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. (Livius.org 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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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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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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Gambling in Greek

A new article by James has just been published on ‘The language of a Pompeian tavern: submerged Latin?’.* He discusses the ‘captions’ on a set of four wall-paintings from Pompeii, depicting two men chatting, getting drinks, playing a dice-game, and having a fight and being ejected. These paintings are now quite well-known, having featured prominently in the British Museum’s Pompeii exhibition a few years ago (our colleague Mary Beard has mentioned it in her blog a couple of times, with helpful pictures). James’ focus in the article is what the words tell us about sub-elite Latin, and whether there are similarities to the language of the Roman playwright Plautus, two or three centuries earlier. No spoilers here: you’ll have to read the article to find out the answer.

But the inscriptions also show how commonplace Greek words were in Latin, even (or especially) at social levels for whose language we have less literary evidence. The first panel has one man saying to another ‘nolo cum Murtale uasu’, which probably means ‘I don’t want a drink with Myrtale’. Myrtale is a Greek name and the final -e is probably meant to represent the Greek dative singular ending -ηι (the final -ι would have been lost in speech by this time). In the third panel, one speaker says to the other ‘non tria, duas est’, ‘that’s not a three, it’s a two’, using the Greek word duas ‘a two, deuce’. This word doesn’t appear again for centuries, and there are no other examples of it being used in the context of numbers on a dice. If it weren’t for this inscription, we’d have no idea that it had this meaning in Latin, or that it had been borrowed so early.

This inscription is also particularly interesting for me, because I’ve been thinking lately about Roman spelling, and in particularly how features that tend to be described as ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘archaic’ actually had a much longer after-life than we probably give them credit for – perhaps especially in the sub-elite educational tradition. These scenes can be quite accurately dated to between 62AD, when an earthquake hit Pompeii, and 79AD, since that is when Vesuvius exploded and destroyed/preserved Pompeii. Latin inscriptions had started using the letter y to represent Greek υ by the early first century BC, but here they are still using u 150 years later! And that’s not even the record; the captions spell the word ego ‘I’ eco, a mere three hundred years after the letter g was invented. But maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised: spelling can be a remarkably conservative practice –  after all, English spelling largely carries on as it was established several centuries ago, often reflecting pronunciation from even before that, despite an almost-complete failure to match how we actually speak nowadays.

*The article is published in Early and Late Latin: Continuity or Change, edited by Jim Adams and Nigel Vincent, published by Cambridge University Press


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Sicily in Oxford and London

Last week I visited exhibitions on Sicily at the Ashmolean in Oxford (Storms, War and Shipwrecks), and at the British Museum (Sicily: Culture and Conquest). Both were a lot of fun, but perhaps unsurprisingly, I felt the British Museum came out on top. This was largely because the Ashmolean’s exhibition was focussed on underwater finds, and there are only so many anchors and amphoras that I can see before my eyes start to glaze over. Of great interest for me, though, were three of the rams from the sea battle near the Egadi Islands that I mentioned in an earlier post and which Katherine has also discussed over at her blog. Two had Latin inscriptions and the other one was the one with a Carthaginian inscription. I was very excited to see them in the flesh, although I have a bit of a gripe: as is very common, museums often seem to think that any writing on an object is of minor importance, and position it so that it is hard to see. In this case, one of the rams was placed so that the inscription was upside down relative to anyone looking at it, and quite far away, so hard to get a close look at – since the inscription was incised rather than in relief, and the metal was somewhat degraded, it was hard to make out anything at all.

The British Museum exhibition was far better than the last couple I’ve been to there. Not least because, in the main, I could actually see the objects on display. Recently, in the Museum’s exhibitions, the general lighting has been practically non-existent, with the objects being lit by very small spotlights. The effect has been to cast weird shadows over much of the stuff, and, occasionally, to make the information boards impossible to read. Although some of the lighting was somewhat eccentric at the Sicily exhibition, in the main it was far better. And there are some lovely objects: a fourth ram, and beautiful decorations from the island’s Norman period. The thing that struck me most, however, was a bilingual inscription, in Greek and Latin, which read (you can see a picture here):

ΣΤΗΛΑΙ                    | TITVLI

ΕΝΘΑΔΕ                  | HEIC

ΤΥΠΟΥΝΤΑΙΚΑΙ    | ORDINANTVRET

ΧΑΡΑΣΣΟΝΤΑΙ      | SCVLPVNTVR

ΝΑΟΙΣΙΕΡΟΙΣ        | AIDIBVSSACREIS

ΣΥΝΕΝΕΡΓΕΙΑΙΣ  | QVMOPERVM

ΔΗΜΟΣΙΑΙΣ           | PVBLICORVM

Which means: ‘signs are arranged and carved here for sacred temples along with public works’

According to the Museum, this came from Palermo, and is to be dated between 100 BC and 50 AD. The information suggested that, as there were mistakes in both the Greek and Latin, and Palermo was originally a Punic settlement, the person who wrote it may have had Punic as their native language. Personally, I’m not so sure: while the use of cum plus the genitive in the Latin is clearly ungrammatical, I can’t see any mistakes in the Greek (apart from the use of Doric ναός ‘temple’ rather than Attic νεώς, which is not really a ‘mistake’). But I’d be delighted to have them drawn to my attention.

