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A Brief History of Ancient Greek

ISBN: 978-1-4051-4925-9
232 pages
January 2014, Wiley-Blackwell
A Brief History of Ancient Greek (1405149256) cover image


A Brief History of Ancient Greek accessibly depicts the social history of this ancient language from its Indo-European roots to the present day.

  • Explains key relationships between the language and literature of the Classical period (500 - 300 BC)
  • Provides a social history of the language which transliterates and translates all Greek as appropriate, and is therefore accessible to readers who know little or no Greek 
  • Written in the framework of modern sociolinguistic theory, relating the development of Ancient Greek to its social and political context
  • Reflects the latest thinking on subjects such as Koiné Greek and the relationship between literary and vernacular Greek
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Table of Contents

List of Figures vi

Preface and Acknowledgments vii

1 The Indo-European Beginnings 1

2 An Aegean Co-Production 17

3 Mycenean Greek 32

4 The Dark Ages 51

5 The Alphabet 68

6 The Greek Dialects 89

7 Homer and the Epic Tradition 113

8 The Language of Greek Poetry 134

9 Bare Words: The Start of a Common Language 156

10 Greek to Romaic and Back 178

Appendix: The Greek Alphabet and Pronunciation 200

Abbreviations and Symbols 202

Glossary 204

References 207

Index 211

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Author Information

Stephen Colvin is Reader in Classics and Historical Linguistics at University College London. Previously, he was Associate Professor in the Department of Classics at Yale. He is the author of Dialect in Aristophanes (1999), A Historical Greek Reader (2007), and editor of The Greco-Roman East: Politics, Culture, Society (2004).

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“In A Brief History of Ancient Greek, Stephen Colvin provides a lucid, authoritative, and highly engaging introduction to the first two thousand years of the Greek language.”
Brent Vine, UCLA

“Colvin's history is authoritative and elegantly written, elucidating a great deal of complicated material with minimal fuss.”
Joshua T. Katz, Princeton University

“A thoroughly well-informed, lucid, and sensitive presentation of the history of ancient Greek: this book is clear, accessible, and at the same time admirably careful with facts, concepts, and debates.”
Philomen Probert , Wolfson College, Oxford


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