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Greek Re: R: Graiugenic languages (was: Re: Another

From:Leo Caesius <leo_caesius@...>
Date:Wednesday, July 26, 2000, 20:22
Mangiat wrote:

    "O, one of my favourite books is my Greek grammar, so, yes, it's
happened sometime to wonder about a world where Hellenic languages (as I
called them) have conquerred a good position in Estern Mediterranean. I
thought what would have happened if, i.e., Greek colonies in Asia Minor
remained in Greek hands. They'd  probably have retained a Neoellenikò-like

To which Thomas Wier responded:
     "What do you mean by conquered, exactly?  Because the Greek language
did in fact "conquer" much of the Eastern Mediterranean after the collapse
of the Persian Empire, inasmuch as Greek was used for all official
governmental communication, and also for much cultural and intellectual
discourse, as a result of military conquest ... This remained the case until
the Arab, and later the Turkish conquests, over a thousand years later."
      Although most Greeks today speak the standard dialect "demotiki,"
wildly different varieties of Greek are spoken in Cyprus, Crete and Rhodes.
These, along with minor communities in Italy and Turkey, and the varying
"dialects" of Greek within Greece itself (which are, for the most part,
obsolescent), are the last remnants of the descendents of the koine.  Greeks
in Western Anatolia, the Levant, and Egypt (particularly Alexandria), were
all expelled at the end of the Great War, bringing an end to communities
which were often centuries, if not millennia, old.  Most settled in Athens
and became assimilated.

"Ptolemy I might as well be called the Father of National Socialism)."
   I always thought that dubious honor should be given to Lycurgus.  I once
read a paper entitled "Sparta: Cradle of Noblest Fascism."

"No, actually, they were from Pre-Roman times.   The Romans had a lot of
early encounters with hellenophone citystates in Magna Graecia.  Most of
them had been founded between 750 and 450 BC, when Rome was just a political
and cultural backwater."

    There is no doubt that the roots of Greek civilization in Magna Graecia
date many centuries before the Roman conquest in that area, but the roots of
the current hellenophone communities in Southern Italy are obscure.  My
mother's family, the Cimino (< kiminos "cumin seed"), arrived in Naples
after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453.  They, like many of
the other Greek arrivals in Italy, assimilated, although they left quite a
few traces in the standard dialect of Italian (n.b. It., Gk. melinzana v.
Fr. aubergine) and especially in the southern dialects.  As for the
Italiotes, even though their language is incomprehensible to speakers of
Modern Greek, the Classicists here have told me that the last word on the
origin of that language is that it was descended from the same source as all
the other extant Greek dialects (ie. koine) and not a survival of the
pre-koine dialects of Magna Graecia.
     I guess the koine really was universal; it managed to supplant nearly
all of the Greek spoken in the Mediterranean, no matter how deeply
entrenched or isolated (though, I understand that there is one dialect
spoken in Greece which may be a pre-koine survival - off the top of my head,
I remember it being the Tsakonian, although I'm probably wrong).

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