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Politics

Books on Ancient Greece and the Greek Language

February 12, 2018

The International Greek Language Day was celebrated on February 9, which was also the 161st anniversary of national poet of Greece Dionysios Solomos’ death.

The language is one of the oldest living languages in the world. Through thousands of years of development, the language has definitely changed from antiquity to the present day. For those interested in the learning about the roots of Greek, the massive two-volume A History of Ancient Greek: From the Beginnings to Late Antiquity, edited by A.-F. Christidis is a must read.

As noted in the books description, “The book provides the most comprehensive account of the history of the Greek language from its beginnings to late antiquity. In this revised and expanded translation of the Greek original published in 2001, a distinguished international team of scholars goes beyond a merely technical treatment of the subject by examining the language’s relationship with politics, society, and culture. An attempt is made to cover all aspects of the history of Greek, including those that are usually considered marginal, such as obscene language, the language of the gods, and child talk. Other topics which receive particular emphasis are language contact and translation practices in antiquity. The book’s clear organization and concise chapters make it highly readable and accessible to non-specialists, and the text is supported by example passages from primary sources and numerous informative illustrations. It is an essential reference work for all those interested in the history of Greek.”

Among the chapters is The nature of language by Professor Christidis, translated by Deborah Kazazis. Christidis passed away on December 26, 2004 at age 58. The Historical Review of the Institute for Neohellenic Research published In Memoriam: A Tribute to A.-F. Christidis in his honor which included moving words by his friend and colleague Stephanos Pesmazoglou, as well as one of Christidis’ last unpublished texts, Nation and Language: The Balkan Solutions, delivered at a conference organized in May 2004 by Bogazici Univeristy on the State of the Art in the Social Sciences and the Humanities in Greece.

Angelos Chaniotis- Professor of Ancient History and Classics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton just released his latest book, Age of Conquests: The Greek World from Alexander to Hadrian. Alexander the Great, of course, transformed the world in his lifetime and then again with his death in 323 BCE. His successors reorganized Persian lands to create a new empire stretching from the eastern Mediterranean as far as present-day Afghanistan, while war broke out repeatedly in Greece and Macedonia due to the fragile balance of power. Then, from the late third century BCE to the end of the first century, Rome dismantled the post-Alexandrian political structures, one after the other.

The dates for the Hellenistic period are often given as c. 323–30 BCE, but Professor Chaniotis views it as continuing until Hadrian’s death in 138 CE. In Chaniotis’ view, Hellenistic social structures survive the coming of Rome, but social, economic, and cultural trends that began between the deaths of Alexander and Cleopatra intensified during this extended period. Age of Conquests offers a compelling narrative of the major events that shaped ancient civilization during five pivotal centuries of history. Developments including globalization, the rise of megacities, technological progress, religious diversity, and rational governance— are still relevant issues in our world today.

The books are available online.

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