrance

The entrance to the cave from the sea

Punta Campanella The steps up from the cave

The steps up from the cave

Punta Campanella inscription

The inscription from close-up

Punta Campanella examining inscription

Examining the inscription! Photo courtesy of Giovanni Di Maio

Punta Campanella ladders

A less well-preserved section of the steps

Punta Campanella steps

The view from the top

 

 

 


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Neapolitan literature

One of the pleasures of spending Christmas in Naples is the annual adverts for Mars written in Neapolitan, which I enjoy trying to make sense of: knowing standard Italian is a help, but seldom enough! I saw the one below while on the way to get ice cream (notwithstanding the fact that Naples is currently colder than Cambridge!).

 

On the way back, I came across the following bonus poem on a dustbin, which I started off feeling was pretty easy, but I soon fell into complete uncertainty, only managing to make sense of it with the help of my trusty native guide Ardief. Translation into Italian and English underneath. Note in particular the fun forms saccio = sappio = so ‘I know’, sciore = fiore ‘flower’, dongo = do ‘I give’, chella = quella ‘that’, chistu = questo ‘this’, and the general lack of final -re in infinitives. Also that where Italian has subjunctive + conditional for ‘If I were … I would’, the poem has subjunctive + subjunctive.

Se fossi poeta: Se fossi musicista ti suonerei qualche nota, se fossi cantante ti canterei una canzone, se fossi poeta te lo direi con le parole, che tu mi fai impazzire mi fai vivere e morire. Se fossi poeta, te lo direi con le parole, ma non te lo so dire, e per fartelo capire ti do questo fiore, per dirti una volta e cento volte ancora sei tu, quella del cuore.

If I were a poet: If I were a musician, I would play you some notes, if I were a singer I would sing you a song, if I were a poet, I would tell you in words that you drive me crazy, you make me live and die. If I were a poet, I would tell you in words, but I do not know how to tell you, and to make you understand I give you this flower, to tell you one and a hundred times still that it is you who are the girl of my heart.

 


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Codebreakers and Groundbreakers

The Fitzwilliam Museum and the Museum of Classical Archaeology in the Classics Faculty are jointly hosting an exhibition called Codebreakers and Groundbreakers.

The Fitz’s exhibition focusses on the decipherment of Linear B (by the architect Michael Ventris aided by John Chadwick, then a newly appointed lecurer in Classics at Cambridge), and, a little earlier, the cracking of German codes during the Second World War at Bletchley Park by Alan Turing and others.

The Classics Faculty includes items from the archive of Alan Wace, who was the archaeologist who excavated Mycenae and discovered tablets written in Linear B, and features displays by current Faculty projects which rely on both ‘codebreaking’ and ‘groundbreaking’: the CREWS (Contexts of and Relations beween Early Scripts) project, the Greek Lexicon, the Myceneaen Epigraphy Group, and us at Greek in Italy!

Greek in Italy
Above you can see our panel at the exhibition. We think it’s pretty cool, and recommend that you go and see it and the rest of the exhibition in both venues (it’s on until the 3rd February, so there’s still plenty of time).

Thanks to Francesca Bellei, who designed the panel and wrote the text!


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Remembrance and Greek Lyric in Italy

The approach of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month and the association of poppies with the fallen is an opportunity to comment on that association in the poetry of Stesichorus (c. 630-555 BCE), ‘the first great lyric poet of the West‘. He was born in Calabria in South Italy and died on Sicily.

A papyrus published in 1967 preserves some of the Geryoneis of Stesichorus, a lyric narrative of Heracles’ Tenth Labour: stealing Geryon’s cows. This takes Heracles to the far west of the Greek known world and on his return to the Aventine Hill (in Rome to be).

Column ii lines 14-17 of S15 are pictured below, the point at which Herakles kills the giant Geryon with an arrow poisoned with the blood of the Lernaean Hydra (Greek δρα is cognate with English ‘otter’, a ‘monster’ on a much smaller scale…).

P.Oxy. 2617 epode Stesichorus S15

ἀπέκλινε δ’ ἄρ’ αὐχένα Γ̣α̣ρ̣[υόνας
ἐπικάρσιον, ὡς ὅκα μ[ά]κ̣ω̣[ν
ἅτε καταισχύνοισ’ ἁπ̣α̣λ̣ὸ̣ν̣ [δέμας
αἶψ’ ἀπὸ φύλλα βαλοῖσα̣ν̣[

‘and Geryon dropped his neck
to one side, like a poppy,
which spoiling its tender beauty
suddenly sheds its petals…’.

The eighth book of Homer’s Iliad also contains such a comparison, when Priam’s son, Gorgythion, died from an arrow wound (Iliad VIII 306-308):

μήκων δ’ ὡς ἑτέρωσε κάρη βάλεν, ἥ τ’ ἐνὶ κήπῳ
καρπῷ βριθομένη νοτίῃσί τε εἰαρινῇσιν,
ὣς ἑτέρωσ’ ἤμυσε κάρη πήληκι βαρυνθέν.

And he dropped his head to one side like a poppy that in a garden
is laden with its fruit and the rains of spring;
so bowed he to one side his head, laden with his helmet.

The fields of FlandersThe fields of Flanders, strewn with poppies, might remind epigraphers and dialectologists of the poppy ‘plantations’ of Hellenistic Pharsalus in Thessaly (IG IX, 2 234 / C.D. Buck, The Greek Dialects, no. 36), later the battlefield where Pompey the Great was defeated (09.08.48 BCE).

Similes that have fallen warriors and/or youths in correspondence with poppies continued in Latin literature, whether directly from Homer and/or Stesichorus or not: famously the weary poppy weighed down by rain in Vergil, Aeneid IX 435-437 (drawing also on Catullus 11.21-24, itself thought to have ‘echoes’ of Sappho 105c) and Ovid, Metamorphoses X 190-193.