The Eponymous Archons of Athens

Table of Archons, I
528Philoneos
527Onetorides
526Hippias
525Kleisthenes
524Miltiades
523Kalliades?
522Peisistratos?
497Archias
496Hipparchos
495Philippos
494Pythokritos
493Themistokles
492Diognetos
491Hybrilides
490Phainippos
489Aristeides
488Anchises
487Telesines
486?
485Philokrates
484Leostratos
483Nikodemos
482?
481Hypsichides
480Kalliades
479Xanthippos
479Timosthenes
477Adeimantos
476Phaidon
475Dromokleides
474Akestorides
473Menon
472Chares
471Praxiergos
470Demotion
469Apsephion
468Theagenides
467Lysistratos
466Lysanias
465Lysitheos
464Archedemides
463Tlepolemos
462Konon
461Euthippos
460Phrasikleides
459Philokles
458Habron
457Mnesitheides
456Kallias
455Sosistratos
454Ariston
453Lysikrates
452Chairephines
451Antidotos
450Euthynos
449Pedieus
448Philiskos
447Timarchides
446Kallimachos
445Lysimachides
444Praxiteles
443Lysanias
442Diphilos
441Timokles
440Morychides
439Glaukinos
438Theodoros
437Euthymenes
436Lysimachos
435Antiochides
434Krates
433Apseudes
432Pythodoros
431Euthydemos
430Apollodoros
429Epameinon
428Diotimos
427Eukles Molonos
426Euthynos
425Stratokles
424Isarchos
423Ameinias
422Alkaios
421Aristion
420Astyphilos
419Archias
418Antiphon
417Euphemos
416Arimnestos
415Charias
414Teisandros
413Kleokritos
412Kallias
411Mnesilochos
& Theopompos
410Glaukippos
409Diokles
408Euktemon
407Antigenes
406Kallias
405Alexias
404Pythodoros
403Eukleides
402Mikon
401Xenainetos
400Laches
399Aristokrates
398Euthykles
Table of Archons, II
397Suniades
396Phormion
395Diophantos
394Eubulides
393Demostratos
392Philokles
391Nikoteles
390Demostratos
389Antipatros
388Pyrgion
387Theodotos
386Mystichides
385Dexitheos
384Diotrephes
383Phanostratos
382Euandros
381Demophilos
380Pytheas
379Nikon
378Nausinikos
377Kalleas
376Charisandros
375Hippodamas
374Sokratides
373Asteios
372Alkisthenes
371Phrasikleides
370Dysniketos
369Lysistratos
368Nausigenes
367Polyzelos
366Kephisodoros
365Chion
364Timokrates
363Charikleides
362Molon
361Nikophemos
360Kallimedes
359Eucharistos
358Kephisodotos
357Agathokles
356Elpines
355Kallistratos
354Diotimos
353Thudemos
352Aristodemos
351Theellos
350Apollodoros
349Kallimachos
348Theophilos
347Themistokles
346Archias
345Eubulos
344Lykiskos
343Pythodotos
342Sosigenes
341Nikomachos
340Theophrastos
339Lysimachides
338Chairondas
337Phrynichos
336Pythodelos
335Euainetos
334Ktesikles
333Nikokrates
332Niketes
331Aristophanes
330Aristophon
329Kephisophon
328Euthykritos
327Hegemon
326Chremes
325Antikles
324Hegesias
323Kephisodoros
322Philokles
321Archippos
320Neaichmos
319Apollodoros
318Archippos
317Demogenes
316Demokleides
315Praxibulos
314Nikodoros
313Theophrastos
312Polemon
311Simonides
310Hieromnemon
309Demetrios
308Charinos
307Anaxikrates
306Koroibos
305Euxenippos
304Pherekles
303Leostratos
302Nikokles
301Klearchos
300Hegemachos
299Euktemon
298Mnesidemos
297Antiphates
296Nikias
295Nikostratos
294Olympiodoros
293Olympiodoros II
292Philippos
291Cimon
290Aristonymus
Table of Archons, III
289Charinus?
288Xenophon?
287Diocles
286Diotimus
285Isaeus
284Euthius
283Nicias
282Ourius
281Gorgias
280Sosistratus?
279Anaxicrates
278Democles
277Euboulus?
276Olbius
275Philippides?
274Glaucippus
273[Unknown]
272Telocles?
271Pytharatus
270Peithidemus
269Diogeiton
268Menecles
267Nicias
266Hagnias?
265Philocrates
264Diognetus
263Antipatrus
262Arrheneides
261Cleomachus
260Polystratus?
259[Unknown]
258Antiphon?
257Thymochares?
256Alcibiades?
255Euboulus
254Philostratus?
253Lysitheides?
252Lyceas?
251Callimedes
250Antimachus
249Thersilochus
248Polyeuctus
247Hieron
246Diomedon
245Theophemus
244Philoneus
243Cydenor
242Eurycleides
241Lysiades
240Athenodorus
239Lysias
238Pheidostratus
237Cimon
236Ecphantus
235Lysanias
234Phanostratus?
233[Unknown]
232Jason
231[Unknown]
230Phanomachus?
229Heliodorus
228Leochares
227Theophilus
226Ergochares
225Nicetes
224Antiphilus
223[Unknown]
222Archelaus
221Thrasyphon
220Menecrates
219Chaerephon
218Callimachus?
217[Unknown]
216Hagnias
215Diocles
214Euphiletus
213Heracleitus
212Philinus?
211Aeschron
210[Unknown]
209Callaeschrus
208Ancylus?
207Pantiades?
206Callistratus?
205Euandrus?
204Apollodorus
203Proxenides
202Euthycritus?
201Nicophon?
200Dionysius?
199Philon?
198Diodotus
197Sositeles
196Charicles
195-
194
[Unknown]
193Phanarchides
192Diodotus
191[Unknown]
190Hippias?
189Isocrates?
188Symmachus
187Theoxenus
186Zopyrus
185Eupolemus
184Sosigenes?
183Hermogenes
182Timesianax
181Telesarchides
180Dionysius?
There were nine Archons (árkhôn, , "ruler, regent, commander"; plural árkhontes, ) in the classic constitution at Athens. Six were judges, the Thesmothetae. The other three were the Polemarch (polémarkhos, , "war leader," the third archon), who was the commander-in-chief, the King (basileús, , the second archon), who succeeded to the religious duties of the original Kings of Athens, and the Eponymous (epónymos, ) Archon, the first archon, after whom the year was named.

No Greeks, or anyone else at the time, used a continuous Era in dating. The closest to that were regal years of Kings, like the Kings of Egypt. The first continuous Era was that of Seleucus I, one of Alexander the Great's generals and successors. This was the Seleucid Era, which continued to be used long after the Seleucids were gone. At Athens, the offices were annual, so there would be no numberings of anyone. Each year had its own unique Eponymous ("upon the name") Archon. Any duplication of names would be very confusing, but there are some examples of that. There was a Themistokles who was Archon in 493, and another one in 347. These are unlikely to have been the same individual, and perhaps the lapse of 146 years was regarded as sufficient to prevent confusion.

The list here from 528 down to 292 BC is from E.J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World [Cornell Univesity Press, 1968-1982], pp.138-139. The archons from 291 BC until 274 AD are from Wikipedia. Bickerman gives his names as transcriptions of Greek. The Wikipedia names are Latinized. In the Roman period, autonomous local urban government had significant responsibilities; but my understanding is that this system collapsed during the Crisis of the Third Century. Perhaps that is why the line of Athenian Archons comes to an end.

Table of Archons, IV
179Menedemus
178Philon
177Speusippus
176Hippacus
175Sonicus
174[Unknown]
173Alexandrus?
172Sosigenes
171Antigenes
170[Unknown]
169Eunicus
168Xenocles
167Nicosthenes?
166Achaeus
165Pelops
164Charias?
163Erastus
162Poseidonius
161Aristolas
160Tychandrus
159Diocles?
158Aristaechmus
157Anthesterius
156Callistratus
155Mnestheus
154Epaenetus?
153Aristophantus?
152Phaedrias?
151Andreas?
150Zeleucus?
149Micion?
148Lysiades?
147Archon
146Epicrates
145Metrophanes
144Hermias?
143Theaetetus
142Aristophon
141Pleistaenus?
140Hagnotheus
139Apollodorus
138Timarchus
137Heracleitus
136Timarchides
135Dionysius
134Nicomachus
133Xenon
132Ergocles
131Epicles
130Demostratus
129Lyciscus
128Dionysius
127Theodorides
126Diotimus
125Jason
124Nicias (died); Isigenes
123Demetrius
122Nicodemus
121Phocion?
120Eumachus
119Hipparchus
118Lenaeus
117Menoites
116Sarapion


