Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent
    https://aratta.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/war-in-the-fertile-crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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Graeco-Phrygians

Greeks

Greece

Neolithic to Bronze Age

Cycladic and Minoan civilization

Helladic civilization

Mycenaean civilization

Ancient Greece

Greeks

Ancient Greeks

Greek Genetics

Hellenic Language

Greek Language

Greek Dialects

Graeco-Aryan

Graeco-Armenian

Graeco-Phrygian

Pre Greek Stratum

Proto Greek

Mycenaean Greek

The Proto Greek Language

Ionic and Attic Greek

Ancient Macedonians

Ancient Macedonian Language

Ancient Greek

Phrygians

The Phrygian cap

Bryges

Armeno-Phrygians

Phrygian Language

Greece

The earliest evidence of the presence of human ancestors in the southern Balkans, dated to 270,000 BC, is to be found in the Petralona cave, in the Greek province of Macedonia. The Apidima Cave in Mani, in southern Greece, contains the oldest remains of anatomically modern humans outside of Africa, dated to 210,000 years ago.

All three stages of the Stone Age (Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic) are represented in Greece, for example in the Franchthi Cave. Neolithic settlements in Greece, dating from the 7th millennium BC, are the oldest in Europe by several centuries, as Greece lies on the route via which farming spread from the Near East to Europe.

Greece is home to the first advanced civilizations in Europe and is considered the birthplace of Western civilisation, beginning with the Cycladic civilization on the islands of the Aegean Sea at around 3200 BC, the Minoan civilization in Crete (2700–1500 BC), and then the Mycenaean civilization on the mainland (1600–1100 BC).

These civilizations possessed writing, the Minoans using an undeciphered script known as Linear A, and the Mycenaeans writing the earliest attested form of Greek in Linear B. The Mycenaeans gradually absorbed the Minoans, but collapsed violently around 1200 BC, along with other civilizations, during the regional event known as the Bronze Age collapse.

This ushered in a period known as the Greek Dark Ages, from which written records are absent. Though the unearthed Linear B texts are too fragmentary for the reconstruction of the political landscape and can’t support the existence of a larger state, contemporary Hittite and Egyptian records suggest the presence of a single state under a “Great King” based in mainland Greece.

The history of Greece encompasses the history of the territory of the modern nation state of Greece as well as that of the Greek people and the areas they inhabited and ruled historically. The scope of Greek habitation and rule has varied throughout the ages and as a result the history of Greece is similarly elastic in what it includes. Generally, the history of Greece is divided into the following periods:

Neolithic Greece covering a period beginning with the establishment of agricultural societies in 7000 BC and ending in 3200/3100 BC. Helladic (Minoan or Bronze Age) chronology covering a period beginning with the transition to a metal-based economy in 3200/3100 BC to the rise and fall of the Mycenaean Greek palaces spanning roughly five centuries (1600–1100 BC).

Ancient Greece covering a period from the fall of the Mycenaean civilization in 1100 BC to 146 BC spanning multiple sub-periods including the Greek Dark Ages (or Iron Age Homeric Age), Archaic period, the Classical period and the Hellenistic period.

Roman Greece covering a period from the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 BC to 324 AD. Byzantine Greece; covering a period from the establishment of the capital city of Byzantium, Constantinople, in 324 AD until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD,

Frankish/Latin Greece (including the Venetian possessions) covering a period from the Fourth Crusade (1204) to 1797, year of disestablishment of the Venetian Republic. Ottoman Greece covering a period from 1453 up until the Greek Revolution of 1821. Modern Greece covering a period from 1821 to present.

At its cultural and geographical peak, Greek civilization spread from Egypt all the way to the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan. Since then, Greek minorities have remained in former Greek territories (e.g. Turkey, Albania, Italy, Libya, Levant, Armenia, Georgia) and Greek emigrants have assimilated into differing societies across the globe (e.g. North America, Australia, Northern Europe, South Africa). Nowadays most Greeks live in the modern states of Greece (independent since 1821) and Cyprus.

Neolithic to Bronze Age

The Neolithic Revolution reached Europe beginning in 7000–6500 BC when agriculturalists from the Near East entered the Greek peninsula from Anatolia by island-hopping through the Aegean Sea. The earliest Neolithic sites with developed agricultural economies in Europe dated 8500–9000 BPE are found in Greece.

The first Greek-speaking tribes, speaking the predecessor of the Mycenaean language, arrived in the Greek mainland sometime in the Neolithic period or the Early Bronze Age (ca. 3200 BC).

The transition from the Greek Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age (or Early Helladic I–II) occurred gradually when Greece’s agricultural population began to import bronze and copper and used basic bronze-working techniques.

During the end of the 3rd millennium BC (circa 2200 BC; Early Helladic III), the indigenous inhabitants of mainland Greece underwent a cultural transformation attributed to climate change, local events and developments (e.g., destruction of the “House of the Tiles”), as well as to continuous contacts with various areas such as western Asia Minor, the Cyclades, Albania and Dalmatia.

Cycladic and Minoan civilization

The Cycladic culture is a significant Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age culture, is best known for its schematic flat female idols carved out of the islands’ pure white marble centuries before the great Middle Bronze Age (“Minoan”) culture arose in Crete, to the south. The Minoan civilization in Crete lasted from about c. 3000 BC (Early Minoan) to c. 1400 BC, and the Helladic culture on the Greek mainland from circa 3200/3100 BC to 2000/1900 BC.

Little specific information is known about the Minoans (even the name Minoans is a modern appellation, derived from Minos, the legendary king of Crete), including their written system, which was recorded on the undeciphered Linear A script and Cretan hieroglyphs. They were primarily a mercantile people engaged in extensive overseas trade throughout the Mediterranean region.

Minoan civilization was affected by a number of natural cataclysms such as the volcanic eruption at Thera (c. 1628–1627 BC) and earthquakes (c. 1600 BC). In 1425 BC, the Minoan palaces (except Knossos) were devastated by fire, which allowed the Mycenaean Greeks, influenced by the Minoans’ culture, to expand into Crete.

The Minoan civilization which preceded the Mycenaean civilization on Crete was revealed to the modern world by Sir Arthur Evans in 1900, when he purchased and then began excavating a site at Knossos.

The most ancient traces of activity (but not necessarily habitation) in the Cyclades were not discovered on the islands themselves, but on the continent, at Argolis, in Franchthi Cave. Research there uncovered, in a layer dating to the 11th millennium BC, obsidian originating from Milos. The volcanic island was thus exploited and inhabited, not necessarily in permanent fashion, and its inhabitants were capable of navigating and trading across a distance of at least 150 km.

A permanent settlement on the islands could only be established by a sedentary population that had at its disposal methods of agriculture and animal husbandry that could exploit the few fertile plains. Hunter-gatherers would have had much greater difficulties.

At the Maroula site on Kythnos a bone fragment has been uncovered and dated, using Carbon-14, to 7,500-6,500 BC. The oldest inhabited places are the islet of Saliango between Paros and Antiparos, Kephala on Kea, and perhaps the oldest strata are those at Grotta on Naxos. They date back to the 5th millennium BC.

At the end of the 19th century, the Greek archaeologist Christos Tsountas, having assembled various discoveries from numerous islands, suggested that the Cyclades were part of a cultural unit during the 3rd millennium BC: the Cycladic civilisation, dating back to the Bronze Age. It is famous for its marble idols, found as far as Portugal and the mouth of the Danube, which proves its dynamism.

It is slightly older than the Minoan civilisation of Crete. The beginnings of the Minoan civilisation were influenced by the Cycladic civilisation: Cycladic statuettes were imported into Crete and local artisans imitated Cycladic techniques; archaeological evidence supporting this notion has been found at Aghia Photia, Knossos and Archanes.

At the same time, excavations in the cemetery of Aghios Kosmas in Attica have uncovered objects proving a strong Cycladic influence, due either to a high percentage of the population being Cycladic or to an actual colony originating in the islands.

Three great periods have traditionally been designated (equivalent to those that divide the Helladic on the continent and the Minoan in Crete): Early Cycladic I (EC I; 3200-2800 BC), also called the Grotta-Pelos culture, Early Cycladic II (EC II; 2800-2300 BC), also called the Keros-Syros culture and often considered the apogee of Cycladic civilisation and Early Cycladic III (EC III; 2300-2000 BC), also called the Phylakopi culture.

The inhabitants of these islands, who lived mainly near the shore, were remarkable sailors and merchants, thanks to their islands’ geographic position. It seems that at the time, the Cyclades exported more merchandise than they imported, a rather unusual circumstance during their history.

The ceramics found at various Cycladic sites (Phylakopi on Milos, Aghia Irini on Kea and Akrotiri on Santorini) prove the existence of commercial routes going from continental Greece to Crete while mainly passing by the Western Cyclades, up until the Late Cycladic. Excavations at these three sites have uncovered vases produced on the continent or on Crete and imported onto the islands.

It is known that there were specialised artisans: founders, blacksmiths, potters and sculptors, but it is impossible to say if they made a living off their work. Obsidian from Milos remained the dominant material for the production of tools, even after the development of metallurgy, for it was less expensive. Tools have been found that were made of a primitive bronze, an alloy of copper and arsenic.

The copper came from Kythnos and already contained a high volume of arsenic. Tin, the provenance of which has not been determined, was only later introduced into the islands, after the end of the Cycladic civilisation.

The oldest bronze containing tin was found at Kastri on Tinos (dating to the time of the Phylakopi Culture) and their composition proves they came from Troad, either as raw materials or as finished products. Therefore, commercial exchanges between the Troad and the Cyclades existed.

These tools were used to work marble, above all coming from Naxos and Paros, either for the celebrated Cycladic idols, or for marble vases. It appears that marble was not then, like today, extracted from mines, but was quarried in great quantities. The emery of Naxos also furnished material for polishing. Finally, the pumice stone of Santorini allowed for a perfect finish.

The pigments that can be found on statuettes, as well as in tombs, also originated on the islands, as well as the azurite for blue and the iron ore for red. Eventually, the inhabitants left the seashore and moved toward the islands’ summits within fortified enclosures rounded out by round towers at the corners. It was at this time that piracy might first have made an appearance in the archipelago.

The Cretans occupied the Cyclades during the 2nd millennium BC, then the Mycenaeans from 1450 BC and the Dorians from 1100 BC. The islands, due to their relatively small size, could not fight against these highly centralised powers.

Thucydides writes that Minos expelled the archipelago’s first inhabitants, the Carians, whose tombs were numerous on Delos. Herodotus specifies that the Carians were subjects of king Minos and went by the name Leleges at that time. They were completely independent (“they paid no tribute”), but supplied sailors for Minos’ ships.

According to Herodotus, the Carians were the best warriors of their time and taught the Greeks to place plumes on their helmets, to represent insignia on their shields and to use straps to hold these. Later, the Dorians would expel the Carians from the Cyclades; the former were followed by the Ionians, who turned the island of Delos into a great religious centre.

Fifteen settlements from the Middle Cycladic (c. 2000-1600 BC) are known. The three best studied are Aghia Irini (IV and V) on Kea, Paroikia on Paros and Phylakopi (II) on Milos. The absence of a real break (despite a stratum of ruins) between Phylakopi I and Phylakopi II suggests that the transition between the two was not a brutal one.

The principal proof of an evolution from one stage to the next is the disappearance of Cycladic idols from the tombs, which by contrast changed very little, having remained in cists since the Neolithic.

The Cyclades also underwent a cultural differentiation. One group in the north around Kea and Syros tended to approach the Northeast Aegean from a cultural point of view, while the Southern Cyclades seem to have been closer to the Cretan civilisation.

Ancient tradition speaks of a Minoan maritime empire, a sweeping image that demands some nuance, but it is nevertheless undeniable that Crete ended up having influence over the entire Aegean. This began to be felt more strongly beginning with the Late Cycladic, or the Late Minoan (from 1700/1600 BC), especially with regard to influence by Knossos and Cydonia.

During the Late Minoan, important contacts are attested at Kea, Milos and Santorini; Minoan pottery and architectural elements (polythyra, skylights, frescoes) as well as signs of Linear A have been found. The shards found on the other Cyclades appear to have arrived there indirectly from these three islands.

It is difficult to determine the nature of the Minoan presence on the Cyclades: settler colonies, protectorate or trading post. For a time it was proposed that the great buildings at Akrotiri on Santorini (the West House) or at Phylakopi might be the palaces of foreign governors, but no formal proof exists that could back up this hypothesis. Likewise, too few archaeological proofs exist of an exclusively Cretan district, as would be typical for a settler colony.

It seems that Crete defended her interests in the region through agents who could play a more or less important political role. In this way the Minoan civilisation protected its commercial routes. This would also explain why the Cretan influence was stronger on the three islands of Kea, Milos and Santorini.

The Cyclades were a very active trading zone. The western axis of these three was of paramount importance. Kea was the first stop off the continent, being closest, near the mines of Laurium; Milos redistributed to the rest of the archipelago and remained the principal source of obsidian; and Santorini played for Crete the same role Kea did for Attica.

From the beginning of excavations in 1967, the Greek archaeologist Spiridon Marinatos noted that the city had undergone a first destruction, due to an earthquake, before the eruption, as some of the buried objects were ruins, whereas a volcano alone may have left them intact. At almost the same time, the site of Aghia Irini on Kea was also destroyed by an earthquake. One thing is certain: after the eruption, Minoan imports stopped coming into Aghia Irini (VIII), to be replaced by Mycenaean imports.

Between the middle of the 15th century BC and the middle of the 11th century BC, relations between the Cyclades and the continent went through three phases. Right around 1250 BC (Late Helladic III A-B1 or beginning of Late Cycladic III), Mycenaean influence was felt only on Delos, at Aghia Irini (on Kea), at Phylakopi (on Milos) and perhaps at Grotta (on Naxos). Certain buildings call to mind the continental palaces, without definite proof, but typically Mycenaean elements have been found in religious sanctuaries.

During the time of troubles accompanied by destruction that the continental kingdoms experienced (Late Helladic III B), relations cooled, going so far as to stop (as indicated by the disappearance of Mycenaean objects from the corresponding strata on the islands). Moreover, some island sites built fortifications or improved their defenses (such as Phylakopi, but also Aghios Andreas on Siphnos and Koukounaries on Paros).

Relations were resumed during Late Helladic III C. To the importation of objects (jars with handles decorated with squids) was also added the movement of peoples with migrations coming from the continent. A beehive tomb, characteristic of continental Mycenaean tombs, has been found on Mykonos. The Cyclades were continuously occupied until the Mycenaean civilisation began to decline.

The Ionians came from the continent around the 10th century BC, setting up the great religious sanctuary of Delos around three centuries later. The Homeric Hymn to Apollo (the first part of which may date to the 7th century BC) alludes to Ionian panegyrics (which included athletic competitions, songs and dances). Archaeological excavations have shown that a religious centre was built on the ruins of a settlement dating to the Middle Cycladic.

Helladic civilization

Helladic is a modern archaeological term meant to identify a sequence of periods characterizing the culture of mainland ancient Greece during the Bronze Age. The term is commonly used in archaeology and art history. It was intended to complement two parallel terms, Cycladic, identifying approximately the same sequence with reference to the Aegean Bronze Age, and Minoan, with reference to the civilization of Crete.

The scheme applies primarily to pottery and is a relative dating system. The pottery at any given site typically can be ordered into early, middle and late on the basis of style and technique. The total time window allowed for the site is then divided into these periods proportionately. As it turns out, there is a correspondence between “early” over all Greece, etc. Also some “absolute dates” or dates obtained by non-comparative methods can be used to date the periods.

Absolute dates are preferable whenever they can be obtained. However, the relative structure was devised before the age of carbon dating. Most of the excavation was performed then as well. Typically only relative dates are obtainable. They form a structure for the characterization of Greek prehistory. Objects are generally dated by the pottery of the site found in associative contexts. Other objects can be arranged into early, middle and late as well, but pottery is used as a marker.

The three terms Helladic, Cycladic, and Minoan refer to location of origin. Thus Middle Minoan objects might be found in the Cyclades, but they are not on that account Middle Cycladic. The scheme tends to be less applicable in areas on the periphery of the Aegean, such as the Levant. Pottery there might imitate Helladic or Minoan and yet be locally manufactured.

The “early”, “middle” and “late” scheme can be applied at different levels. Rather than use such cumbersome terms as “early early”, archaeologists by convention use I, II, III for the second level, A, B, C for the third level, 1, 2, 3 for the fourth level and a, b, c for the fifth. Not all levels are present at every site. If additional levels are required, another “early”, “middle” or “late” can be appended. The Helladic period is subdivided as:

Period – Era

Early Helladic I: 2800–2500

Early Helladic II: 2500–2300

Early Helladic III: 2300–2100

Middle Helladic: 2100–1550

Late Helladic I: 1550–1500

Late Helladic II: 1500–1400

Late Helladic III: 1400–1060

The Early Helladic period (or EH) is generally characterized by an agricultural population using basic techniques of bronze-working first developed in Anatolia with which they had cultural contacts. Their emergence from a pre-existing Neolithic population is the beginning of the Bronze Age in Greece.

