Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

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bcrowell
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Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

Post by bcrowell »

Iliad 2.802, Iris speaking to Hector:

Ἕκτορ σοὶ δὲ μάλιστ᾽ ἐπιτέλλομαι, ὧδε δὲ ῥέξαι·
πολλοὶ γὰρ κατὰ ἄστυ μέγα Πριάμου ἐπίκουροι,
ἄλλη δ᾽ ἄλλων γλῶσσα πολυσπερέων ἀνθρώπων·
τοῖσιν ἕκαστος ἀνὴρ σημαινέτω οἷσί περ ἄρχει,
τῶν δ᾽ ἐξηγείσθω κοσμησάμενος πολιήτας.»

I'd had a vague idea that Troy was a Greek colony that was culturally Greek, and that if they spoke a different dialect than the one spoken by the invaders, it was probably a single dialect and in any case all dialects were mutually intelligible. In this passage, are some of the allies non-Greek? Or are they all culturally and linguistically Greek but speaking dialects that are not mutually intelligible? Or is the idea that a commander will be most effective if he can speak to his troops in their own vernacular?

Does this passage tell us anything about the mix of dialects that the Homeric dialect is composed of, or is it irrelevant because the history was written by the victors?
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Re: Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

Post by mwh »

It’s a fine paradox that Greeks and Trojans and allies and gods and everyone else all speak exactly the same language, i.e. Homeric Greek. I don’t think this tells us anything at all about the language that the people of Troy will have actually spoken.

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Re: Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

Post by theoldlove »

Deborah Gera in the Homer Encyclopedia has some sensible comments on language in Homer:
Speech is of crucial importance in Homer's world, and all of the speakers in the Iliad and the Odyssey converse with one another in the language of traditional epic with no linguistic barriers of any kind. Nonetheless, Homer is aware that there are many different languages spoken by a wide variety of peoples, and epic heroes who travel to foreign parts are said to come in contact with men of another (or alien) language, inline image (Od. 1.183, 3.302, 15.453; cf. 14.43). The Carians are “of foreign [or barbarian] speech” (barbarophônoi Il. 2.867), while the Sintians are “wild-spoken” (agriophônoi Od. 8.294). Even if Homer uses the term allothroos, speaker of a different language, in neutral fashion, with no intention of erecting a barrier between such people and Greek speakers, the two Epithets barbarophônos and agriophônos may point to an attitude found in later Greek writings, according to which the non-Greek languages spoken by foreigners are thought to characterize their inferior culture. Barbaros may be an onomatopoeic word in Homer, reflecting the babbling sound of foreign speech (see Barbarians), but agrios is a negative term, which refers to lifestyle as much as language. It is also significant that both of these compound adjectives make use of the word phônê – rather than audê – to describe foreign speech, for in Homer the word phônâ is used of sound or noise, while audâ refers to comprehensible speech. The poet also refers to the different languages spoken by the many peoples of Crete (Od. 19.175) and by the various contingents of the Trojan army (Il. 2.804). In two passages (3.1–9, 4.429–438) Homer contrasts the multilingual Trojan allies of the Iliad, who lack one common tongue, with the Greeks, who all speak the same language.
In the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, the Trojan language is different from Phrygian (111-113):

Ὀτρεὺς δ᾽ ἐστὶ πατὴρ ὀνομακλυτός, εἴ που ἀκούεις,
ὃς πάσης Φρυγίης εὐτειχήτοιο ἀνάσσει.
γλῶσσαν δ᾽ ὑμετέρην τε καὶ ἡμετέρην σάφα οἶδα.

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Re: Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

Post by aew »

bcrowell wrote: Sat Mar 05, 2022 3:23 pm Iliad 2.802, Iris speaking to Hector:

Ἕκτορ σοὶ δὲ μάλιστ᾽ ἐπιτέλλομαι, ὧδε δὲ ῥέξαι·
πολλοὶ γὰρ κατὰ ἄστυ μέγα Πριάμου ἐπίκουροι,
ἄλλη δ᾽ ἄλλων γλῶσσα πολυσπερέων ἀνθρώπων·
τοῖσιν ἕκαστος ἀνὴρ σημαινέτω οἷσί περ ἄρχει,
τῶν δ᾽ ἐξηγείσθω κοσμησάμενος πολιήτας.»

I'd had a vague idea that Troy was a Greek colony that was culturally Greek, and that if they spoke a different dialect than the one spoken by the invaders, it was probably a single dialect and in any case all dialects were mutually intelligible. In this passage, are some of the allies non-Greek? Or are they all culturally and linguistically Greek but speaking dialects that are not mutually intelligible? Or is the idea that a commander will be most effective if he can speak to his troops in their own vernacular?

Does this passage tell us anything about the mix of dialects that the Homeric dialect is composed of, or is it irrelevant because the history was written by the victors?
The language spoken by the Trojans was certainly not Greek - this passage you quoted is one proof to that. For another, consider Trojan personal names like Priamos that have no Greek etymology (not to say that the meaning of the Achaeans' names are always transparent!). The Trojan (non-Greek) name Paris is translated into Greek as Alex-andros, which indicates that every Greek-sounding name among the Trojans is probably a translation rather than the original Trojan name.