Table of Archons, V
115Nausias
114Pleistaenus
113Paramonus
112Dionysius
111Sosicrates
110Polycleitus
109Jason
108Demochares
107Aristarchus
106Agathocles
105Heracleides
104Diocles?
103Theocles
102Echecrates
101Medeius
100Theodosius
99Procles
98Argeius
97Argeius
96Heracleitus
95Diocles?
94Isocrates?
93Callias
92Menedemos?
91Medeius
90Medeius
89Medeius
88[Vacant]
87Philanthes
86Hierophantes
85Pythocritus
84Aeschraeus?
83Seleucus?
82Herecleodorus?
81Apollodorus?
80-
79
[Unknown]
78Zenion?
77-
76
[Unknown]
75Aeschines
74[Unknown]
73Nicetes?
72[Unknown]
71Aristoxenus?
70Criton?
69-
68
[Unknown]
67Theoxenus?
66Medeius?
65-
63
[Unknown]
62Aristeius
61Theophemus
60Herodes
59Leucius
58Calliphon
57Diocles
56Cointus
55Aristoxenus (or Aristodemus?)
54Zenon
53Diodorus
52Lysandrus
51Lysiades
50Demetrius
49Demochares
48Philocrates
47Diocles
46Apolexis
45Polycharmus
44Diocles Azenieus?
43Diocles Azenieus?
42Euthydomus
41Nicandrus
40Philostratus
39Diocles Meliteus
38Menandrus
37Theopeithes
36Asclepiodorus
35[Unknown]
34Pammenes?
33Cleidamus?
32Epicrates?
31Polycleitus Phlyeus?
30Architemus?
29-
27
[Unknown]
26Dioteimus Alaieus
25-
22
[Unknown]
21Demeas Azenieus
20Apolexis
19-
17
[Unknown]
16Pythagoras
Table of Archons, VI
15Antiochus
14Polyainus
13Zenon
12Leonides
11Theophilus
10[Unknown]
9Nicias Athmoneus?
8Demochares Azanieus?
7[Unknown]
6Xenon Phlyeus?
5Apolexis Philocratous ex Oiou?
4Aristodemus?
3Nicostratus?
2Demochares Azenius?
1 BCAnaxagoras?
1 ADAreius Paianieus?
2Cedeides?
3Menneas?
4Polyainus Marathonius?
5Polycharmus Azenius?
6Theophilus?
7-
23
[Unknown]
24Charmides
25Callicratides
26Pamphilus
27Themistocles Marathonius
28Oinophilus
29Boethus
30-
35
[Unknown]
36Rhoemetalcas the younger
37Polycritus
38Zenon
39Secoundus
40-
44
[Unknown]
45Antipatrus the younger Phlyeus
46-
48
[Unknown]
49Deinophilus
50-
52
[Unknown]
53Dionysodorus
54[Unknown]
55Conon
56-
60
[Unknown]
61Thrasyllus
62-
63
[Unknown]
64Gaius Carreinas Secundus
65Demostratus
66-
90
[Unknown]
91Emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus
92Trevilius Rufus
93[Unknown]
94Octavius Theion
95Octavius Proclus
96Aeolion
97[Unknown]
98Coponius Maximus Agno÷sius
99Lucius Vibullius Hipparchus
100Flavius Stratolaus Phylesius
101Claudius Demophilus
102Flavius Sophocles Sounieus
103Flavius Pintenus Gargottius
104Flavius Conon Sounieus
105-
106
[Unknown]
107Flavius Alcibiades Paeanieus
108Julius Antiochus Philopappus (died); Laelianus
109Cassius Diogenes
110Flavius Euphanes
Table of Archons, VIII
170Tiberius Memmius Phlaccus Marathonius
171[Vacant]
172Biesius Peison Meliteus
173Sallustianus Aeolion Phlyeus
174Aurelius Dionysius
175Claudius Heracleides Meliteus
176Aristocleides Peiraieus
177Scribonius Capiton?
178Flavius Stratolaus Phylasius
179Athenodorus Agrippas Iteaius
180Claudius Demostratus Meliteus
181Daedouchus
182Marcus Munatius Maximianus Ouopiscus
183Domitius Aristaius Paionides
184Titus Flavius Sosigenes Palleneus
185Philoteimus Arcesidemou Eleousius
186Gaius Fabius Thisbianus Marathonius
187Tiberius Claudius Bradouas Atticus Marathonius
188Emperor Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus
189Menogenes
190Gaius Peinarius Proclus Agnousius
191[Unknown]
192Gaius Helvidius Secundus Palleneus
193-
198
[Unknown]
199Gaius Quintus Imerus Marathonius
200-
202
[Unknown]
203Gaius Cassianus Steirieus
204-
208
[Unknown]
209Flavius Diogenes Marathonius
210-
211
[Unknown]
212Aurelius Dionysius Acharneus
213-
219
[Unknown]
220Titus Flavius? Philinus
221Aurelius Melpomenus Antinoeus
222-
229
[Unknown]
230Cassianus Hieroceryx Steirieus
231-
232
[Unknown]
233Vib. Lysandrus
234Epictetus Acharneus
235-
239
[Unknown]
240Cassianus Philippus Steirieus
241-
253
[Unknown]
254Lucius Flavius Philustratus Steirieus
255-
261
[Unknown]
262Publius Herennius Dexippus?
263[Unknown]
264Emperor Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus
265-
273
[Unknown]
274Titus Flavius Mondon Phlyeus
Table of Archons, VII
111Gaius Julius Cassius Steirieus
112Emperor Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus
113DeŰdius Secundus Sphettius
114[Unknown]
115Publius Fulvius Mitrodorus Sounieus
116Flavius Macreanus Acharneus
117[Unknown]
118Maximus Agno÷sius
119-
125
[Unknown]
126Claudius Herodes Marathonius
127Gaius Memmius Peissandrus Colytteus
128-
130
[Unknown]
131Claudius Philogenus Visseieus
132Claudius Domitianus Visseieus
133[Unknown]
134Antisthenes
135-
137
[Unknown]
138Praxagoras Thoricius
139Flavius Alcibiades Paianieus
140Claudius Attalus Sphettius
141Publius Aelius Phileas Meliteus
142Aelius Alexandrus Phalereus
143Publius Aelius Vibullius Rufus
144Syllas
145Flavius Arrianus Paianieus
146Titus Flavius Alcibiades Paeanieus
147Soteles Philippus Estiaeothen
148Lucius Nummius Ieroceryx Phalereus
149Quintus Alleius Epictetus
150Aelius Ardys
151Aelius Callicrates
152Lucius Nummius Menis Phalereus
153Aelius Alexandrus III
154Praxagoras Meliteus
155Popillius Theotimus Sounieus
156Aelius Gelus II
157Lycomedes
158Titus Aurelius Philemon Philades
159Tiberius Claudius Lysiades Meliteus
160Publius Aelius Themison Pammenes Azenieus
161Lucius Memmius Thoricius
162Pompeius Alexandrus Acharneus
163Philisteides Peiraieus
164Pompeius Daidouchus
165Sextus Phalereus
166Marcus Valerius Mamertinus Marathonius
167[Vacant]
168Tineius Ponticus Besaieus
169[Vacant]

Months of the Athenian Calendar
01HekatombaionJuly/August
Greater Panathenaea
02MetageitnionAugust/September
03BoedromionSeptember/October
Greater Mysteries at Eleusis
04PyanepsionOctober/November
05MaimakterionNovember/December
06PoseideonDecember/January
07GamelionJanuary/February
08AnthesterionFebruary/March
Lesser Mysteries at Eleusis
09ElaphebolionMarch/April
Great Dionysia
10MounichionApril/May
11ThargelionMay/June
Lesser Panathenaea?
12SkirophorionJune/July
Each year in the tables above represents the year in which the Archon assumed office, on the first day of Hekatombaion. His tenure then, of course, extended into the following year, which I have not indicated in the tables.

The year at Athens began with Summer, but exactly when that was supposed to be is a matter of uncertainty. Bickerman says, "that the beginning of the year coincided with the summer solstice moon remains unproven and improbable" [ibid. p.37]. And Bickerman neglects to provide a list of the Athenian months or assign even a rough period when they would have occurred. I have had recourse to Wikipedia for both -- where I also find the positive assertion that "the year was meant to begin with the first sighting of the new moon after the summer solstice." This determination may be the result of new research or just the preference of the Wikipedia writer.

Precision in such a calendar, however, is not something we can ever hope for, since lunar months were intercalated by the Athenians as it was judged necessary. And as necessity was often a political matter with little relation to astronomical realities, as also the case of the early Roman calendar, a great deal of confusion and irregularity was the result, to the point that Aristophanes remarked that if the gods regulated their lives by the Athenian calendar, they would often "go to bed without their supper" [ibid., p.36]. Other Greek calendars, such as that used by the Seleucids, began the year in the Autumn. This custom survived in Mediaeval Romania,
Months of the Calendar at Smyrna
01Kaisarios23 September
02Tiberios24 October
03Apaturios23 November
04Poseideon24 December
05Lenaios24 January
06Hierosebasos21 February
07Artemisios24 March
08Euangelios23 April
09Stratonikos24 May
10Hekatombaios23 June
11Antiocheios24 July
12Laodikos23 August
where the New Year was reckoned from September 1st, with the use of the "Byzantine" Anno Mundi Era.

After the introduction of the Julian Calendar by Caesar, and its imposition in Egypt by Augustus, Greek cities began adopting the reform. An example given by Bickerman is for Smyrna, the modern Turkish Izmir, in Ionia [ibid. p.48]. In the months at Smyrna, we see the names of two months that match those at Athens, Hekatombaios and Poseidon. They are spaced differently, with Poseidon six months after Hekatombaios at Smyrna, but with Poseidon five months after Hekatombaion at Athens. The dates at Smyrna, however, are now fixed dates on the Julian calendar. If Hekatombaios corresponds to the Athenian Hekatombaion, then its start on 23 June matches the received wisdom for the beginning of the Athenian year. Otherwise, we see the year at Smyrna beginning in September, an Autumn date as in the Seleucid reckoning.

In the names of the months at Smyrna, we see the influence of political events. Thus, the year begins with months named after "Caesar," whether Julius or Augustus, and Tiberius. Further down, the 11th month still remembers a Seleucid name, "Antiochus." Apart from politics, Artemisios is conspicuous, doubtlessly refering to the greatest local deity of Ionia, Artemis of Ephesus.

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Dialects of Greek

Classical Greek was one language, but it consisted of a number of dialects. These are shown on the accompanying map. The principal divisions are between Aeolic, Ionic, and Doric. Doric is mainly in the south, from the Peloponnesus down to Crete and up to Rhodes. Aeolic is in the northeast, and Ionic across the center, from Attica to the area on the mainland of Asia actually called "Ionia," with colonized areas up in the north. More closely related to Doric is North- western Greek, which stretches from the north side of the Peloponnesus into the mountains north of the Gulf of Corinth. The light blue area shows where we get a mixture of Doric and Northwestern. Very significant areas, Thessaly and Boeotia, see mixture and interpenetration of Aeolic and Northwestern. These are shown in brick red.

The Ionic dialect of Athens, Attic, is distinctive. Attic Greek is the language of the bulk of Golden Age Greek literature, and it is what students study when they begin to study Classical Greek. The word for "day" in Attic is hêméra (with the circumflex simply to indicate the long vowel). This contrasts with haméra in Doric and êmérê in the Ionic of Ionia. Attic is also different from the rest of Ionic in having "tt" for "ss" -- as in thálatta for thálassa, "sea," or glôtta for glôssa, "tongue, language."

The Greeks believed that the Ionians had long lived where they did but that the Dorians had arrived rather late. Indeed, another Greek dialect, not shown on the map, is "Epic" Greek, the language of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Epic Greek is more like Ionic and Aeolic than the other dialects. Classical Greek culture, including philosophy, began in Ionia, whose name became the word for "Greek" in all the languages to the East, e.g. al-Yûnân, , is "the Greeks" in Modern Arabic. Of the various versions of the Greek alphabet, the one from Ionia (which characteristically writes X for khi rather than ksi) became standard for later forms of Greek.