The EH period corresponds in time to the Old Kingdom in Egypt. Important EH sites are clustered on the Aegean shores of the mainland in Boeotia and Argolid (Lerna, Pefkakia, Thebes, Tiryns) or coastal islands such as Aegina (Kolonna) and Euboea (Lefkandi, Manika) and are marked by pottery (i.e. “Lefkandi I”) showing influences from western Anatolia and the introduction of the fast-spinning version of the potter’s wheel. The large “longhouse” called a megaron is introduced in EH II. The infiltration of Anatolian cultural models was not accompanied by widespread site destruction.

The Early Helladic I period (or EHI), also known as the “Eutresis culture”, is characterized by the presence of unslipped and burnished or red slipped and burnished pottery at Korakou and other sites (metal objects, however, were extremely rare during this period). In terms of ceramics and settlement patterns, there is considerable continuity between the EHI period and the preceding Final Neolithic period (or FN); changes in settlement location during the EHI period are attributed to alterations in economic practices.

The transition from Early Helladic I to the Early Helladic II period (or EHII) occurred rapidly and without disruption where multiple socio-cultural innovations were developed such as metallurgy (i.e. bronze-working), fortifications, and monumental architecture. Changes in settlement during the EHII period were accompanied with alterations in agricultural practices (i.e. oxen-driven plow).

The Early Helladic II period came to an end at Lerna with the destruction of the “House of Tiles”, a corridor house. The nature of the destruction of EHII sites was at first attributed to an invasion of Greeks and/or Indo-Europeans during the Early Helladic III period (or EHIII); however, this is no longer maintained given the lack of uniformity in the destruction of EHII sites and the presence of EHII–EHIII/MH continuity in settlements such as Lithares, Phlius, Manika, etc.

Furthermore, the presence of “new/intrusive” cultural elements such as apsidal houses, terracotta anchors, shaft-hole hammer-axes, ritual tumuli, and intramural burials precede the EHIII period in Greece and are in actuality attributed to indigenous developments (i.e. terracotta anchors from Boeotia; ritual tumuli from Ayia Sophia in Neolithic Thessaly), as well as continuous contacts during the EHII–MH period between mainland Greece and various areas such as western Asia Minor, the Cyclades, Albania, and Dalmatia.

Changes in climate also appear to have contributed to the significant cultural transformations that occurred in Greece between the EHII period and the EHIII period (ca. 2200 BCE).

In Greece, the Middle Helladic period (or MH) begins with the wide-scale emergence of Minyan ware, which may be directly related to the people whom ancient Greek historians called Minyans; a group of monochrome burnished pottery from Middle Helladic sites was conventionally dubbed “Minyan” ware by Troy’s discoverer Heinrich Schliemann.

Gray Minyan ware was first identified as the pottery introduced by a Middle Bronze Age migration; the theory, however, is outdated as excavations at Lerna in the 1950’s revealed the development of pottery styles to have been continuous (i.e. the fine gray burnished pottery of the EHIII Tiryns culture was the direct progenitor of Minyan ware). In general, painted pottery decors are rectilinear and abstract until Middle Helladic III, when Cycladic and Minoan influences inspired a variety of curvilinear and even representational motifs.

The Middle Helladic period corresponds in time to the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. Settlements draw more closely together and tend to be sited on hilltops. Middle Helladic sites are located throughout the Peloponnese and central Greece (including sites in the interior of Aetolia such as Thermon) as far north as the Spercheios River valley. Malthi in Messenia and Lerna V are the only Middle Helladic sites to have been thoroughly excavated.

The Late Helladic period (or LH) is the time when Mycenaean Greece flourished, under new influences from Minoan Crete and the Cyclades. Those who made LH pottery sometimes inscribed their work with a syllabic script, Linear B, which has been deciphered as Greek.

LH is divided into I, II, and III; of which I and II overlap Late Minoan ware and III overtakes it. LH III is further subdivided into IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC. The table below provides the approximate dates of the Late Helladic phases (LH) on the Greek mainland.

The LHI pottery is known from the fill of the Shaft Graves of Lerna and the settlements of Voroulia and Nichoria (Messenia), Ayios Stephanos, (Laconia) and Korakou. Furumark divided the LH in phases A and B, but Furumark’s LHIB has been reassigned to LHIIA by Dickinson.

Some recent C-14 dates from the Tsoungiza site north of Mycenae indicate LHI there was dated to between 1675/1650 and 1600/1550 BCE, which is earlier than the assigned pottery dates by about 100 years. The Thera eruption also occurred during LHI (and LCI and LMIA), variously dated within the 1650–1625 BCE span.

Not found at Thera, but extant in late LHI from Messenia, and therefore likely commencing after the eruption, is a material culture known as “Peloponnesian LHI”. This is characterised by “tall funnel-like Keftiu cups of Type III”; “small closed shapes such as squat jugs decorated with hatched loops (‘rackets’) or simplified spirals”; “dark-on-light lustrous-painted motifs”, which “include small neat types of simple linked spiral such as varieties of hook-spiral or wave-spiral (with or without small dots in the field), forms of the hatched loop and double-axe, and accessorial rows of small dots and single or double wavy lines”; also, the “ripple pattern” on “Keftiu” cups. These local innovations continued into the LHIIA styles throughout the mainland.

The description of the LHIIA is mainly based on the material from Kourakou East Alley. Domestic and Palatial shapes are distinguished. There are strong links between LHIIA and LMIB. LHIIB began before the end of LMIB, and sees a lessening of Cretan influences. Pure LHIIB assemblages are rare and originate from Tiryns, Asine and Korakou. C-14 dates from Tsoungiza indicate LHII was dated to between 1600/1550 and 1435/1405 BCE, the start of which is earlier than the assigned pottery date by about 100 years, but the end of which nearly corresponds to the pottery phase. In Egypt, both periods of LHII correspond with the beginning of its “Imperial” period, from Hatshepsut to Tuthmosis III.

LHIII and LMIII are contemporary. Toward LMIIIB, non-Helladic ware from the Aegean ceases to be homogeneous; insofar as LMIIIB differs from Helladic, it should at most be considered a “sub-Minoan” variant of LHIIIB.

The uniform and widely spread LHIIIA:1 pottery was originally defined by the material from the Ramp house at Mycenae, the palace at Thebes (now dated to LHIIIA:2 or LHIIIB by most researchers) and Triada at Rhodes. There is material from Asine, Athens (wells), Sparta (Menelaion), Nichoria and the ‘Atreus Bothros’, rubbish sealed under the Dromos of the Treasury of Atreus at Mycenae as well. C-14 dates from Tsoungiza indicate LHIIIA:1 should be more nearly 1435/1406 to 1390/1370 BCE, slightly earlier than the pottery phase, but by less than 50 years. LHIIIA:1 ware has also been found in Maşat Höyük in Hittite Anatolia.

The LHIIIA:2 pottery marks a Mycenaean expansion covering most of the Eastern Mediterranean. There are many new shapes. The motifs of the painted pottery continue from LHIIIA:1 but show a great deal of standardization. In Egypt, the Amarna site contains LHIIIA:1 ware during the reign of Amenhotep III and LHIIIA:2 ware during that of his son Akhenaten; it also has the barest beginnings of LHIIIB. LHIIIA:2 ware is in the Uluburun shipwreck, which sank in the 14th century BCE. Again, Tsoungiza dates are earlier, 1390/1370 to 1360/1325 BCE; but LHIIIA:2 ware also exists in a burn layer of Miletus which likely occurred early in Mursilis II’s reign and therefore some years prior to Mursili’s eclipse in 1312 BCE. The transition period between IIIA and IIIB begins after 1320 BCE, but not long after (Cemal Pulak thinks before 1295 BCE).

The definition of the LHIIIB by Furumark was mainly based on grave finds and the settlement material from Zygouries. It has been divided into two sub-phases by Elizabeth B. French, based on the finds from Mycenae and the West wall at Tiryns. LHIIIB:2 assemblages are sparse, as painted pottery is rare in tombs and many settlements of this period ended by destruction, leaving few complete pots behind.

LHIIIB pottery is associated in the Greek mainland palaces with the Linear B archives. (Linear B had been in use in Crete since Late Minoan II.) Pulak’s proposed LHIIIA/B boundary would make LHIIIB contemporary in Anatolia with the resurgent Hittites following Mursili’s eclipse; in Egypt with the 19th Dynasty, also known as the Ramessides; and in northern Mesopotamia with Assyria’s ascendancy over Mitanni. The end of LHIIIB is associated with the destruction of Ugarit, whose ruins contain the last of that pottery. The Tsoungiza date for the end of LHIIIB is 1200/1190 BCE. The beginning of LHIIIC, therefore, is now commonly set into the reign of Queen Twosret.

The LHIIIC has been divided into LHIIIC:1 and LHIIIC:2 by Furumark, based on materials from tombs in Mycenae, Asine, Kephalonia, and Rhodes. In the 1960’s, the excavations of the citadel at Mycenae and of Lefkandi in Euboea yielded stratified material revealing significant regional variation in LHIIIC, especially in the later phases. Late LHIIIC pottery is found in Troy VIIa and a few pieces in Tarsus. It was also made locally in the Philistine settlements of Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza.

Mycenaean civilization

Mycenaean civilization originated and evolved from the society and culture of the Early and Middle Helladic periods in mainland Greece. It emerged in circa 1600 BC, when Helladic culture in mainland Greece was transformed under influences from Minoan Crete and lasted until the collapse of the Mycenaean palaces in c. 1100 BC.

Mycenaean Greece is the Late Helladic Bronze Age civilization of Ancient Greece and it is the historical setting of the epics of Homer and most of Greek mythology and religion. The Mycenaean period takes its name from the archaeological site Mycenae in the northeastern Argolid, in the Peloponnesos of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites.

Mycenaean civilization was dominated by a warrior aristocracy. Around 1400 BC, the Mycenaeans extended their control to Crete, center of the Minoan civilization, and adopted a form of the Minoan script called Linear A to write their early form of Greek. The Mycenaean-era script is called Linear B, which was deciphered in 1952 by Michael Ventris.

The Mycenaeans buried their nobles in beehive tombs (tholoi), large circular burial chambers with a high-vaulted roof and straight entry passage lined with stone. They often buried daggers or some other form of military equipment with the deceased. The nobility were often buried with gold masks, tiaras, armor and jeweled weapons. Mycenaeans were buried in a sitting position, and some of the nobility underwent mummification.

Around 1100–1050 BC, the Mycenaean civilization collapsed. Numerous cities were sacked and the region entered what historians see as a “dark age”. During this period, Greece experienced a decline in population and literacy. The Greeks themselves have traditionally blamed this decline on an invasion by another wave of Greek people, the Dorians, although there is scant archaeological evidence for this view.

Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece refers to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Dark Ages to the end of antiquity (circa 600 AD). In common usage it refers to all Greek history before the Roman Empire, but historians use the term more precisely.

Some writers include the periods of the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations, while others argue that these civilizations were so different from later Greek cultures that they should be classed separately. Traditionally, the Ancient Greek period was taken to begin with the date of the first Olympic Games in 776 BC, but most historians now extend the term back to about 1000 BC.

The traditional date for the end of the Classical Greek period is the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. The period that follows is classed as Hellenistic. Not everyone treats the Classical Greek and Hellenic periods as distinct; however, and some writers treat the Ancient Greek civilization as a continuum running until the advent of Christianity in the 3rd century AD.

Ancient Greece is considered by most historians to be the foundational culture of Western civilization. Greek culture was a powerful influence in the Roman Empire, which carried a version of it to many parts of Europe.

Ancient Greek civilization has been immensely influential on the language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, art and architecture of the modern world, particularly during the Renaissance in Western Europe and again during various neo-classical revivals in 18th and 19th-century Europe and the Americas.

Greeks

The Greeks or Hellenes (Greek: Έλληνες, Éllines) are an ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Italy, Turkey, Egypt and, to a lesser extent, other countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world.

Greek colonies and communities have been historically established on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea, but the Greek people have always been centered on the Aegean and Ionian seas, where the Greek language has been spoken since the Bronze Age.

Until the early 20th century, Greeks were distributed between the Greek peninsula, the western coast of Asia Minor, the Black Sea coast, Cappadocia in central Anatolia, Egypt, the Balkans, Cyprus, and Constantinople.

Many of these regions coincided to a large extent with the borders of the Byzantine Empire of the late 11th century and the Eastern Mediterranean areas of ancient Greek colonization. The cultural centers of the Greeks have included Athens, Thessalonica, Alexandria, Smyrna, and Constantinople at various periods.

In recent times, most ethnic Greeks live within the borders of the modern Greek state and Cyprus. The Greek genocide and population exchange between Greece and Turkey nearly ended the three millennia-old Greek presence in Asia Minor.

Other longstanding Greek populations can be found from southern Italy to the Caucasus and southern Russia and Ukraine and in the Greek diaspora communities in a number of other countries. Today, most Greeks are officially registered as members of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Throughout history, Greeks have greatly influenced and contributed to culture, visual arts, exploration, theatre, literature, philosophy, politics, architecture, music, mathematics, medicine, science, technology, commerce, cuisine and sports.

The Greeks speak the Greek language, which forms its own unique branch within the Indo-European family of languages, the Hellenic. They are part of a group of classical ethnicities, described by Anthony D. Smith as an “archetypal diaspora people”.

The Proto-Greeks probably arrived at the area now called Greece, in the southern tip of the Balkan peninsula, at the end of the 3rd millennium BC. The sequence of migrations into the Greek mainland during the 2nd millennium BC has to be reconstructed on the basis of the ancient Greek dialects, as they presented themselves centuries later and are therefore subject to some uncertainties.

There were at least two migrations, the first being the Ionians and Aeolians, which resulted in Mycenaean Greece by the 16th century BC, and the second, the Dorian invasion, around the 11th century BC, displacing the Arcadocypriot dialects, which descended from the Mycenaean period. Both migrations occur at incisive periods, the Mycenaean at the transition to the Late Bronze Age and the Doric at the Bronze Age collapse.

An alternative hypothesis has been put forth by linguist Vladimir Georgiev, who places Proto-Greek speakers in northwestern Greece by the Early Helladic period (3rd millennium BC), i.e. towards the end of the European Neolithic.

Linguists Russell Gray and Quentin Atkinson in a 2003 paper using computational methods on Swadesh lists have arrived at a somewhat earlier estimate, around 5000 BC for Greco-Armenian split and the emergence of Greek as a separate linguistic lineage around 4000 BC.

In c. 1600 BC, the Mycenaean Greeks borrowed from the Minoan civilization its syllabic writing system (Linear A) and developed their own syllabic script known as Linear B, providing the first and oldest written evidence of Greek. The Mycenaeans quickly penetrated the Aegean Sea and, by the 15th century BC, had reached Rhodes, Crete, Cyprus and the shores of Asia Minor.

Around 1200 BC, the Dorians, another Greek-speaking people, followed from Epirus. Traditionally, historians have believed that the Dorian invasion caused the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization, but it is likely the main attack was made by seafaring raiders (Sea Peoples) who sailed into the eastern Mediterranean around 1180 BC.

The Dorian invasion was followed by a poorly attested period of migrations, appropriately called the Greek Dark Ages, but by 800 BC the landscape of Archaic and Classical Greece was discernible. The Greeks of classical antiquity idealized their Mycenaean ancestors and the Mycenaean period as a glorious era of heroes, closeness of the gods and material wealth.

The Homeric Epics (i.e. Iliad and Odyssey) were especially and generally accepted as part of the Greek past and it was not until the time of Euhemerism that scholars began to question Homer’s historicity.[63] As part of the Mycenaean heritage that survived, the names of the gods and goddesses of Mycenaean Greece (e.g. Zeus, Poseidon and Hades) became major figures of the Olympian Pantheon of later antiquity.

The ethnogenesis of the Greek nation is linked to the development of Pan-Hellenism in the 8th century BC. According to some scholars, the foundational event was the Olympic Games in 776 BC, when the idea of a common Hellenism among the Greek tribes was first translated into a shared cultural experience and Hellenism was primarily a matter of common culture.

The works of Homer (i.e. Iliad and Odyssey) and Hesiod (i.e. Theogony) were written in the 8th century BC, becoming the basis of the national religion, ethos, history and mythology. The Oracle of Apollo at Delphi was established in this period.

The classical period of Greek civilization covers a time spanning from the early 5th century BC to the death of Alexander the Great, in 323 BC (some authors prefer to split this period into “Classical”, from the end of the Greco-Persian Wars to the end of the Peloponnesian War, and “Fourth Century”, up to the death of Alexander).

It is so named because it set the standards by which Greek civilization would be judged in later eras. The Classical period is also described as the “Golden Age” of Greek civilization, and its art, philosophy, architecture and literature would be instrumental in the formation and development of Western culture.