Apart from this nice example of Greek and Latin being used in tandem in ancient Sicily, what I also find interesting about this inscription is the use of ‘archaic’ spellings in the Latin, which the museum’s sign also drew attention to. From the point of view of ‘Classical’ spelling, the use of Q instead of C before V to represent [k], EI for long [i:] and AI for the diphthong [ae] all look pretty old fashioned. But I’ve just started to have a look at these kind of spellings, and quite a lot of them seem to have carried on well into the first few centuries AD, at least among certain writers. So I’m not sure that these spellings would necessarily have been particularly old fashioned at the time this sign was written.

UPDATE:

James Clackson has kindly advised me of an article by our friend Olga Tribulato on this inscription. The article is called ‘The stone-cutter’s bilingual inscription from Palermo (IG XIV 297 = CIL X 7296): a new interpretation’ and was published in Zeitschrift für Payrologie und Epigraphik, 177 (2011) 131–140. It’s available online free here (NB opens as a .pdf). The mistakes in the Greek which I didn’t recognise, and which Olga discusses, are the use of ἐνέργειαι rather than ἔργα in the sense of ‘works’, and the use of σύν ‘with’ as a conjunction – which is not unheard of, but is uncommon. This use of σύν could be influenced by the Latin use of cum as a connective, but the person who wrote the Latin clearly wasn’t a native speaker either! Olga suggests that the writer was a Punic-speaker, in whose language the preposition ‘et ‘with’ could also be used as a conjunctive. She has various other ingenious suggestions of how the other oddities can be explained by being written by a non-native speaker –  you can read the article yourself if you want the details.

 


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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

 

 

 

An interesting Greek inscription from Cumae

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Since Nick and Katherine have been blogging about our recent trip, I thought I should get in the act as well. I was invited by Ulrike Roth to give a talk on Epigraphy and Language at the British Epigraphy Society Summer School in London earlier in August, and I decided to talk about some of the inscriptions we had seen on our Italian trip in order to illustrate different Greek dialects and letter forms. I chose to discuss this text, inscribed on a large stone slab from Cumae and dating to the second half of the sixth century, and now residing in the splendid Museo Archeologico dei Campi Flegrei (thanks again to the wonderful Ludovica for taking us round!)

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I initially thought that the letters and short length of the text would make it a fairly simple one for the neophyte epigrapher to get to grips with, but the more I looked into it the more difficult it became.

Reading the Greek letters is quite easy, and gives a text as follows:
ΗΥΠΥΤΕΙΚΛΙΝΕΙΤΟΥΤΕΙΛΕΝΟΣΗΥΠΥ

The text has no word-dividers, though, and splitting this up into separate words is not as easy as it might first appear. The first three words divide as hυπυ τει κλινει, and this might be recognisable to those with some Greek as what would be in Attic Greek ὑπὸ τῆι κλίνηι. The preposition ὑπὸ is written hυπυ, with the letter H still used for the aspirate, which means that they only have E to represent both the long and short e of Greek. But ὑπὸ τῆι κλίνηι would mean ‘under the couch’ in Attic Greek, and here κλίνη must refer to the ‘grave-niche’, a meaning that the word also has in another Greek inscription from South Italy.

After this, the division of words and their interpretation gets a bit more tricky. The word hυπυ occurs again at the end, here acting as a preverb, with the verb itself, ἐστί, ‘is’ missed out.

But how to divide up ΤΟΥΤΕΙΛΕΝΟΣ? You might at first think that this is a genitive phrase with a personal name, something like, τοῦ Τειλενος ‘of Teilen’, but there are two problems with this. Firstly there is no name Teilen or similar known from Greek sources, and secondly this would leave the whole sentence without a subject: ‘under the grave-niche of Teilen there is …’ So it makes sense to break it up differently, as τουτει λενος. Now τουτει is a dialectal form for ταύτηι and belongs with the preceding ὑπὸ τῆι κλίνηι: ‘under this grave-niche’, and λενος is the subject of the verb, presumably. Earlier experts on Greek dialects and archaic inscriptions, including Buck and Ann Jeffery  had suggested that λενος is a man’s name, so the whole line would then mean ‘Lenos is under this grave niche’ (which might be englished as ‘Here lies Len’).

But here again there is no Greek parallel for the name λενος. So perhaps it is a noun? There are two possible Greek nouns that it could be, neither of which are particularly common, nor particularly promising. First there is ληνός, which basically means a ‘tub’, and can be used of anything from a wine-vat or water trough to a bath-tub; then there is λῆνος, probably related the Latin word lana and other words for ‘wool’ in IE languages, which is used as the name for a fillet or headband made of wool, or a flock of wool. Why on earth would anyone write on a grave that there was a tub or wool underneath?

With the Epigraphy Summer School talk fast approaching, and realising I couldn’t yet give a definitive translation of this text, in desperation I looked in the Revised Supplement to the Liddell and Scott dictionary. To my immense relief, I found that they had given there a whole new entry for a third word λῆνος, occurring only in this inscription, and meaning ‘someone who had been inducted into the Bacchic mysteries’. In a fragment of Heraclitus there is a reference to female Bacchants as λῆναι, and, moreover, there is another inscription from the necropolis at Cumae that says that only those initiated in the Bacchic rites can be buried there, so this interpretation of λῆνος seems quite plausible. The whole inscription would then mean something like ‘An initiate lies here’. Not everyone at the BES talk was convinced: one learned epigrapher in attendance wondered whether ΤΟΥΤΕΙΛΕΝΟΣ should actually be read as τουτει (hε)λενος, with the very common man’s name Ἕλενος losing its first syllable after a preceding vowel.