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Old June 9th, 2018, 02:01 PM   #1

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A question to Greek-speaker:

Click the image to open in full size.

I have shown this before in another thread. It is a follis minted in second half of 800s in the Byzantine Empire. On the reverse it can be read as: “Basil, Constantine and Leo. Emperors/Kings of the Romans”.

I want a clear respond from Greek-speaker(s):

Does “Basil” mean “Emperor”, “King”, or does it imply both?

I am asking because some secondary sources are contradicting each other.
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Old June 9th, 2018, 02:07 PM   #2
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βασιλεύς - King
αυτοκράτορας - Emperor
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Old June 9th, 2018, 02:10 PM   #3

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The first one is "basilius", and the second one is "autokrator" ? . I am not good with Greek alphabets.
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Old June 9th, 2018, 02:21 PM   #4

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I argue that it rather means "ruler" than "king" or "emperor", as it designated a whole lot of different rulers. But during early Byzantine times the term "basileus" was kept only for Roman, Persian and Axumite rulers, everyone else getting the term of "rex". Thus, if one has to choose, I'd argue "emperor" is more precise in medieval context.
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Old June 9th, 2018, 04:25 PM   #5

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I'm not a Greek-speaker, but since this question is more one of semantics than linguistics I'll make an attempt to answer.

Does “Basil” mean “Emperor”, “King”, or does it imply both?
Both, but mostly the former. In the classical period "basileus" meant "ruler" or "sovereign", and was used when referring to foreign monarchs, but it carried very different semantic baggage from the Roman "rex" and the modern "king", implying a sort of lawful and restrained authority, not tyranny. The term was used by some eastern sources from quite early on to refer to the emperors in Rome, though "autokrator" was more common, it was the standard title of the Persian Kings, and it was also - and this is key to its later official adoption - used to refer to the kings of the Old Testament in the Septuagint.

In mid-late antiquity, as Roman republican ideology became deeply entrenched among the citizens of the east, the concept of a "basileus", with its lawful and restrained connotations, easily assumed the role held by "imperator" in the west within that ideology; that is, in a very simplified nutshell, that a society should be composed of a unified res publica/politeia (a political personification of society and its constituents, similar to the modern concept of a "body politic") governed through laws and guided by an imperator/basileus who ultimately derived his authority from the people. The Romans and the Persians were the only societies which were accepted as conforming to this standard, and the latter mostly for reasons of diplomacy and power over actual similarities.

So, then, by the 6th century you have two res publicas, the Roman and the Persian, ruled by two basiliades; everyone else (save the Axumites, depending on context) was ruled by "tyrants" and "reges". By this point, then, "basileus" had connotations of civilization, exclusivity, and superiority over other monarchs; that is, it had shifted from merely "ruler" to a term much closer to the modern "emperor", hence its translation as such both then and now. That being said, it was also a more ambiguous term than "imperator", especially as the Emperors identified themselves more and more with figures like Solomon and David. "Imperator" was a political term with its origins in a society that already despised "reges", but "basileus" had a much more varied history which routinely came back to introduce confusion into English translations; we see this, for example, in Christ's epithet of "King of Kings", "Rex Regnatium" in Latin but "Basileus Basileon" in Greek, the latter recalling imperial power but the former largely divorced from it.

Maintaining consistency and the visibility of biblical references is thus the primary reason why you might see "basileus" translated as "king" in a Byzantine context, even when the term more often recalled imperial status, though the term's shift back to a meaning closer to "king" in modern Greek sometimes also has something to do with it. In a contemporary context though, "basileus" is almost always best translated as "emperor", especially in light of the amount of trouble rulers like Charlemagne went through to get recognized by the Romans as one.
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Old June 10th, 2018, 11:00 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Magus View Post
βασιλεύς - King
αυτοκράτορας - Emperor
Magus is correct, these are the exact translations of the words.

The word "Basil" like for different Byzantine emperors comes from the word Βασιλευς (Βασιλιας in colloquialism).

The meaning of the word "Aυτοκράτωρ" (αυτοκρατορας in colloquialism) means self ruler.

The words Βασιλευς and Aυτοκρατωρ have been used interchangeably at different times in historical moments having the same connotation.
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Old June 12th, 2018, 09:10 AM   #7
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By the way, in case you might all want to know the exact pronunciation in Greek for the above words since they mostly are mispronounced , here it is:



The word/name "Basil" in Greek is "Βασιλειος" and pronounced "Vasilios".
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Old July 12th, 2018, 01:38 AM   #8
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If one can learn the seven (7) difthongs in Greek, he would know how to read Greek properly:

1) αι (pronounced as Ε,ε, like in the word "letter")
2) oi (pronounced as Ι,ι); also the three (3) letters Ι,ι, Η,η, and Υ,υ, have also the same sound Ι,ι; like in "internal".
3) ει (pronounced also as Ι,ι)
4) υι (pronounced also as Ι,ι, or the English sound "ve", but is almost extinct)
5) ου (pronounced also as the English sound "ou")
6) αυ ( pronounced as "af" or "av", depending on the particular word)
7) ευ (pronounced as "ef" or "ev" also depending on the particular word)

One should also learn how to pronounce certain letters that may be the same in English but with a different sound.

A as in "alpha"
B the sound is "V"
Γ sound as in the word "yes"
Δ as in th like "the", "this"
Ε as in "enable"
Ζ same as in English
Η as in I, like in "idiom"
Θ as in "th" like in "Theology"
Ι same as Η in Greek
Κ same in English
Λ as "L"
Μ same as in English
Ν same as in English
Ξ as in the "KS" sound
Ο same as in English
Π like in "P"
Ρ like "R"
Σ like "S"
Τ same
Υ same as H or I in Greek
Φ as in "F"
Χ as the "H" in English like in "horrific", "he"
Ψ as n "PS"
Ω as in "O"

Last edited by Apollon; July 12th, 2018 at 01:47 AM.
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Old July 12th, 2018, 04:06 AM   #9

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Originally Posted by Apollon View Post
Δ as in th like "the", "this"
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Old July 12th, 2018, 05:31 AM   #10

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Is that Attic Greek, modern Greek, or whatever the Byzantines/Late Romans were speaking? The first 2 are NOT the same at all!

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