While the Greeks of the classical era understood themselves to belong to a common Hellenic genos, their first loyalty was to their city and they saw nothing incongruous about warring, often brutally, with other Greek city-states. The Peloponnesian War, the large scale civil war between the two most powerful Greek city-states Athens and Sparta and their allies, left both greatly weakened.

Most of the feuding Greek city-states were, in some scholars’ opinions, united by force under the banner of Philip’s and Alexander the Great’s Pan-Hellenic ideals, though others might generally opt, rather, for an explanation of “Macedonian conquest for the sake of conquest” or at least conquest for the sake of riches, glory and power and view the “ideal” as useful propaganda directed towards the city-states.

In any case, Alexander’s toppling of the Achaemenid Empire, after his victories at the battles of the Granicus, Issus and Gaugamela, and his advance as far as modern-day Pakistan and Tajikistan, provided an important outlet for Greek culture, via the creation of colonies and trade routes along the way.

While the Alexandrian empire did not survive its creator’s death intact, the cultural implications of the spread of Hellenism across much of the Middle East and Asia were to prove long lived as Greek became the lingua franca, a position it retained even in Roman times.

Many Greeks settled in Hellenistic cities like Alexandria, Antioch and Seleucia. Two thousand years later, there are still communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, like the Kalash, who claim to be descended from Greek settlers.

The Hellenistic civilization was the next period of Greek civilization, the beginnings of which are usually placed at Alexander’s death. This Hellenistic age, so called because it saw the partial Hellenization of many non-Greek cultures, lasted until the conquest of Egypt by Rome in 30 BC.

This age saw the Greeks move towards larger cities and a reduction in the importance of the city-state. These larger cities were parts of the still larger Kingdoms of the Diadochi. Greeks, however, remained aware of their past, chiefly through the study of the works of Homer and the classical authors.

An important factor in maintaining Greek identity was contact with barbarian (non-Greek) peoples, which was deepened in the new cosmopolitan environment of the multi-ethnic Hellenistic kingdoms.

This led to a strong desire among Greeks to organize the transmission of the Hellenic paideia to the next generation. Greek science, technology and mathematics are generally considered to have reached their peak during the Hellenistic period.

In the Indo-Greek and Greco-Bactrian kingdoms, Greco-Buddhism was spreading and Greek missionaries would play an important role in propagating it to China. Further east, the Greeks of Alexandria Eschate became known to the Chinese people as the Dayuan.

Between 168 BC and 30 BC, the entire Greek world was conquered by Rome, and almost all of the world’s Greek speakers lived as citizens or subjects of the Roman Empire.

Despite their military superiority, the Romans admired and became heavily influenced by the achievements of Greek culture, hence Horace’s famous statement: Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit (“Greece, although captured, took its wild conqueror captive”).

In the centuries following the Roman conquest of the Greek world, the Greek and Roman cultures merged into a single Greco-Roman culture.

In the religious sphere, this was a period of profound change. The spiritual revolution that took place, saw a waning of the old Greek religion, whose decline beginning in the 3rd century BC continued with the introduction of new religious movements from the East.

The cults of deities like Isis and Mithra were introduced into the Greek world. Greek-speaking communities of the Hellenized East were instrumental in the spread of early Christianity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and Christianity’s early leaders and writers (notably Saint Paul) were generally Greek-speaking, though none were from Greece.

However, Greece itself had a tendency to cling to paganism and was not one of the influential centers of early Christianity: in fact, some ancient Greek religious practices remained in vogue until the end of the 4th century, with some areas such as the southeastern Peloponnese remaining pagan until well into the 10th century AD.

The region of Tsakonia remained pagan until the ninth century and as such its inhabitants were referred to as Hellenes, in the sense of being pagan, by their Christianized Greek brethren in mainstream Byzantine society.

While ethnic distinctions still existed in the Roman Empire, they became secondary to religious considerations and the renewed empire used Christianity as a tool to support its cohesion and promoted a robust Roman national identity. From the early centuries of the Common Era, the Greeks self-identified as Romans. By that time, the name Hellenes denoted pagans but was revived as an ethnonym in the 11th century.

Ancient Greeks

Little is known about the arrival of Proto-Greek speakers. The Mycenaean culture commenced circa 1650 BCE and is clearly an imported steppe culture. The close relationship between Mycenaean and Proto-Indo-Iranian languages suggest that they split fairly late, some time between 2500 and 2000 BCE.

Archeologically, Mycenaean chariots, spearheads, daggers and other bronze objects show striking similarities with the Seima-Turbino culture (c. 1900-1600 BCE), of the northern Russian forest-steppes, known for the great mobility of its nomadic warriors (Seima-Turbino sites were found as far away as Mongolia). It is therefore likely that the Mycenaean descended from Russia to Greece between 1900 and 1650 BCE, where they intermingled with the locals to create a new unique Greek culture.

Seima-Turbino refers to burial sites dating around 1500 BC found across northern Eurasia, from Finland to Mongolia. The buried were nomadic warriors and metal-workers, travelling on horseback or two-wheeled chariots. These nomads originated from the Altai Mountains. The culture spread from these mountains to the west. Although they were the precursor to the much later Mongol invasions, these groups were not yet strong enough to attack the important social sites of the Bronze Age.

These cultures are noted for being nomadic forest and steppe societies with metal working, sometimes without having first developed agricultural methods. The development of this metalworking ability appears to have taken place quite quickly.

Mycenae is an ancient Greek city located in the north-eastern Peloponnese. What started off as a small fringe settlement grew to groups of villages on the slopes of hills to, eventually, the dominating culture of Ancient Greece.

Mycenaeans rose in prominence ca. 1600 BC and stayed in control of Greece until about 1100 BC. Evidence shows that they spoke an early form of Greek. They took control of Crete ca. 1450 BC. An abundance of Mycenaean pottery is found in Italy and Sicily, suggesting that they were in contact and traded with the Mycenaeans. Due to the influence of Minoan Crete the further south the site, the more the pottery is influenced by Minoan styles.

Mycenaean Greek, named after Mycenae, one of the major centres of Mycenaean Greece, is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, spoken on the Greek mainland, Crete and Cyprus in the 16th to 12th centuries BC, before the hypothesised Dorian invasion which was often cited as the terminus post quem for the coming of the Greek language to Greece.

The language is preserved in inscriptions in Linear B, a script first attested on Crete before the 14th century BC. Most instances of these inscriptions are on clay tablets found in Knossos in central Crete, and in Pylos in the southwest of the Peloponnese. Other tablets have been found at Mycenae itself, Tiryns and Thebes and at Chania in Western Crete.

The tablets remained long undeciphered, and every conceivable language was suggested for them, until Michael Ventris deciphered the script in 1952 and by a preponderance of evidence proved the language to be an early form of Greek.

Compared with later Ancient Greek, Mycenaean preserves a number of archaic features of its Indo-European heritage. It also preserves PIE forms. This means that determining the actual pronunciation of written words is often difficult, and makes use of a combination of the PIE etymology of a word, its form in later Greek, and inconsistent spelling. Even so, for some words the pronunciation is not known exactly, esp. when the meaning is unclear from context or the word has no descendants in the later dialects.

The Dorian invasion is a concept devised by historians of Ancient Greece to explain the replacement of pre-classical dialects and traditions in southern Greece by the ones that prevailed in Classical Greece. The latter were named Dorian by the ancient Greek writers after the historical population that owned them, the Dorians.

Despite nearly 200 years of investigation, the historicity of the Dorian invasion has never been established. The meaning of the concept has become to some degree amorphous. The work done on it has mainly served to rule out various speculations. The possibility of a real Dorian invasion remains open.

Aegean civilization is a general term for the Bronze Age civilizations of Greece around the Aegean Sea. There are three distinct but communicating and interacting geographic regions covered by this term: Crete, the Cyclades and the Greek mainland. Crete is associated with the Minoan civilization from the Early Bronze Age. The Cyclades converge with the mainland during the Early Helladic (“Minyan”) period and with Crete in the Middle Minoan period. From ca. 1450 BC (Late Helladic, Late Minoan), the Greek Mycenaean civilization spreads to Crete.

According to Greek mythology and legendary prehistory of the Aegean region, the Minyans were an autochthonous group inhabiting the Aegean region. However, the extent to which the prehistory of the Aegean world is reflected in literary accounts of legendary peoples, and the degree to which material culture can be securely linked to language-based ethnicity have been subjected to repeated revision.

Greeks did not always clearly distinguish the Minyans from the Pelasgian cultures that had preceded them. Greek mythographers gave the Minyans an eponymous founder, Minyas, perhaps as legendary as Pelasgus (the founding father of the Pelasgians), which was a broader category of pre-Greek Aegean peoples. These Minyans were associated with Boeotian Orchomenus, as when Pausanias relates that “Teos used to be inhabited by Minyans of Orchomenus, who came to it with Athamas” and may have represented a ruling dynasty or a tribe later located in Boeotia.

Herodotus asserts several times that Pelasgians dwelt in the distant past with the Athenians in Attica, and that those Pelasgians driven from Attica in turn drove the Minyans out of Lemnos. The same historian also states that Minyans from Amyklai settled on the island of Thera in 800 BC.

Minyan ware is a broad archaeological term describing varieties of a particular style of Aegean pottery associated with the Middle Helladic period.

In the history of Aegean prehistoric archaeology, Heinrich Schliemann was the first person to coin the term “Minyan” after he discovered a distinct variety of dark-burnished pottery at Orchomenos (the mythical home of King Minyas).

Some of his contemporaries referred to the pottery as “Orchomenos Ware”. However, the term “Minyan Ware” ultimately prevailed since it romantically recalled the glorious (though tenuous) Minyans of Greek mythology.

At first, Alan Wace and Carl Blegen did not yet associate Minyan Ware with the “advent of the Greeks”. Both archaeologists regarded the sudden appearance of Minyan Ware as one of two interruptions in the unbroken evolution of Greek pottery from the Neolithic up until the Mycenean era. Ultimately, they concluded that “Minyan Ware indicates the introduction of a new cultural strain.”

Prior to 1960, Minyan Ware was often associated with northern invaders having destroyed Early Helladic culture (1900 BC) and introducing Middle Helladic culture into the Greek peninsula. However, John L. Caskey conducted excavations in Greece (i.e. Lerna) and definitively stated that Minyan Ware was in fact the direct descendant of the fine gray burnished pottery of Early Helladic III Tiryns culture.

Caskey also found that the Black or Argive variety of Minyan Ware was an evolved version of the Early Helladic III “Dark slipped and burnished” pottery class. Therefore, Minyan Ware was present in Greece since between 2200 and 2150 BC.

There is nothing particularly “northern” regarding the ceramic progenitors of Minyan Ware. The exception, however, entails the spread of Minyan Ware from central Greece to northeastern Peloponnese, which can be seen as “coming from the north” with respect to the Peloponnese. Currently, there is uncertainty as to how Minyan Ware arrived in Greece or how it was indigenously developed.

The Late Helladic phase may be associated with the arrival of Indo-European speakers as overlords; Greek technical terms for pottery are not Indo-European, suggesting a continuity of potters and their techniques from earlier times.

Pottery very similar to Grey Minyan ware is known in Anatolia, dated around 14th–13th centuries BC. It has been suggested that “North-West Anatolian Grey Ware” should be used for this type of pottery. Around 2002, the term “Anatolian Grey Ware” became utilized by scholars.

Multivariate analyses of craniometric data derived from Helladic skeletal material indicate a strong morphological homogeneity in the Bronze Age osteological record, disproving the influx of foreign populations between the Early Helladic and Middle Helladic periods; ultimately, the Bronze Age inhabitants of mainland Greece represent a single and homogeneous population of Mediterranean provenance.

Mycenaean civilization originated and evolved from the society and culture of the Early and Middle Helladic periods in mainland Greece. It emerged at ca. 1600 BC, when Helladic culture in mainland Greece was transformed under influences from Minoan Crete.

Mycenaean Greece was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece (ca. 1600–1100 BC). It takes its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in Argolis, Peloponnese, southern Greece. Other major sites included Tiryns in Argolis, Pylos in Messenia, Athens in Attica, Thebes and Orchomenus in Boeotia, and Iolkos in Thessaly, while Crete and the site of Knossos also became a part of the Mycenaean world. Mycenaean settlement sites also appeared in Epirus, Macedonia, on islands in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Asia Minor, the Levant, Cyprus, and Italy.

Mycenaean civilization perished with the collapse of Bronze-Age civilization in the eastern Mediterranean, which is commonly attributed to the Dorian invasion, although alternative theories propose also natural disasters and climatic changes. This period of Greek history is the historical setting of much ancient Greek literature and myth, including the epics of Homer.

Mycenae is an ancient Greek city located in the north-eastern Peloponnese. What started off as a small fringe settlement grew to groups of villages on the slopes of hills to, eventually, the dominating culture of Ancient Greece.

Mycenaeans rose in prominence ca. 1600 BC and stayed in control of Greece until about 1100 BC. Evidence shows that they spoke an early form of Greek. They took control of Crete ca. 1450 BC. An abundance of Mycenaean pottery is found in Italy and Sicily, suggesting that they were in contact and traded with the Mycenaeans.

Mycenaean Greece was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece (ca. 1600–1100 BC). It takes its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in Argolis, Peloponnese, southern Greece. Other major sites included Tiryns in Argolis, Pylos in Messenia, Athens in Attica, Thebes and Orchomenus in Boeotia, and Iolkos in Thessaly, while Crete and the site of Knossos also became a part of the Mycenaean world. Mycenaean settlement sites also appeared in Epirus, Macedonia, on islands in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Asia Minor, the Levant, Cyprus, and Italy.

Mycenaean civilization perished with the collapse of Bronze-Age civilization in the eastern Mediterranean, which is commonly attributed to the Dorian invasion, although alternative theories propose also natural disasters and climatic changes. This period of Greek history is the historical setting of much ancient Greek literature and myth, including the epics of Homer.

Mycenaean civilization originated and evolved from the society and culture of the Early and Middle Helladic periods in mainland Greece. It emerged at ca. 1600 BC, when Helladic culture in mainland Greece was transformed under influences from Minoan Crete.

The Mycenaean Greeks reached Crete as early as 1450 BCE. Greek presence on the mainland, however, dates to 1600 BCE as shown in the latest shaft graves. Other aspects of the “Minyan” period appear to arrive from northern Greece and the Balkans, in particular tumulus graves and perforated stone axes. John L. Caskey’s interpretation of his archaeological excavations conducted in the 1950s linked the ethno-linguistic “Proto-Greeks” to the bearers of the “Minyan” (or Middle Helladic) culture. More recent scholars have questioned or emended his dating and doubted the linking of material culture to linguistic ethnicity.

Mycenaean artifacts have been found well outside the limits of the Mycenaean world: namely Mycenaean swords are known from as far away as Georgia in the Caucasus, an amber object inscribed with Linear B symbols has been found in Bavaria, Germany and Mycenaean bronze double axes and other objects dating from 13th century BC have been found in Ireland and in Wessex and Cornwall in England.

Quite unlike the Minoans, whose society benefited from trade, the Mycenaeans advanced through conquest. Mycenaean civilization was dominated by a warrior aristocracy. Around 1400 BC, the Mycenaeans extended their control to Crete, center of the Minoan civilization (which had been crippled by the eruption of Santorini), and adopted a form of the Minoan script (called Linear A) to write their early form of Greek in Linear B.

Not only did the Mycenaeans defeat the Minoans, but according to later Hellenic legend they defeated Troy, presented in epic as a city-state that rivaled Mycenae in power. Because the only evidence for the conquests is Homer’s Iliad and other texts steeped in mythology, the existence of Troy and the historicity of the Trojan War is uncertain. In 1876, the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann uncovered ruins at Hissarlik in western Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) that he claimed were those of Troy. Some sources claim these ruins do not match well with Homer’s account of Troy, but others disagree.

The Mycenaeans buried their nobles in beehive tombs (tholos tombs), large circular burial chambers with a high vaulted roof and a straight entry passage lined with stone. They often buried daggers or some other form of military equipment with the deceased. The nobility were frequently buried with gold masks, tiaras, armor, and jeweled weapons. Mycenaeans were buried in a sitting position, and some of the nobility underwent mummification, whereas Homer’s Achilles and Patroclus were not buried but cremated, in Iron-Age fashion, and honoured with a gold urn, instead of gold masks.

From a chronological perspective, the Late Helladic period (LH, 1550–1060 BC) is the time when Mycenaean Greece flourished under new influences from Minoan Crete and the Cyclades. Those who made LH pottery sometimes inscribed their work in Linear B, a syllabic script recognizable as a form of Greek. LH is divided into I, II, and III; of which I and II overlap Late Minoan ware and III overtakes it. LH III is further subdivided into IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC.

Late Helladic pottery typically stored such goods as olive oil and wine. LHI ware had reached Santorini just before the Thera eruption. LHIIB began during LMIB, and has been found in Egypt during the reign of Tuthmosis III. LHIIB spanned the LMIB/LMII destruction on Crete, which is associated with the Greek takeover of the island.

