Greek in Italy

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Greek in Italy via Egypt: the Deification of Homer

Not all Greek in Italy came directly from Greece, as we would think of country nowadays. A case in point is the Apotheosis or Deification of Homer, a marble relief dated to the end of third century BCE and thought to have been made at Alexandria (the one ‘near’ Egypt) before it was brought to Italy and its findspot of Bovillae.

A cast of this relief can be seen, and read, in the Faculty of Classics’ own Museum of Classical Archaeology and the artefact itself is not so far away at the British Museum. ( has some discussion.). The subject of the relief was taken up by Ingres for the ceiling of the first room in the Musée Charles X in the Louvre.

The presence of a cast so close to home is the occasion not only for this blogpost, but also for sharing a resource relating to the Greek inscriptions in (and around) the Museum of Classical Archaeology.

About this time last year, as the first years were about to sit their exams, I prepared a different kind of supervision in anticipation of such a request as ‘Sir, can we have a fun lesson, please, now that we’ve done our exams?’. Of course, I would say, ‘All my supervisions are fun!’.

The plan was to tour the Cast Gallery of the Museum of Classical Archaeology and to discuss its Greek inscriptions, which range from the end of the seventh century BCE to the Hellenistic period. As such, they illustrate some of the array of local alphabets that were in use until the emergence ‘the Greek alphabet’ as we might think of it: an Ionic script of twenty-four letters that was officially adopted at Athens in 403/402 BCE and taken as far as the Indus River by Alexander.

To prepare myself, I compiled a spreadsheet of links to the Cast Gallery’s records, the Packhard Humanities Searchable Greek Inscriptions, Poinikastas, and other online resources, as well as a comparatio to the epigraphic corpora and handbooks on the Greek dialects.

There is no need to compile such a spreadsheet for the inscriptions of the Fitzwilliam Museum. As a collection of originals, not casts, there is an entry in Trismegistos.


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A tale of two verse epitaphs (and two nomina)

Olivia Elder has contributed an illuminating and very stimulating study of migrants at Rome to our volume, Mobility, Migration and Language Contact. Towards its conclusion, two verse epitaphs feature as examples of Greek at Rome used not only as an indicator of immigrant status, but also by those ‘indigenous’ to Rome.

The linguistic and metrical nuts and bolts of these two inscriptions were not Elder’s concern, but they were the occasion for several e-mails back and forth between me and James Clackson. This post will not be able to address many of those points, but I invite our readers to use the Comments to raise questions and to discuss points of linguistic interest. (If I get an opportunity, I will supply translations.)

IG XIV 1440
πατρὶς μὲν ζαθέη Ῥώμη, Βασιλεὺ δὲ
❦ πατήρ μοι, ❦ |
Ἀττίκιλλα δ’ ἐγὼ λεγόμην καλὸν οὔνομα
❦ μητρός· ❦ |
κουριδίῳ δὲ πόσει παῖδας λίπον ἡβώ-
❦οντας ❦ |
τέσσαρας, οἵ με νέαν τῷδ’ ὑπέθεντο
❦ τάφῳ. ❦
IG XIV 1890
Θεοῖς ❦ Καταχθονίοις.
ἐνθάδ’ ἐγὼ κεῖμαι Ὀλυμπία ∙ ἐτῶν
κβʹ ∙ | Ἕλλην μὲν τὸ γένος, πατρὶς δέ μοι ἦτον
Ἀπάμεα ∙ | οὐδένα λοιπήσασα | οὐ μεικροῦ ψυχήν, οὐ μεγάλου
κραδίην ∙ | στήλην δ’, ἣν ἐπύησα κατὰ χθόνα δάκρυσι θερμοῖς, |
παρθένον ἣν ἔλαβον, Σωτᾶς Ὀλυμπιάδι πέποικα ∙ | στοργὴ
γὰρ μεγάλη τῶν ἀμφοτέρων διέμεινεν ∙ | ὡς ὅπου φῶς
τὸ γλυκὺν παρέμεινε ἀκτεῖσι ἐπιλάμπων ∙ | ἡδὺν ἀπὸ
στόματος καὶ γλυκὺν ὡς μελίτιν ∙ | ταύτην τὴν στ̣
λην ἐπύησα Σωτᾶς σε φιλήσας ∙ | ψυχῇ διψώσῃ
ψυχρὸν ὕδωρ μετάδες·
❦ ἀδε<λ>φὸς ταύτης ἐπέγραψεν. ❦

(For a father of four myself, this is acutely touching.)

