« AnteriorContinuar »
Gentianus, ' are not only obscure to you Romans, but also to most of the Greeks.'
From the first to the fifth century many cities in the East were crowded with students who attended the lessons of professors in rhetoric and theology. Tarsus, Berytus, and Antioch were celebrated places of instruction. The anniversary of the birth-day of Plato was commemorated at Athens, where a school, supported by rents* from land bequeathed by different persons, long fourished under the superintendance of some of the Platonists. Philosophers and sophists travelled through the provinces, and delivered, publicly, essays or declamations. Various specimens of their ingenuity have reached us; and though, in their extemporaneous discourses, they appear inaccurate in their quotations and inconclusive in their arguments, yet they may be considered as having contributed to preserve and diffuse the knowledge of the language.
After the schools of Athens were suppressed by order of Justinian, and Alexandria was taken by the Saracens, in the seventh century, Thessalonica and Constantinople were the only cities in which any attention was paid to literary pursuits. In the former, according to the testimony of John Cameniates, law, music, eloquence,
and the liberal arts were taught in the tenth century. The Byzantine emperors afforded occasionally some protection to letters; this praise is particularly due to Bardas, Leo the philosopher, Constantine Porphyrogennetus, the Comneni, and Manuel Palæologus. Under their patronage, and in the quiet retreat of the monasteries, many copies of the most valuable works of ancient Greece were transcribed. It might be supposed that ecclesiastical writings would particularly engage the attention of the later Greeks; and accordingly we find that the manuscripts of Chrysostom are very numerous ; the prose and metrical works of Gregory of Nazianzum were also exceedingly popular; and his namesake, the Bishop of Corinth, in speaking of the Attic dialect, cites, to our surprise, the testimony of that Father; but there is no reason to believe that the poets, orators, and philosophers of antiquity were neglected. From the colophon of the copy of Plato brought to England by Dr. Clarke, we learn that it was written in the ninth century; the Scholia on the Iliad, edited by Villoison, were transcribed in the tenth ; in the twelfth, Eustathius wrote his commentaries on Pindar and Homer; and in the fifteenth, Arsenius, Archbishop of Monembasía, collected Scholia on the plays of Euripides,
In addition to the circumstances already mentioned, which contributed to promote a knowledge of the Greek tongue, we must not omit to point out the assistance derived from innumerable in
* Habebat hæc schola reditus annuos non mediocrcs.
Euseb. H. E. x. 142:
scriptions which might be found in all parts of Greece, in Asia Minor, and the Greek islands. Many of these preserved remarkable forms of the ancient language, and idioms peculiar to the dialects of different provinces; some were seen in Italy so late as the time of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and Pliny; others at Byzantium in the sixth century; and the Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius had probably perused the characters on the Sigean stone.
Having stated the causes which preserved the language for so many centuries, we proceed to point out some of the changes introduced between the period when it began to decline in Greece, and received its last corruption under the Byzantines.
The first alteration was effected by the Macedonians about the time of Alexander. The expressions, phrases, and idioms of that people became nationalized at Athens.* They were used by Menander and other writers; and perhaps some of the vulgarisms which were remarked in the style of Epicurus may be attributed to the mixture of Attic and Macedonic. The different states of Greece, after their subjection to the Macedonians, were blended into one large community; and the idiotisms and peculiarities hitherto employed in separate provinces yielded to the communis lingua which began gradually to prevail, and continued to be the language in general use. The Attic writers were indeed still read and studied with great attention ; Ionic and Doric idioms were employed also to a late period; Philopoemen uses his native language; and Mandricidas answers Pyrrhus in Laconian. We learn from Strabo that Doric with a mixture of Æolic was spoken in Peloponnesus during the reign of Augustus; a passage in the Scholia of Diomed on Dionysius Thrax mentions the use of EA for
Z by the Dorians of his time; in the age of Pausanias the purest Doric of the Peloponnesus was used by the Messenians, and this idiom was preserved so late as the days of Eustathius. To these, other examples might be added, to shew the local prevalence of the dialects; but the general language of composition in use from the time of Alexander was the Communis Lingua.t
The highest degree of purity and correctness of style, as Salmasius has observed, is to be found in writers who preceded-the age of Demosthenes, or were contemporary with him. After that time, the alteration in the language is very perceptible. In the works of the Alexandrian scholars, we meet with a polished and beautiful diction; but there are also idioms and innovations ori
Μακεδονίζοντας οίδα πολλούς των Αττικών δια την επιμιξίαν. Αthenaeus, p. 122. Α. †.That general manner of speech, says Bentley, called Korn Acúnextos, the common dialect, which the writers after Alexander's time commonly used, was never, at any tine or in any place, the popular idiom ; but perfectly a language of the learned, almost as the Latin is now.' Phalaris, 406.
ginating ginating in their own refinements, and deriving no authority from the better ages of Greek literature.* The Septuagint version and various inscriptions discovered in Syria and Egypt present us with singular forms of speech. 'Etonéunoa xósgas, 'I subdued countries, (where woneuéw is followed by an accusative case in an unusual manner,) is found in the Adulitan monument of the time of Euergetes; and in Isaiah xxxvi. Psalm cxxviii. Jeremiah xlviii.t Cilician words are also found in the Septuagint: and the common speech of the inhabitants of that city seem to have been a mixture of Macedonic, Jewish, and Ægyptian.
In explaining the phraseology of the Septuagint and the New Testament, critics have frequently drawn their exanıples from Greek writers who lived under the Lagidæ and Seleucidæ; and as some of these monarchs had invited the Jews to settle in the cities which they built, and others had encouraged them to reside in Egypt, the intercourse between the Jews and Greeks was very great in all commercial towns, and many of the latter became acquainted with the Hebrew idioms. ' Dudum est (says Ernesti) cum docti quidam viri observarunt, Polybium, imprimis, multa habere cum oratione sacrorum scriptorum convenientia.'
The language of the Romans was introduced with their conquests, and corrupted the Greek in many countries where the latter was the vernacular idiom. A remarkable passage in Valerius Maximust shews the attention which the Romans paid to the preservation of their own tongue; and the general diffusion of it in the time of Plutarch is evident from the words used by that writer, Ρωμαίων λόγω νύν ομού τι πάντες άνθρωποι χρώνται. Roman colonists and merchants were established in Greece and Asia Minor; and many inscriptions found in those countries prove the common use of the two idioms. Latin was familiar to the people of Syria; for, in different parts of the New Testament, we not only meet with words of that language, but also with Latin phraseology. When the seat of empire was removed by Constantine, Latin was more commonly spoken at his court than Greek, as French was preferred to English under the Norman conquerors. The speeches of Constantine were composed in that tongue, and then translated into Greek. The coins of the empire, until the reign of Basil the Macedonian, bear Latin legends; and as the language was used by those who were in authority, Libanius expresses some apprehensions lest the Greek tongue should be entirely forgotten.
* See Knight, Proleg. ad Homerum, sec. 172. and Elmsley, ad Aristoph. Acharn. Museum Criticum, ii. p. 205.
† There is a correspondence between some of the expressions in the Sigean decree of the year 278 B. C. and those which occur in the Maccabees. Hebraïsms have been observed in the Rosetta and Adulitan inscriptions. $ L. ii. c. 2.
The Alexandrian dialect had a great influence on the language of the Greeks of the East. The termination of verbs in av, as sitav, magnados av, and other similar forms, is common in neoteric Greek; and "Ήροσαν, εκρίνoσαν, έλαμβάνοσαν, έφαίνoσαν, έφέρoσαν, ηγάγοσαν, καθείλoσαν, ήμαρτοσαν, ίδοσαν, απεθάνοσαν, ελάβοσαν, occur in the Septuagint version. No work was more familiar to the Christians of the different provinces than this translation; it was read in the churches of Syria; it was studied throughout the empire in the copies of Hesychius, Origen, and the Martyr Lucian; and was quoted by those who expounded the Scriptures to the lower order of the people.* The influence of this version upon the language of the Greeks was, as Villoison has remarked, similar to that which was produced on the writings of the middle ages by the Latin Vulgate, and on the German tongue by the translation of Luther. The other part of the volume of the sacred Scriptures was equally studied by all the Christians of the empire; and we find some of the Fathers admitting that the purity of their language was affected by their familiarity with the plain and unpolished idiom of the Greek of the New Testament.
The impossibility of rendering some of the Hebrew forms by any corresponding one in Greek, introduced new words into the Septuagint; and the doctrines, rites and usages of Christianity affixed new meanings to those already in use. Πίστις, Δικαιόω, “Υπόστασις, Σάρξ, Δαιμονιζόμενος, 'Ανάθεμα, and many other phrases have a meaning very different from that which they bear in the writings of ancient Greece. Our laotń grov, says Mede, is an expression not known to any pagan writer; it is an ecclesiastical term first employed by the Septuagint writers, as we learn from Philo, to denote a Hebrew word, and to distinguish the altar of the God of Israel from the altars of the idol gods of the Gentiles. 'Axosvwa. vyria occurs in Aristotle, Pol. I. ii. but in ecclesiastical Greek it means a suspension of the Holy Sacraments; it is found in this sense in the 29th canon of the African church. Compound words
new form are used by Dionysius the Areopagite, as εξουσιοποιός, εξουσιαρχία, υπεράρχιος, and the Saviour is called και Θεαρχικώτατος Νούς.
The grammarians who lived in the first ages of the Christian era have noticed some of the alterations introduced in their time. Words used in various senses by the classical writers of Greece were confounded in the second century; obsolete and antiquated modes of speech were employed by some authors who thus became almost unintelligible to their contemporaries. The style of Aelian is full of antiptoses, pleonasms, and an idle use of aire ye, árna yág, xal
* Euseb, E. H. Vales. 115.
ούν καί, και γαρ ούν. Expressions of declining Hellenism have been observed in Strabo; and axoitis, a poetical word, is used in prose in the time of Diocletian. In the age of Lucian, the language was scarcely to be found any where in its purity; that author himself is not free from affectation, one of the faults of his contemporaries. The ignorance of Nonnus has been exposed by Heinsius; in the reign of Justinian many words appear with new meanings; aigeris signifying conditio, and ameriós, dissidens, are peculiar to the Theodosian age. In Epiphanius, άφαντούσθαι is used for άφαντος γιγνέσθαι και πατρίς for regio ; φορτούν for verare, ηκέναι, for venisse, áveixastos for non congruens; and the plural feminine is joined with a verb singular, oράς πως έχει αι της αληθείας φράσεις. As we advance, the alteration of the language and the decline of good taste become more evident; words of a plebeian stamp, used sparingly by the ancients, occur in Libanius, Themistius, Theodoret, Agathias, and Theophylact. Between the sixth and ninth centuries, we find the following changes in the meaning of words ; "Adanois is monasterium ; apitia pugna, tumultus; dvayırxw, literis erudior; äveguros, milites; apua, exercitus; dot gyanos, manus digitus; αξίωσιν ποιείν, actionem contra aliquem intendere; διαφέρειν τινι, opponi alicui, and ourníc, concio. Forced metaphors, absurd comparisons, hybridous, and semibarbarous words vitiate the
compositions of writers of the sixth and following centuries. Solecisms, neglect of the laws of metre and rules of accentuation, ignorance of the ancient forms of the language, occur in the poets, lexicographers, and grammarians; while Greek and Latin words are mixed together in a work containing phrases borrowed from Herodotus and Thucydides.
As many expressions occurred in the ancient writers which were difficult to be understood, because they were not in common use, or were peculiar to the dialects, they were changed for others. Eutocius has discarded the Dorisms from Archimedes; the Ionisms of Anacreon have been altered ; in some of the odes of Pindar, words of a more recent date are substituted for those of the poet: this is the reason, according to Vizzanius and Bentley, why Ocellus Lucanus, though by birth a Dorian, and though Stobæus quotes some passages of his writings in the Doric dialect, now appears, from his book De Natura Universi which is still extant, to have composed it in Attic. Plato had written Slavexeĩ nóyo in the Hippias; the first word has been changed into διηνεκεί; in the same writer ανιδρούν has been substituted for ιδίειν, διώκω for διωκάθω, υπείκω for υπεικάζω, and the old form έγχρίει has given place to έγχρίμπτει. In Thucy-. dides, (l. vi. c. 22.) instead of the original word xáyxgus, we now read the explanation xgioci negguruéves; and the glosses in the mar