Ancient Greek belletrist arise to be everywhere. Best of us accept apparently heard of the Nile delta, alike if we don’t automatically accessory that bounded appellation with the appearance of the fourth letter of the age-old Greek (and avant-garde Greek, as it happens) alphabet.
Any blur set in an American academy is about assertive to affection ‘frat boys’ and ‘sorority sisters’ (though some fraternities now acceptable girls), aka ‘Greeks’, whose fraternities and sororities are alleged afterwards belletrist of the age-old Greek alphabet.
These age-old Greek belletrist arise in added fields too, including mathematics (most abundantly perhaps, pi) and astrochemistry (where Greek belletrist are acclimated to baptize the brightest stars in a constellation). Sadly, we’re apparently all nowadays accustomed with the use of Greek belletrist to denote variants of the coronavirus, the latest of which is the still rather abstruse fiber alleged omicron.
The age-old Greeks didn’t ad-lib the alphabet, admitting they may be accustomed with inventing an alphabet – a new anatomy of alphabetic writing, one that added signs for vowels to signs for consonants. Thereby their alphabet is the world’s aboriginal absolutely phonetic alphabetic script, which emerged age-old about 800 BC.
Or rather, their alphabets, plural: for there were several, bounded or bounded versions of the age-old Greek alphabet, with differing numbers of belletrist alignment from 24 to 28.
Usually, the age-old Greeks were beneath than agog to acclaim non-Greeks – ‘barbarians’ as they sometimes derogatorily alleged them – with annihilation positive. But in this aberrant case they accustomed the actual antecedent of their borrowing: for they alleged their alphabets ‘Phoenician letters’ afterwards the age-old bodies that again active what is today Lebanon, and genitalia of Syria and Israel.
The actual names of the aboriginal two Greek belletrist are a bit of a clue to conflicting origins: in Greek alpha and beta beggarly nothing, but that’s because they are in actuality Hellenised versions of Semitic words – aleph ‘ox-head’ and beth ‘house’ – which were so alleged because schematically that’s what those two belletrist attending like in the original, Semitic alphabets.
On the podcast: How the Greeks afflicted the apple – Roderick Beaton explores 4,000 years of Greek history, from the glories of Mycenae to the activity of a avant-garde European nation
However, that wasn’t the alone aberration amid Phoenician and Greek alphabets. Precisely because the Greeks’ antecedent script, Phoenician, represented a Semitic language, like all Semitic scripts it did after signs for vowels.
Greek on the added duke was an Indo-European accent and had sounds which the Phoenicians didn’t, and carnality versa for Phoenician. So the absolute ability of the Greek apparatus (or re-invention) of an alphabetic calligraphy was that it not alone affected almost the Phoenician signs for sounds that the Greeks themselves used, but additionally blithely adopted Phoenician signs for the Phoenicians’ non-Greek sounds and activated them to address Greek beat sounds: alpha, epsilon, iota, omicron, omega, upsilon.
Though there were several bounded variations of the alphabet in classical Greece, it was the Ionic alphabet that was eventually adopted by Athens and became ascendant beyond the Greek-speaking world. This age-old Greek alphabet has 24 letters.
The age-old Greek alphabet we are accustomed with begins with alpha and ends with omega – article referenced in the Bible. The blueprint beneath includes uppercase and lowercase variations of anniversary letter, alongside its anglicised equivalent.
There are two lowercase forms for sigma, which is accounting as σ unless it is at the end of a chat – in which case it appears as ς. Also, a letter alleged digamma – almost a ‘w’ complete – appeared in aboriginal versions of the Doric alphabet but was after dropped.
We apperceive of advance how avant-garde Greek is pronounced, but – awfully – we can’t absolutely say for assertive how any adaptation of age-old Greek was pronounced, partly because there’s a altercation over what the accent arrangement of an age-old Greek argument signified. Was it pitch? Or was it accent or emphasis? Did the one accomplish the other, and if so when? The absolute answers baffle us.
Not absolutely as notoriously, advisers of age-old Greek alter amidst themselves as to how we should accent age-old Greek.
Take, for instance, the letter name omicron: was it o-mike-ron? Or, as seems to accept become the announcer’s norm, o-mick-ron? The chat itself agency ‘little o’ (in adverse to omega – ‘big O’), so the aboriginal ‘o’ of omicron is absolutely a abbreviate syllable, as in ‘hot’.
Contrary to today’s norm, it acclimated to be accomplished to accent age-old Greek as if the (male) Greeks themselves had been British gentlemen, so omicron becomes ‘o-mike-ron’, with the emphasis/stress on the ‘mike’ syllable.
One of the actual age-old Greek alphabetic inscriptions to survive speaks worlds. It consists of three curve of ballad aching on a almost apprehensive adobe pot fabricated in Asia Minor (now western Turkey) but begin in a grave on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples.
The bounded anatomy of the book active is associated with the island of Euboia (modern Evvia) abreast Athens, which is area the alien Greek settlers of Ischia (ancient Pithekoussai) had originally appear from, attractive for a bigger activity in southern Italy.
What’s more, the three-line bulletin seems to be authoritative a rather acceptable joke. In the Iliad, the ballsy composition about the Trojan War ascribed to Homer, the age-old Greek baron Nestor is said to accept bedevilled a ample and expensive, precious-metal bubbler goblet.
The biographer of the Ischia graffito acknowledges the arete of Nestor’s beaker – but caps that by abacus humorously as able-bodied as amorously that anyone who drinks (wine) from his (relatively humble, clay) cup will anon be bedeviled with alluring animal desire.
There are advisers who accept that one of the greatest impulses abaft the advance of alphabetic articulacy in the Greek apple of the eighth and seventh centuries BC was the acquainted charge to address bottomward and so accomplish abiding versions both of the Iliad and of Homer’s added ballsy masterpiece, the Odyssey.
Whether or not that antecedent is correct, the Greeks’ new alphabets were absolutely revolutionary, actuality in a cultural faculty democratic. A adolescent of bristles could now be absolutely community – admitting for autograph the earliest, alone anatomy of Greek script, the alleged Linear B, alone able scribes could adept and use the 200 or so signs and ideograms required.
The alphabetic Greek accent represents, besides the (non-alphabetic) Chinese, the oldest connected accounting arcane attitude in the world. Greek as a accent has of advance acquired and mutated in the hundreds of years back the eighth aeon BC, but a avant-garde Greek apostle confronted with a printed age-old argument of Homer would accept no adversity account it.
It is aural age-old Greek that we acquisition the ultimate agent of our own English alphabet. Age-old Greek formed the base Etruscan alphabet and the Latin alphabet of the Romans, and was accordingly via the European Middle Ages and Renaissance anesthetized bottomward to us. It was additionally during the Middle Ages that the age-old Greek alphabet formed the base for Cyrillic, aloof as the ‘Phoenician letters’ had done so before.
Professor Paul Cartledge is A G Leventis Professor of Greek Culture emeritus at the University of Cambridge. His books accommodate Thebes: The Forgotten City of Age-old Greece, now accessible in album (Picador, 2021)
How To Write Lowercase A – How To Write Lowercase A
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