Monday, May 6, 2013


Last night, on patrol, I met a Muse.  Kalliope, the muse of epic poetry passed by at 6th and Congress.  She was coming from 6th and San Jacinto where she had been performing.  

I thought that she was a student in the Classics department at UT even though she did not look a day over 2500, but she said that she is a working artist.  She said that it takes about three hours to put on her make-up and that she recites epic Greek poetry on the streets downtown during festivals.  

She handed me a slip of paper. "Q: What did Athena say to Medusa? ... A: I haven't seen you in Aegis."  I tossed some coins into her lekythos (no handles, so it was not an amphora) and said, "Ephkaristi" but then corrected myself and pronounced in the archaic "e-u-karisti" and bade her "Kalli nikti" (modern Macedonian accent, but that was how I learned it.)  

I have interviewed numismatists from Oxbridge who shared their experiences of having learned Greek from Homer and Thucydides then tried to take a taxicab or order dinner and found themselves like tourists in the UK attempting to communicate in Elizabethan English learned from Shakespeare. 

We learn a funny kind of ancient Greek anyway, "Erasmian" pronunciation from the English Renaissance.  For one thing, in discussing the atomic theory, Aristotle called S and D the "atoms" of Z.  So, we know that "one letter one sound" is not entirely correct.   The Phi we say like the fricative f.  However, the Romans brought the world "philosophia" into Latin, but they had the fricative F as in Flavius and Forum.  They wrote what they heard and it was not "filosofia" as in modern Italian.  Speak each sound separately: p-hilosop-hia." Concerning vowels, to keep the meter in poety, vowel pairs such as EU (Eutrope, Europa), must be spoken as glides, as if in English "ay-oo tro pay" and "ay-oo-ropa."  And the R is rolled: RHo.  The Y was our U: "Thucycides" should have two of them.   (For more, see Vox Graeca by W. Sidney Allen,  itself now a classic. )

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