The Extreme Significance of the Archaic Greek of the Catalogue of Ships in Book II of Iliad in the Reconstruction of Mycenaean Greek: As an introduction to the application of the Greek of Book II of the Iliad, I shall be posting passages from it as the need arises to confirm the inextricable link between Book II of the Iliad, and first and foremost, of the Catalogue of Ships (lines 484-779), in which we find the most archaic Greek in the entire Iliad. We start, of course, with the parallel Greek-English text of the introduction to Book II, in my own modern twenty-first century English translation of Book II. I remind you all, in passing, that the majority of translations of any part or all of the Iliad are either archaic or inaccurate, hence, entirely misleading, serving no practical purpose in research into Homeric Greek or its ancestors, archaic Greek and its own parent, Mycenaean Greek. I have attempted to make my translation as literal as possible, without being clumsy. Here it is (To make this legible, you will need to Click to ENLARGE): Book II of the Iliad, and in particular the archaic Catalogue of Ships (lines 484-779) serves as the true foundation for the regressive-progressive reconstruction of Mycenaean Linear B grammar. In all the Iliad there is no passage as archaic as the Catalogue of Ships (lines 484-779). By this I mean that almost all of the Iliad, with the sole exception of the Catalogue of Ships in Book 2, is composed in so-called Epic Greek, an artificial form of ancient Greek which is an admixture of Ionic, Aeolic and Arcado-Cypriot Greek (often written in Linear C). Epic Greek is not a dialect of ancient Greek. It is a grave error to assume that it is. But notice the dialects upon which it is based, particularly the last two. Of all the ancient Greek dialects, these two have at their own roots an even more archaic dialect, namely, Mycenaean Greek. The most archaic form of these two dialects is to be found in the Catalogue of Ships (lines 484-779) of Book II of the Iliad. The significance of this cannot be over-stressed. It is in the Catalogue of Ships that we find the most archaic vocabulary and grammar, which appears only sparsely in the rest of the Iliad, and all of which was to fall permanently out of use in ancient Greek, after the composition of the Iliad. Archaic Mycenaean vocabulary and remnants of Mycenaean grammar are peppered liberally throughout the text of the Catalogue of Ships. Thus, if we are to regressively reconstruct the grammar and the vocabulary of Mycenaean Greek, whether attributed on the extant Linear B tablets, or merely derived from ancient Greek, we should, in so far it is possible, resort to the Greek of the Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad as the most reliable source by far and thus as the firm foundation for the reconstruction of Mycenaean Greek. Since the Greek of the Catalogue of Ships is significantly more archaic than any other form of ancient Greek, whether artificial (Epic Homeric Greek) or dialectical, this text and this text alone is able to corroborate with a sufficient degree of precision the most probable antecedents of its grammar and vocabulary in the ancestral dialect upon which it is squarely based, that is, Mycenaean Greek. Throughout 2014 & 2015, I shall demonstrate, over and over, how closely the grammar and vocabulary of the Catalogue of Ships mirrors that of its ancestral parent, Mycenaean Greek. By far the finest background source for research into the genesis of the archaic Greek of the Catalogue of Ships is: Page, Denys. History and the Homeric Iliad. Berkeley, University of California Press, © 1966. vi, 350 pp. Anyone wishing to seriously pursue the study of Mycenaean Greek cannot afford to pass over this extremely persuasive analysis of the archaic Greek of the Catalogue of Ships, and its inextricable bond with its ancestor, Mycenaean Greek. In fact, the archaic Greek of the Catalogue of Ships can be considered the grandchild of Mycenaean Greek. Finally, in passing, may I add this reminder. Failing the establishment of a firm link between any element or part of the text of the Catalogue of Ships and its Mycenaean counterpart, the next best source for regressive-progressive reconstruction of Mycenaean Greek must, of course, be the Iliad itself. As Denys Page so often confirms, even the Epic Greek of the Odyssey has moved beyond the confines of the archaic Greek in the Catalogue of Ships, meaning that it cannot be considered as reliable a source as the Catalogue for regressive-progressive reconstruction of Mycenaean Greek. Nevertheless, failing the first two options elucidated here: above all, reliance on the archaic Greek of the Catalogue of Ships and, secondly, on the Greek of the rest of the Iliad, we shall occasionally have no other recourse than to resort to ancient Greek texts in other dialects, in particular, the Ionic (and even Attic) dialects, both of which strangely enough contain, however infrequently, a few vestiges of the most archaic Greek. But the further afield we stray from the archaic Greek of the Catalogue of Ships, the weaker and weaker the link(s), if any, that can possibly obtain between Mycenaean Greek and those dialects. Denys Page makes this perfectly clear. Richard
One thought on “The Extreme Significance of the Archaic Greek of the Catalogue of Ships in Book II of Iliad in the Reconstruction of Mycenaean Greek”
Comments are closed.