Even more intriguing is a dialect isolated in the heart of the Peloponnesus, Arcadian. Surrounded by Doric and Northwestern, Arcadian is nevertheless similar to Cypriot, the dialect of Greek spoken in Cyprus. This suggests that Arcadian was the original language of the south of Greece, overrun and isolated by the Doric invasion, with the Cypriots either as a now isolated outlier or as actual refugees from the West. On Cyprus the Greeks also used a unique syllabary to write their language. This turns out have similarities to the Linear A and Linear B scripts that were used to write the language of Minoan Crete and then Mycenaean Greek, a dialect of Greek that itself appears to be the closest to Arcadian and Cypriot. The Cypriots apparently have therefore preserved, uniquely, the writing system of their Mycenaean ancestors. Thus, the Greek word for "king," , would be written in Cypriot, with extra vowels allowed to write all the consonants of the Greek word (i.e. "se" for "s") and without distinguishing between voiced and unvoiced letters (such as using "p" for "b"). The Japanese kana syllabaries have some similarities to this. Also not distinguishing between voiced and unvoiced, kana supplies diacritics to mark the difference, for instance between katakana and , where the form of the character is not unlike the Cypriot "pa." Cypriot and kana thus both economized on the number of syllable characters needed. Also noteworthy in Cypriot is the presence of a nearly complete set of syllables for the consonant "w," which was later lost from Attic, Ionic, and most other dialects of Greek, although its alphabetic form is preserved in the "F" of the Latin Alphabet.

Arcadian and Cypriot thus date back to the days of the twilight of the Minoan civilization. The affinities of the Minoan language itself, written in the Linear A script, have not been identified with any certainty, although I now see a recent assertion that it was Luvian, an Indo-European language from an early stratum of settlement in Anatolia [cf. David Abulafia, The Great Sea, A Human History of the Mediterranean, Oxford, 2011, p.27]. I would have expected that it would be a non-Indo-European language, perhaps with affinities to Etruscan or Basque. As Crete declined, evidently after the eruption of the great volcano on the island of Thera (c.1500 BC), the Greeks gradually took over; but a smooth transition from Mycenaean Greece to later times was disrupted by the Doric invasion. Writing was lost (outside of Cyprus) and the Greek Dark Age followed until the Phoenician alphabet was borrowed around 800 BC.

In the Hellenistic Age, all the dialects of Greek began to be replaced by the , koiné or "common" dialect, which was principally Ionic with some Attic touches. This is the language of the New Testament. In later centuries, writers, to demonstrate their erudition, would use forms that had only existed in Attic, "Atticisms" -- sometimes even false Atticisms. Although the Koiné was spoken all around the Eastern Mediterranean world for centuries, Modern Greek is the only modern language descended from Classical Greek.

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The Grammar of Theodora's Statement

A noteworthy event early in the reign of the Emperor Justinian was the Nika Revolt in 532. This began in the Hippodrome and was named after the call for victory -- Nika! Nika! -- of the chariot racing factions, the Blues and the Greens. There was considerable unhappiness about the efficiency with which Justinian's officials had been collecting taxes. The revolt and riots, through looting and fire, destroyed a good part of the city, including the old church of Sancta Sophia.

Justinian was ready to flee, until the Empress Theodora put some spine into him. Excusing herself, a woman, for reminding the men of courage, she is supposed to have said, "the Purple makes the noblest shroud." Unfortunately, like many other famous quotes in history, this is not quite right. According to the historian Procopius, Theodora said, "Royalty [, basileía] is a good burial-shroud" [Procopius, History of the Wars, I, Book I, xxiv 37-38, translated by H.B. Dewing, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard U. Press, 1914, 2001, p.232-233]. In the same speech however, she did say, "May I never be separated from this purple" [p.230-231]. The traditional misquotation thus deftly combines two actual quotations. This is one of the most famous statements ever about the "Purple" -- i.e. the Tyrian Purple, Porphýra, , of Roman Imperial Robes -- although we also have the kind of stone, Porphyry, that was used in association with the Throne, both for statues of the Emperors (such as the group of the Tetrarchy now in Venice) and for structures like the lying-in pavillion for pregnant Empresses, which itself was simply called the Porphýra. Justinian, thus encouraged, or shamed, had the revolt put down.

Theodora's statement gives us a nice example for an analysis of Greek grammar. Procopius, as it happens, was not writing the spoken Greek of his day, but the elevated literary language that, during the Second Sophistic, revived the forms of Attic Greek. Although Procopius himself wrote in a clear and accessible style, his "Atticism" often comes in for modern criticism or derision as being artificial or affected. However, it was because of Atticism that the Classical texts of Plato and Thucydides remained readable to the Mediaeval audience. Studying Classical Greek today still means learning the language of Plato, Thucydides, and, as it happens, Procopius -- although it has been rare that students of Classical Greek are exposed to the Greek of the period of Procopius or later. The hostility and derision for "Atticism" is perhaps due in equal measures to contempt for "Byzantium," i.e. Mediaeval Romania, and a lack of understanding, with disdain, for the existence and active use of Classical languages. Unlike Classical Greek or Latin in modern usage, Procopius' Attic Greek was still an "active" Classical language, productive of literature, rather than more a "passive" Classical language, which is merely read -- mostly the case with Latin today, as it is with Coptic, the liturgical language of the Coptic Church.

Theodora's statement, , transcribes as mê gàr àn genoímên tês halourgídos taútês khôrís. I use the circûmflex accent here to indicate either the long vowels, eta and omega, the circumflex accent, or both. This is a little confusing; but, even without knowledge of the Greek alphabet, it can be compared to the Greek text. There are always awkward compromises in the effort to accurately transcribe Greek words. The Greek text also contains "breathings," which look like apostrophes, one for simple vowels (the "smooth" breathing), the other for the letter "h" (the "rough" breathing), a sound that does not exist in Ionic or Modern Greek but is written because of its presence in other ancient dialects, such as Attic. The letter "r" at the beginning of words or when doubled takes a rough breathing -- written rh or rrh -- as in , Rhômanía, Romania, the proper name of the Roman Empire.

In trying to understand the grammar of this sentence myself, I was at first stumped by the verb, which here is , genoímên. I finally realised that this is a form of the verb , gígnomai, which means "to become." There are a number of irregularities involved in getting to the properly inflected form. In Greek, the citation form of a verb is always in the 1st person singular; so gígnomai actually means "I become." Also, this citation form actually uses a middle/passive ending, which is characteristic of the "deponent" class of verbs, which may have an active sense but don't use active endings. Latin also has deponent verbs. I say "middle/passive" because Greek has three voices, (1) active, "I picked up the Buddha," (2) passive, "I was picked up by the Buddha," and (3) middle, "I picked up myself" -- action by and upon the subject or on its behalf. In Greek, middle and passive forms are usually but not always identical.

There are several verb forms in Greek used for a past tense. I have discussed the semantics and metaphysics of tense and aspect elsewhere. The form of genoímên is the aorist; but the verb gígnomai has an aorist in a kind of irregular form called a "Second Aorist," which has its own endings. The citation form of the Second Aorist of gígnomai, 1st person singular again, is , egenómen, "I became." In this case, however, genoímên is not a past sense, because it is not in the Indicative mood.

Greek verbs have several moods -- indicative, imperative, subjunctive, optative, participle, and infinitive. The Optative expresses a wish, as I have discussed elsewhere. Genoímên is the aorist optative; and in the Optative, the aorist indicates aspect rather than tense. So genoímên is not fixed in time, but it does indicate the aspect of a simple action, "I wish to become." This verb, however, is coupled in its sense with the word at the end of the sentence, , khôrís, "separately, asunder, apart." So the sense of the verb and its adverb is "I wish to become apart," or "I wish to be separated."

Theodora, however, does not wish to be separated from anything here. We get a negation at the beginning of the sentence, among three words, , mê gàr àn. Gàr, although it comes second in the sentence, is the conjunction "for," which may be used more in Greek than it is now in English, and characteristically comes second in a sentence. The first word in the sentence, is a negative; but it is not the ordinary word for "not," which is , ou. tends to go with things that are not actual, and so is used with imperatives, optatives, and in conditional sentences. So , mê genoímên khôrís, means "May I not be separated." The third word at the beginning of the sentence, án, is a particle that is used in conditional sentences. This usually marks the apodosis, or the consequent, of a conditional sentence, as "if" marks the protasis, the antecedent, of the conditional. English uses "if," of course, but does not have the equivalent of án, which is thus untranslatable.

Án might naturally be expected to follow a verb, but it can also follow a negative, as in this case. With optative verbs, we get what are called "future less vivid conditions." In this case however, there is no protasis. As Chase and Phillips say in their A New Introduction to Greek [Harvard, 1941, 1965], "The apodosis of a future less vivid condition may be used independently of its protasis to express a possibility" [p.88]. That is what we have here, although with the negative we could say that it expresses an impossibility. This allows for various translations. "May I not be separated," "I cannot possibly be separated," etc. The sense can be strong enough that the Loeb translator uses "never" -- "May I never be separated..." -- even though there is no word for "never" in the Greek text.

But if Theodora will not be separated, it must be from something. , khôrís, as a preposition with a genitive can mean "separate from." So our noun phrase will be in the Genitive case, which is used in Greek instead of using prepositions like "of" and "from" as we find in English -- although English actually still has a genitive (-'s), but it is only used for possession, as in "George's dinner." In the nominative case, which is the citation form, used for the subject of sentences, our noun phrase is , hê halourgìs haútê. This is three words, the article "the," , the noun halourgís, , which is "the Purple," specifically a purple robe, and the demonstrative "this," haútê. English does not double up an article with a demonstrative, with something like "the Purple this." Greek does not need to do it, but we get both in this case for emphasis. The article and demonstrative both agree in gender and number of with the singular, feminine halourgís.

Finally, we get the noun phrase in the genitive, tês halourgídos taútês, "of this Purple," which in the context with the conjunction, the verb, the negative, and khôrís, would give us a translation "For I cannot possibly be separated from this Purple." There is no word here for "I," which would be égô. The verb already tells us the person and number, although the pronoun could be used for emphasis.

To understand in the Greek alphabet, see the following section.