Independent of Homer, the "real" Trojans probably spoke what we call Anatolian languages. Attempts have been made to find the Achaeans mentioned in Anatolian documents (search Wikipedia for Ahhiyawa which site rules prohibit me from linking to).
mwh wrote: Sat Mar 05, 2022 5:45 pm It’s a fine paradox that Greeks and Trojans and allies and gods and everyone else all speak exactly the same language, i.e. Homeric Greek. I don’t think this tells us anything at all about the language that the people of Troy will have actually spoken.
In fact there are some indications that the gods speak to each other in a different language "in real life": for example the river called Skamandros by men is called Xanthos by the gods, as Socrates notes in Plato's Cratylus.

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Re: Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

Post by mwh »

The idea that Troy was a Greek colony is anachronistic. What the “real” Trojans spoke, as aew points out, will have been an Anatolian language. Luwian may be the best guess.

As aew also notes, Homer occasionally identifies certain things that the gods have their own word for. We needn’t take this as implying that the gods speak to each other in a different language. But certainly it is one more thing that distinguishes gods from mortals, like their having ichor instead of blood. In other respects, including their language, they're modeled on humans.

theoldlove quotes from an entry in The Homer Encyclopedia, edited by Margalit Finkelberg. Yes that is a wonderful resource, a real blessing to anyone with any interest in the Homeric epics.

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Re: Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

Post by jeidsath »

Homer occasionally identifies certain things that the gods have their own word for.
I was going to mention the hundred-handed. Eustathius calls him something like a sun-god? Competing pantheons? Of course, on languages, Eustathius had a detailed (and very unlikely, it seems to me) υποβολευς theory about translators being present for all the Trojan speeches, and how this affected the mode of declamation.
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Re: Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

Post by Barry Hofstetter »

Simply this, there is really no evidence of all of the use of the different languages in the vast majority of ancient Greek literature. It's a convenience -- everybody can speak and understand one another, and then we can focus on the really nifty literary stuff.
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Re: Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

Post by jeidsath »

There is a foreign ambassador in Aristophanes whose accent is attempted. Xenophon describes the use of translators on his journey in some detail. Plato discusses word origins and foreign language interference, but he doesn't seem especially informed. And Herodotus is well aware of different languages, though he doesn't let them get in the way of a good story (like Croesus and Solon). That's off the top of my head.
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Re: Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

Post by bcrowell »

Thanks, all, that's very informative.

This WP page seems relevant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trojan_language
aew wrote: Mon Mar 07, 2022 12:19 pm (search Wikipedia for Ahhiyawa which site rules prohibit me from linking to).
Wait, there isn't a blanket prohibition on outgoing links, is there?
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Re: Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

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No. But there's something in Jeff's stickied site rules about links. I'll look into revising/removing that post as all of the anti-spam rules are now redundant with the registration email procedure.

Though I do tell people in the initial email: "Please avoid links or self-advertisement until you have contributed to the community for a little while."

EDIT: Unstickied the rules thread. We'll see how long anarchy takes to assert itself.
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Re: Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

Post by aew »

bcrowell wrote: Tue Mar 08, 2022 2:39 pm
aew wrote: Mon Mar 07, 2022 12:19 pm (search Wikipedia for Ahhiyawa which site rules prohibit me from linking to).
Wait, there isn't a blanket prohibition on outgoing links, is there?
For users with <10 posts the rules said that linking will get you banned, but since this forum is now apparently as lawless as the Cyclopes, here's the link.

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Re: Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

Post by Paul Derouda »

mwh wrote: Mon Mar 07, 2022 3:50 pm The idea that Troy was a Greek colony is anachronistic. What the “real” Trojans spoke, as aew points out, will have been an Anatolian language. Luwian may be the best guess.
I don't know much about this matter, but don't think the idea of some kind of Greek presence in historical Troy is a completely anachronistic or fantastic idea. According to Hittite documents, there was a king named Alaksandu in Wilusa, which in all likelihood is the same as Greek (W)ilios, i.e. Troy. The name is strikingly similar to Alexander, a definitely Greek name (= Paris). There are other possible parallels, but this is the one I remember. It's several years since I read the relevant books (One by Joachim Latacz and another by Trevor Bryce), so I don't remember the specifics, and I'm not a competent judge anyway. But I just wanted to say that the idea is not necessarily utterly fanciful.

Wikipedia on Alaksandu: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaksandu
A previous thread that discusses this (among other things): viewtopic.php?p=158691#p158691

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Re: Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

Post by Ghermanius »

There is this moment in Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' when shipwrecked Prince Ferdinand first meets Prospero and Miranda (upon whom he starts hitting immediately) and he says it's so wonderful she should speak "My language" on this strange island.

Obviously this language would be Neapolitan Italian - and of course the entire dialogue is in Englsih.

This is just how it works in fiction, whether it's Homer's Greek or Shakespeare's English; we're supposed to suspend that disbelief.

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Re: Iliad 2.802: what were the many languages spoken by the Trojans' allies?

Post by Hylander »

Yes, everyone in the Iliad -- Greek, Trojan and others such as Lycian Sarpedon -- talks in Homeric Greek as a "literary" convention. But there are many realistic geographic features in the poem suggesting that the author(s?) had first-hand familiarity with the region of Troy as it existed in the 7th or 6th century BCE and drew on that familiarity in composing the poem.

No doubt, Greek was not the only language spoken there in "Homer's" day -- Anatolian languages such as Luvian, Phrygian, Lydian and possibly others, in a situation not unlike the Caucasus today, would have been spoken in various areas, by different communities, in different villages; and perhaps several languages were spoken in larger towns. (Of course, this would have been equally true in the previous millennium.)

So perhaps the mention of the allies' different languages is a (not inaccurate) projection of the linguistic diversity "Homer" saw in his day back to the presumed date of the Trojan War.
Bill Walderman

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