exercise in translation to Homeric Greek: speech tags

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bcrowell
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exercise in translation to Homeric Greek: speech tags

Post by bcrowell »

I've been wanting to practice producing Greek, and the available schoolbook exercises that I can find are all in Attic, which is a huge barrier to me, since the dialect I'm working on is Homeric. Online, I found some people discussing the similar problem for practicing composition in koine, and a nifty idea that someone had tried was to take a passage from an English version of the tanakh, translate it into koine, and then compare with the septuagint. I'm not yet at the stage of doing that kind of actual composition, so my next thought was to do something similar by taking sentences from an English translation of Homer, simplifying them, and then translating them into the Homeric dialect. This still seemed hard, so I came up with the following even easier type of exercise: I collect some Homeric examples and then produce simple variations on the theme. As I see it, the advantage here is that because there are explicit models, there is more of a chance of coming up with the correct idiomatic features such as word order.

This ends up looking pretty similar to a lot of the exercises in Pharr. However, Pharr's exercises seem focused almost exclusively on practicing the inflections of the various grammatical forms. He introduces many such forms, and he introduces them very early. I felt like, despite having done all the Pharr exercises up to a certain point in the book, there was still way too much very basic stuff that I had no idea how to say. Also, I don't have access to an answer key for Pharr.

Below is something I came up with. If anyone would be willing to check my answers that would be much appreciated. If others want to try the exercises as part of their study of Homer, that would be cool. Please let me know what you think.

Speech tags

Vocabulary:
λίσσομαι - beg, beseech (litany)
τόν/τήν/τό - third-person accusative
μῆλον - goat, sheep

Models:
- Τὸν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων· (Iliad 1.172)
And then Agamemnon, prince of men, answered him:
- Τὸν δ’ αὖτε προσέειπε θεὰ γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη· (Iliad 1.206)
And the grey-eyed goddess Athena told him in turn:
- Ὣς φάτο.
So he spoke.

1. And Menelaus told her:

2. He lies. I reply to him:

3. Thus spoke the evil goat, but she begged it:

4. And the prince addressed Athena:

Translations:
Spoiler
Show
1. Τὴν δε προσέειπε Μενέλαος·

2. Ψεύδει. τὸν δ' ἀμείβω·

3. Ὣς φάτο μῆλον κακόν, τὸ δε λίσσετο·

4. Ἀθήνην δε προσέειπε ἄναξ·
Ben Crowell, Fullerton, California
an innovative, free, and open-source presentation of Homer: https://bcrowell.github.io/ransom/

Hylander
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Re: exercise in translation to Homeric Greek: speech tags

Post by Hylander »

With due respect, you seem to be under a misconception about Homeric Greek. Homeric Greek is not a dialect like Attic or Ionic. It's an artificial language that evolved as a medium for oral epic poetry, tailor-made for composition in performance. Homeric Greek was never used in everyday speech, and no one ever wrote prose in Homeric Greek (until Pharr's exercises). It existed only in hexameter and elegiac verse. It evolved over many centuries before the Homeric poems were reduced to writing, and incorporated forms from various stages in the evolution of Greek epic and various dialects -- including Asia Minor Aeolic and earlier forms of Greek, and later Ionic.

That's why you won't find composition textbooks focused on Homeric Greek There are some textbooks on Greek verse composition that cover composing hexameter and elegiac poetry. But Greek prose composition textbooks focus on Attic Greek because the most widely read prose texts (leaving aside the New Testament) and the largest body of texts surviving from antiquity -- including texts by Christian authors -- are written in Attic.

You might find Horrocks' book on the Greek language interesting.

https://www.amazon.com/Greek-History-La ... C70&sr=8-1
Last edited by Hylander on Fri Jul 29, 2022 2:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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MeatySpoon
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Re: exercise in translation to Homeric Greek: speech tags

Post by MeatySpoon »

Hello,

Schoder and Horrigan's book - A Reading Course in Homeric Greek.
I heard that S&H has NT passages 'translated' into Homeric for the sake of practice. Might be of interest.

I think the biggest issue, like the other response here, mentioned, is the nature of 'Homeric Greek' itself. Nevertheless, I liked the exercise, sounds fun and might be a good way to appreciate the creativity of Homer and different ways of saying the same thing.

phalakros
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Re: exercise in translation to Homeric Greek: speech tags

Post by phalakros »

The main thing to watch for is voice in #2:

ψεύδει + ἀμείβω —> middle

On the vocab, note that μῆλα is usually plural (better would be αἴξ)

Wanting to practice Archaic Greek like this is admirable, but I agree with Hylander’s comment on prosifying Homer. Just a thought: instead of Homeric prose exercises, I’ve found it helpful to memorize bits of Homer, especially with an ear to how the formulas work with the meter. You can then practice combining and internalizing formulaic chunks, making small alterations if wanted:

For example, with #1 you could say eg:

τὴν δ’ αὖτε προσέειπεν ἀρηίφιλος Μενέλαος
or
τὴν δ’ αὖτε προσέειπε βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Μενέλαος

(With τὸν δ᾽ αὖτε προσέειπε you make the change to τήν; then you need to fit in Μενέλαος at line-end, filling the second hemiepes. There are two clear options with the same shape, ἀρηίφιλος and βοὴν ἀγαθὸς, the first requiring the nu ephelkustikon on προσέειπεν.)

Or for #4: ἀλλὰ ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν προσέφη γλαυκῶπιν Ἀθήνην

(you want Ἀθήνην at line-end)

In that way you would be practicing and thinking in a fashion closer to the ancient bards.

Anyone getting into this would want to already have a solid grasp of the grammar as well as the details of epic meter (see eg West, Greek Metre), and of course—the most important thing—to have read widely in epic.

You might also enjoy Gary Miller, Ancient Greek Dialects and Early Authors.

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bcrowell
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Re: exercise in translation to Homeric Greek: speech tags

Post by bcrowell »

Thanks, all, for the comments!
phalakros wrote: Fri Jul 29, 2022 6:38 pm On the vocab, note that μῆλα is usually plural (better would be αἴξ)
Yeah, I was trying to keep the grammar simple by making all the examples singular, and I was trying to find an excuse to use the neuter. Since I've already resorted to some kind of unspecified fantasy scene (which my wife found confusing when I showed this to her), maybe I should just have a talking tree, δένδρον.

I don't want to try to get into composing with Homeric metrical rules -- that would greatly increase the difficulty.

Revisions, for anyone who's interested:

2. He lies. I reply to him:

3. [A girl is walking through a haunted forest. A tree threatens her.] Thus spoke the evil tree, but she begged it:
Spoiler
Show
2. Ψεύδεται. τὸν δ' ἀμείβομαι·

3. Ὣς φάτο δένδρον κακόν, τὸ δε λίσσετο·
Ben Crowell, Fullerton, California
an innovative, free, and open-source presentation of Homer: https://bcrowell.github.io/ransom/

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