The Extreme Significance of the Archaic Greek of the Catalogue of Ships in Book II of Iliad in the Reconstruction of Mycenaean Greek

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.


Derivative [D] Reconstruction of the First Aorist in Linear B

Derivative [D] Reconstruction of the First Aorist in Linear B (Click to ENLARGE):

progressive linear b reconstruction of the first aorist of the verb KAU to burn
Taking the First Aorist conjugation (EKAUSA) of the verb KAUO “to burn” from the Homeric Greek as our point of departure for regression to the same tense in Linear B, we end up with the paradigm illustrated in the table above.

It is impossible for me to reconstruct the 2nd. person sing. or the 3rd. person pl. of   this verb in Linear B with any degree of certainty, as the Homeric conjugation necessitates that these persons end with a consonant, for which Linear B, consisting of syllabograms and vowels only, cannot account.

We have now successfully reconstructed (for the most part) the following tenses of Linear B verbs: the present, the future & the first aorist of active verbs. We shall eventually proceed to regressively reconstruct the imperfect & perfect tenses (leaving aside the pluperfect, as it is very rare even in ancient alphabetical Greek). Afterwards, we shall move onto the same conjugations for middle & passive verbs. Finally, later this year, we shall attempt to reconstruct at least some of the conjugations in the subjunctive and optative, in so far as this is feasible.

Once we have reconstructed the conjugations of Linear B verbs in all tenses, voices & moods, we shall move onto the reconstruction of the declensions of nouns & adjectives, probably in the summer of 2014. As we can already glean, the reconstruction of Linear B grammar is a highly labour-intensive project, but this is, after all,the whole point of this blog.


Progressive Linear B Grammar: was there a Future Tense?

Progressive Linear B Grammar: the Conjectural Future Tense (Click to ENLARGE):

Progressive Linear B Future Tense Conjectural

Progressive Linear B Grammar: was there a Future Tense? Well, yes and no...

The first thing we need to clear up before we go any further with the conjectural derived future tense in Linear B is this: there are absolutely no instances of the future tense attested anywhere on any extant Linear B tablets (at least to date), and I doubt there ever will be any. Why so? It is actually quite simple: the Linear B scribes were accountants, solely concerned with record-keeping and fiscal accounts for the current year only, and nothing else. Linear B scribes never kept records or accounts for more than one fiscal year (so-called, since that is scarcely what they would have called it, being as it is modern terminology). They routinely destroyed all accounting records for the previous year by wiping their clay tablets clean and reusing them all over again, year after year, until of course they (the tablets, not the scribes!) were no longer usable, and had to be replaced.

In other words, their total preoccupation with records for the current year, or as they called it, WETO or the “running year” precluded any concern at all for what lay ahead in the future, near or far, not even the next “running year”, a contradiction in terms per se, since only the current year can be “running”. So I must conclude that it is unlikely that the Linear B scribes ever used the future tense for their strictly administrative tabular accounts.

This does not mean, however, that the Mycenaeans did not use the spoken future tense, as that too is an absurd proposition. Like all peoples speaking almost any Occidental IE language, they had to use the future tense, and do so frequently, which is why I have reconstructed it regressively from Homeric Greek (or if not possible, from other early Greek dialectical forms). Once I have derived the conjugation for any tense, present, future, aorist, perfect, etc. it is a simple matter to reconstruct progressively the conjugation in its quasi-entirety, omitting the second person singular in the present & future tenses, since I am unable to reconstruct it with any degree of certainty... as I have pointed out numerous times before on this Blog.

CONCLUSION: Just because the future tense is not attested anywhere on extant Linear B tablets does not mean it did not exist. In fact, the contrary must be the case, since an IE (Indo-European) language (in almost all cases) must have a future tense. Had the Mycenaeans ever had reason to write in the future tense, they most surely would have. But they didn’t – at least we have not seen it so far. Linear B tablets unearthed sometime in the future may possibly give instances of the use of the future tense in writing, but once again, I sincerely doubt it, for the reasons elucidated above.


Cross-Correlation: Present Tense Active of Mycenaean Verbs (Heady stuff!)

Cross-Correlation: Present Tense Active of Mycenaean Verbs (Heady stuff!)

