International Greek Language Day Celebrated at Columbia University

February 11, 2018

NEW YORK – International Greek Language Day was celebrated at Columbia University on February 9 with a fascinating lecture about ancient Greek presented by Classics Professor John Ma, a historian, specializing in the history of ancient Greece with particular interest in Greek epigraphy and the Hellenistic world. He received a BA in Classics and a DPhil in Ancient History from Oxford University. After teaching at Princeton and Oxford, he currently works as Professor of Classics at Columbia University.

Organized by the Hellenic Studies Program of the Classics Department at Columbia in collaboration with the Consulate General of Greece in New York, the lecture entitled “Ancient inscriptions as sources for the history of the Greek language” was presented by Prof. Ma in modern Greek and in English. He assured the audience that he had the Greek text edited by a native Greek speaker to make sure it was correct.

Professor Stathis Gourgouris, Director of the Hellenic Studies Program at Columbia, gave the welcoming remarks, thanking everyone for attending the celebration and noting that the Greek language has a great richness with over 2,000 years of poetry and of all the languages he knows, it is the most poetic. Prof. Gourgouris pointed out that International Greek Language Day is also the 161st anniversary of Dionysios Solomos’ death. He added that Solomos, the well-known national poet of Greece, spoke Italian as his first language, and knew Greek through poetry as many famous Greek poets throughout history did, making the language richer.

Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras noted that Professor Ioannis Mylonopoulos, also of the Classics Department at Columbia, had spoken to him about celebrating International Greek Language Day at the University from the year before. He added that it was fitting to have the celebration at such a historic university with such a historic Classics Department. Koutras noted that earlier in the day, the President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos participated in a teleconference with the students at the St. Demetrios School in Astoria. The students sang for President Pavlopoulos and he quoted from the poem Axion Esti by Odysseus Elytis to describe the remarkable Greek language.

Prof. Ma in his fascinating and also humorous lecture noted how inscriptions are used by scholars to decipher the ancient Greek language, what it sounded like, and how it differs from modern Greek. Language is a living thing that evolves over time, and as Prof. Ma pointed out, in ancient times the alphabet used was slightly different from the one modern Greek speakers are familiar with today. The Attic alphabet had an L as its lamda, for example, and the gamma looks like the capital lamda from modern Greek. There are also spelling errors in the inscriptions and regional differences in the way words are spelled.

Prof. Ma showed examples in the powerpoint presentation that highlighted the variations with visuals from inscriptions and from ostaka, the pieces of pottery on which names would be written of people others wanted ostracized. The inscriptions in stone offer a great deal of information about the language, and as Prof. Ma noted, the premier expert on epigraphs is Prof. Angelos Chaniotis, the senior editor of the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum. The new Archeological Museum in Thebes also has a fascinating section on epigraphs, the professor said, mentioning the ancient Boeotian dialect and the unique spellings it used.

A lively Q&A session followed the presentation.

Among those present at the lecture were faculty members and students of the Department of Classics at Columbia, as well as many members of the community including Amalia Cosmetatou- Executive Director and Cultural Director of the Onassis Foundation, Popita Pavli, Marilena Christodoulou- Director of Finance and Administration at the Rubin Museum of Art, Dr. Ioannis Hatzaras, and Dr. Stella Lymberis.


MONTREAL- In his interview on the CTV television network, following his meeting with his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, where the strengthening of bilateral relations was emphasized and the agreement for the delivery of seven state-of-the-art firefighting aircraft was signed, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis focused on the significant improvement in the economic climate and the increasing attraction of investments to Greece Just before the European elections in June, the Prime Minister emphasized, “For the first time, we will give the opportunity to our diaspora, those who have the right to vote in Greece, to utilize the postal vote to participate in the European elections.

Top Stories


A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.


9 Are Facing Charges in What Police in Canada Say is the Biggest Gold Theft in the Country’s History

TORONTO (AP) — Police said nine people are facing charges in what authorities are calling the biggest gold theft in Canadian history from Toronto’s Pearson International airport a year ago.

Allman Brothers Band co-founder and legendary guitarist Dickey Betts dies at 80 Dickey Betts, who died Thursday at age 80, really was born a ramblin’ man.

NEW YORK  — New York police removed a pro-Palestinian protest encampment at Columbia University on Thursday and arrested more than 100 demonstrators, including the daughter of a prominent Minnesota congresswoman.

ATHENS - The special 'Easter Basket,' which offers traditional Easter foods at lower or unchanged prices, will come into effect from April 24 to May 4.

LIVERPOOL - Liverpool failed to overcome a three-goal deficit and was eliminated from the Europa League on Thursday despite beating Atalanta 1-0 in the second leg of their quarterfinal matchup.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.