An immediate point of interest is contrasting varieties of Greek. IG XIV 1440 is squarely in the tradition of epitaphs in hexameters or elegiac couplets (n.b. ζαθέη, καλὸν οὔνομα, πόσει, augmentless λίπον, and diectasised ἡβώοντας), but IG XIV 1890 is squarely not so.

IG XIV 1890 bristles with non-standard orthography (λοιπήσασα, μεικροῦ, ἐπύησα, and ἀκτεῖσι), a form that anticipates Modern Greek (a third-person singular imperfect ἦτον), forms that are otherwise peculiar (μετά-δες for -δος can be paralleled only from Greek from Egypt; πέποικα recalls ἔποικα, a ‘Neo-hellenic’ form noticed by Jannaris [1897: 440] and a precursor of a form discussed by Mark Janse in relation to Cappadocian Greek…), and solecisms (Olympia feminine is described as Ἕλλην masculine μὲν τὸ γένος [but cf. LSJ s.v. Ἕλλην III]; masculine γλυκύν and ἡδύν in agreement with neuter φῶς). That said, it is hard to get away from the literary tradition: note Ionic κραδίην and a Homeric reminiscence (κατὰ χθόνα) δάκρυσι θερμοῖς.

To return to the concerns of Elder’s paper, the ‘better’ Greek is that of the self-identified Roman, the ‘rougher’ Greek that of the ‘Greek’ from Apamea in Syria.

Another curiosity appears in a bilingual dedication made at Rome to the Sun and the Moon by a Palmyrene named Heliodoros (dated to 236 CE: ἔτους ζ∙μ∙φʹ μηνὸς Περιτίου): the apparent juxtaposition of two nomina – Julius and Aurelius – in IGUR I 119 (~ IG XIV 971). Below is the drawing in (and by?) Kaibel.


IG XIV 971

We are concerned with the damaged letter at the beginning of the third line. Kaibel read tau. T(itus) Aurelius Heliodoros is unproblematic. However, more recently, Moretti, whose edition Elder uses (as did Adams 2003: 251-252), printed iota, but a Julius Aurelius Heliodoros would be odd because he would have two nomina and no praenomen. Also, I am not aware of nomina being abbreviated as praenomina customarily are (other than ΑΥΡ(ηλιος) here: n.b. AΥΡΗΛΙΟΣΗΛΙΟΔΩΡΟΣ).

Moretti printed a photograph, a scan of which follows enlarged to 400% and to 200%.

IAURHLIODWROS 400 per cent

IAURHLIODWROS 200 per cent

These scans are far from great. Thoughts on the first letter, whose hasta at least is clear, would be welcome.

Given the early third-century date and the presence of the nomen Aur(elius), I wonder whether we have here a Heliodorus who gained Roman citizenship through the Constitutio Antoniniana (212 CE), by which all free inhabitants gained the praenomen Marcus and the nomen Aurelius. One’s original ‘Greek’ name would be given in the cognomen position. I say ‘Greek’, because the Palmyrene text names him as Iarhai. Perhaps, the Greek name Heliodoros was chosen (by him) as a worshipper of the Sun (and the Moon). If only I could see a mu!

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Which Greeks in Italy?

‘Greek in Italy’ should not be understood to mean that there was (ever) an ethnically- and dialectally-homogenous Greek population in Italy. As shown in the map below (from Wikipedia, s.v. Magna Graeciamap caveats duly noted), there were Doric, Ionic, Northwest Greek, and ‘Achaean’ coastal ‘pockets’.


The concern of this post is how we can associate with a particular dialect group a specific Greek individual that we can identify in Italy. One answer is features of that person’s name. Since the whole point is that people travel, it is not enough to say that since a name happens to be well-attested in a particular region, that particular name belongs to the dialect of that region. Put differently, I am not a car because I stand in a garage; or, just because I am named Patrick, it doesn’t mean I’m Irish.

While tracking down a paper about Egyptian loanwords in Greek, I found a fascinating piece by A.S. McDevitt entitled ‘A Thessalian in Magna Graecia’ (Glotta 46.3/4 [1968]: 254-256), about a Greek inscription in Achaean script on a bronze tablet found at Francavilla Marittima and dated to the middle of the 6th c. BCE.

The inscription was published by A.D. Trendall in ‘Archaeology in South Italy and Sicily (1964-1966)‘, Archaeological Reports 13 (1966-1967), 39 (and fig. 17):

AR 1967 p. 39 and fig. 17

The retrograde inscription (LSAG) contains the name ΚΛΕΟΜΡΟΤΟΣ, ‘Mr Famous Mortal’ (the photo confirms that there was no room for β, pace the supplement in LGPN and the transcription that marks [β] as filling a damaged space: <β> would be an editorial insertion).