Philosophy of Science, Linguistics

The Grammar of Philoponus's Statement

One of the key moments in the entire history of science is when Galileo Galilei dropped two different weights and, by seeing that they fell at the same rate, refuted Aristotle, who said they would fall at rates proportional to their weight. However, this experiment had been performed a thousand years earlier, as Galileo himself knew, by John Philoponus in Alexandria, during the remarkable Age of Justinian. And John knew what he was doing and that he had refuted Aristotle.

Galileo's experiment is often presented as demonstrating the ignorance and complacency of Mediaeval thought, corrupted by religious dogmatism. But it demonstrates instead the ignorance and complacency of Modern history and philosophy of science, which have typically, as least as we see in public discourse and popular culture, not bothered to actually study Mediaeval science. Yet Philoponus is a familiar figure to scholars, naturally, of Late Antiquity and also of Islâm, who find the greatest figures of Islamic philosophy discussing him. Much of Philoponus's commentary on Aristotle had been translated into Arabic along with Aristotle.

The truth of this matter is so stunning, and throws such a different light on the history of science, that I felt that, in a way, I could not properly believe it until I had seen Philoponus describe, in Greek, his own experiment -- to be sure that the modern translation had not misrepresented it. This desire posed a bit of a challenge, since the most recent Greek edition of Philoponus was published by the Academy of Letters of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1888. Fortunately, the Firestone Library at Princeton has two copies of the Academy's truly massive edition of Greek commentaries on Aristotle. In January 2012, I dove into the stacks of the library and came up with the relevant volume. What follows is a key passage in the Greek text, in three parts, with the standard translation of Cohen and Drabkin. Having described Aristotle's theories on motion, Philoponus begins with a couple of preparatory remarks:

But this [i.e. Aristotle's theory] is completely erroneous, and our view may be corroborated by actual observation more effectively than by any sort of verbal argument.

[Greek text, Commentaria in Aristotelem graeca, XVI-XVII, Joannes Philoponus, In Physicorum libros tres priores/quinque posteriores commentaria, ed. Hieronymus Vitelli, Academia litterarum regiae borussicae, Berlin, 1887-1888, p.683, lines 16-18; translation, A Source Book in Greek Science, edited by Morris R. Cohen and I.E. Drabkin, Harvard, 1948, 1975, p.220]

Here is something that otherwise we are led to think didn't exist in the Middle Ages:  a rejection of traditional authority together with an appeal to the phenomena and to experiment. There are two sentences in Greek that Cohen and Drabkin combine into one.

The first sentence is toûto dè pantelôs esti pseûdos, The first word is the neuter singular of , hoûtos, "this," a demonstrative pronoun. It is followed by , "but," which English would put first in the sentence. Next is a very interesting word, pantelôs, "competely." This has an adverbial ending on , pantelés, "complete, absolute, entire," which combines , "all," with , télos, "completion, at last, end," which is familiar from the philosophical term "teleology," the theory of ends and purposes. So we get something like "all-completely." The sentence ends with esti, "is," and pseûdos, a noun, "falsehood," which we can recognize from the modern prefix "pseudo-." So a good literal translation of this sentence would be, "But this is completely [a] falsehood." A very blunt rejection of Aristotle.

The second sentence is kaì toûto ésti pistósasthai kreîtton pásês dià lógôn apodeíxeôs ex autês tês enargeías. We begin with kaí, "and," followed by "this" and "is" again. Then we get an interesting verb in the future middle infinitive, from , pistóô, "to prove, confirm." Greek possesses a "middle" voice, which can be a reflexive or have a more subtle (or conventional) meaning, in addition to the active and passive voices. So we begin with, "And this is to be proven..." We see a Latin future participle in such a role in the famous Delenda est Carthago, "Carthage is to be destroyed," of Cato the Elder.

Next, we get a neuter singular comparative adjective (agreeing with toûto), kreîtton, "stronger, better," from , kratús, "strong." With "tt" instead of "ss," kreîtton is an "Atticism," i.e. a form from the Attic or Athenian Dialectic of Greek. Philoponus is consciously writing in an elevated literary style, something that may be condemned by moderns, who nevertheless may themselves disparage the koinè dialect of the New Testament -- they want to seem egalitarian, on the one hand, but betray their own true snobbery (and/or disdain for Christianity), on other other. Comparatives in Greek take their objects, "better than," in the genitive. Looking for a genitive, we find pásês apodeíxeôs, "all" or "any proving/demonstration." This is qualified by dià lógôn, "through words." Dià is familiar from words like "dialogue" or "dialectic," while lógos, , can mean "word," "discourse," "reason," "ratio," etc. Philoponus has said, "And this is to be proven, better than any demonstration through words..." So we want to know what is better than a verbal argument.

That will be ex autês tês enargeías. Ex, "from, out of," is the form of ek before a vowel. Autês is the genitive feminine of autós, , "self." Enargeías is the genitive of a noun that actually does not occur in my Liddell and Scott Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon [Oxford, Clarendon, 1889, 1964]. But the dictionary does have the adjective enargés, , "visible, palpable, in bodily shape" [p.258]. The noun, enargeía, will consequently mean that which is visible, palpable, etc. -- i.e. what can be observed. So the whole phrase will be "from the [tês] observable itself."

Philoponus therefore says, "And this is to be proven, better than any demonstration through words, from the observable itself." Or we could rearrange a bit:  "And this is to be proven from the observable itself, better than any demonstration through words." We may not expect such a statement of empiricism in the Middle Ages, but then it is appropriate for the man who is about to refute Aristotle by actually dropping weights.

Following the prefatory statements, Philoponus gets down to the experiment we can perform. I first saw this part quoted by G.E.R. Lloyd in Greek Science After Aristotle [W.W. Norton, 1973, p.160]. Lloyd seems to have consulted the Prussian Academy Greek text of Vitelli, which he referenced [in his Bibliography, p.181], and he had slightly modified the translation of Cohen and Drabkin. I will give the Cohen and Drabkin translation first:

For if you let fall from the same height two weights of which one is many times as heavy as the other, you will see that the ratio of the times required for the motion does not depend on the ratio of the weights, but that the difference in time is a very small one.

[Greek text, H. Vitelli, op. cit., p.683, lines 18-21; translation, Cohen and Drabkin, op. cit., p.220, italics removed, since the whole passage, for obvious reasons, is italicized by Cohen and Drabkin]

Cohen and Drabkin had done no better than identify this passage as on pages 678-684 in Vitelli. G.E.R. Lloyd gave a reference to "683 16 ff" [op. cit., p.160]. I also noticed that Richard Sorabji, in his Preface to PHILOPONUS On Aristotle's Physics 5-8, with SIMPLICIUS On Aristotle on the Void [translated by Paul Lettinck & J.O. Urmson, Cornell University Press, 1994], gives the page of this precise passage as "683, 17-25" [p.ix, note 8]. These references made finding the passage very much easier. My Greek is not good enough that I could understand the text on first look -- I can't sight read Greek -- but the expression dúo bárê, "two weights," immediately caught my attention. I knew I was in the right place. The sentence of Philoponus in Greek is more than twice this long, but Cohen and Drabkin use a full stop where I show the comma of the Greek text. I will deal with the rest of the Greek sentence below. It adds materially to the experiment described here.

As it is, we begin with a noun phrase in the dative case, pollôi gàr pány métrôi, which contains the post-positioned conjunction gar, "for," as in the statement of Theodora above. The (neuter) noun is métron, , meaning "measure, rule," or "size," a word that gives us the modern "meter" and is actually the noun in Aristotle's principle of the "Golden Mean." The first word in the phrase, pollôi, is from polýs, , "many, much, mighty, great," which is polý in the neuter. Pány is "very." So, using a preposition in English for the dative, we can say that the phrase is "in very great measure (or size)." The next word, diaphéronta, is a participle in the neuter plural from the verb diaphérô, , "to differ." So the participle is "[things] that are differing." This is followed by allélôn, in the genitive plural, "from each other." So we have things differing from each other; but what is differing? That is the dúo bárê I have already mentioned, the "two weights." Dúo for "two" is familiar from English use even today. The (neuter) noun is báros, , of which we get the plural, agreeing with the previous participle. This is a third declension noun, so we get an êta rather than an alpha ending in the plural. Báros itself is from barýs, "heavy, deep," as in "barytone," which now is a singer with a certain tonic register but originally was any Greek word with a grave accent on the final syllable. So we end up with the long phrase, "two weights, differing from each other in very great measure." This is not the "two weights of which one is many times as heavy as the other" of the translation, but it amounts to the same thing. Since the neuter nominative and accusative are identical, we do not know yet if the "two weights" are the subject or the object of the sentence.

Next comes háma, , "at the same time" -- a rather important word that Cohen and Drabkin neglect to translate -- and apheís. This word gave me the biggest headache of the whole passage. The translation of "if you let fall," which leaves out háma, also has the pecularity that there is no word for "if" in Greek. I soon identified the verb as aphíêmi, , "to let fall," which is the preposition apo, "from" (used in many compounds), combined with the verb híêmi, "send, hurl," . I could not find a finite form of the verb to match apheís, . It didn't help that the paradigms all used híêmi, whose forms might have strange permutations in the compound. But Liddell and Scott clearly gave apheís as the aorist active participle [op.cit., p.138]. (As an aorist, the participle expresses aspect rather than tense.)

Ah, that's why there is no "if" in the Greek. The whole phrase is built around the participle, "letting fall at the same time two weights, differing from each other in very great measure." Of course, the word order in Greek is almost exactly the opposite of this:  "For in great very measure differing from each other two weights at the same time letting fall..." Sounds a bit like Yoda.

Next we get ek toû autoû hýpsous, "from the same height." The noun is hýpsos, , "height," which is another third declension neuter whose genitive here looks a little unusual (a contraction of -eos to -ous). Autoû is the genitive of (neuter) autò, , "self, myself" or "the very one, the same." This is familiar from modern languages, where "auto" in English is a word, an abbreviation of "automobile."

We now get to the first finite verb in the sentence, ópsei, "you will see," in the second person plural indicative future. This is from the verb horáô, , "to see," whose forms are based on three different roots. Besides the hor- and op- that we see here, there are also forms based on id-, the Indo-European *wid- root that turns up as far afield as the title of the Vedas, [from *woid-, to *vaid-, to ved-]. In Greek we get eîdon, , "I saw," oîda, , "I have seen" or "I know," and idéa, , "idea" -- a word we still use, thanks to Plato. So, we get the idea that, dropping different weights from the same height at the same time, you will see...what? That's what comes next.

