Greek in Italy

Project Research Blog

Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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!

Leave a comment

Greek literature in Italy

Last year, I taught the Classics Faculty’s Intensive Greek reading classes on Bacchylides 5 (as also in 2015-2016) and Aeschylus’ Persians. Just like Simonides (Bacchylides’ uncle) and Pindar, these two celebrated Greek poets were associated with the court of Hieron of Syracuse. Earlier, there was Stesichorus (late 7th – mid 6th c. BCE), who lived, composed, and died in Magna Graecia, and Ibycus (fl. mid. 6th c. BCE), who was from Rhegion, but was active at the court of the Samian tyrant Polycrates. (Guides to the ‘biography’ of Greek and Latin poets and Collections of sources in their original languages and in translation are freely available via Living Poets at Durham).

That was all by way of a pretext to share two of my favourite journal articles on Bacchylides and highlights from the history of journal publishing. The first compares Bacchylides fr. 20  B 6-16 with a Martini label and, for a similar purpose, the second quotes Callimachus, Aetia (fr. 1.32), Pindar fr. 124 ab 5-7, and Teiresias’ words from Odyssey X 495 in an oft-quoted form independent of their context.

Merkelbach, R. (1973). Zum Trinklied des Bakchylides. Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 10: 228-229.
— (1975). Der Triumph der Nüchternheit oder Die Widerlegung des Martini-Trinkers. Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 17: 97-100.

ZPE 10 1973 229

ZPE 10 1975 98

In those days, ZPE was prepared on typewriters and these (colour) Martini labels were glued in copy by copy…

Bacchylides was fond of compound adjectives involving colours. One of my favourites is κυανο-πλόκαμος: ‘(of Victory) with blue or dark braids (of hair)’. That is, Victory was ‘blue rinse’.

My real reason to mention colours, though, was to reference another article.
Gipper, Helmut (1964). Purpur. Glotta 42.1./2: 39-69.

Blue hair may not have been the key notion in κυανοπλόκαμος and the identity of the colour whose adjective is πορφύρεος  (whence, our ‘purple’) has been a subject for some debate, given its range of applications (LSJ s.v.).

Helmut Gipper concluded his study with a colour swatch, again individually glued into each copy of that issue of the journal.

Gipper Purpur

Leave a comment

‘Greek in Italy’ in Norfolk


Although a two-week family holiday in North Norfolk was not going to be an epigraphic extravaganza on the same scale as Nick’s visit to Naples, it did provide a reminder to blog about Greek in inscriptions now in Norfolk and some online resources. That said, we happened to see the famous dialect roadsigns that instruct ‘Slow you down!’ (with thanks to the Daily Telegraph).


Some months ago, a friend and colleague asked me about Latin manuscripts at Holkham Hall, of which there are many. At that, I searched Trismegistos, the database of databases for Greek, Latin, and Demotic texts from Egypt (to say the least) for Holkham Hall, as a Trismegistos Collection. The Latin manuscripts fall outside the coverage of Trismegistos, but two Latin inscriptions were reported.

Both are from Rome, both are funerary inscriptions, and both date to early in the second century AD (one may be slightly earlier).


CIL VI 2 14155

CIL VI.3 24008

Thanks to Trismegistos’ own data and its links to Clauss-Slaby (14155 and 24008) and the Electronic Archive of Greek and Latin Epigraphy/the Epigraphic Database Roma (14155 and 24008), full details of the two marbles and the images above can readily be accessed.

Neither inscription involves any Greek sentence, phrases, or script, but there is ‘Greek in Italy’ here nonetheless in the names. 14155.3-5 mentions a Calpurnia Chrysis mater. 24008 reads in full:

D(is) M(anibus) / Petronio / Hedychro / vix(it) an(nos) XXXV m(enses) VI d(ies) VII / Petronia Trophime / conliberto idem / coniugi suo b(ene) m(erenti) fec(it).