Cross-Correlation: Present Tense Active of Mycenaean Verbs (Click to ENLARGE):

Progressive_Linear_B Grammatical Cross_Correlation Present_Tense Endings Attributed A & Derived D

We now introduce the endings, both Attributed [A] and Derived [D] for all persons of the Present Tense Active of 13 Mycenaean Verbs + 1 Derivative Verb [KATAKAUEE – to burn to the ground – from – KAUEE to burn] = 14.  Several forms for different persons of the present tense active of Mycenaean verbs are are Attributed [A], i.e. they are actually found on tablets.
A very few Linear B verbs, most notably EKEE (to have) have more attested forms for more persons than practically all others.  In fact, EKEE has Attributed [A] or attested forms for the infinitive, 1st. & 3rd. persons sing. & the 3rd. person plural. The second person singular and first and second persons plural are not to be found on any tablet.  However, this does not prevent us from deriving the first and second persons plural of the verb EKO, since these can be intuitively deduced from their Classical Greek equivalents. Since the evidence for the infinitive, and first & third persons sing. & pl. is incontrovertible, and these forms are almost identical to their much later Classical equivalents, we can pretty much safely conclude that the reconstruction of derived [D] forms of the 1st. & 2nd. persons plural will also faithfully correspond with their later equivalents, as for the verb “to have” for which I transcribe the entire conjugation of the present tense into Latin, so that those of you who cannot read Greek will instantly see the striking similarity between its Classical and Mycenaean conjugations.

echein (to have)
echo (I have)
echeis (you have)
echei (he/she has)
echomen (we have)
echete (you have)
echousi (they have)

[A] = Attributive [D] = derived
ekee (to have) [A]
eko (I have) [A]
eke (he/she has) [A]
ekome (we have) [D]
ekete (you have)  [D]
ekosi (they have) [A]

Oh and that reminds me, if anyone who knows Greek objects that the verb “echein” is irregular, that may be so, but not in the present tense active.  So the objection is entirely academic. 

So even though the Mycenaean Linear B 1st. & 2nd. persons plural are not to be found anywhere on the tablets, it is very easy to reconstruct or derive [D] them by means of Regressive Extrapolation from their much later Greek equivalents, which is precisely what I have done here.  But, you ask, why is the 2nd. person singular missing? Since the 2nd. person sing. of regular verbs in Classical Greek always ends with a consonant, for instance, as in echeis = you have, we would end up with EKEISE in Linear B, which I for one find difficult to justify, as I am only making a wild guess.  If there is one principle I hold as sacrosanct in my Theory of Progressive Linear B Grammar & Vocabulary, it is this: if the attempt to reconstruct any grammatical form whatsoever by means of Regressive  Extrapolation from its later Greek form to its putative Linear B equivalent results in a catch-22, then the Principle of Regression must not be applied, since to do so would invalidate it.  So I simply don't bother.  If there is any Linear B researcher out there who feels confident of the reconstruction of the 2nd. person sing. of the present tense in Linear B, I would be most grateful if that person would share his or her insights with me.

As for the derived [D] 1st. person plural in Linear B = EKOME, it is necessary to drop the final “n” of the Classical Greek “echomen”, since no Linear B word can end in a consonant.  All syllabograms must end in a vowel, and that is the end of it.  However, this in no way invalidates the Linear B form of the 1st. person pl. = EKOME, at least not to my mind.  The situation with the 2nd. person pl. = EKETE rests on firm ground, since it is for all intents and purposes identical to its Classical counterpart.  The same applies to the 3rd. person pl. = EKOSI, which is attested [A].  The Classical ending “OUSI”, sometimes written as “ONSI” is always rendered as “OSI” in Mycenaean Greek.  

One final observation: it just so happens that, whatever Attributed [A] forms survive for any person of the present tense of any regular Mycenaean verb, however few these may be – and in fact always are for most other verbs  – whenever and wherever they do appear, they are always identical to their corresponding forms in the Linear B verb EKO.  This applies to both Correlated verbs such as AKEE, APIKEE, APUDOKEE & TEKEE, for which the stem of the infinitive KE is identical to that of EKO, and for Cross-Correlated verbs, viz. those for which the infinitive ends with a different syllabogram, e.g. AKEREE, DOSEE, EREE, KAUEE, PEREE & WOZEE, since the conjugation of all regular verbs in both Classical Greek and Linear B is always the same.  A rose is a rose is a rose.  The conjugation of the present tense is the conjugation of the present tense... no need to belabour the point. This goes for Greek (ancient and modern), Latin, English, French, German, Italian, you name it, any Western language.  The endings of the present tense never vary for any regular verb. But what is really astonishing about the declension of the present tense active of regular verbs is that the conjugation scarcely changes at all in the 400-500 YEARS between the disappearance of Linear B and the advent of alphabetic Greek literature with the Iliad and Odyseey of Homer.

Now THAT is a mind blower! I lay particular emphasis on this incontrovertible phenomenon, since in the near future I will return to my observations in this regard, when I come to face head-on those (apparently envious) naysayers who deny that Linears B is Greek, and shatter their so-called arguments against Michael Ventris' brilliant decipherment.  And I have plenty of ammunition to back up my hypotheses.  It strikes me as particularly egregious that there are people, some of whom style themselves "researchers" of Linear B, take so much trouble to deprecate the grteat achievement of one such as Michael Ventris, one of those rare geniuses we ever get to really appreciate for all their worth. Do they fancy themselves more brilliant than Michael Ventris? That is like saying you are brighter than Albert Einstein!  I for one would never presume to even go there!      