The giveaway that this name originated in the Thessalian dialect (of the ‘Aeolic’ ‘group’) is the sequence -ΜΡΟ-. Other dialects would have Κλεόμβροτος (as the editor and LGPN assume). That name is attested and demonstrates how all other Greek dialects eased the sequence -μρ- by the insertion (epenthesis) of β. (The same phenomenon is seen in the genitive singular ἀνδρός alongside the nominative ἀνήρ and in much later spellings of the name ‘Israel’ as Ἰστραήλ or Ἰσδραήλ and it explains why the Hebrew book named Ezra formed part of 1 Esdras in Greek versions of the Hebrew Bible.) In a compound, such as Κλεόμβροτος the sequence -μ-βρ- could be preserved between syllables, but since a word could not start μβρ-, the familiar, but poetic, βροτός ‘mortal’ arose.

That gets us as far as the -ΜΡ-. There is also the -ρο- to consider. Most Greek dialects have syllabic r reflected as -αρ- or -ρα-, but the ‘Aeolic’ ‘group’, like Latin and Arcado-Cypriot, has -ρο-: so, Attic καρδία (the same in origin as English heart), Ionic καρδίη (epic κραδίη),  and Latin cor. (Aeolic is said to have had κάρζα, but it is καρδία that is transmitted in the famous poem of Sappho (31.6) that begins φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἰσοθέοισιν.) Cypriot is said to have had κορζία (perhaps, κόρζα). An army is a στρατός, but a στρότος for Sappho (16.1). Here, *mr-tos gives Latin mortuus ‘having died, dead’, various Lesbian-Aeolic names in -μορτος as well as μορτός known from Callimachus and Hesychius.

All that is to say that mortals should have been brats or barts in non-Aeolic and non-Arcado-Cypriot dialects and that the poetic word βροτός found in Classical Attic poetry was imported from another dialect.

It seems then that we have a Thessalian in Magna Graecia, betrayed by the phonological features of his name.

The remaining puzzle is why there is no digamma in Κλεϝόμροτος when it is plain to see in between vowels in Δεξιλάϝο, and ἀϝέθλον and at the start of ϝίσο(ν), although not after a consonant: ϝίσο-, not ϝίσϝο-). [At this point, some helpful Boeotians can be named to spell out the history of ϝισϝο- (regarded by Buck, sect. 54.d, as ‘secondary’): Ϝισϝόδικος (early seventh-century, complete with a qoppa! LSAG) gives way to  Ϝισοδίκω (genitive singular: in this mid-third-century BCE inscription initial ϝ- abounds).] Since, such secondary (-)σϝ- can only be cited from (early) Arcadian, Boeotian, Cretan (the Gortyn Law ‘Code’), and Sicyonian, its absence here is not a cause for concern.

The solution is easy enough: Thessalian, the dialect of the man’s name, lost the digamma between vowels earlier than other dialects, such as that of the rest of this inscription. Buck (The Greek Dialects, pp. 48-49) could cite only fifth-century Δάϝο̄ν (DGE 563 / IG IX 2, 236), which is thought to be a Thracian name anyway, and had ἔσο̄σε (fifth-century: DGE 557 / IG IX 2, 257.10 /  Buck, no. 35) as evidence for the loss of digamma between vowels and the contraction that ensued (originally: σαϝο-, as in Σαϝοκλέϝης, a Cypriot personal name). The latter inscription has ϝ|οικιάταις, unproblematically, and, curiously, κε̄υϝεργέταν (lines 3-4 and 5), but ἐποίε̄σαν (lines 5-6: cf. epigraphic (-)ποιϝεσ(-)).

Of course, all this collapses if the editor of the inscription and LGPN were right to regard the lack of a <β> as an error to be corrected. That is possible, but Κλεομρο- has the support of two other names in two early fifth-century Thessalian inscriptions, this time from Thessaly. McDevitt had earlier reported (Glotta 45 3/4 (1967): 161-163) a gent called Φιλόμροτος (attested as a genitive Φιλομρότοι, an ending peculiar to Thessalian: cf. -οι-ο in Homer) and a lady called Μροχώ (apparently followed by Ιℎερ̣[ογ]ενέ̣α̣, the patronymic adjective of Ἱερογένεις [-ης] as used in Thessalian, the rest of the Aeolic group, and in Homer…, in Αἴας Τελαμώνιος). The inscriptions are SEG XXIV 405 (text) and 406 (text).

So, we have a Greek named with Thessalian dialect phenomena, and perhaps extraction, 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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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.