During the end of the 3rd millennium BC (circa 2200 BC), the indigenous inhabitants of mainland Greece underwent a cultural transformation attributed to climate change, local events and developments (i.e. destruction of the “House of Tiles”), as well as to continuous contacts with various areas such as western Asia Minor, the Cyclades, Albania, and Dalmatia.

These Bronze Age people were equipped with horses, surrounded themselves with luxury goods, and constructed elaborate shaft graves. The acropolis of Mycenae, one of the main centers of Mycenaean culture, located in Argolis, northeast Peloponnese, was built on a defensive hill at an elevation of 128 m (420 ft) and covers an area of 30,000 m2 (320,000 sq ft).

The Shaft Graves found in Mycenae signified the elevation of a native Greek-speaking royal dynasty whose economic power depended on long-distance sea trade. Grave Circles A and B, the latter found outside the walls of Mycenae, represent one of the major characteristics of the early phase of the Mycenaean civilization.

Mycenaean shaft graves are essentially an Argive variant of the rudimentary Middle Helladic funerary tradition with features derived from Early Bronze Age traditions developed locally in mainland Greece. Grave Circle A, formed circa 1600 BC as a new elite burial place, was probably first restricted to men and seems to be a continuation of the earlier Grave Circle B and correlates with the general social trend of higher burial investment taking place throughout entire Greece that time.

The Grave Circle A site was part of a larger funeral place from the Middle Helladic period. At the time it was built, during the Late Helladic I (1600 BC),[2] there was probably a small unfortified palace on Mycenae, while the graves of the Mycenaean ruling family remained outside of the city walls. There is no evidence of a circular wall around the site during the period of the burials. The last interment took place circa 1500 BC.

Grave Circle A in Mycenae is a 16th-century BC royal cemetery situated to the south of the Lion Gate, the main entrance of the Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae, southern Greece. This burial complex was initially constructed outside the fortification walls of Mycenae, but was ultimately enclosed in the acropolis when the fortifications were extended during the 13th century BC. Grave Circle A and Grave Circle B, the latter found outside the walls of Mycenae, represent one of the major characteristics of the early phase of the Mycenaean civilization.

The circle has a diameter of 27.5 m (90 ft) and contains six shaft graves, where a total of nineteen bodies were buried. It has been suggested that a mound was constructed over each grave, and funeral stelae were erected. Among the objects found were a series of gold death masks, additionally beside the deceased were full sets of weapons, ornate staffs as well as gold and silver cups. The site was excavated by the archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1876, following the descriptions of Homer and Pausanias. One of the gold masks he unearthed became known as the “The Death Mask of Agamemnon”, ruler of Mycenae according to Greek mythology. However, it has been proved that the burials date circa three centuries earlier, before Agamemnon is supposed to have lived.

Immediately after the last interment, the local rulers abandoned the shaft graves in favour of a new and more imposing form of tomb already developing in Messenia, south Peloponessus, the tholos.

Around 1250 BC, when the fortifications of Mycenae were extended, the Grave Circle was included inside the new wall. A double ring peribolos wall was also built around the area. It appears that the site became a temenos (sacred precinct), while a circular construction, possibly an altar was found above one grave.

The burial site had been replanned as a monument, an attempt by the 13th century BC Mycenean rulers to appropriate the possible heroic past of the older ruling dynasty. Under this context, the land surface was built up to make a level precinct for ceremonies, with the stelae over the graves being re-erected. A new entrance, the Lion Gate, was constructed near the site.

The Mask of Agamemnon is an artifact discovered at Mycenae in 1876 by Heinrich Schliemann. The artifact is a funeral mask crafted in gold, and was found over the face of a body located in a burial shaft, designated Grave V, at the site “Grave Circle A, Mycenae”. Schliemann believed that he had discovered the body of the legendary Greek leader Agamemnon, but modern archaeological research suggests that the mask is from 1550–1500 BC, earlier than the life of Agamemnon, as tradition regards it. The mask is currently displayed in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

A shaft tomb or shaft grave is a type of burial structure formed from a deep and narrow shaft sunk into natural rock. Burials were then placed at the bottom. A related group of shaft and chamber tombs also incorporate a small room or rooms cut laterally at the base of the shaft for the placing of the dead.

The practice of digging shaft tombs was widespread but the most famous examples are those at Mycenae in Greece which date to between 1650 BC and 1500 BC, associated with the arrival of the Greeks in the Aegean (in some scenarios, with a second wave of Greek arrivals, assuming a Proto-Greek migration in the 23rd to 22nd centuries at the beginning of the Early Helladic III horizon). These shaft tombs were around 4m deep with the dead placed in cists at the bottom along with rich grave goods. The position of the shaft was sometimes marked by a stone stele.

Greek Genetics

Genetic studies using multiple autosomal gene markers, Y chromosomal DNA haplogroup analysis and mitochondrial gene markers (mtDNA) show that Greeks share similar backgrounds as the rest of the Europeans and especially southern Europeans (Italians and southern Balkan populations).

According to the studies using multiple autosomal gene markers, Greeks are some of the earliest contributors of genetic material to the rest of the Europeans as they are one of the oldest populations in Europe.

A study in 2008 showed that Greeks are genetically closest to Italians and Romanians[236] and another 2008 study showed that they are close to Italians, Albanians, Romanians and southern Balkan Slavs.

A 2003 study showed that Greeks cluster with other South European (mainly Italians) and North-European populations and are close to the Basques, and FST distances showed that they group with other European and Mediterranean populations, especially with Italians (−0.0001) and Tuscans (0.0005).

Y DNA studies show that Greeks cluster with other Europeans and that they carry some of the oldest Y haplogroups in Europe, in particular the J2 haplogroup (and other J subhaplogroups) and E haplogroups, which are genetic markers denoting early farmers.

The Y-chromosome lineage E-V13 appears to have originated in Greece or the southern Balkans and is high in Greeks as well as in Albanians, southern Italians and southern Slavs.

E-V13 is also found in Corsicans and Provencals, where an admixture analysis estimated that 17% of the Y-chromosomes of Provence may be attributed to Greek colonization, and is also found at low frequencies on the Anatolian mainland.

These results suggest that E-V13 may trace the demographic and socio-cultural impact of Greek colonization in Mediterranean Europe, a contribution that appears to be considerably larger than that of a Neolithic pioneer colonization.

A study in 2008 showed that Greek regional samples from the mainland cluster with those from the Balkans while Cretan Greeks cluster with the central Mediterranean and Eastern Mediterranean samples.

Greek signature DNA influence can be seen in Southern Italy and Sicily, where the genetic contribution of Greek chromosomes to the Sicilian gene pool is estimated to be about 37%, and the Southern Balkans.

Studies using mitochondrial DNA gene markers (mtDNA) showed that Greeks group with other Mediterranean European populations and principal component analysis (PCA) confirmed the low genetic distance between Greeks and Italians and also revealed a cline of genes with highest frequencies in the Balkans and Southern Italy, spreading to lowest levels in Britain and the Basque country, which Cavalli-Sforza associates it with “the Greek expansion, which reached its peak in historical times around 1000 and 500 BC but which certainly began earlier”.

A 2017 study on the genetic origins of the Minoans and Mycenaeans showed that modern Greeks resemble the Mycenaeans, but with some additional dilution of the early neolithic ancestry. The results of the study support the idea of genetic continuity between these civilizations and modern Greeks but not isolation in the history of populations of the Aegean, before and after the time of its earliest civilizations.

In an interview, the study’s author, Harvard University geneticist Iosif Lazaridis, precised “that all three Bronze Age groups (Minoans, Mycenaeans, and Bronze Age southwestern Anatolians) trace most of their ancestry from the earlier Neolithic populations that were very similar in Greece and western Anatolia.

But, they also had some ancestry from the ‘east’, related to populations of the Caucasus and Iran” as well as “some ancestry from the “north”, related to hunter-gatherers of eastern Europe and Siberia and also to the Bronze Age people of the steppe.

We could also compare the Mycenaeans—again, the first speakers of the Greek language—to modern people from Greece who are very similar to them, but with lower early Neolithic ancestry”, and argues that “some had theorized that the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations were influenced both culturally and genetically by the old civilizations of the Levant and Egypt, but there is no quantifiable genetic influence”.

A study from 2013 for prediction of hair and eye colour from DNA of the Greek people showed that the self-reported phenotype frequencies according to hair and eye colour categories was as follows: 119 individuals – hair colour, 11 blond, 45 dark blond/light brown, 49 dark brown, 3 brown red/auburn and 11 had black hair; eye colour, 13 with blue, 15 with intermediate (green, heterochromia) and 91 had brown eye colour.

Another study from 2012 included 150 dental school students from the University of Athens, and the results of the study showed that light hair colour (blonde/light ash brown) was predominant in 10.7% of the students. 36% had medium hair colour (light brown/medium darkest brown), 32% had darkest brown and 21% black (15.3 off black, 6% midnight black).

In conclusion, the hair colour of young Greeks are mostly brown, ranging from light to dark brown with significant minorities having black and blonde hair. The same study also showed that the eye colour of the students was 14.6% blue/green, 28% medium (light brown) and 57.4% dark brown.

Hellenic Language

Hellenic is the branch of the Indo-European language family whose principal member is Greek. In most classifications, Hellenic consists of Greek alone, but some linguists use the term Hellenic to refer to a group consisting of Greek proper and other varieties thought to be related but different enough to be separate languages, either among ancient neighbouring languages or among modern spoken dialects.

A family under the name “Hellenic” has been suggested to group together Greek proper and the ancient Macedonian language, which is barely attested and whose degree of relatedness to Greek is not well known.

The suggestion of a “Hellenic” group with two branches, in this context, represents the idea that Macedonian was not simply a dialect within Greek but a “sibling language” outside the group of Greek varieties proper. Other approaches include Macedonian as a dialect of Greek proper or as an unclassified Paleo-Balkan language.

In addition, some linguists use the term “Hellenic” to refer to modern Greek in a narrow sense together with certain other, divergent modern varieties deemed separate languages on the basis of a lack of mutual intelligibility.

Separate language status is most often posited for Tsakonian, which is thought to be uniquely a descendant of Doric rather than Attic Greek, followed by Pontic and Cappadocian Greek of Anatolia. The Griko or Italiot varieties of southern Italy are also not readily intelligible to speakers of standard Greek.

Separate status is sometimes also argued for Cypriot, though this is not as easily justified. In contrast, Yevanic (Jewish Greek) is mutually intelligible with standard Greek but is sometimes considered a separate language for ethnic and cultural reasons. Greek linguistics traditionally treats all of these as dialects of a single language.

Hellenic constitutes a branch of the Indo-European language family. The ancient languages that might have been most closely related to it, ancient Macedonian and Phrygian, are not documented well enough to permit detailed comparison. Among Indo-European branches with living descendants, Greek is often argued to have the closest genetic ties with Armenian and Indo-Iranian languages.

Greek Language

Greek (Greek: Ελληνικά, romanized: Elliniká) is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus, Albania and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning at least 3,500 years of written records.

The ancient language most closely related to it may be ancient Macedonian, which many scholars suggest may have been a dialect of Greek itself, but it is so poorly attested that it is difficult to conclude anything about it. Independently of the Macedonian question, some scholars have grouped Greek into Graeco-Phrygian, as Greek and the extinct Phrygian share features that are not found in other Indo-European languages.

Among living languages, some Indo-Europeanists suggest that Greek may be most closely related to Armenian or the Indo-Iranian languages, but little definitive evidence has been found for grouping the living branches of the family. In addition, Albanian has also been considered somewhat related to Greek and Armenian by some linguists. If proven and recognized, the three languages would form a new Balkan sub-branch with other dead European languages.

The Greek language is conventionally divided into the following periods:

Proto-Greek: the unrecorded but assumed last ancestor of all known varieties of Greek. The unity of Proto-Greek would have ended as Hellenic migrants entered the Greek peninsula sometime in the Neolithic era or the Bronze Age.

Mycenaean Greek: the language of the Mycenaean civilization. It is recorded in the Linear B script on tablets dating from the 15th century BC onwards.

Ancient Greek: in its various dialects, the language of the Archaic and Classical periods of the ancient Greek civilization. It was widely known throughout the Roman Empire. Ancient Greek fell into disuse in western Europe in the Middle Ages, but remained officially in use in the Byzantine world and was reintroduced to the rest of Europe with the Fall of Constantinople and Greek migration to western Europe.

Koine Greek: The fusion of Ionian with Attic, the dialect of Athens, began the process that resulted in the creation of the first common Greek dialect, which became a lingua franca across the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East.

Koine Greek can be initially traced within the armies and conquered territories of Alexander the Great and after the Hellenistic colonization of the known world, it was spoken from Egypt to the fringes of India. After the Roman conquest of Greece, an unofficial bilingualism of Greek and Latin was established in the city of Rome and Koine Greek became a first or second language in the Roman Empire.

The origin of Christianity can also be traced through Koine Greek, because the Apostles used this form of the language to spread Christianity. It is also known as Hellenistic Greek, New Testament Greek, and sometimes Biblical Greek because it was the original language of the New Testament and the Old Testament was translated into the same language via the Septuagint.

Medieval Greek, also known as Byzantine Greek: the continuation of Koine Greek, up to the demise of the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century. Medieval Greek is a cover phrase for a whole continuum of different speech and writing styles, ranging from vernacular continuations of spoken Koine that were already approaching Modern Greek in many respects, to highly learned forms imitating classical Attic. Much of the written Greek that was used as the official language of the Byzantine Empire was an eclectic middle-ground variety based on the tradition of written Koine.

Stemming from Medieval Greek, Modern Greek usages can be traced in the Byzantine period, as early as the 11th century. It is the language used by the modern Greeks, and, apart from Standard Modern Greek, there are several dialects of it.

Linear B, attested as early as the late 15th century BC, was the first script used to write Greek. It is basically a syllabary, which was finally deciphered by Michael Ventris and John Chadwick in the 1950s (its precursor, Linear A, has not been deciphered and most likely encodes a non-Greek language). The language of the Linear B texts, Mycenaean Greek, is the earliest known form of Greek.

Another similar system used to write the Greek language was the Cypriot syllabary (also a descendant of Linear A via the intermediate Cypro-Minoan syllabary), which is closely related to Linear B but uses somewhat different syllabic conventions to represent phoneme sequences. The Cypriot syllabary is attested in Cyprus from the 11th century BC until its gradual abandonment in the late Classical period, in favor of the standard Greek alphabet.

Greek has been written in the Greek alphabet since approximately the 9th century BC. It was created by modifying the Phoenician alphabet, with the innovation of adopting certain letters to represent the vowels. The Greek alphabet consists of 24 letters, each with an uppercase (majuscule) and lowercase (minuscule) form. 

The variant of the alphabet in use today is essentially the late Ionic variant, introduced for writing classical Attic in 403 BC. In classical Greek, as in classical Latin, only upper-case letters existed. The lower-case Greek letters were developed much later by medieval scribes to permit a faster, more convenient cursive writing style with the use of ink and quill.

Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

The Greek language holds an important place in the history of the Western world and Christianity; the canon of ancient Greek literature includes works in the Western canon such as the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey.

Greek is also the language in which many of the foundational texts in science, especially astronomy, mathematics and logic and Western philosophy, such as the Platonic dialogues and the works of Aristotle, are composed; the New Testament of the Christian Bible was written in Koiné Greek.

Together with the Latin texts and traditions of the Roman world, the study of the Greek texts and society of antiquity constitutes the discipline of Classics or classical studies is the study of classical antiquity, and in Western culture traditionally refers to the study of Classical Greek and Roman literature in their original languages of Ancient Greek and Latin, respectively.

During antiquity, Greek was a widely spoken lingua franca in the Mediterranean world, West Asia and many places beyond. It would eventually become the official parlance of the Byzantine Empire and develop into Medieval Greek.

In its modern form, Greek is the official language in two countries, Greece and Cyprus, a recognized minority language in seven other countries, and is one of the 24 official languages of the European Union. The language is spoken by at least 13.4 million people today in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Albania, and Turkey and by the Greek diaspora.

Greek has been spoken in the Balkan peninsula since around the 3rd millennium BC, or possibly earlier. The earliest written evidence is a Linear B clay tablet found in Messenia that dates to between 1450 and 1350 BC, making Greek the world’s oldest recorded living language. Among the Indo-European languages, its date of earliest written attestation is matched only by the now-extinct Anatolian languages.

In the modern era, the Greek language entered a state of diglossia: the coexistence of vernacular and archaizing written forms of the language. What came to be known as the Greek language question was a polarization between two competing varieties of Modern Greek: Dimotiki, the vernacular form of Modern Greek proper, and Katharevousa, meaning ‘purified’, a compromise between Dimotiki and Ancient Greek, which was developed in the early 19th century and was used for literary and official purposes in the newly formed Greek state.