What does come next is the object of an indirect statement:  You will see hoti, , "that," oukh hépetai têi analogíai tôn barôn hê analogía toû khrónou tôn kinéseôn. It begins with the negation, oukh, of a finite verb, hépetai. This is from hépô, , which in the third person singular present middle voice here means "to follow, obey." We have to go down the line a bit to fine a nominative noun for the subject of the sentence. That will be hê analogía, , i.e. "the analogy," but here meaning a proportion or ratio. Indeed, Latin ratio simply translates Greek lógos, , both of which can also mean "reason."

Thus, Philoponus says that "the ratio" toû khrónou tôn kinéseôn, "of the time of the motions," does not follow what is in the noun phrase in the dative that came after the verb, which was i analogíai tôn barôn, "the ratio of the weights." "Motion" is kinésis, , which we get in modern words like "kinesiology," the anatomical study of movement in the body. So, when we drop the weights at the same time, we see that the time of the motions is not proportional to the weights, despite what Aristotle had asserted. So he was wrong.

Having said what we don't see, Philoponus then says what we do:  Allà pány elakhístê tis hê diaphorà katà toùs khrónous gínetai. "But [allá] the difference according to the times [hê diaphorà katà toùs khrónous] is [gínetai] some/a [tis] very [pány] (the []) smallest [elakhístê] (one)." The verb here, the third person of gínomai, , is a version of gígnomai, , "to become," which we saw in Theodora's statement. So when we drop the weights, the difference, , in the times of their fall is, what shall we say? One of the smallest. This makes it sound like Philoponus thought there was a difference in the time of the fall of the weights, just not what Aristotle had said. However, we know from the following passage, which continues this sentence, that Philoponus actually observed no difference, and says so. He does not draw Galileo's conclusion from this, and so does not advance physics as far as Galileo will do later; but he does do Galileo's experimental job for him, as the later Italian seems to have known.

Putting the whole passage together and smoothing it out some, we may get:

For letting fall at the same time two weights from the same height, differing from each other in very great measure, the ratio of the time of the motions does not follow the ratio of the weights, but the difference of the times is the very smallest.

This agrees in sense with the translation of Cohen and Drabkin well enough, despite their overlooking háma, , that I cannot accuse them of a mistranslation. As it happens, G.E.R. Lloyd has noticed the omission of "at the same time" and inserted it into his own slightly more literal rendering:

For if you let fall at the same time from the same height two weights that differ greatly, you will see that the ratio of the times of the motions does not correspond to the ratio of the weights, but that the difference in the times is a very small one... [op. cit. p.160]

This sentence of Philoponus continues as follows, with a striking, Galilean addition to his observed results. Curiously, G.E.R. Lloyd neither quotes this part of the text nor discusses it, despite the different light it throws on the previous part of the passage.

And so, if the difference in the weights is not considerable, that is, if one is, let us say, double the other, there will be no difference, or else an imperceptible difference, in time, though the difference in weight is by no means negligible, with one body weighing twice as much as the other.

[Morris R. Cohen and I.E. Drabkin, op.cit., p.220; Greek text, H. Vitelli, op. cit., p.683, lines 21-25]

The passage begins with hôs ei mè pollôi pánu métrôi diaphéroien allélôn tà bárê. The phrase pollôi pánu métrôi is familiar from the first part of the sentence above, "in very great measure," but now we have it prefixed with a negative, . Unlike the translation of Cohen and Drabkin, the subject of the clause here is tà bárê," the weights," not the "difference." "Difference" turns up as the verb, diaphérô, , which we have seen already, but this time it is in the optative, the third person plural to agree with "weights." "So [hôs] if [ei] the weights are different from each other [allélôn, which we have seen above] in a not very great measure..." We have a logical antecedent here with "if," a "protasis" in Greek, which uses an optative as English would use the (increasingly archaic) subjunctive.

The next clause, also with an optative, slightly restates the stated condition. "But [all'] such that [hoîon] the one [tò mèn] double [dipolásion] be [eíê], the other [tò dè] half [hémisu]..." Cohen and Drabkin have left out the "half" part; but, indeed, of one is double in weight, the other will be half the weight of the first. This clause is an interesting modification of "in not very great measure" of difference, since we might actually think that a weight that is double that of another is a significant difference, and not a small one, as Philoponus presents it. The optative third person singular here, "be," , eíê, is from , eimí, "to be," a very common but very irregular verb in Greek.

Next, we get the clause that is the consequent of the condition and the Galilean heart of this passage. "But not [oudè] a difference [diaphorán tina, in the accusative] will have [skhésousin] the times [, hoi khrónoi, in the nominative] of the motions [tôn kinéseôn]." Cohen and Drabkin have substituted an impersonal subject, "there will be," for the Greek subject, which is "the times," and they have relegated time to a modifying phrase "in time." They have left out "of the motions" altogether. This does not mutilate the meaning of the sentence, but it is not the way Philoponus puts it:  "The times of the motions will not have a difference." Of course, it would be a little more natural to say in English, "The times of the motions will not be different." Because Philoponus put some emphasis on "the times," , hoi khrónoi, by putting this as a nominative at the dramatic end of the sentence, an emphasis that is lost in the Cohen and Drabkin translation, I have put the expresssion, and all references to time, in blue in this passage.

There is a syntactic issue with this clause. Philoponus uses a third personal plural future indicative [skhésousin] of , ékhô, "to have." There are actually two forms of the future of ékhô, both of which Philoponus will use in this passage, , skhésô, and , héksô. The syntactic problem is that in Greek conditional sentences that have a future indicative in the consequent (the "apodosis"), the antecedent ("protasis") should be in the subjunctive, for the "future more vivid" condition, or in the future indicative, for the "future most vivid" condition [Chase and Phillips, A New Introduction to Greek, Harvard, 1941, 1965, p.188]. The "future less vivid" condition uses an optative in the antecedent, but then also in the consequent. Philoponus is clearly going for more vivid, so why does he use the optative? Well, this may be another Atticism, this time an inappropriate one. The optative was passing out of use in spoken Greek. Using it at all is part of an elevated literary style, but sometimes this practice results in mistakes. I think Philoponus makes a simple mistake here, using the optative instead of the subjunctive in a sort of over-correction, as when grammatical martinets urge English speakers to say, "It is I," instead of "It's me" [note]. Error or no, this doesn't really complicate the translation.

I say that here is the Galilean heart of this passage because this is the result that Galileo saw and accepted -- that the bodies of different weights fall at the same rate. Philoponus isn't quite sure, and so we get here an Galilean observation without the Galilean inference. Philoponus is only convinced that there is no more than a small difference, not that there is no difference. Yet from what follows, he is obviously intrigued that, indeed, he cannot see a difference, when the weights only differ by the specified double/half. This is the uncertainty that will hang fire for a millennium. It will require, not a different experiment, but a different conception:  Inertia. Philoponus, who meanwhile has altered Greek mechanics with the concept of the impetus, is not ready for the next conceptual leap.

The last three clauses of the sentence exhibit the uneasiness, uncertainty, or perplexity of Philoponus at his result. "Or [é], even if [ei kaì] they will have [skhésousin] (a difference), it will be (/have) [héksousi] not perceptible [ouk aisthêtèn]." Here we get the Philoponan doubt with the Galilean observation:  Even if there is a difference in the times, I don't see it. I have transposed the verb here, in this case from , héksô, "will have," which in the Greek text is at the end of the clause.

Thus, Philoponus has gone through three stages of reaction to his experiment:  (1) there is no more than a very small difference in times when the weights are dropped, and certainly nothing like the ratios of time to weight that Aristotle posited; (2) if the weights are not that different, as when one is twice the other, there will be no difference in the times at all; or (3) even if there is a difference in the times, it is not visible. The whole sentence finishes with two final clauses, which do no more than reiterate the conditions of the experiment. I think that the various observations on the results, and the following repetition of the conditions, shows that Philoponus is surprised and puzzled by what happens in the experiment. As well he might be. He knew that in refuting Aristotle he would usher in a brave new world of physics, but he could not say just what that would be or how far it would go.

The last two clauses are both "genitive absolutes," which means they are modifying clauses that have a noun and a participle in the genitive case which effectively function as noun and verb. The first clause, with this functional transformation, would translate thus:  "...even though [kaítoi] the weights [tôn barôn, genitive plural] not [ou] such [toiaútên] have [ekhóntôn, genitive plural participle] the difference [tèn diaphorán]." Because of the difficulty I have with the translation here, I have left this in the awkward word order of the Greek. Cohen and Drabkin translate this, "though the difference in weight is by no means negligible." But there are no words here for "by no means" or "negligible."

The crux of the clause is in toiaútên, from , toioûtos, which combines , toi, a strengthening particle (seen with "and" at the beginning of the clause), with , hoûtos, "this." Liddell and Scott define this as "a stronger form of , such as this" [p.811]. With no word for "negligible," we must rely on the agreement of toiaútên, in the accusative, with "the difference." I think about the best I can do is, "...even though the weights do not have such difference."

If this is right, it leaves us needing to ask, "What difference?" Such as what? It must be a difference we have seen already. The difference in the weights is not such a difference as.... which difference? We have several differences in this passage. Initially, we have two weights that differ "in very great measure"; next we have two times, whose difference is "the very smallest"; next we have two weights that differ in "not very great measure," but whose ratio is 2:1; and finally a difference in times, which certainly looks like zero. So talking about the most recent weights, which will be cited again in the next clause, what is the antecedent to a difference that now we are not "such" as? That must be the difference in times, which is zero, that goes with the 2:1 ratio of weights. It may help that the same word in the same form, diaphorán, is used for the times, zero, and the 2:1 weights. If we accept, "...even though the weights do not have such difference," then it is naturally to begin the next clause with "but," to contrast the 2:1 ratio of the weights with the zero difference of the time.

While I am uneasy about the meaning of this clause, because of the ambiguity of toiaútên, I am more comfortable with a translation that is more literal, even if obscure, than with supplying vocabulary that doesn't exist in the original, as do Cohen and Drabkin. Indeed, I am not sure that Cohen and Drabkin's translation here is even consistent with the sense of the passage. They say, "though the difference in weight is by no means negligible," which seems to stand awkwardly with their own translation of Philoponus saying, "if the difference in the weights is not considerable." But if the difference in weights is "not considerable," or, more literally, is "in a not very great measure," isn't this rather close in fact to being "negligible"? There is a fine line there, especially when Philoponus actually says only, "not such difference."

