Ancient Greek language

Article

May 25, 2022

Ancient Greek is a language belonging to the Indo-European family of languages, spoken in Greece between the 9th century BC. and 6th century AD It covers the Archaic period (approximately between the 9th century BC and the 6th century BC), the Classical period (approximately from the 5th century BC to the 4th century BC) and the Hellenistic period (from the 3rd century BC to the 4th century AD) .

History

The most archaic form of Greek known to us through writing is Mycenaean, the language spoken by the ruling classes in the palatial centers of the Mycenaean civilization; other forms of Greek, some of which are partly known through testimonies, coexisted alongside the Mycenaean. At the end of the second millennium BC this language regressed due to the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization, giving way to what we call ancient Greek, that is a set of mutually intelligible variants that take the name of dialects; from one of these dialects, the Ionic-Attic, in the Alexandrian age the Hellenistic Greek developed, defined "koinè" (κοινή) or "biblical Greek", the first common form of Greek; its evolution will lead to Byzantine Greek and finally to Modern Greek. Ancient Greek was undoubtedly one of the most important languages ​​in the history of human culture: it was the language of Homer, of the first philosophers and the first writers of the West. Ancient Greek terms were borrowed from the Romans into the Latin language and through these have come down to our days. The binomial nomenclature, although expressed in Latin, draws heavily on the vocabulary of ancient Greek. Numerous concepts typical of contemporaneity, such as that of democracy, were born in ancient Greece and have survived up to the present day. Like modern Greek, which is a profound evolution of it, ancient Greek was an Indo-European language whose origins are still difficult to clarify today: the different dialects spoken in Greece had a common root that linguists called proto-Greek and were widespread before of the Doric migration, in the Balkan area. Tracing a previous ancestor is very difficult, due to the lack of written texts, but it seems possible to affirm that there was a close commonality of roots between ancient Greek and the Armenian language (some speak thus of an ancestor called "Greek-Armenian"). It can be thought that Proto-Greek lost its linguistic unity at the time of the Doric invasion, as a result of which, in a period between 1200 and 1000 BC, there was the development of numerous variants of ancient Greek, remembered as ancient Greek dialects. The first attestations of ancient Greek appear around the eighth century BC. with the development of a certain type of alphabet. The loss of linguistic unity leads to the development of different varieties of Greek, each of which derives its name from that of the Greek population in which it was spoken: thus, the Doric dialect was spoken by the Dorians, the Aeolian by the Aeolians, the Ionic by the Ionians. Each dialect had its own characteristics, but all were so similar to each other that they were intelligible to each other. Ancient Greek is still studied today in Europe in some upper secondary schools, together with Latin: examples are the classical high school in Italy, the Humanistisches Gymnasium in Germany and the grammar schools in the United Kingdom. In Italy it is studied every year by 8 percent of high school pupils (those enrolled in classical high schools), the highest percentage among Western countries. Along with Latin, ancient Greek is a subject of study at the university, in the course of studies in classical literature. Even today the Hellenistic koinè, the dialect of the ancient Greek language in which the New Testament is written, is used as a liturgical language by the Greek Orthodox Church and by the Greek Catholic Church of the Byzantine rite.

Dialects

The ancient Greek language (in Greek: Αρχαία ελληνική γλώσσ