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Western University
Classical Studies
Classical Studies 1000

CS1000 Lecture 2, Monday September 12, 2011 Sources for the Ancient World • How do we know what happened in the Greek and Roman world? • How do we know when it happened? • How do we know what events meant to the ancients? Outline: • Chronology and time-reckoning • Literary sources (language, Greek and Latin literature, inscriptions) • Archaeology (architecture, paintings, sculpture) Chronology • focus on period fm ca 1500 BC-ca AD 476 (further back, more generalized; closer = more precise) • BC=before Christ, AD = Anno Domini (Latin for 'In the Year of our Lord'); BCE = before common era, CE = common era (plays down the Christian aspect) but the two are interchangeable; o these dates are modern convention, reflecting the modern calendar • The ancient situation was more complex: o strong awareness of the changing seasons and months (astronomy), average ancient more aware than the average modern person o there were many calendars for individual cities o Caesar reformed the Roman calendar, bringing it closer to the modern calendar  10 month calendar, didn't quite work, two more months added - one for Julius (July), one for Augustus (August) o Historical events were typically dated by the year of a particular priest or magistrate in which they fell (e.g. "this event happened during the archonship of so and so" etc) o Often reference is made to a particular season o Rough lengths for a single generation were used to date past dynasties o The 'acme' system was widely used in ancient biography o Occasionally the distance is measured from some single event or common era (e.g., the first Olympics were in 776 BC, the founding of Rome is typically dated to 753/2 BC - so we will get statements such as "This event happened in the 21st Olympiad" or "This event happened 10 generations after the founding of Rome" ) - shocking single events become a point in your own chronology that you measure your life against (e.g. "I was here when the events of 9/11 took place") - the same was true for the ancients • Modern statements of historical chronology represent a conversion of ancient modes of time-reckoning to modern o e.g., A Roman writer would say that Caesar was murdered on the Ides of March, C. Caesare et M. Antonio consulibus o We would say that Caesar was killed on 15 March 44BC o This modern fact represents a series of interpretations • Important to remember that some of these dates are contested, many scholars spend their time working on chronology - lot of room for rethinking, element of uncertainty Literary Sources Languages: Greek and Latin Greek • Languages come in families • Greek belongs to a family called Indo-European • languages encode aspects of culture, and have idiosyncratic ways of talking (e.g.) about certain institutions o so we have no actual evidence for Proto-Indo-European, but we can still think about it in relation to its descendants • Greek is descended from proto-Indo-European, and Indo-European speakers seem to have moved into the Greek world some time before the Mycenaean Age (ca 2000 BC) o evidence for large-scale movement of people — not necessarily hostile — but they seem to have dominated the region culturally, and their language replaced the native language • This new language seems to have displaced an indigenous language (or languages), but traces of pre-Greek vocabulary remain in the lexicon o Corinth (the end "nth" is evidence of this, this is not an Indo-European ending, probably a surviving remnant from before) o thalatta (thalassa later) - not Indo-European: what probably happened is that the people who migrated came from a landlocked area, so when they came to Greece they had no word for the sea, and the indigenous word thalatta was adopted • The Greek world is geographically disparate and during the classical period Greeks inhabited not only mainland Greece but the Aegean islands, the coast of Asia Minor, parts of North Africa and southern Italy • A number of dialects flourished, each with considerable variation in phonology, morphology and vocabulary • Although to the modern student ancient Greek is often synonymous with Attic Greek, in fact a standard version of Greek did not emerge until the later part of the Hellenistic period, which we refer to as koine Greek (common Greek) Latin • Latin began as the language of Latium, the region of which Rome is the most important centre, and Latin belongs to the Italic group of Indo-European languages • Having originally been spoken at Latium from ca 800BC, Latin became the dominant language of Italy, and later became the common tongue of the western Mediterranean world and as far as the Balkans to the east • This diffusion of Latin is a direct reflection of the growing influence of Rome, the city that dominated Italy • After the middle of the third century BC there emerged a formal literary language which is conventionally called Classical Latin • The Romans themselves spoke of sermo urbanus, a phrase which suggests both "urbane speech" and "speech of the city" (speech of the cultural elite) • In sharp contrast to early Greece, where the literary language reflects the influence of a number of dialects and so a number of regions, other Italian dialects seem to have had little or no influence on the development of literary culture o The focus here are the power and influence of one city The Character of Greek and Latin • Very different from English • Inflected languages o the form of words change to reflect differing meaning and function within a sentence meaning (e.g. dog = singular; dogs= plural, or 'he is" = sing., but 'we are' = plural, etc.) o But Greek and Latin more complex (i.e., meaning and syntactical function are determined by word-forms, not word-order) o in English we can say "the dog bites the boy" but to say "the boy bites the dog" has an entirely different meaning. We can't say "the the dog boy bites" o but in Greek and Latin you can word-order is very free; you can write out a sentence, cut it up into its constituent parts, draw them out of a hat in any order, and the sentence will still make perfect sense • Extensive vocabularies • Translation is a difficult and often inexact science o "The translator is a betrayer" - when you translate you interpret the text; when you read a translation, you are at the mercy of the translator - ex. Richard Lattimore's translation of Aeschylus: he deliberately mistranslates a passage because of his strong opinions about the meaning of the play, thereby silencing a debate Greek scholars have about the meaning Ancient Literature • The Greeks and Roman each had an extensive literary tradition • Only a small fraction survives • How did the ancient texts survive? Modes of Survival • Mediaeval transmission • papyri • inscriptions • Mediaeval Transmission presupposes a number of factors o No printing press - if you wanted a book, someone had to sit down and copy it out by hand o a very labour intensive process  not as many books in the ancient world o You could be sure that if 10 different people copied out the Iliad, all ten copies would be different - spelling mistakes, leave things out, change rare words to common ones etc cont'd - Lecture 3, Wednesday September 15 The transition from orality to literacy • the introduction of writing (the Greek alphabet) o This was a society in which there was an oral tradition o a writing system was used in Bronze Age, but no writing to be found from Dark Age, and then suddenly we get the Greek alphabet  We use the Roman alphabet, which was adapted from the Etruscan adaptation of the Greek alphabet  Greek alphabet adapted from the syllabary used by the Phoenicians, but made into a true alphabet with symbols for both vowels and consonants • the development of a book trade o note: books as a written text, not like the modern 'book', but the book as a scroll o Sometime in the 5th century BC we get people who start producing books for profit = the book trade  At the beginning of the fourth century BC we get a reference to the book trade from Socrates, who mentioned that you could buy the book of Anaxagoras at the agora (market place) • the consolidation of ancient texts in the Library of Alexandria after 307BCE  Right-hand man of Alexander the Great = Ptolemy, after Alexander's death the Empire was split up, Ptolemy took Egypt and wished to show himself as a cultured and educated person; so men went out for Ptolemy to seek books, bring them back to be catalogued and studied in th
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