The final clause is also a genitive abosolute:  "...but [allà] (in) double ratio [diplasíòi lógôi] has [ékhontos, genitive singular participle] the one (other) [toû hetérou, genitive singular] against [pròs] the other [tò héteron]. So the difference that Philoponus is talking about in the previous clause, which looks like not such as the difference in times, is the double ratio of the weights to each other. But neither of these clauses adds anything substantive to the conditions of the experiment or the observation of the result. I think they are here because they serve to express some surprise or bewilderment of Philoponus with the result.

Allowing for some awkwardness in a more literal translation, the final part of the complete sentence in the text of Philoponus thus might be rendered:

...so, if the weights are different from each other in not very great measure, but such that the one be double, the other half, the times of the motions will not have a difference, or even if they will have, it will be not be perceptible, even though the weights have not such (a) difference, but in double ratio the one has against the other.

Altogether, Philoponus did the experiment of dropping different weights and got something like the result we might expect. It seems like he wasn't sure whether to believe the evidence of his own senses about the result, but he frankly reports what the result is -- no difference, or no perceptible difference, in the times. He was therefore one of the great minds of the Age, and, really, of any age. Similarly, with his impetus theory of motion he altered the terms of Greek physics right down to the time of, indeed, Galileo, who finally could see in this experiment the evidence of a very different kind of law of nature.

Philosophy in Late Antiquity

Philosophy of Science, Linguistics

The Grammar of Constantine VII's Statement

A various places at this website I have featured a quotation from the De Administrando Imperio of the Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus:


All terrible evils has Romania suffered from the Arabs even until now [Greek text edited by Gy. Moravcsik, Dumbarton Oaks Texts, 1967, 2008, p.94].

This was itself a quote from The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor [cf. The Chronicle of Theophanes, Anno mundi 6095-6305 (A.D. 602-813), University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982, p.61 for the year 678 AD]. The statement was in the context of the disposition of the Mardaïtes. According to Warren Treadgold, these were "Christian freebooters," i.e. something between bandits and guerrillas, who had been surrounded by the Arab conquest on Mt. Amanus between Syria and Cilicia [A History of the Byzantine State and Society, Stanford University Press, 1997, p.327]. Many of the Mardaïtes had then moved to Mt. Lebanon, where they, the Maronites, other Christian refugees, and escaped slaves began plundering the adjacent territories of the Omayyad Caliph Mu'âwiya. It sounds like Mu'âwiya was somewhat embarrassed by this activity. In 679 Justinian II negotiated a settlement, by which the Mardaïtes would be withdrawn in exchange for an annual tribute (216,000 solidi and some slaves and horses). Theophanes did not consider this a good deal:  "The Emperor sent messengers who seized 12,000 Mardaites, mutilating the Roman state... After they were transplanted, Romania has suffered all sorts of evils at the hands of the Arabs up until the present day" [Theophanes, op. cit., p.61]. In other words, at a time of continued Roman reversals and Arab conquests, Justinian II voluntarily withdrew the autonomous forces of a successful counterattack against the heart of Omayyad power, in exchange for some nominal tribute that certainly the Omayyads soon ceased to pay.

The grammar of the statment of Constantine/Theophanes is not as complex as that of Theodora, but it is still of interest, especially considering its role in these pages:  It is the only example, for instance, of the noun , Romania, being used in the nominative case in De Administrando Imperio.

The sentence begins with a noun phrase of two words, , pándeina kaká, "all terrible evils." Both these words are adjectives in the neuter plural, so there is an assumed neuter noun, "things." Greek noun phrases do not need the presence of an actual noun, as does English. In English however, while "bad" is an adjective, "evil" can be used as an adjective or a noun; so we can use "evils" as a noun and obey English grammar without supplying an understood "things." Pandeina is actually a compound, based on , deinós, "fearful, terrible," which provides the first element in "dinosaur," "terrible lizard," and , pâs, "all." In other quotes at this website, we also see , pambasíleia, "all queen," of Constantinople, and , pánkalon, "all beautiful," used by Socrates. "All terrible" is a vivid coinage, although it is variously rendered in the translations. The word for "bad" or "evil," , kakós, is the first element in "cacophony." The word kaka has some other meanings in other languages (cf. Latin caco, cacare or even the Greek verb , kakkáô), which might be equally appropriate in the semantic context here.

is in the neuter plural, but the case is ambiguous. Nominative and accusative forms are identical in the neuter gender (as in Latin). The sentence thus may begin with the subject, or may begin with the object. We don't know yet. But we find out when we come to the verb, , péponthen, which comes next. This comes from the verb , páskho, which means "to suffer." has an irregular Second Aorist and also an irregular Second Perfect, which we see here, , pépontha, "I have suffered." is the third person singular form of . So this verb does not agree with the number of "all terrible evils," which is in the plural. So the sentence does not begin with the subject, which now will come after the verb.

The Second Aorist of is , épathon, "I suffered." The (aorist) infinitive of this is , patheîn, "to suffer," from which we get the noun , páthos, pathos, a word that we still use.

, hê Rhômanía, "Romania," is now, in the nominative, the subject of the sentence. And we already have a complete sentence, "Romania has suffered all terrible evils," or, to match the Greek word order, "All terrible evils has Romania suffered."

The sentence then ends with two phrases. The first is , hupò tôn Arábôn, "by the Arabs." Hupò basically means "under, beneath," but with the genitive (as here, a genitive plural) it has a major use to indicate the agent of a passive verb. The sentence itself is not in the passive, but the verb, "to suffer," has, of course, a passive meaning. If Romania is suffering all terrible evils, who is responsible for this? The Arabs. It is interesting to find "the Arabs" here. This is how we would now refer to the ethnicity of the Omayyad Caliphs. However, in the Middle Ages in both Greek and Arabic (as used, for instance, by Ibn Khaldun), "Arabs" tends to mean, not all Muslims or even all Arabic speakers, but the nomadic Bedouin who were the original Arabs out in the desert. In Greek, for Muslim enemies, we are later more likely to see , Sarakênoí, "Saracens." I think that much of the vividness of this sentence is due to the use together of "Romania," which is a neglected name, with "the Arabs," which is quite familiar.

The last phrase is , mékhri toû nûn, "even until now." Mékhri is an adverb, used as a preposition with the genitive, "even so far, even to, as far as." Nûn, "now," is an indeclinable adverb, but it is made a noun by being used with a genitive article, toû, "of the," to go with mékhri as a preposition. So the meaning is clear, although it can be variously translated.

Thus, can be translated in various ways. But the sense of the sentence is pretty clear, and the language, originally that of Theophanes Confessor, repeated by Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, is sharp, direct, and vivid. What it says reminds us, on the one hand, of the existence of Romania, which Classicists and Byzantinists seem to cooperate in obscuring, and of the Arab Conquest, at which politically correct opinion now winks, in the project of presenting Muslims as the eternally aggrieved victims of the oppressive West -- the anti-American apologetic for Islamic Terrorism. No, we could easily say that the of the 7th century simply continued on 9/11.

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"The Grammar of Philoponus's Statement," Note


No one ever says, "It is I," or has ever said it, in ordinary spoken English. The grammar martinets don't realize that the "me" here corresponds in meaning and syntax to moi in French, as in C'est moi. Moi is not one of the standard cases, either nominative or accusative, that the martinets expect "I" and "me" to be in English. Instead, moi is something else, variously called a "tonic," "stressed," or "disjunctive" pronoun; but it may really be part of a topic/comment grammar, as opposed to the subject/predicate grammar that is authoritatively imposed on English because of the precedent of Greek and Latin. But English usage, even good English usage, reflects the French topic rather than the Greek/Latin case.

See discussion of this idiom in the review of The Skin I Live In

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The Pronunciation of Greek

The pronunciation of Classical Greek poses some challenges for the modern student and scholar. This difficulty does not occur to Modern Greeks, who simply pronounce the ancient language with the values of the modern one. This is reasonable enough, since Classical words borrowed into the modern language, or already present, are going to be pronounced in the modern way. Also, it is their language and their alphabet, so they see no point in learning to pronounce the alphabet and the Classical language any differently. What often goes along with this, however, is something more problematic:  the claim that the ancient language actually was pronounced in the same way as the modern. A Greek acquaintance of mine once said, "We should know." To that the response might be, "How? Are you 2000 years old?" Or, if the argument is to be that the ancient pronunciation obviously was faithfully passed down as it had always been, one might respond, "Have you never played 'telephone'?" On the other hand, as with other proprietary claims of control over what is said about national or ethnic groups, concerning their culture, language, religion, history, etc., the Greek assertion may claim legitimacy on the principle that non-Greeks have no moral right to contradict it. This would be one of the unfortunate and dangerous manifestations of contemporary political correctness, which has corrupted various areas of scholarship and even science.

In fact, as the grammar and vocabulary of Modern Greek have manifestly changed from Classical Greek, there are many ways in which the pronuniciation clearly has changed also -- otherwise one might reasonably wonder why three vowels (êta, iota, & ypsilon) and three diphthongs ("ei," "oi," & "ui") are pronounced exactly the same (i.e. identical to iota), despite being written differently. This began to strike Renaissance Humanists as peculiar as early as 1486, when Antonio of Lebrixa began a critique of the received pronunciation. The great Venetian printer of Greek books, Aldus Manutius, made an observation that now seems silly, but struck contemporaries as revealing. We all know (of course) that sheep say "baa baa." Manutius saw that the Greeks wrote bê bê but that this had come to be pronounced vî vî. He didn't think that could be right. As it happens, of course, the rendering of the vocalizations of animals is wildly different in different languages, so the observation of Manutius doesn't really prove anything about Classical Greek. Nevertheless, it was part of a larger critical process, which culminated in the 16th century and is conspicuously associated with a work of Erasmus in 1528, De recta Latini Graecique sermonis pronuntiatione, "Concerning the correct pronunciation of Latin and Greek" ["The history of the pronunciation of Greek," The Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek, James Morwood, Oxford U. Press, 2001, p.7]. The corrected pronunciation thus became the "Erasmian" pronunciation.

