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color in Homer and Ancient Greek

color in Homer and Ancient Greek

Postby daivid » Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:23 pm

Gladstone drew attention https://archive.org/details/studiesonhomerho03glad to the poverty of colors in ancient Greek suggesting that the Greek sense of color was somewhat primitive.

Here is a description of research suggesting that it is simply the result of the number cuts in the spectrum the Greeks chose to make and its pretty much in line with what is seen in other languages:
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Re: color in Homer and Ancient Greek

Postby Carolus Raeticus » Sat Jul 01, 2017 6:27 pm

Thank you for the link (I know, I am somewhat late). Latin's colour words are also confounding, for example Lewis & Short's definition of caeruleus:

L&S wrote:caerŭlĕus...dark-colored, dark blue, dark green, cerulean, azure

This does not really help when trying to imagine what is being described.


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Re: color in Homer and Ancient Greek

Postby imd » Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:58 pm

The Greeks didn't consciously choose how to divide up the spectrum in speech. It is thought that the color words in a language after actually linked to how people in that culture perceive color.

As for caeruleys, a similar situation occurs in Classical Chinese, where one color word, qing, could be used to describe the sky, the ocean, blue, green, or black.
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Re: color in Homer and Ancient Greek

Postby ἑκηβόλος » Mon Feb 05, 2018 5:03 am

An interesting description of colour that I came across recently was ξανθὸς ὡς πῦρ in the pasage:
Longus, Daphnis & Chloe 2.4.1 wrote:εἰσελθόντι δέ μοι τήμερον ἀμφὶ μέσην ἡμέραν ὑπὸ ταῖς ῥοιαῖς καὶ ταῖς μυρρίναις βλέπεται παῖς, μύρτα καὶ ῥοιὰς ἔχων, λευκὸς ὡς γάλα, ξανθὸς ὡς πῦρ, στιλπνὸς ὡς ἄρτι λελουμένος: γυμνὸς ἦν, μόνος ἦν:

According to wiki yellow flame is produced by sodium chloride. In the skin I guess it means a lighter tone.
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Re: color in Homer and Ancient Greek

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon Feb 05, 2018 4:20 pm

I think many of the Greek-English correspondences for color in the Odyssey as given in the video were wrong, and there are some missing like χλωρός yellow/green. I haven't read Gladstone though, so I don't know if these correspondences come from there or from somewhere else.

I think the so-called color terms quite often convey other meanings than just hue, i.e. a specific wavelength of the visible spectrum; they also convey things like texture, brilliancy or gloss. λευκός has often connotations of brightness, μέλαν ὕδωρ "black water" is applied to water when it comes from a deep underground source (δ 359).

They didn't say it in the video, but in my understanding an important assumption in the Berlin-Kay basic color term model was that to define a color in a given language, the informant was asked to select the most "typical" representative for each color term. So while "red" might include very different hues in different languages, and there might even be considerable differences between speakers of the same language, there is remarkable overlap when one looks at the most "typical" representative.
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