‘To the Spirits of the Departed: for Petronius Hedychrus; he lived for 35 years, 6 months, and seven days. Petronia Trophime made <this> for her fellow freedperson and “spouse” alike, who was well-deserving’.

Chrysis is a Greek name (the <ch> and <y> are classic giveaway indications of non-Latin words), as are Hedychrus (<ch> and <y> again – Ἡδύχρους; LGPN omits this bearer) and Trophime (<ph> is one indicator). In Trophime we see also a non-Latin ending. The first-declension nominative singular ends in –a (as in Petronia), but here we have –e as a transliteration of Greek <η>, the equivalent ending for the Greek first declension. One Τροφίμᾱ with -α, the Greek first-declension dialect ending, is also known to the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names.

These three – Goldie, M(aste)r Sweet-Fleshed, and Miss Foster(ed) or Miss Plump – look like slave names, a suggestion corroborated by conliberto ‘fellow freedperson’.

The name Ἡδύχρους (or -χροος) looks like a poetic epithet, as, indeed, it was: GVI 1595.13-14 [Rome, perhaps second century AD]; cf. IG XII, 1 781.4 [Rhodes; second century AD], which has a dative -χροι from a by form in -χρως. However, it was also the name of a perfume. As such, it is also a Greek word known first from a Latin text: Cicero, Tusculan Disputations III 46.

The manuscripts there all have hedyc(r)um (one has aedicrum). Although the <h> and the  <y> were preserved, there is no trace of the <ch>. Whether Cicero spelled it with <c> or with a <ch> that has been lost in transmission, we cannot know. OLD printed the headword as hedycrum with <c>, not <ch>; some texts have the <ch> restored, as LSJ gives it.

Also, –crum indicates that the substantive (like the personal name) was borrowed into Latin from a variety of Greek that has the contraction -χρους, not the uncontracted form -χροος. (Galen has both -χροον and -χρουν).

So much, for now, for Greek in Italy via Norfolk and this experiment with ‘linked data’. I’ll leave it to James to tell the story of the Norfolk clergyperson who argued that the topography of the Iliad was based on his own – and Nelson’s – county.

Leave a comment

Lingue dello Stretto

It’s been a couple of months since I trailed mine and Livia’s upcoming trip to Messina to take part in ‘Lingue dello Stretto nella Documentazione Materiale dall’Ellenismo alla Tarda Antichità‘ (Languages of the Strait in Documentary Material from Hellenic Times to Late Antiquity), and I’ve been remiss in reporting back (it’s been a busy time! We had the Laurence Seminar in Cambridge the next week, on which James has already blogged).

There were far too many interesting papers, taking a wide range of approaches to the languages spoken around the Strait of Messina for me to talk about all of them (you can see the whole programme here – it opens as a .pdf). Particular highlights for me were Paolo Poccetti giving a tour-de-force analysis of the way linguistic, onomastic, literary and numismatic evidence could be combined to demonstrate how peoples in the area created a self-image; and Jonathan Prag’s demonstration of his amazing online corpus of inscriptions from Sicily (to go live soon. Follow updates at the project blog here), which is clearly going to redefine the state of the art (our very own Katherine McDonald has been involved in editing the entries on the Oscan inscriptions, which you can read about on her blog). And Livia’s talk on ‘Contact and linguistic prestige in the Hellentistic Doric of Sicily’ – but I’ll spare her blushes.

Apart from the brilliance of the talks, and the friendly and collegial atmosphere, the conference was one of the best organised I’ve ever been to: accommodation booked on our behalf, a bus laid on to take us to and from, and superlative food at lunch, dinner (and granita con panna e brioche in the coffee breaks!). We’re very grateful to Giuseppe Ucciardello, Alessandro De Angelis, Annamaria Chilà and Silvia Cutuli, who were the perfect hosts.

After the conference finished I popped across the strait to Reggio Calabria, but I’ll say more about that in my next post. I’ll finish here with an inscription I spotted in my wanderings in Messina: it’s a great example of how the spelling conventions used to write a text need not necessarily match up with thelanguage the text is written in.


Free wi-fi