Change happens to all languages. The student of Modern English will be puzzled by the spelling of words like "light" and "daughter," until informed that "gh" was pronounced in Middle English and then became silent. Most speakers of Modern English are not even going to know what the value of "gh" was (it was like the "ch" in German). Confronted with Old English (Anglo-Saxon) "leoht" for "light" and "dohtor" for "daughter," the modern speaker is not going to know where to begin. Similarly, with what is actually known about the pronunciation of Classical Greek, the modern student or scholar will be brought up short by several features of the language [cf. The Pronunciation and Reading of Ancient Greek: A Practical Guide, by Stephen G. Daitz, Jeffrey Norton Publishers, 1981, 1984, Audio Forum, 2003; or "Ancient Greek Pronunciation," Greek Grammar, by Herbert Weir Smyth, revised by Gordon M. Messing, Harvard University Press, 1966, pp.12-14].

First among these features may be the difference beween the letters pi and phi, kappa and khi, and tau and theta. While the phonetic difference in Modern Greek, and in what we tend to see in borrowings into English, is between stops and fricatives (i.e. the vocal tract does not close completely in Modern phi, khi, and theta), the Classical contrast is between aspirated and unaspirated stops. This means that phi and pi are pronounced alike, except that breath (aspiration) accompanies phi and does not accompany pi. This is why phi was written "ph" in Latin, and not "f."

Major modern European languages do not make a phonemic contrast between aspirated and unaspirated stops -- i.e. the sounds do not need to be written with different letters. These sounds, however, can occur as allophones, or different pronunciations of the same letter in different environments. Thus, pi is the "p" in "spot," phi is the "p" in "pot," kappa is the "k" in "skit," khi is the "k" in "kit," tau is the "t" in "stop," and theta is the "t" in "top." If you hold your hand in front of your mouth, you will not detect your breath with "spot," "skit," and "stop," unlike the other words.

What is the modern student to do? What language would help learn a phonemic contrast between aspirates and unaspirates? Well, there are many. The accessible modern languages in which this contrast is significant would be Hindi-Urdu and Chinese. It may seem like a lot to study such languages just to learn how to pronounce Greek, but one actually would not need to study them in very great depth just to get the hang of the pronunciation. The pronunciation of Hindi-Urdu is the most significant, since Hindi and Urdu inherit their aspirate/unaspirate contrast from Sanskrit, which is closely related to Greek and possesses many of its features. Studying Sanskrit itself, however, will not help the student very much with pronunciation, since those best able to pronounce it properly are those who already know how to pronounce Hindi (with a couple of modifications).

As it happens, the Coptic language, the Mediaeval and Modern descendant of Ancient Egyptian, also contrasted unaspirated with aspirated stops. When Egyptian Christians began to write Coptic in the Greek alphabet, since Greek had the appropriate letters, Coptic used them. But we also get interesting variations. Coptic preserved a letter for "h" from earlier Egyptian writing, since Greek did not have a separate letter for that sound -- the "H" that ended up in Latin, although originally used in Greek for that consonant, later was used to write the vowel êta in the Ionic alphabet that eventually became universal. Thus, we get alternative writings in Coptic, where phi may be used, or a scribe may have written Greek pi followed by the Coptic "h," just as phi is written in Latin. This may indicate the phi was already becoming a fricative rather than an aspirate in that period, or the scribes may have just played with writings that they knew were equivalent.

Less ambiguous than the evidence of Coptic is that from Armenian. The Eastern dialect of Armenian retains the distinctions that existed in Classical Armenian, and these correspond to what we see in the stops of Classical Greek, i.e. phonemic differences between voiced, unaspirated, and aspirated -- while in Western Armenian the voiced series has become aspirated, and the unvoiced/unaspirated series has become voiced. The phonetic values of the Armenian alphabet thus provide evidence for the pronunciation of Greek itself in the age of St. Mesrop, who created the alphabet in the 5th century. The Armenian alphabet roughly maintains Greek alphabetical order, and so even where the letters look very different, they can be confidently matched with their Greek counterparts and originals. Where in Modern Greek all the voiced and aspirated stops have become fricatives, the Armenian alphabet retains their character as stops, even in the sound changes that affect Western Armenian. Indeed, in the Middle Ages, the Greek phi, which by then had become an f, was borrowed as such and placed at the end of the Armenian alphabet, probably just to transcribe contemporary Greek words. A similar addition was made to the Cyrillic alphabet, of the Greek letter theta, although it was then actually pronounced f itself -- i.e. we get "Fyodor" for "Theodore." The Armenian "f" is heavily modified in form, since the Greek phi is already obviously used as the aspirated stop. Since Cyrillic obviously uses the phi for f, we may opine that the pronunciation of the Greek letter had changed in the days between St. Mesrop (5th century) and St. Cyril (9th century).

Another striking characteristic of Classical Greek is its tone accent. This means that every word, except for some particles, has a characteristic change in tone on one of its syllables. The accents that are familiar from many modern European languages, and are used for various purposes in them (stress in Spanish and Italian; vowel quality in French), were originally created in the Hellenistic Age to write Greek tones to make learning the language easier for foreigners. The "ácute" accent is thus a rising tone; the "gràve," a falling tone; and the "circûmflex," rising and falling (only used on long vowels). A word that ends with a grave accent is called a "barytone" ("heavy tone"), a word that is still used in music.

So where does one go to get the hang of this business? Well, there is only one simple choice:  Chinese. Chinese has a tone on every syllable, except that in multisyllabic words some tones may be dropped. As it happens, however, there is a more ambitious alternative. Lithuanian is the last Indo-European language that has retained a tone accent. Your local Community College, however, is not likely to offer Lithuanian. Sanskrit retains evidence of its original use of tone, but these have disappeared from the modern Indian languages.

This is why I began here by saying that Classical Greek poses some challenges for the modern student and scholar. Few people taking Classical language and literature classes are going to want to supplement their studies with courses in Chinese, Hindi, or Lithuanian. Greek is difficult enough without added responsibilities for other difficult languages. Such a curriculum, however, might actually be expected of someone in Linguistics.

What we tend to get in practice, then, is an artificial "academic" pronunciation of Classical Greek -- not unlike Erasmus himself, who did not use his own "Erasmian" pronunciation. The pronunciation of phi, khi, and theta is borrowed from Modern Greek, and the accents are used to indicate stress, as in Modern Greek also. Modern European languages rarely use all three of the fricatives, but English speakers with slight familiarity with German (or the other way around) can handle them. It is then helpful, however, to ignore other Modern Greek values. Thus, beta, gamma, and delta, which become voiced fricatives in Modern Greek (or even the semivowel "y" before e's and i's for gamma), are retained as voiced stops, "b," "g," and "d." This matches up with familiar borrowings through Latin. Thus, we read biblíon for "book," rather than Modern Greek vivlío.

The Greek letters gamma, , theta, , and khi, , are actually used in modern phonetic pronunciation alphabets (such as the IPA, the "International Pronunciation Alphabet") to represent their sounds as found in Modern Greek (as seen in the accompanying diagram of the Greek alphabets). This is because modern languages written in the Latin alphabet must use digraphs to represent these sounds -- gh, th, and kh, respectively. A universal phonetic alphabet does not want the possibile confusion that such digraphs can produce (e.g. confusing fricatives with aspirates, or gh with the unvoiced fricative of Middle English), but one letter will be preferred. Since Modern Greek has all those sounds, the letters of the Greek alphabet get used [cf. Phonetic Symbol Guide, Geoffrey K. Pullum and William A. Ladusaw, University of Chicago Press, 1986, pp.62,151,167].

The vowels pose other challenges. First of all, "long" vowels in Classical Greek are literally longer, in quantity, than "short" vowels. They take longer to say. "Long" and "short" vowels in English mean differences in quality, not in quantity. Academic Greek will tend to ignore this characteristic. Many languages, however, can be studied for one to become accustomed to the difference, including Hindi, Arabic, and Japanese. There apparently were also quality differences among Greek vowels, but it is not always what one expects. Thus, it is agreed by scholars that the quality of the epsilon, the short Greek "e," was like the English "ay" in "day," while the quality of êta, the long "e," was like the English "e" in "pet." This is the opposite of what one expects from modern languages, like Italian, let alone from the short English "e." It is very hard to get used to this, and I must say that I've always given epsilon and êta the Italian values.

Another minor challenge is the ypsilon. While starting as a regular "u" in early Greek and in some dialects, this had become a front vowel in Attic Greek and elsewhere, like the French "u" or the German "ü" -- the "u" with an umlaut. This is why Latin simply borrowed the letter "y" from Greek rather than writing Greek ypsilons as u's. The modern student will not need to go further than French or German to get this right, but monolingual speakers of English will find it peculiar and unnatural. In Modern Greek, ypsilon is pronounced like iota.

Did Greek then not have the sound "u"? Well, it did, but it was written as the diphthong, "ou," with omicron and ypsilon. This device has an interesting future. Since the French "u" has also become ü, a proper u in French gets written "ou" ("rouge," "Bourbon"). Perhaps from French influence, a long "u" in both Dutch and English came to be written "ou" also. But then English had the "great English vowel shift," and English "ou" came to be pronounced "aw." So words like "pound," which were originally pûnd in Middle English, came to be pronounced pawnd in Modern English. In French, "ou" is also used to write the semi-vowel "w," as in "oui" (). With exquisite parallelism, Coptic uses "ou" both as a vowel and a semi-vowel in exactly the same way as French -- with, of course, the same Greek antecedent.

The use of the umlaut in German has a connection back to Greek. Thus, the Greek diphthongs "ai" and "oi" (pronounced like epsilon and iota, respectively, in Modern Greek), were transcribed as "ae" and "oe" into Latin, which had the same pronunciation. In English, there are actually ligatures that exist for these combinations, mainly used in archaic spelling. Thus one may see the words "æon" ("aeon"), "phænomenon" ("phaenomenon"), "œconomy" ("oeconomy"), and "diarrhœa" ("diarrhoea"). Both diphthongs now tend to be rendered, and pronounced, as just "e" in recent English, e.g. "eon," "phenomenon," "economy," and "diarrhea." In German, however, we have the nice touch that Latin "ae" and "oe" are are usually rendered "ä" and "ö," with the umlauts -- in Äon, Phänomen, Ökonomie, and Diarrhöe. This was not always done, which is why we see the name of the great German writer as "Goethe," when now this might rather be written "Göte." The name of the mathematician Kurt Gödel is also sometimes seen as "Goedel." While the German "ä" is simply pronounced like the English "ay" in "day," "ö" is a fronted "o" which is also found in French but is very awkward for English speakers. In a name like "Gödel," it usually comes out like an er. I gave up trying to pronounce it the right way in conversations with philosophers because they didn't recognize who I was talking about. "Oh, you mean Gerdel!"