In 1976, Dimotiki was declared the official language of Greece, having incorporated features of Katharevousa and giving birth to Standard Modern Greek, which is used today for all official purposes and in education.

The historical unity and continuing identity between the various stages of the Greek language are often emphasized. Although Greek has undergone morphological and phonological changes comparable to those seen in other languages, never since classical antiquity has its cultural, literary, and orthographic tradition been interrupted to the extent that one can speak of a new language emerging. Greek speakers today still tend to regard literary works of ancient Greek as part of their own rather than a foreign language.

It is also often stated that the historical changes have been relatively slight compared with some other languages. According to one estimation, “Homeric Greek is probably closer to demotic than 12-century Middle English is to modern spoken English,” (Greek has seen fewer changes in 2700 years than English has in 900 years).

Greek Dialects

Ancient Greek in classical antiquity, before the development of the common Koine Greek of the Hellenistic period, was divided into several varieties. Most of these varieties are known only from inscriptions, but a few of them, principally Aeolic, Doric, and Ionic, are also represented in the literary canon alongside the dominant Attic form of literary Greek. Likewise, Modern Greek is divided into several dialects, most derived from Koine Greek.

The earliest known Greek dialect is Mycenaean Greek, the South/Eastern Greek variety attested from the Linear B tablets produced by the Mycenaean civilization of the Late Bronze Age in the late 2nd millennium BC. The classical distribution of dialects was brought about by the migrations of the early Iron Age after the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization.

Some speakers of Mycenaean were displaced to Cyprus while others remained inland in Arcadia, giving rise to the Arcadocypriot dialect. This is the only dialect with a known Bronze-Age precedent. The other dialects must have preceded their attested forms but the relationship of the precedents to Mycenaean remains to be discovered.

Aeolic was spoken in three subdialects: one, Lesbian, on the island of Lesbos and the west coast of Asia Minor north of Smyrna. The other two, Boeotian and Thessalian, were spoken in the northeast of the Greek mainland (in Boeotia and Thessalia).

The Dorian invasion spread Doric Greek from a probable location in northwestern Greece to the coast of the Peloponnesus; for example, to Sparta, to Crete and to the southernmost parts of the west coast of Asia Minor.

Northwest Greek is sometimes classified as a separate dialect, and is sometimes subsumed under Doric. Macedonian is regarded by some scholars as another Greek dialect, possibly related to Doric or NW Greek.

Ionic was mostly spoken along the west coast of Asia Minor, including Smyrna and the area to the south of it, but also in Euboea. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were written in Homeric Greek (or Epic Greek), an early East Greek blending Ionic and Aeolic features.

Attic Greek, a sub- or sister-dialect of Ionic, was for centuries the language of Athens. Because Attic was adopted in Macedon before the conquests of Alexander the Great and the subsequent rise of Hellenism, it became the “standard” dialect that evolved into the Koiné.

Graeco-Aryan

Graeco-Aryan, or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan, is a hypothetical clade within the Indo-European family that would be the ancestor of Greek, Armenian, and the Indo-Iranian languages. The Graeco-Armeno-Aryan group supposedly branched off from the parent Indo-European stem by the mid-3rd millennium BC.

In the context of the Kurgan hypothesis, Graeco-Aryan is also known as “Late Proto-Indo-European” or “Late Indo-European” to suggest that Graeco-Aryan forms a dialect group, which corresponds to the latest stage of linguistic unity in the Indo-European homeland in the early part of the 3rd millennium BC. By 2500 BC, Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had separated, moving westward and eastward from the Pontic Steppe, respectively.

If Graeco-Aryan is a valid group, Grassmann’s law may have a common origin in Greek and Sanskrit. However, Grassmann’s law in Greek postdates certain sound changes that happened only in Greek and not Sanskrit, which suggests that it could not have been inherited directly from a common Graeco-Aryan stage.

Rather, it is more likely that an areal feature spread across a then-contiguous Graeco-Aryan–speaking area. That would have occurred after early stages of Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had developed into separate dialects but before they ceased to be in geographic contact.

Evidence for the existence of a Graeco-Aryan subclade was given by Wolfram Euler’s 1979 examination on shared features in Greek and Sanskrit nominal inflection. Graeco-Aryan is invoked in particular in studies of comparative mythology such as Martin Litchfield West (1999) and Calvert Watkins (2001).

A widely rejected hypothesis has placed Greek in a Graeco-Armenian subclade of Indo-European, though some researchers have integrated both attempts by including also Armenian in a putative Graeco-Armeno-Aryan language family, further divided between Proto-Greek (possibly united with Phrygian) and thus arriving at an Armeno-Aryan subclade, the putative ancestor of Armenian and Indo-Iranian.

Graeco-Aryan has comparatively wide support among Indo-Europeanists who support the Armenian hypothesis, which asserts that the homeland of the Indo-European language family was in the Armenian Highlands.

Graeco-Armenian

Graeco-Armenian (or Helleno-Armenian) is the hypothetical common ancestor of Greek and Armenian that postdates Proto-Indo-European. Its status is somewhat similar to that of the Italo-Celtic grouping: each is widely considered plausible without being accepted as established communis opinio. 

The hypothetical Proto-Graeco-Armenian stage would need to date to the 3rd millennium BC and would be only barely different from either late Proto-Indo-European or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan. However, many modern scholars have rejected the Graeco-Armenian hypothesis, arguing that the linguistic proximity of Greek and Phrygian to Armenian has been overstated.

The Graeco-Armenian hypothesis originated in 1924 with Holger Pedersen, who noted that agreements between Armenian and Greek lexical cognates are more common than between Armenian and any other Indo-European language.

During the mid-to-late 1920s, Antoine Meillet further investigated morphological and phonological agreements and postulated that the parent languages of Greek and Armenian were dialects in immediate geographical proximity to their parent language, Proto-Indo-European. Meillet’s hypothesis became popular in the wake of his Esquisse d’une grammaire comparée de l’arménien classique.

G. R. Solta does not go as far as postulating a Proto-Graeco-Armenian stage but concludes that the lexicon and the morphology clearly make Greek the language that is the most closely related to Armenian.

Eric Hamp supports the Graeco-Armenian thesis and even anticipates a time that “we should speak of Helleno-Armenian” (the postulate of a Graeco-Armenian proto-language). James Clackson is more reserved, considers the evidence of a Graeco-Armenian subgroup to be inconclusive and believes Armenian to be in a larger Graeco-Armeno-Aryan family.

Evaluation of the hypothesis is tied up with the analysis of Indo-European languages, such as Phrygian and languages within the Anatolian subgroup (such as Hittite), many of which are poorly attested, but which were geographically located between the Greek and Armenian-speaking areas, and which would therefore be expected to have traits intermediate between the two.

While Greek is attested from very early times, allowing a secure reconstruction of a Proto-Greek language dating to about the 3rd millennium BC, the history of Armenian is opaque where its earliest testimony is the 5th-century Bible translation of Mesrob Mashtots.

Armenian has many loanwords showing traces of long language contact with Greek and Indo-Iranian languages; in particular, it is a satem language. Also, although Armenian and Attic (Ancient) Greek share a voiceless aspirate series, they originate from different PIE series (in Armenian from voiceless consonants and in Greek from the voiced aspirates).

In a 2005 publication, a group of linguists and statisticians, comprising Luay Nakhleh, Tandy Warnow, Donald Ringe and Steven N. Evans, compared quantitative phylogenetic linguistic methods and found that a Graeco-Armenian subgroup was supported by that five procedures – maximum parsimony, weighted versus unweighted maximum compatibility, neighbor-joining, and the widely-criticized binary lexical coding technique (devised by Russell Gray and Quentin D. Atkinson).

An interrelated problem is whether there is a “Balkan Indo-European” subgroup of Indo-European, which would consist not only of Greek and Armenian but also Albanian and possibly some dead languages, such as Ancient Macedonian and Phrygian. This has been argued for in research by scholars such as G. Neumann, G. Klingenschmitt, J. Matzinger, J. H. Holst. The Balkan subgroup, in turn, is supported by the lexico-statistical method of Hans J. Holm.

Graeco-Phrygian

Graeco-Phrygian is a hypothetical clade of the Indo-European language family with two branches in turn: Greek and Phrygian. Greek has also been variously grouped with Armenian and Indo-Iranian (Graeco-Armenian; Graeco-Aryan), Ancient Macedonian (Graeco-Macedonian) and, more recently, Messapian.

Greek and Ancient Macedonian are often classified under Hellenic; at other times, Hellenic is posited to consist of only Greek dialects. The linguist Václav Blažek states that, in regard to the classification of these languages, their surviving texts—because of their scarcity and/or their nature—cannot be quantified.

The linguist Claude Brixhe points to the following features Greek and Phrygian are known to have in common and in common with no other language: a certain class of masculine nouns in the nominative singular ending in -s, a certain class of denominal verbs, the pronoun auto-, the participial suffix -meno-, the stem kako- and the conjunction ai.

Pre Greek Stratum

The Pre-Greek substrate (or Pre-Greek substratum) consists of the unknown language(s) spoken in prehistoric Greece before the coming of the Proto-Greek language in the area during the Bronze Age. It is possible that Greek acquired some thousand words and proper names from such a language(s), because some of its vocabulary cannot be satisfactorily explained as deriving from Proto-Greek and a Proto-Indo-European reconstruction is almost impossible for such terms.

An emerging consensus among modern linguists such as Robert Beekes and José Luís García-Ramón is that the pre-Greek substrate spoken in the southern Balkans was non-Indo-European. According to Beekes, the material “shows that we are largely dealing with one language, or a group of closely related dialects or languages.”

However, Biliana Mihaylova finds no contradiction between “the idea of [an] Indo-European Pre-Greek substratum” and “the possibility of the existence of an earlier non-Indo-European layer in Greece” given certain pre-Greek words possessing Indo-European “pattern[s] of word formation.”

Estimates for the introduction of the Proto-Greek language into prehistoric Greece have changed over the course of the 20th century. Since the decipherment of Linear B, searches were made “for earlier breaks in the continuity of the material record that might represent the ‘coming of the Greeks.'”

A Middle Bronze Age estimate, originally presented by C. Haley and J. Blegen in 1928, was altered to an estimate spanning the transition from Early Helladic II to Early Helladic III (c. 2400−2200/2100 BC).

However, the latter estimate, accepted by some scholars, is based on stratigraphic discontinuities at Lerna that other archaeological excavations in Greece demonstrated were the product of chronological gaps or separate deposit-sequencing instead of cultural changes.

Coleman estimates, based on more recent evidence, that the entry of Proto-Greek speakers into the Greek peninsula occurred during the late 4th millennium BC (c. 3200 BC) with Pre-Greek spoken by the inhabitants of the Late Neolithic II period.

Although no written texts exist or have been identified as pre-Greek, the lexicon has been partially reconstructed via the considerable number of words that have been borrowed into Greek; such words often show a type of variation not found in inherited Indo-European Greek terms, and certain recurrent patterns that can be used to identify Pre-Greek elements.

Some Pre-Greek loanwords have also been highlighted in the Albanian language. However, their limited number and the late attestation of Albanian make this material very difficult to be used independently for linguistic reconstructions.

There are different categories of Pre-Greek, or “Aegean”, loanwords. Various explanations have been made for these substrate features. The existence of a Minoan (Eteocretan) substratum is the opinion of English archaeologist Arthur Evans who assumed widespread Minoan colonisation of the Aegean, policed by a Minoan thalassocracy.

Raymond A. Brown, after listing a number of words of pre-Greek origin from Crete, suggests a relation between Minoan, Eteocretan, Lemnian (Pelasgian), and Tyrrhenian, inventing the name “Aegeo-Asianic” for the proposed language family.

However, many Minoan loanwords found in Mycenaean Greek (e.g., words for architecture, metals and metallurgy, music, use of domestic species, social institutions, weapons, weaving) have been asserted to be the result of socio-cultural and economic interactions between the Minoans and Mycenaeans during the Bronze Age, and may therefore be part of a linguistic adstrate in Greek rather than a substrate.

Based upon toponymic evidence, it is generally accepted that a language was once spoken both in Greece and in western Asia Minor, and some scholars have proposed that the Pre-Greek substrate was brought to Greece by pre-Indo-European Anatolian settlers.

In most cases, it is impossible to distinguish between substrate words and loans from Asia Minor, and terms like τολύπη (‘clew, ball of wool ready for spinning’) show typical Pre-Greek features while being related to Anatolian words (in this case Luwian and Hittite taluppa/i- ‘lump, clod’) with no common Indo-European etymology, suggesting that they were borrowed in both Ancient Greek and Anatolian languages from the same substrate.

An Anatolian, perhaps specifically Luwian, substratum has been proposed, on the basis of -ssa- and -nda- (corresponding to -ssos- and -nthos- in mainland Greece) placenames being widespread in Western Anatolia.

However, of the few words of secure Anatolian origin, most are cultural items or commodities likely the result of commercial exchange, not of a substratum. Furthermore, the correlations between Anatolian and Greek placenames may in fact represent a common early phase of Indo-European spoken before the Anatolian languages developed in Asia Minor and Greek in mainland Greece.

Some of the relevant vocabulary can be explained alternatively as linguistic exchange between Greek and Anatolic languages in Anatolia without necessarily originating from a change of language.

A Tyrrhenian/Etruscan substratum was proposed on the basis of (firstly) statements by Thucydides, to the effect that Tyrrhenian languages were spoken in an area including Athens, before the Tyrrhenians were expelled to the island of Lemnos, and (secondly) the Lemnos funerary stele: four pottery sherds inscribed in Etruscan that were found in 1885 at Ephestia in Lemnos.

However, the Lemnos funerary stele was written in a form of ancient Etruscan, which suggested that the author had emigrated from Etruria in Italy, rather than the Greek sphere, and the Homeric tradition makes no mention of a Tyrrhenian presence on Lemnos.

If Etruscan was spoken in Greece, it must have been effectively a language isolate, with no significant relationship to or interaction with speakers of pre-Greek or ancient Greek, since, in the words of C. De Simone, there are no Etruscan words that can be “etymologically traced back to a single, common ancestral form with a Greek equivalent.”

In 1979, Edzard J. Furnée proposed a theory by which a pre-Greek substrate is associated with the Kartvelian languages.

Proto Greek

The Proto-Greek language (also known as Proto-Hellenic) is an Indo-European language. It is assumed to be the last common ancestor of all known varieties of Greek, including Mycenaean Greek, the subsequent ancient Greek dialects (i.e., Attic, Ionic, Aeolic, Doric, Ancient Macedonian and Arcadocypriot) and, ultimately, Koine, Byzantine and Modern Greek.

The unity of Proto-Greek would have ended as Hellenic migrants, who spoke the predecessor of the Mycenaean language, entered the Greek peninsula sometime in the Bronze Age. Proto-Greek was originally a dialect of the Proto-Indo-European language.

In the late Neolithic, speakers of this dialect, which would become Proto-Greek, migrated from their homeland northeast of the Black Sea to the Balkans and into the Greek peninsula. The evolution of Proto-Greek could be considered within the context of an early Paleo-Balkan sprachbund that makes it difficult to delineate exact boundaries between individual languages.

The characteristically Greek representation of word-initial laryngeals by prothetic vowels is shared, for one, by the Armenian language, which also seems to share some other phonological and morphological peculiarities of Greek; this has led some linguists to propose a hypothetically closer relationship between Greek and Armenian, although evidence remains scant.

Proto-Greek is mostly placed in the Early Helladic period (late 4th millennium BC; circa 3200 BC) towards the end of the Neolithic in Southern Europe. Russell Gray and Quentin Atkinson, in a 2003 paper using computational methods on Swadesh lists, have arrived at a somewhat earlier estimate: around 5000 BC for Graeco-Armenian or proto Graeco-Aryan split, and the emergence of Greek and Armenian as separate linguistic lineages around 4000 BC.

Mycenaean Greek

Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, on the Greek mainland, Crete and Cyprus in Mycenaean Greece (16th to 12th centuries BC), before the hypothesised Dorian invasion, often cited as the terminus ad quem for the introduction of the Greek language to Greece.

The language is preserved in inscriptions in Linear B, a script which consists of about 200 syllabic signs and logograms first attested on Crete before the 14th century. It is descended from the older Linear A, an undeciphered earlier script used for writing the Minoan language, as is the later Cypriot syllabary, which also recorded Greek. 

Since Linear B was derived from Linear A, the script of an undeciphered Minoan language, the sounds of Mycenaean are not fully represented. In essence, a limited number of syllabic signs must represent a much greater number of produced syllables that would be more concisely represented by the letters of an alphabet.

The script predates the Greek alphabet by several centuries. The oldest Mycenaean writing dates to about 1450 BC. It is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek.

They consists of around 87 syllabic signs and over 100 ideographic signs. These ideograms or “signifying” signs symbolize objects or commodities. They have no phonetic value and are never used as word signs in writing a sentence.