The Principles of Correlation & Cross-Correlation dove-tail perfectly with this phenomenon. 

Had enough?  So have I. Let's give it a rest (for now).


The Principle of Correlation in Progressive Reconstruction of the Present Tense of verbs in KEE

The Principle of Correlation in Progressive Reconstruction of the Present Tense of verbs in KEE (Click to twice to ENLARGE):

Linear B CorrelationVerbs in KEE 1024

We have now come to the next step in the reconstruction of Mycenaean Linear B grammar, based on the Principle of Correlation in Progressive Reconstruction of the Present Tense of Mycenaean verbs. The first step in the process is to understand how Correlation works at its simplest level by correlating the conjugation of the 3 extant Linear B verbs, for which the 3rd. person sing. only is found on extant tablets with their much later complete Greek conjugations. Yet even with this single form, I feel confident that I can reconstruct the present tense of these 3 verbs, with the sole exception of the 2nd. person sing., which for various reasons I do not feel I should attempt to reconstruct.


In a nutshell, my new theory of Progressive Linear B Grammar is based on the assumption that it is possible to reconstruct a good deal of Mycenaean grammar, which is missing from any extant tablets, from those grammatical forms which have been found (i.e. attested = A) on extant tablets.

Principles expounded to date are:

As illustrated in the table above, it is not only possible, but feasible to reconstruct the present tense active of extant verbs whose infinitive ends in KEE. Here is how it is done:

1 First, taking one later ancient Greek conjugation as my point of departure, I attempt to reconstruct its present tense in Mycenaean Greek by correlating the forms in the present tense of its ancient conjugation to at least one existing form of the same verb found on extant Linear B tablets. The verb I chose as my reference is EKEE, since there are more extant forms for it on Linear B tablets than for the other 2 verbs in KEE, i.e. AKEE & TEKEE. This verb (EKEE) thus becomes the paradigm verb, since the conjugations of the other 2 verbs are derived (D) from it.
2 It is pretty obvious that if I can reconstruct the present tense of the paradigm verb, the other 2 verbs must be conjugated the same way in Mycenaean Greek, because they are all conjugated the same way in ancient Greek. This process I call Correlation, since after all I am correlating the conjugation of the other 2 verbs in KEE with that of the paradigm verb, EKEE.
3 However, before I can even do this, I must first of all derive the Linear B conjugation of the present tense of the paradigm verb EKEE from its later Greek counterpart, as illustrated above. Since we are moving chronologically backwards in time to do this, I call this process Regressive Extrapolation.
4 Once I have determined the most likely equivalents in Linear B to their counterparts in later Greek, I simply deduce the entire Linear B conjugation from the later Greek. This process of reconstruction of the present tense of verbs in KEE I refer to as Progressive Reconstruction.
5 Finally, having successfully reconstructed the present tense of EKEE, I simply correlate its conjugation with the other 2 verbs through the process of Correlation. And they all come up the same.

NOTE: I found it impossible to reconstruct the second person singular of the present tense of these verbs, since the 2nd. pers. sing. of their cognate later Greek verbs ends in a consonant. That is a real problem in Linear B, since no verb (or for that matter any word) can end in a consonant, because the syllabary is comprised of syllabograms, which always end in vowels, + the 5 vowels. Thus, I can form no clear idea of how the 2nd. pers. sing. must have looked like. If anyone else can, I welcome your input.

The General Principle of Correlation:

Now, I wish to stress that in some instances, I believe it is possible to reconstruct a good chunk of some grammatical forms: (verbal, nominal & adjectival) conjugations, the use of cases (genitive, dative & accusative) with prepositions, and so on. In other instances, it is much more difficult to reconstruct certain parts of speech or grammatical forms for the simple reason that there are not enough grammatical forms for these to be found on any extant tablets for such reconstruction to be practical or warranted.

Throughout 2014, I will be developing and perfecting my Theory of Progressive Linear B Grammar, beginning with the present and future tenses of all regular verbs, and moving on to other tenses: the aorist, imperfect, pluperfect, and so on. Once I have tackled the active indicative mood of verbs in Linear B, I will move on to the passive, and finally to the optative, for which some forms are found on extant tablets. To my knowledge, the subjunctive appears to be absent from extant Linear B tablets, though I may very well be wrong. If I am, I sincerely hope someone will let me know.

Once I have finished with verbs, I will move on to adjectives and nouns, and finally round out my attempts at reconstruction with prepositions and the cases they govern (genitive, dative and accusative).

This will certainly take up all of 2014.