Another Greek diphthong has a noteworthy history. If we follow the glide from the epsilon to the iota in the "ei" combination, we get something like the "ay" in English "day," and for the same reason -- it will sound much like êta. However, from a very early date "ei" is always transcribed into Latin as "i," which is the Modern Greek pronunciation. We see this in some conspicuous names. Eirênê is "peace" in Greek, and becomes a common woman's name, including some significant Roman Empresses. In Latin, however, we always see the name as "Irene." Similarly, several Persian Kings were called Dareîos in Greek, more familiar from Latin as "Darius." The philosopher Herákleitos is "Heraclitus" in Latin. As Latin assimilates the diphthong to "i," we get the opposite when St. Wulfila used "ei" specifically to write a long "i" in his alphabet for Gothic.

These cases demonstate two points. (1) Latin transcriptions represent Latin pronunciation and only do something different (as with "ph" or the borrowing of "y" and "z") when there is no Latin equivalent to the Greek sound. And (2) since Latin does this, we have evidence both for the change in the pronunciation of "ei" (if it was originally the glide) and for the absence of change in the ancient pronunciation of other vowels and consonsants. The modern pronunciation of Greek begins to emerge in the Middle Ages -- where, for instance, we see beta used in the Cyrillic alphabet to write v in the 9th century. An additional letter is invented to write b.

At right we have been seeing a table of alphabets [cf. Greek Inscriptions, Reading the Past, by B.F. Cook, University of California Press/British Museum, 1987, pp.8-11]. The Greek alphabet, of course, was borrowed from the Phoenician, versions of which may still be seen in Hebrew and Arabic (this is not the standard Arabic alphabetical order but is remembered when the letters are used as numerals). The great innovation was for Greek to take the signs for several consonsants that did not exist in Greek and to use them for vowels. An interesting case is the Phoenician "w," which was initially preserved in Greek to write the same sound. Before the adoption of the Phoenician alphabet, we see the sound in Linear B tables in wánax, "lord," which was used for gods and rulers -- as ánax is still a title for Homeric heroes in the Epics and later literature, when the "w" has been lost (or perhaps not). Also, "w" continued in some Greek dialects, after being lost early in Ionic and Aeolic. Thus, there are still Classical inscriptions showing aiweí for aeí, "always," kalwós for kalós, "beautiful," klawís, "key" (Latin clavis), etc. [Greek Grammar, by Herbert Weir Smyth, 1915, reprinted, Benediction Classics, 2010, p.9]. The most significant root with "w" might have been wid, which has many Indo-European cognates and figures in the verb eîdon, "I saw," and the noun idéa, a word we still use.

The vowel to which the semi-vowel "w" would be the most closely related, "u," was added as an extra letter, ypsilon, and the end of the alphabet. However, "w" then dropped out of Greek pronunciation. The letter, called "digmma," was preserved as a number but otherwise disappeared from Greek usage. One version of the Greek alphabet, meanwhile, had been adopted by the Etruscans, who pronounced the letter v or f. It ended up used as "f" in Latin, as we still use it. The Etruscans also pronounced gamma as k, which became the Latin pronunciation of "c." Since Latin actually did have a g, they modified the "c" to represent that sound also. The Phoenician "q" was used early by Greek as an equivalent for "k," and this curious custom, forgotten in Greece, was perpetuated by Latin, where it is always used when followed by a "u."

Since it sounded to the Greeks like Phoenician had three different letters identical to s, they didn't know quite what to do with all of them. The first "s" in the alphabet, the proper "s" in Hebrew and Arabic, was used by the largely eastern or "blue" Greek alphabets to write "ks." The "red" alphabets didn't use it. The last "s," which is sh in Arabic and as an alternative in Hebrew (the letter writes both sin and shin), was adopted as the "s," sigma, by some red alphabets and some blue, but became standard because of its use in Ionia. The second "s" in the Phoenician alphabet, called san or sampi by the Greeks, was used by some red and some blue alphabets but dropped out of usage and was forgotten, except as a numeral (where it was put at the end of the alphabet). The key distinction between the red and blue alphabets, however, is the use of the letter khi. This is the aspirated stop in the blue alphabets but is the letter used for "ks" in the red alphabets. The red alphabets passed this "ks" along to Etruscan and Latin, which is why we write "X" now for the "ks" sound. When the alphabet of Ionia (or Miletus) was adopted at Athens in 403/402 (the year of the Archon Eukleides), this was the beginning of the end for the variety of local Greek alphabets.

While a common and universal dialect of Greek developed in the Hellenistic Age, the , Koiné ("common," as we might expect), by the time of the Roman Second Sophistic writers were beginning to revive the forms of Attic Greek, which of course was the language of most of the literature from the Golden Age of Greece. This form of "Atticism" is usually regarded as a decadent affectation -- by scholars who, of course, have first of all studied Attic themselves when they began to learn Greek and then, if they are not New Testament scholars, laught at the corrupt Koiné of that text. The desire to preserve the earlier Classical language continued through the Middle Ages, as it continues to draw a strange sort of sneering or hauty disapproval from scholars who, treasuring their own pure knowledge (which, of course, they only possess because of the work of the "Byzantine" scholars), seem to think that Mediaeval writers should have accepted their own miserable decadence and worthlessness and just given themselves over to the vulgar and barbaric contemporary spoken language. Fortunately, this is not what Procopius or Anna Comnena thought they should do.

As spoken Greek continued to change under the rule of the Ottomans, in 1796 Nikephoros Theotokis began his own project of reviving Classical forms and "purifying" the spoken language. The rather artificial language that he created became the , Katharevousa, which was actually the official language of Greece until 1976. Dropping offical Katharevousa resulted in demonstrations, if not riots -- a reaction that now looks positively sensible compared to the riots of parasitic public employees and anarchists in recent Greek history. Now the spoken language, the Demotic (, Dêmotiké, Dîmotikí), is official, but it has nevertheless been influenced by the Katharevousa and continues, as we might imagine, under the influence of desires to eliminate foreign (especially Turkish) words. Since Greek schools continue to teach Classical Greek for nationalistic reasons, it is not surprising if Attic forms continue to influence the Modern language -- all with Modern pronunciation, of course.

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Tyrants and Kings of Syracuse

CleanderTyrant,
Gela, 505-498
Hippocrates498-491
Gelon IGela, 491-485;
Syracuse, 485-478
Heiron IGela, 485-466;
Syracuse, 478-466
Thrasybulus466-465, deposed
Democracy, 465-405;
Athenian Siege, 415-413;
War with Carthage, 409-405
Dionysius I405-367
War with Carthage, 396-392;
Plato's 1st visit, c.388
Dionysius II367-357,
347-344, deposed
Plato's 2nd visit, c.366;
Plato's 3rd visit, 360
Dion357-354, d.351
Callippus354-353, d.351
Hipparinus353-351
Nysaeus351-347, deposed
Timoleon344-337, deposed
Democracy, 337-317
AgathoclesTyrant, 317-304;
King, 304-289
Democracy, 289-270
Hieron II270-215
First Punic War, 264-241;
Second Punic War, 218-201
Gelon IIcoregent, c.216
Hieronymus215-214
Roman siege and
conquest, 213-212

Syracuse was the greatest Greek city in Sicily, the scene of a number of epic events in Greek history. The first with distant historical effects was the attempt of the Athenians to take the city in 415-413. This was an episode in the Peloponnesian War (431-404) between Athens and Sparta. The first phase of the War, the Archidamian War, had ended in 421. The attack on Syracuse was an attempt to restart the war by taking out an ally of Sparta, as proposed by Alcibiades (d.404). The catastrophic failure of the siege, and the destruction of the Athenian army and fleet, began the second phase, the Decelean War, 413-404, much to the disadvantage and ultimate defeat of Athens.

The map is from the Atlas of Classical History, edited by Richard J.A. Talbert [Routledge, 1985, 1989, p.39]. It shows details of the Athenian siege, with the walls later added by the great Tyrant Dionysius I.

Around 388 a Greek visitor arrived at the court of Dionysius, the philosopher Plato (c.429-347). Plato got involved in trying to educate the son of the tyrant, who would shortly become Dionysius II, in philosophy and responsible statesmanship. Plato returned a couple of times as part of the effort, but it didn't turn out very well. Plato's friend Dion, who launched a coup against the tyrant, was killed and Plato was left with a very bad impression of the whole business -- "But the requests of tyrants are coupled, as we know, with compulsory powers," as Plato says in Epistle VII, written to Dion's friends. This helped confirm Plato in his determination to stay out of Athenian politics.

Associated with Dionysius II we also have the story of Damocles, whom Dionysius had sit under a suspended sword to show him that a tyrant lived in constant apprehension of assassination.

The fate of Syracuse would ultimately be settled by Rome. King Hieron II successfully navagated the First Punic War and the beginning of the Second. After his death, however, with Hannibal looking like a winner, Syracuse went over to Carthage. This was a bad idea, and after a heroic siege, Syracuse became a Roman possession. A sad and ugly episode occurred when M. Claudius Marcellus took the city in 212. Archimedes (287-212), probably the greatest mathematician of antiquity (often said to have nearly invented calculus), had used his powers of invention to create engines that helped withstand the Roman siege for three years. Before the city fell, Marcellus instructed his men to respect Archimedes, but the great man was killed, for various legendary reasons, when a Roman soldier found him.

Curiously, Archimedes has a place in the history of California. Hieron was suspicious that a crown he had ordered was not made with the pure gold he had provided, but that some of the gold had been replaced. The weight of the crown was what it was supposed to be, so Hieron ordered Archimedes to figure out a test that could be performed on the finished object. Any base metal used would have a different density than the gold, so if the volume of the crown could be determined, this would show whether it was pure gold. Unfortunately, the crown, if it was like Greek royal crowns, was a construction of gold leaves, whose density could not be determined from a direct measurement of the volume. The story is that Archimedes, relaxing in the bath, realized that the density of the crown could be determined, like Archimedes in his bath, by submerging it in water, which would displace an amount of water equal to its volume. Archimedes leaped out of the bath and ran down the street naked, shouting Eureka, "I have found [it]." "Eureka" is now the motto of the State of California, shown on the Great Seal of the State just above the goddess Athena (of all people).

The list of tyrants and kings is from the Oxford Dynasties of the World by John E. Morby [Oxford University Press, 1989, 2002, p.94].

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Copyright (c) 2004 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved