The Lord’s Prayer in Greek:
Greek (since -1500) is spoken today by only 12 million people, nearly all of them Greek, yet few languages in the West are more important. Along with Latin it is one of the two ancient languages of the West, and of the two it has the larger and deeper body of writing: Homer, Herodotus, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, the New Testament, St Paul, Marcus Aurelius, Ptolemy, Plotinus, Origen, Athanasius and on and on.
There have been different forms of Greek down through the ages. What you hear now in Greece is no more like the Greek of Plato than Italian is like the Latin of Cicero.
Here are the most famous forms of the language and the years when they were used:
- Linear B (-1500 to -1150): Before the Greeks used letters, they wrote in Linear B. Its characters look like little pictures, but they stood for syllables, not for ideas or letter sounds. Used in the time of the Trojan War.
- Homeric Greek (-900 to -500): Not the language that Achilles spoke, but the one that Homer wrote in. It is the great uncle of the Greek that Plato spoke.
- Attic Greek (-500 to +600): The Greek of Athens at the height of its glory. Plato, Sophocles and the other great writers of Athens wrote so well that later ages continued to write in this sort of Greek long after it had died out as a day-to-day language of ordinary people. It was kept so pure that Plato could have read books that came out a thousand years later. There are, by the way, people who still write in it.
- koine (-300 to +300): This is the Greek that spread throughout Alexander’s empire and the smaller empires that came after it. It is a sort of Attic Greek for the masses. The New Testament was written in it. So was the Greek Old Testament – the Septuagint. .
- katharevousa (1830 to 1976): In 1821 Greece won its freedom from nearly 400 years of Turkish rule. Greek had changed markedly by then. Its grammar was simpler but now it had Turkish and Slavic words in it. Some tried to make Greek pure, bringing it closer to Attic Greek. This sort of Greek became known as katharevousa. In Greece it was the language of government and education up until the 1970s. Churches still use it..
- demotic (1453 to present):Having long been the Greek of ordinary people, it did not become the Greek of government and education till the 1970s.
Attic Greek is what people mean when they say “Ancient Greek”. Like Latin it works less by word order and more by word endings, only with Greek there are far more of them. If you know Attic Greek, then Latin seems simple.
Greek was the main language of the eastern half of the Roman Empire, which became what we call the Byzantine Empire. Even in the west, anyone with a good education, like Caesar or Cicero, knew Greek because all the best schools were in Athens and Rhodes.
- Attic Greek idiom
- My favourite Greek books
- Why study the Greeks
- The whiteness of Ancient Greece
- Byzantine Empire
- Greek books and authors
- Reading Thucydides
- Reading Plutarch
- St Clement of Rome
- Nag-Hammadi Library
- Plotinus – Enneads
- Gospel of Judas
- Athanasius: Life of St Antony