Most inscriptions are on clay tablets found in the palace archives at Knossos, in central Crete, as well as in Pylos, in the southwest of the Peloponnese. Other tablets have been found at Mycenae itself, Tiryns and Thebes and at Chania, in Western Crete. The language is named after Mycenae, one of the major centres of Mycenaean Greece.

The application of Linear B appears to have been confined to administrative contexts. In all the thousands of clay tablets, a relatively small number of different “hands” have been detected: 45 in Pylos (west coast of the Peloponnese, in southern Greece) and 66 in Knossos (Crete). It is possible that the script was used only by a guild of professional scribes who served the central palaces. 

Linear B disappeared with the fall of Mycenaean civilization during the Late Bronze Age collapse. The succeeding period, known as the Greek Dark Ages, provides no evidence of the use of writing. It is also the only one of the Bronze Age Aegean scripts to have been deciphered, by English architect and self-taught linguist Michael Ventris.

The tablets long remained undeciphered, and many languages were suggested for them, until Michael Ventris deciphered the script in 1952. The texts on the tablets are mostly lists and inventories. No prose narrative survives, much less myth or poetry. Still, much may be glimpsed from these records about the people who produced them and about Mycenaean Greece, the period before the so-called Greek Dark Ages.

While the use of Mycenaean Greek may have ceased with the fall of the Mycenaean civilization, some traces of it are found in the later Greek dialects. In particular, Arcadocypriot Greek, an ancient Greek dialect spoken in Arcadia in the central Peloponnese and in Cyprus, is believed to be rather close to Mycenaean Greek.

Arcadocypriot was an ancient Greek dialect spoken in Arcadia (central Peloponnese), and in Cyprus. Proto-Arcadocypriot (around 1200 BC) is supposed to have been spoken by Achaeans in the Peloponnese before the arrival of Dorians, so it is also called southern Achaean. The isoglosses of the Cypriot and Arcadian dialects testify that the Achaeans had settled in Cyprus.

Ancient Pamphylian, a little-attested and isolated dialect of Ancient Greek that was spoken in Pamphylia, on the southern coast of Asia Minor, also shows some similarity to Arcadocypriot and to Mycenaean Greek.

The Proto Greek Language

The Proto-Greek language is the assumed last common ancestor of all known varieties of Greek, including Mycenaean, the classical Greek dialects (Attic-Ionic, Aeolic, Doric and Arcado-Cypriot), and ultimately Koine, Byzantine and modern Greek. Some scholars would include the fragmentary ancient Macedonian language, either as descended from an earlier “Proto-Hellenic” language, or by definition including it among the descendants of Proto-Greek as a Hellenic language and/or a Greek dialect.

Proto-Greek would have been spoken in the late 3rd millennium BC, most probably in the Balkans. The unity of Proto-Greek would have ended as Hellenic migrants, speaking the predecessor of the Mycenaean language, entered the Greek peninsula either around the 21st century BC, or in the 17th century BC at the latest.

The evolution of Proto-Greek should be considered with the background of an early Palaeo-Balkan sprachbund that makes it difficult to delineate exact boundaries between individual languages. The characteristically Greek representation of word-initial laryngeals by prothetic vowels is shared by the Armenian language, which also shares other phonological and morphological peculiarities of Greek. The close relatedness of Armenian and Greek sheds light on the paraphyletic nature of the Centum-Satem isogloss.

Greek is a Centum language, which would place a possible Graeco-Aryan protolanguage before Satemization, making it identical to late PIE. Proto-Greek does appear to have been affected by the general trend of palatalization characteristic of the Satem group, evidenced for example by the (post-Mycenaean) change of labiovelars into dentals before e (e.g. kʷe > te “and”), but the Satemizing influence appears to have reached Greek only after Greek had lost the palatovelars (i.e. after it had already become a Centum language).

Proto-Greek inherited the augment, a prefix é- to verbal forms expressing past tense. This feature it shares only with Indo-Iranian and Phrygian (and to some extent, Armenian), lending some support to a “Graeco-Aryan” or “Inner PIE” proto-dialect. However, the augment down to the time of Homer remained optional, and was probably little more than a free sentence particle meaning “previously” in the proto-language, that may easily have been lost by most other branches.

Graeco-Aryan (or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan) is a hypothetical clade within the Indo-European family, ancestral to the Greek language, the Armenian language, and the Indo-Iranian languages. Graeco-Aryan unity would have become divided into Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian by the mid 3rd millennium BC. The Phrygian language would also be included. Conceivably, Proto-Armenian would have been located between Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian, consistent with the fact that Armenian shares certain features only with Indo-Iranian (the satem change) but others only with Greek (s > h).

Graeco-Armeno-Aryan has comparatively wide support among Indo-Europeanists for the Indo-European Homeland to be located in the Armenian Highland. Early and strong evidence was given by Euler’s 1979 examination on shared features in Greek and Sanskrit nominal flection.

Used in tandem with the Graeco-Armeno-Aryan hypothesis, the Armenian language would also be included under the label Aryano-Greco-Armenic, splitting into proto-Greek/Phrygian and “Armeno-Aryan” (ancestor of Armenian and Indo-Iranian).

In the context of the Kurgan hypothesis, Greco-Aryan is also known as “Late PIE” or “Late Indo-European” (LIE), suggesting that Greco-Aryan forms a dialect group which corresponds to the latest stage of linguistic unity in the Indo-European homeland in the early part of the 3rd millennium BC. By 2500 BC, Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had separated, moving westward and eastward from the Pontic Steppe, respectively.

If Graeco-Aryan is a valid group, Grassmann’s law may have a common origin in Greek and Sanskrit. (Note, however, that Grassmann’s law in Greek postdates certain sound changes that happened only in Greek and not Sanskrit, which suggests that it cannot strictly be an inheritance from a common Graeco-Aryan stage. Rather, it is more likely an areal feature that spread across a then-contiguous Graeco-Aryan-speaking area after early Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had developed into separate dialects but before they ceased being in geographic contact.)

Close similarities between Ancient Greek and Vedic Sanskrit suggest that both Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian were still quite similar to either late Proto-Indo-European, which would place the latter somewhere in the late 4th millennium BC, or a post-PIE Graeco-Aryan proto-language. Graeco-Aryan has little support among linguists, since both geographical and temporal distribution of Greek and Indo-Iranian fit well with the Kurgan hypothesis of Proto-Indo-European.

Ionic and Attic Greek

Ionic Greek was a subdialect of the Attic–Ionic or Eastern dialect group of Ancient Greek. The Ionic dialect appears to have originally spread from the Greek mainland across the Aegean at the time of the Dorian invasions, around the 11th century BC during the early Greek Dark Ages.

By the end of Archaic Greece and early Classical Greece in the 5th century BC, the central west coast of Asia Minor, along with the islands of Chios and Samos, formed the heartland of Ionia proper. The Ionic dialect was also spoken on islands across the central Aegean and on the large island of Euboea north of Athens. The dialect was soon spread by Ionian colonization to areas in the northern Aegean, the Black Sea, and the western Mediterranean, including Magna Graecia in Sicily and Italy.

The Ionic dialect is generally divided into two major time periods, Old Ionic (or Old Ionian) and New Ionic (or New Ionian). The transition between the two is not clearly defined, but 600 BC is a good approximation.

The works of Homer (The Iliad, The Odyssey, and the Homeric Hymns) and of Hesiod were written in a literary dialect called Homeric Greek or Epic Greek, which largely comprises Old Ionic, with some borrowings from the neighboring Aeolic dialect to the north. The poet Archilochus wrote in late Old Ionic. The most famous New Ionic authors are Anacreon, Theognis, Herodotus, Hippocrates, and, in Roman times, Aretaeus, Arrian, and Lucian.

Ionic acquired prestige among Greek speakers because of its association with the language used by both Homer and Herodotus and the close linguistic relationship with the Attic dialect as spoken in Athens.

This was further enhanced by the writing reform implemented in Athens in 403 BC, whereby the old Attic alphabet was replaced by the Ionic alphabet, as used by the city of Miletus. This alphabet eventually became the standard Greek alphabet, its use becoming uniform during the Koine era. It was also the alphabet used in the Christian Gospels and the book of Acts.

Attic Greek is the Greek dialect of the ancient city-state of Athens. Of the ancient dialects, it is the most similar to later Greek and is the standard form of the language that is studied in ancient Greek language courses. Attic Greek is sometimes included in the Ionic dialect. Together, Attic and Ionic are the primary influences on Modern Greek.

Greek is the primary member of the Hellenic branch of the Indo-European language family. In ancient times, Greek had already come to exist in several dialects, one of which was Attic. The earliest attestations of Greek, dating from the 16th to 11th centuries BC, are written in Linear B, an archaic writing system used by the Mycenaean Greeks in writing their language; the distinction between Eastern and Western Greek is believed to have arisen by Mycenaean times or before.

Mycenaean Greek represents an early form of Eastern Greek, the group to which Attic also belongs. Later Greek literature wrote about three main dialects: Aeolic, Doric, and Ionic; Attic was part of the Ionic dialect group. “Old Attic” is used in reference to the dialect of Thucydides (460–400 BC) and the dramatists of 5th-century Athens whereas “New Attic” is used for the language of later writers following conventionally the accession in 285 BC of Greek-speaking Ptolemy II to the throne of the Kingdom of Egypt. Ruling from Alexandria, Ptolemy launched the Alexandrian period, during which the city of Alexandria and its expatriate Greek-medium scholars flourished.

The original range of the spoken Attic dialect included Attica and a number of the central Cyclades islands; the closely related Ionic was also spoken along the western and northwestern coasts of Asia Minor in modern Turkey, in Chalcidice, Thrace, Euboea, and in some colonies of Magna Graecia.

Eventually, the texts of literary Attic were widely studied far beyond their homeland: first in the classical civilizations of the Mediterranean, including in Ancient Rome and the larger Hellenistic world, and later in the Muslim world, Europe, and other parts of the world touched by those civilizations.

Ancient Macedonians

The Macedonians were an ancient tribe that lived on the alluvial plain around the rivers Haliacmon and lower Axios in the northeastern part of mainland Greece. Essentially an ancient Greek people, they gradually expanded from their homeland along the Haliacmon valley on the northern edge of the Greek world, absorbing or driving out neighbouring non-Greek tribes, primarily Thracian and Illyrian.

Macedonia had a distinct material culture by the Early Iron Age. Typically Balkan burial, ornamental, and ceramic forms were used for most of the Iron Age. These features suggest broad cultural affinities and organizational structures analogous with Thracian, Epirote, and Illyrian regions. This did not necessarily symbolize a shared cultural identity, or any political allegiance between these regions.

In the late sixth century BC, Macedonia became open to south Greek influences, although a small but detectable amount of interaction with the south had been present since late Mycenaean times. By the 5th century BC, Macedonia was a part of the “Greek cultural milieu” according to Edward M. Anson, possessing many cultural traits typical of the southern Greek city-states.

Classical Greek objects and customs were appropriated selectively and used in peculiarly Macedonian ways. In addition, influences from Achaemenid Persia in culture and economy are evident from the 5th century BC onward, such as the inclusion of Persian grave goods at Macedonian burial sites as well as the adoption of royal customs such as a Persian-style throne during the reign of Philip II.

They spoke Ancient Macedonian, a language closely related to Ancient Greek or a Doric Greek dialect, although the prestige language of the region was at first Attic and then Koine Greek. Their religious beliefs mirrored those of other Greeks, following the main deities of the Greek pantheon, although the Macedonians continued Archaic burial practices that had ceased in other parts of Greece after the 6th century BC.

Although composed of various clans, the kingdom of Macedonia, established around the 8th century BC, is mostly associated with the Argead dynasty and the tribe named after it. The Argead dynasty was an ancient Macedonian royal house of Dorian Greek provenance. They were the founders and the ruling dynasty of the kingdom of Macedon from about 700 to 310 BC.

Their tradition, as described in ancient Greek historiography, traced their origins to Argos, in Peloponnese, hence the name Argeads or Argives. Initially the rulers of the homonymous tribe, by the time of Philip II they had expanded their reign further, to include under the rule of Macedonia all Upper Macedonian states.

The family’s most celebrated members were Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great, under whose leadership the kingdom of Macedonia gradually gained predominance throughout Greece, defeated the Achaemenid Empire and expanded as far as Egypt and India. The mythical founder of the Argead dynasty is King Caranus.

Aside from the monarchy, the core of Macedonian society was its nobility. Similar to the aristocracy of neighboring Thessaly, their wealth was largely built on herding horses and cattle. The dynasty was allegedly founded by Perdiccas I, descendant of the legendary Temenus of Argos, while the region of Macedon perhaps derived its name from Makedon, a figure of Greek mythology.

Traditionally ruled by independent families, the Macedonians seem to have accepted Argead rule by the time of Alexander I (r. 498–454 BC– ). Under Philip II (r. 359–336 BC– ), the Macedonians are credited with numerous military innovations, which enlarged their territory and increased their control over other areas extending into Thrace.

This consolidation of territory allowed for the exploits of Alexander the Great (r. 336–323 BC– ), the conquest of the Achaemenid Empire, the establishment of the diadochi successor states, and the inauguration of the Hellenistic period in West Asia, Greece, and the broader Mediterranean world.

The Macedonians were eventually conquered by the Roman Republic, which dismantled the Macedonian monarchy at the end of the Third Macedonian War (171–168 BC) and established the Roman province of Macedonia after the Fourth Macedonian War (150–148 BC). Authors, historians, and statesmen of the ancient world often expressed ambiguous if not conflicting ideas about the ethnic identity of the Macedonians as either Greeks, semi-Greeks, or even barbarians.

This has led to debate among modern academics about the precise ethnic identity of the Macedonians, who nevertheless embraced many aspects of contemporaneous Greek culture such as participation in Greek religious cults and athletic games, including the Ancient Olympic Games. Given the scant linguistic evidence, it is not clear how closely related the Macedonian language was to Greek, and how close it was to the Phrygian, Thracian, and Illyrian languages.

The ancient Macedonians participated in the production and fostering of Classical and later Hellenistic art. In terms of visual arts, they produced frescoes, mosaics, sculptures, and decorative metalwork. The performing arts of music and Greek theatrical dramas were highly appreciated, while famous playwrights such as Euripides came to live in Macedonia.

The kingdom also attracted the presence of renowned philosophers, such as Aristotle, while native Macedonians contributed to the field of ancient Greek literature, especially Greek historiography. Their sport and leisure activities included hunting, foot races, and chariot races, as well as feasting and drinking at aristocratic banquets known as symposia.

Ancient Macedonian Language

Ancient Macedonian, the language of the ancient Macedonians, either a dialect of Ancient Greek, or a separate Hellenic language, was spoken in the kingdom of Macedonia during the 1st millennium BC and belongs to the Indo-European language family. It gradually fell out of use during the 4th century BC, marginalized by the use of Attic Greek by the Macedonian aristocracy, the Ancient Greek dialect that became the basis of Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the Hellenistic period.

The surviving public and private inscriptions found in Macedonia indicate that there was no other written language in ancient Macedonia but Ancient Greek, and recent epigraphic discoveries in the Greek region of Macedonia, such as the Pella curse tablet, suggest that ancient Macedonian might have been a variety of North Western Ancient Greek. Other linguistic evidence suggests that although Ancient Greek was the language of literacy, the vernacular was a separate language, although closely related.

Due to the fragmentary attestation of this language or dialect, various interpretations are possible, with solid sources pointing that Ancient Macedonian is in fact a variation of Doric Greek, but also the possibility of being only related through the local sprachbund.

Suggested phylogenetic classifications of Macedonian include: A Greek dialect, part of the North-Western (Locrian, Aetolian, Phocidian, Epirote) variants of Doric Greek, suggested amongst others by N.G.L. Hammond (1989), Olivier Masson (1996), Michael Meier-Brügger (2003), Johannes Engels (2010), and M. B. Hatzopoulos (2011).

A northern Greek dialect, related to Aeolic Greek and Thessalian, suggested among others by A. Fick (1874) and O. Hoffmann (1906). An aberrant form of Greek, with borrowings from Illyrian and Thracian. A Greek dialect with a non-Indo-European substratal influence, suggested by M. Sakellariou (1983) and M. Hatzopoulos (2011).

A sibling language of Greek within Indo-European, according to a scheme in which Macedonian and Greek are the two branches of a Greco-Macedonian subgroup (sometimes called “Hellenic”) suggested by Joseph (2001), Georgiev (1966), and Hamp & Adams (2013).

An Indo-European language that is a close cousin to Attic Greek and also related to Thracian and Phrygian languages, suggested by A. Meillet (1913) and I. I. Russu (1938), or part of a Sprachbund encompassing Thracian, Illyrian and Greek (Kretschmer 1896, E. Schwyzer 1959).

As a consequence of the Macedonians’ role in the formation of the Koine, Macedonian contributed considerable elements, unsurprisingly including some military terminology. Among the many contributions were the general use of the first declension grammar for male and female nouns with an -as ending, attested in the genitive of Macedonian coinage from the early 4th century BC of Amyntas III (ΑΜΥΝΤΑ in the genitive; the Attic form that fell into disuse would be ΑΜΥΝΤΟΥ).

There were changes in verb conjugation such as in the Imperative δέξα attested in Macedonian sling stones found in Asiatic battlefields, that became adopted in place of the Attic forms. Koine Greek established a spirantisation of beta, gamma and delta, which has been attributed to the Macedonian influence.

Other adoptions from the ancient Macedonian include the simplification of the sequence /ign/ to /i:n/ (γίνομαι, Attic γίγνομαι) and the loss of aspiration of the consonant cluster /sth/ (> /st/) (γενέσται, Attic γενέσθαι), for example as in a Koine inscription from Dura-Europos from the 2nd or 3rd century AD: “τον Χριστὀν μνἠσκεστε”.

For administrative and political purposes, Attic Greek seems to have operated as a lingua franca among the ethno-linguistically diverse communities of Macedonia and the north Aegean region, creating a diglossic linguistic area.

Attic Greek was standardized as the language of the court, formal discourse and diplomacy from as early as the time of Archelaus at the end of the 5th century BC. Attic was further spread by Macedonia’s conquests. Although Macedonian continued to be spoken well into Antigonid times, it became the prevalent oral dialect in Macedonia and throughout the Macedonian-ruled Hellenistic world.

However, Macedonian became extinct in either the Hellenistic or the Roman period, and entirely replaced by Koine Greek. For instance, Cleopatra VII Philopator, the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, spoke Koine Greek as a first language and by her reign (51–30 BC) or some time before it the Macedonian language was no longer used.

Attempts to classify Ancient Macedonian are hindered by the lack of surviving Ancient Macedonian texts; it was a mainly oral language and most archaeological inscriptions indicate that in Macedonia there was no dominant written language besides Attic and later Koine Greek.

All surviving epigraphical evidence from grave markers and public inscriptions is in Greek. Classification attempts are based on a vocabulary of 150–200 words and 200 personal names assembled mainly from the 5th century lexicon of Hesychius of Alexandria and a few surviving fragmentary inscriptions, coins and occasional passages in ancient sources. Most of the vocabulary is regular Greek, with tendencies toward Doric Greek and Aeolic Greek. There can be found some Illyrian and Thracian elements.

The Pella curse tablet, which was found in 1986 at Pella and dates to the mid-4th century BC or slightly earlier, is believed to be the only substantial attested text in Macedonian. The language of the tablet is a harsh but a distinctly recognizable form of Northwest Greek. The tablet has been used to support the argument that ancient Macedonian was a Northwest Greek dialect and mainly a Doric dialect.

Hatzopoulos’s analysis revealed some tendencies toward the Aeolic Greek dialect. Hatzopoulos also states that the native language of the ancient Macedonians also betrays a slight phonetic influence from the languages of the original inhabitants of the region who were assimilated or expelled by the invading Macedonians. He also asserts that little is known about the languages of these original inhabitants aside from Phrygian spoken by the Bryges, who migrated to Anatolia.

In Macedonian onomastics, most personal names are recognizably Greek (e.g. Alexandros, Philippos, Dionysios, Apollonios, Demetrios), with some dating back to Homeric (e.g. Ptolemaeos) or Mycenean times, though non-Greek names (e.g. “Bithys”) are occasionally found here.

Macedonian toponyms and hydronyms are mostly of Greek origin (e.g. Aegae, Dion, Pieria, Haliacmon), as are the names of the months of the Macedonian calendar and the names of most of the deities the Macedonians worshiped; according to Hammond, these are not late borrowings.

Macedonian has a close structural and lexical affinity with other Greek dialects, especially Northwest Greek and Thessalian. Most of the words are Greek, although some of these could represent loans or cognate forms. Alternatively, a number of phonological, lexical and onomastic features set Macedonian apart. These latter features, possibly representing traces of a substrate language, occur in what are considered to be particularly conservative systems of the language.

Several hypotheses have consequently been proposed as to the position of Macedonian, all of which broadly regard it as either a peripheral Greek dialect, a closely related but separate language (see Hellenic languages), or a hybridized idiom.

Drawing on the similarities between Macedonian, Greek and Brygian, several scholars wrote that they formed an Indo-European macro-dialectical group, which split before circa 14th–13th century BC before the appearance of the main Greek dialects.

The same data has been analyzed in an alternative manner, which regards the formation of the main Greek dialects as a later convergence of related but distinct groups. Macedonian did not fully participate in this process, making its ultimate position—other than being a contiguous, related ‘minor’ language—difficult to define.

Another source of evidence is metalinguistics and the question of mutual intelligibility. The available literary evidence has no details about the exact nature of Macedonian; however it suggests that Macedonian and Greek were sufficiently different that there were communication difficulties between Greek and Macedonian contingents, necessitating the use of interpreters as late as the time of Alexander the Great.

Based on this evidence, Papazoglou has written that Macedonian could not have been a Greek dialect, however, evidence for non-intelligibility exists for other ancient Greek dialects such as Aetolian and Aeolic Greek. Moreover, according to the Athenian orator Aeschines, Livy wrote that when Aemilius Paulus called together representatives of the defeated Macedonian communities, his Latin pronouncements were translated for the benefit of the assembled Macedonians into Greek.

Ancient Greek

Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BC to the 6th century AD. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period (9th to 6th centuries BC), Classical period (5th and 4th centuries BC), and Hellenistic period (Koine Greek, 3rd century BC to 4th century AD).

It is preceded by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by Medieval Greek. Koine is regarded as a separate historical stage although its earliest form closely resembles Attic Greek and its latest form approaches Medieval Greek. There were several regional dialects of Ancient Greek, of which Attic Greek developed into Koine.

Ancient Greek was the language of Homer and of fifth-century Athenian historians, playwrights, and philosophers. It has contributed many words to English vocabulary and has been a standard subject of study in educational institutions of the Western world since the Renaissance. This article primarily contains information about the Epic and Classical periods of the language.

Ancient Greek was a pluricentric language, divided into many dialects. The main dialect groups are Attic and Ionic, Aeolic, Arcadocypriot, and Doric, many of them with several subdivisions. Some dialects are found in standardized literary forms used in literature, while others are attested only in inscriptions.

There are also several historical forms. Homeric Greek is a literary form of Archaic Greek (derived primarily from Ionic and Aeolic) used in the epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, and in later poems by other authors. Homeric Greek had significant differences in grammar and pronunciation from Classical Attic and other Classical-era dialects.

The origins, early form and development of the Hellenic language family are not well understood because of a lack of contemporaneous evidence. Several theories exist about what Hellenic dialect groups may have existed between the divergence of early Greek-like speech from the common Proto-Indo-European language and the Classical period.

They have the same general outline, but differ in some of the detail. The only attested dialect from this period is Mycenaean Greek, but its relationship to the historical dialects and the historical circumstances of the times imply that the overall groups already existed in some form.

Scholars assume that major ancient Greek period dialect groups developed not later than 1120 BC, at the time of the Dorian invasion(s)—and that their first appearances as precise alphabetic writing began in the 8th century BC.

The invasion would not be “Dorian” unless the invaders had some cultural relationship to the historical Dorians. The invasion is known to have displaced population to the later Attic-Ionic regions, who regarded themselves as descendants of the population displaced by or contending with the Dorians.

The Greeks of this period believed there were three major divisions of all Greek people – Dorians, Aeolians, and Ionians (including Athenians), each with their own defining and distinctive dialects. Allowing for their oversight of Arcadian, an obscure mountain dialect, and Cypriot, far from the center of Greek scholarship, this division of people and language is quite similar to the results of modern archaeological-linguistic investigation.

West vs. non-West Greek is the strongest-marked and earliest division, with non-West in subsets of Ionic-Attic (or Attic-Ionic) and Aeolic vs. Arcadocypriot, or Aeolic and Arcado-Cypriot vs. Ionic-Attic. Often non-West is called ‘East Greek’. Arcadocypriot apparently descended more closely from the Mycenaean Greek of the Bronze Age.

Boeotian had come under a strong Northwest Greek influence, and can in some respects be considered a transitional dialect. Thessalian likewise had come under Northwest Greek influence, though to a lesser degree. Pamphylian Greek, spoken in a small area on the southwestern coast of Anatolia and little preserved in inscriptions, may be either a fifth major dialect group, or it is Mycenaean Greek overlaid by Doric, with a non-Greek native influence.

Most of the dialect sub-groups listed above had further subdivisions, generally equivalent to a city-state and its surrounding territory, or to an island. Doric notably had several intermediate divisions as well, into Island Doric (including Cretan Doric), Southern Peloponnesus Doric (including Laconian, the dialect of Sparta), and Northern Peloponnesus Doric (including Corinthian). The Lesbian dialect was Aeolic Greek.

All the groups were represented by colonies beyond Greece proper as well, and these colonies generally developed local characteristics, often under the influence of settlers or neighbors speaking different Greek dialects.

The dialects outside the Ionic group are known mainly from inscriptions, notable exceptions being fragments of the works of the poet Sappho from the island of Lesbos, in Aeolian, and the poems of the Boeotian poet Pindar and other lyric poets, usually in Doric.

After the conquests of Alexander the Great in the late 4th century BC, a new international dialect known as Koine or Common Greek developed, largely based on Attic Greek, but with influence from other dialects.

This dialect slowly replaced most of the older dialects, although the Doric dialect has survived in the Tsakonian language, which is spoken in the region of modern Sparta. Doric has also passed down its aorist terminations into most verbs of Demotic Greek. By about the 6th century CE, the Koine had slowly metamorphosed into Medieval Greek.

Ancient Macedonian was an Indo-European language. Because of no surviving sample texts, it is impossible to ascertain whether it was a Greek dialect or even related to the Greek language at all. Its exact relationship remains unclear. Macedonian could also be related to Thracian and Phrygian languages to some extent.

The Macedonian dialect (or language) appears to have been replaced by Attic Greek during the Hellenistic period. Late 20th century epigraphic discoveries in the Greek region of Macedonia, such as the Pella curse tablet, suggest that ancient Macedonian has been a variety of north-western ancient Greek or replaced by a Greek dialect.

Pre Greeks

Greece

History of Greece

Byzantine Empire

Byzantine Greece

Barbarian invasions

Frankish/Latin Greece

Ottoman Greece

Modern Greece

Ancient Macedonians

Ancient Macedonians

Ancient Macedonian language

Ancient Macedonian calendar

Greek Language

History of the Greek language

Greek language

History of the Greek language

Hellenic languages

Proto-Greek language

Mycenaean language

Mycenaean Greek

Koine Greek

Ancient Greek dialects

Linear B

 

Phrygians

The Phrygians were an ancient Indo-European people, initially dwelling in the southern Balkans – according to Herodotus – under the name of Bryges (Briges), changing it to Phryges after their final migration to Anatolia, via the Hellespont. However, the Balkan origins of the Phrygians are debated by modern scholars.

From tribal and village beginnings, the state of Phrygia arose in the eighth century BC with its capital at Gordium. The Phrygian Kingdom, based out of Gordium, arose in the eighth century BC. Around 690 BC, it was invaded by the Cimmerians.

A series of digs have opened Gordium as one of Turkey’s most revealing archeological sites. Excavations confirm a violent destruction of Gordion around 675 BC. A tomb of the Midas period, popularly identified as the “Tomb of Midas” revealed a wooden structure deeply buried under a vast tumulus, containing grave goods, a coffin, furniture, and food offerings (Archaeological Museum, Ankara). The Gordium site contains a considerable later building program, perhaps by Alyattes, the Lydian king, in the 6th century BC.

Phrygia was briefly conquered by its neighbour Lydia, before it passed successively into the Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great and later the empire of Alexander and his successors. After this, it was taken by the Attalids of Pergamon, and eventually became part of the Roman Empire. The last mention of the Phrygian language in literature dates to the fifth century AD and it was likely extinct by the seventh century.

The Phrygians spoke Phrygian, an Indo-European language. Some contemporary historians, among whom Strabo is the best known, considered the Phrygians to be a Thracian tribe, part of a wider “Thraco-Phrygian” group.

Other linguists dismiss this hypothesis since Thracian (and hence Daco-Thracian) seems to belong to the Satem group of Indo-European languages, while Phrygian shared several similarities with other Indo-European languages of the Centum group (like Latin, Greek or the Anatolian languages).

According to this second group of linguists, of all the Indo-European languages, Phrygian seems to have been most closely linked to Greek, suggesting that the two languages belonged to the same dialectal subgroup of early Indo-European.

Although the Phrygians adopted the alphabet originated by the Phoenicians and ultimately from Ancient Egyptians, only a few dozen inscriptions in the Phrygian language have been found, primarily funereal, so much of what is thought to be known of Phrygia is second-hand information from Greek sources.

Based on archaeological evidence, some scholars such as Nicholas Hammond and Eugene N. Borza argue that the Phrygians were members of the Lusatian culture that migrated into the southern Balkans during the Late Bronze Age.

However, the lack of western (European) ceramic ware, and the continuation of the pre-Bronze Age collapse pottery styles in central Asia Minor, have led some scholars to reject a Balkan or European origin for the Phrygians.

A conventional date of c. 1180 BC is often used for the influx (traditionally from Thrace) of the pre-Phrygian Bryges or Mushki, corresponding to the very end of the Hittite empire. Following this date, Phrygia retained a separate cultural identity.

In classical Greek iconography the Trojan Paris is represented as non-Greek by his Phrygian cap, which was worn by Mithras and survived into modern imagery as the “Liberty cap” of the American and French revolutionaries.

Phrygia developed an advanced Bronze Age culture. The earliest traditions of Greek music are in part connected to Phrygian music, transmitted through the Greek colonies in Anatolia, especially the Phrygian mode, which was considered to be the warlike mode in ancient Greek music. Phrygian Midas, the king of the “golden touch”, was tutored in music by Orpheus himself, according to the myth.

The Phrygian mode can refer to three different musical modes: the ancient Greek tonos or harmonia sometimes called Phrygian, formed on a particular set of octave species or scales; the Medieval Phrygian mode, and the modern conception of the Phrygian mode as a diatonic scale, based on the latter.

Another musical invention that came from Phrygia was the aulos, a reed instrument with two pipes. Marsyas, the satyr who first formed the instrument using the hollowed antler of a stag, was a Phrygian follower of Cybele. He unwisely competed in music with the Olympian Apollo and inevitably lost, whereupon Apollo flayed Marsyas alive and provocatively hung his skin on Cybele’s own sacred tree, a pine.

It was the “Great Mother”, Cybele, as the Greeks and Romans knew her, who was originally worshipped in the mountains of Phrygia, where she was known as “Mountain Mother”. In her typical Phrygian form, she wears a long belted dress, a polos (a high cylindrical headdress), and a veil covering the whole body.

The later version of Cybele was established by a pupil of Phidias, the sculptor Agoracritus, and became the image most widely adopted by Cybele’s expanding following, both in the Aegean world and at Rome. It shows her humanized though still enthroned, her hand resting on an attendant lion and the other holding the tympanon, a circular frame drum, similar to a tambourine.

The Phrygians also venerated Sabazios, the sky and father-god depicted on horseback. Although the Greeks associated Sabazios with Zeus, representations of him, even at Roman times, show him as a horseman god.

His conflicts with the indigenous Mother Goddess, whose creature was the Lunar Bull, may be surmised in the way that Sabazios’ horse places a hoof on the head of a bull, in a Roman relief at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The name of the earliest known mythical king was Nannacus (aka Annacus). This king resided at Iconium, the most eastern city of the kingdom of Phrygia at that time, and after his death, at the age of 300 years, a great flood overwhelmed the country, as had been foretold by an ancient oracle.

The next king mentioned in extant classical sources was called Manis or Masdes. According to Plutarch, because of his splendid exploits, great things were called “manic” in Phrygia. Thereafter the kingdom of Phrygia seems to have become fragmented among various kings.

One of the kings was Tantalus who ruled over the north western region of Phrygia around Mount Sipylus. Tantalus was endlessly punished in Tartarus, because he allegedly killed his son Pelops and sacrificially offered him to the Olympians, a reference to the suppression of human sacrifice. Tantalus was also falsely accused of stealing from the lotteries he had invented.

In the mythic age before the Trojan war, during a time of an interregnum, Gordius (or Gordias), a Phrygian farmer, became king, fulfilling an oracular prophecy. The kingless Phrygians had turned for guidance to the oracle of Sabazios (“Zeus” to the Greeks) at Telmissus, in the part of Phrygia that later became part of Galatia.

They had been instructed by the oracle to acclaim as their king the first man who rode up to the god’s temple in a cart. That man was Gordias (Gordios, Gordius), a farmer, who dedicated the ox-cart in question, tied to its shaft with the “Gordian Knot”.

Gordias refounded a capital at Gordium in west central Anatolia, situated on the old trackway through the heart of Anatolia that became Darius’s Persian “Royal Road” from Pessinus to Ancyra, and not far from the River Sangarius.

Later mythic kings of Phrygia were alternately named Gordias and Midas. Myths surround the first king Midas. connecting him with a mythological tale concerning Attis. This shadowy figure resided at Pessinus and attempted to marry his daughter to the young Attis in spite of the opposition of his lover Agdestis and his mother, the goddess Cybele. When Agdestis or Cybele appear and cast madness upon the members of the wedding feast. Midas is said to have died in the ensuing chaos.

The famous king Midas was said to be a son of the kind Gordius mentioned above. He is said to have associated himself with Silenus and other satyrs and with Dionysus, who granted him the famous “golden touch”.

The mythic Midas of Thrace, accompanied by a band of his people, traveled to Asia Minor to wash away the taint of his unwelcome “golden touch” in the river Pactolus. Leaving the gold in the river’s sands, Midas found himself in Phrygia, where he was adopted by the childless king Gordias and taken under the protection of Cybele. Acting as the visible representative of Cybele, and under her authority, it would seem, a Phrygian king could designate his successor.

According to the Iliad, the Phrygians were Trojan allies during the Trojan War. The Phrygia of Homer’s Iliad appears to be located in the area that embraced the Ascanian lake and the northern flow of the Sangarius river and so was much more limited in extent than classical Phrygia.

Homer’s Iliad also includes a reminiscence by the Trojan king Priam, who had in his youth come to aid the Phrygians against the Amazons (Iliad 3.189). During this episode (a generation before the Trojan War), the Phrygians were said to be led by Otreus and Mygdon.

Both appear to be little more than eponyms: there was a place named Otrea on the Ascanian Lake, in the vicinity of the later Nicaea; and the Mygdones were a people of Asia Minor, who resided near Lake Dascylitis (there was also a Mygdonia in Macedonia).

During the Trojan War, the Phrygians sent forces to aid Troy, led by Ascanius and Phorcys, the sons of Aretaon. Asius, son of Dymas and brother of Hecabe, is another Phrygian noble who fought before Troy.

Quintus Smyrnaeus mentions another Phrygian prince, named Coroebus, son of Mygdon, who fought and died at Troy; he had sued for the hand of the Trojan princess Cassandra in marriage. King Priam’s wife Hecabe is usually said to be of Phrygian birth, as a daughter of King Dymas.

The Phrygian Sibyl was the priestess presiding over the Apollonian oracle at Phrygia. The sibyls were oracles in Ancient Greece. The earliest sibyls, according to legend, prophesied at holy sites. Their prophecies were influenced by divine inspiration from a deity; originally at Delphi and Pessinos. In Late Antiquity, various writers attested to the existence of sibyls in Greece, Italy, the Levant, and Asia Minor.

The English word sibyl comes—via the Old French sibile and the Latin sibylla—from the ancient Greek Sibulla. Varro derived the name from theobule (“divine counsel”), but modern philologists mostly propose an Old Italic or alternatively a Semitic etymology.

Herodotus, claims the priests of Hephaestus told him a story that the Egyptian pharaoh Psammetichus had two children raised in isolation in order to find the original language. The children were reported to have uttered bekos meaning “bread” in Phrygian. It was then acknowledged by the Egyptians that the Phrygians were a nation older than the Egyptians.

Josephus claimed the Phrygians were founded by the biblical figure Togarmah, grandson of Japheth and son of Gomer: “and Thrugramma the Thrugrammeans, who, as the Greeks resolved, were named Phrygians”.

After the collapse of the Hittite Empire at the beginning of the twelfth century BC, the political vacuum in central-western Anatolia was filled by a wave of Indo-European migrants and “Sea Peoples”, including the Phrygians, who established their kingdom with a capital eventually at Gordium.

It is presently unknown whether the Phrygians were actively involved in the collapse of the Hittite capital Hattusa or whether they simply moved into the vacuum left by the collapse of Hittite hegemony. The so-called Handmade Knobbed Ware was found by archaeologists at sites from this period in Western Anatolia.

According to Greek mythographers, Midas had been king of the Phrygians, who were originally called the Bryges (Brigi) and came from the western part of archaic Thrace or Macedon. Midas has been linked to the Mushki king Mita.

However, the origins of the Mushki, and their connection to the Phrygians, is uncertain. Some scholars have suggested that Mita was a Luwian name (it was recorded in Asia Minor in the 15th century BCE).

Though the migration theory is still defended by many modern historians, most archaeologists have abandoned the migration hypothesis regarding the origin of the Phrygians due to a lack substantial archeological evidence, with the migration theory resting only on the accounts of Herodotus and Xanthus.

Assyrian sources from the 8th century BC speak of a king Mita of the Mushki, identified with king Midas of Phrygia. An Assyrian inscription records Mita as an ally of Sargon of Assyria in 709 BC. A distinctive Phrygian pottery called Polished Ware appears in the 8th century BC. The Phrygians founded a powerful kingdom which lasted until the Lydian ascendancy (7th century BC).

Under kings alternately named Gordias and Midas, the independent Phrygian kingdom of the 8th and 7th centuries BC maintained close trade contacts with her neighbours in the east and the Greeks in the west. Phrygia seems to have been able to co-exist with whatever power was dominant in eastern Anatolia at the time.

The invasion of Anatolia in the late 8th century BC to early 7th century BC by the Cimmerians was to prove fatal to independent Phrygia. Cimmerian pressure and attacks culminated in the suicide of its last king, Midas, according to legend. Gordium fell to the Cimmerians in 696 BC and was sacked and burnt, as reported much later by Herodotus.

A series of digs have opened Gordium as one of Turkey’s most revealing archeological sites. Excavations confirm a violent destruction of Gordion around 675 BC. A tomb of the Midas period, popularly identified as the “Tomb of Midas” revealed a wooden structure deeply buried under a vast tumulus, containing grave goods, a coffin, furniture, and food offerings (Archaeological Museum, Ankara). The Gordium site contains a considerable later building program, perhaps by Alyattes, the Lydian king, in the 6th century BC.

Minor Phrygian kingdoms continued to exist after the end of the Phrygian empire, and the Phrygian art and culture continued to flourish. Cimmerian people stayed in Anatolia but do not appear to have created a kingdom of their own.

The Lydians repulsed the Cimmerians in the 620s, and Phrygia was subsumed into a short-lived Lydian empire. The eastern part of the former Phrygian empire fell into the hands of the Medes in 585 BC.

Under the proverbially rich King Croesus (reigned 560–546 BC), Phrygia remained part of the Lydian empire that extended east to the Halys River. There may be an echo of strife with Lydia and perhaps a veiled reference to royal hostages, in the legend of the twice-unlucky Adrastus, the son of a King Gordias with the queen, Eurynome. He accidentally killed his brother and exiled himself to Lydia, where King Croesus welcomed him. Once again, Adrastus accidentally killed Croesus’ son and then committed suicide.

Lydian Croesus was conquered by Cyrus in 546 BC, and Phrygia passed under Persian dominion. After Darius became Persian Emperor in 521 BC, he remade the ancient trade route into the Persian “Royal Road” and instituted administrative reforms that included setting up satrapies (provinces).

In the 5th century, Phrygia was made into two administrative provinces, that of Hellespontine Phrygia (or Lesser Phrygia), with its provincial capital established at Dascylium, and the province of Greater Phrygia.

The Phrygian cap

The Phrygian cap, or liberty cap, is a soft conical cap with the apex bent over, associated in antiquity with several peoples in Eastern Europe and Anatolia, including Phrygia, Dacia, and the Balkans. During the French Revolution it came to signify freedom and the pursuit of liberty, although Phrygian caps did not originally function as liberty caps.

The original cap of liberty was the Roman pileus, the felt cap of manumitted (emancipated) slaves of ancient Rome, which was an attribute of Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty. In the 16th century, the Roman iconography of liberty was revived in emblem books and numismatic handbooks where the figure of Libertas is usually depicted with a pileus.

The most extensive use of a headgear as a symbol of freedom in the first two centuries after the revival of the Roman iconography was made in the Netherlands, where the cap of liberty was adopted in the form of a contemporary hat.

In the 18th century, the traditional liberty cap was widely used in English prints and from 1789 on in French prints, too; but it was not until the early 1790s, that the French cap of liberty was regularly used in the Phrygian form.

It is used in the coat of arms of certain republics or of republican state institutions in the place where otherwise a crown would be used (in the heraldry of monarchies). It thus came to be identified as a symbol of the republican form of government. A number of national personifications, in particular France’s Marianne, are commonly depicted wearing the Phrygian cap.

Bryges

Bryges or Briges (Greek: Βρύγοι or Βρίγες) is the historical name given to a people of the ancient Balkans. They are generally considered to have been related to the Phrygians, who during classical antiquity lived in western Anatolia.

Both names, Bryges and Phrygians, are assumed to be variants of the same root. Based on archaeological evidence, some scholars such as Nicholas Hammond and Eugene N. Borza argue that the Bryges/Phrygians were members of the Lusatian culture that migrated into the southern Balkans during the Late Bronze Age.

The earliest mentions of the Bryges are contained in the historical writings of Herodotus, who relates them to Phrygians, stating that according to the Macedonians, the Bryges “changed their name” to Phryges after migrating into Anatolia, a movement which is thought to have happened between 1200 BC and 800 BC perhaps due to the Bronze Age collapse, particularly the fall of the Hittite Empire and the power vacuum that was created.

In the Balkans, the Bryges occupied central Albania and some parts of northern Epirus, as well as Macedonia, mainly west of the Axios river, but also Mygdonia, which was conquered by the kingdom of Macedon in the early 5th century BC.

They seem to have lived peacefully next to the inhabitants of Macedonia. However, Eugammon in his Telegony, drawing upon earlier epic traditions, mentions that Odysseus commanded the Epirotian Thesprotians against the Bryges. Small groups of Bryges, after the migration to Anatolia and the expansion of the kingdom of Macedon, were still left in northern Pelagonia and around Epidamnus.

Herodotus also mentions that in 492 BC, some Thracian Brygoi or Brygians (Greek: Βρύγοι Θρήικες) fell upon the Persian camp by night, wounding Mardonius himself, though he went on with the campaign until he subdued them.

These Brygoi were later mentioned in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, in the Battle of Philippi, as camp servants of Brutus.[9] However, modern scholars state that a historical link between them and the original Bryges cannot be established.

There is no certain derivation for the name and tribal origin of the Bryges. In 1844, Hermann Müller suggested the name might be related to the same Indo-European root as that of Slavic Breg (shore, hill, slope, mountain), German Berg (mountain) and Illyrian breg (shore) i.e. IE bʰerǵʰ. It would then be cognate with Western European tribal names such as the Celtic Brigantes and the Germanic Burgundians, and semantically motivated by some aspect of the word meanings “high, elevated, noble, illustrious”.

Armeno-Phrygians

The Armeno-Phrygians are a hypothetical people of Southwest Asia in prehistory. There are two conflicting accounts of their origins. Ancient Greek scholars, such as Herodotus, believed that the Phrygians had originated as the Bryges of the Balkans, before migrating to western Anatolia and establishing the kingdom of Phyrgia. After the collapse of the kingdom in the late 7th century BC (following an invasion by Cimmerians), some of the Phyrgians migrated eastward and settled in Armenia.

Some modern scholars instead believe that a proto-Armeno-Phrygian population originated in eastern Anatolia and/or the Armenian Highlands, from where the Phrygians later migrated westward.

The name Armeno-Phrygian is also used for a hypothetical language branch, the proposed “Graeco-Armeno-Aryan” or “Armeno-Aryan” subgroups of the Indo-European language family. Modern studies assert that Armenian is as close to Greek as it is to Indo-Iranian, whereas Phrygian is most closely related to Greek.

The name Mushki apparently referred to both Phrygians and a separate, non-Phrygian people. It was applied to different peoples by different sources and at different times. It is possible that the original usage of Mushki refers to a people originally from the Caucasus region who settled in Anatolia.

Additionally, genetic research does not support significant admixture into the Armenian nation after 1200 BCE, making the Mushki, if they indeed migrated from a Balkan or western Anatolian homeland during or after the Bronze Age Collapse, unlikely candidates for the Proto-Armenians.

Many modern scholars have rejected the Armeno-Phrygians hypothesis, arguing that the linguistic proximity of Greek and Phrygian to Armenian has been overstated. Clackson (2008) asserts that the Armenian language is as close to Indo-Iranian languages as it is to Greek and Phrygian. Ronald I. Kim has noted unique morphological developments connecting Armenian to Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic languages.

Phrygian Language

Phrygian, on the other hand, is considered to have been most likely closely related to Greek. The Phrygian language /ˈfrɪdʒiən/ was the Indo-European language of the Phrygians, spoken in Asia Minor during Classical Antiquity (c. 8th century BC to 5th century AD).

Phrygian is considered by some linguists to have been closely related to Greek and/or Armenian. The similarity of some Phrygian words to Greek ones was observed by Plato in his Cratylus. However, Eric P. Hamp suggests that Phrygian was related to Italo-Celtic in a hypothetical “Northwest Indo-European” group.

Phrygian is attested by two corpora, one dated to between about the 8th and the 4th century BC (Paleo-Phrygian), and then after a period of several centuries from between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD (Neo-Phrygian).

The Paleo-Phrygian corpus is further divided (geographically) into inscriptions of Midas City (M, W), Gordion, Central (C), Bithynia (B), Pteria (P), Tyana (T), Daskyleion (Dask), Bayindir (Bay), and “various” (Dd, documents divers). The Mysian inscriptions seem to be in a separate dialect (in an alphabet with an additional letter, “Mysian s”).

The last mentions of the language date to the 5th century AD and it was likely extinct by the 7th century AD. Paleo-Phrygian used a Phoenician-derived script (its ties with Greek are debated), while Neo-Phrygian used the Greek script.

Its structure, what can be recovered of it, was typically Indo-European, with nouns declined for case (at least four), gender (three) and number (singular and plural), while the verbs are conjugated for tense, voice, mood, person and number. No single word is attested in all its inflectional forms.

Phrygian seems to exhibit an augment, like Greek, Indo-Iranian and Armenian, cf. eberet, probably corresponding to PIE (Proto-Indo-European) *e-bher-e-t (Greek: épʰere with loss of the final t, Sanskrit: ábharat), although comparison to examples like ios … addaket ‘who does … to’, which is not a past tense form (perhaps subjunctive), shows that -et may be from the PIE primary ending *-eti.

It has long been claimed that Phrygian exhibits a sound change of stop consonants, similar to Grimm’s Law in Germanic and, more to the point, sound laws found in Proto-Armenian, i. e. voicing of PIE aspirates, devoicing of PIE voiced stops and aspiration of voiceless stops. This hypothesis has been rejected by Lejeune (1979) and Brixhe (1984).

However, the hypothesis has been revived by Lubotsky (2004) and Woodhouse (2006), who have argued that there is evidence of a partial shift of obstruent series, i.e. voicing of PIE aspirates (*bh > b) and devoicing of PIE voiced stops (*d > t). The affricates ts and dz developed from velars before front vowels.

Phrygian is attested fragmentarily, known only from a comparatively small corpus of inscriptions. A few hundred Phrygian words are attested; however, the meaning and etymologies of many of these remain unknown.

A famous Phrygian word is bekos, meaning ‘bread’. According to Herodotus (Histories 2.2) Pharaoh Psammetichus I wanted to determine the oldest nation and establish the world’s original language. For this purpose, he ordered two children to be reared by a shepherd, forbidding him to let them hear a single word, and charging him to report the children’s first utterance.

After two years, the shepherd reported that on entering their chamber, the children came up to him, extending their hands, calling bekos. Upon enquiry, the pharaoh discovered that this was the Phrygian word for ‘wheat bread’, after which the Egyptians conceded that the Phrygian nation was older than theirs.

The word bekos is also attested several times in Palaeo-Phrygian inscriptions on funerary stelae. It may be cognate to the English bake (PIE *bʰeh₃g-). Hittite, Luwian (both also influenced Phrygian morphology), Galatian and Greek (which also exhibits a high amount of isoglosses with Phrygian) all influenced Phrygian vocabulary.

The Greek theonym Zeus appears in Phrygian with the stem Ti- (genitive Tios = Greek Dios, from earlier *Diwos; the nominative is unattested); perhaps with the general meaning ‘god, deity’. It is possible that tiveya means ‘goddess’. The shift of *d to t in Phrygian and the loss of *w before o appears to be regular. Stephanus Byzantius records that according to Demosthenes, Zeus was known as Tios in Bithynia.

Another possible theonym is bago- (cf. Old Persian baga-, Proto-Slavic *bogъ “god”), attested as the accusative singular bag̣un in G-136. Lejeune identified the term as *bʰagom, in the meaning ‘a gift, dedication’ (PIE *bʰag- ‘to apportion, give a share’). But Hesychius of Alexandria mentions a Bagaios, Phrygian Zeus (Βαγαῖος Ζεὺς Φρύγιος) and interprets the name as δοτῆρ ἑάων ‘giver of good things’.

Phrygia

Phrygian language

Armeno-Phrygian

Bryges

Phrygian cap

 
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