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Medieval and Byzantine History Medieval and Byzantine History Forum - Period of History between classical antiquity and modern times, roughly the 5th through 16th Centuries


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Old September 5th, 2010, 02:43 AM   #1
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Byzantium and its languages


The two main official languages were Greek and Latin. Although Latin was the official language until the 7th century AD, it was never as popular as Greek, since the population of Eastern Roman empire was mostly Greek-speaking. Emperor Heraclius decided to hellenise his empire, by replacing Latin with ancient Greek. That shows how Greece conquered Rome in cultural terms, back in 146 B.C. Everyone knows that the Roman empire conquered Greece, but for some reason there is a common misconception that they also conquered Greece culturally as well, while it is vice versa.

Unlike Greek, which evolved and survived, ancient Latin slowly died, and the languages that derived from it, are fundamentally different to the point where modern Italian or Romanian are so different that no modern Italian or Romanian can understand a Latin text without proper ancient studies.
The question is why Latin changed so much, unlike Greek.
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Old September 5th, 2010, 05:58 AM   #2

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Re: Byzantium and its languages


Tell me now Thessalonian, when the Romans conqured the Balkans, did the population just started miraculously speaking latin? Somebody speaking greek today the next day he wakes up as a subject of the Roman Empire, and does this mean that he starts speaking latin?
There is a very big difference between official language, and the language that the people speak.

About why did it changed? Well didn't latin also practically died out as official language in the Western parts of Europe? I mean germanic tribes were waying waste on the Western Roman Empire, and eventually they found countries, like the Goths for example. They didn't stoped speaking there language and started to speak latin, they countinued speaking there own language. After the Western Roman empire was long gonne, many of those "barbarians" that destroyed it mixed up wth the locals in the future, the language did change.
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Old September 5th, 2010, 06:03 AM   #3
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Re: Byzantium and its languages


Latin was the official language and was imposed to local populations. Obviously, this didn't work for the Romans, as local populations continued to speak their own tongues. So, I agree with you. I never said the opposite.
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Old September 5th, 2010, 06:13 AM   #4

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Re: Byzantium and its languages


Quote:
Originally Posted by Thessalonian View Post
Latin was the official language and was imposed to local populations. Obviously, this didn't work for the Romans, as local populations continued to speak their own tongues. So, I agree with you. I never said the opposite.
I would like also to add something more.
You know i have seen during my life many archeological artifacts, founded in cities around the Balkans, dating from the times of the Roman empire, some of those artifacts have something written on them, a text glorifying gods or heroes, a name of the scluptor or the man who created them, and those texts were greek, at least i haven't seen any of those artifacts to contain a text written on latin.
This makes me wonder to what extend was the latin language actually imposed on the Balkans.
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Old September 5th, 2010, 06:29 AM   #5
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Re: Byzantium and its languages


So, Latin was only spoken in Western Europe.... while the Hellenistic world only used it for a few centuries as an official language of the Eastern Roman Empire. OK.
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Old September 5th, 2010, 06:49 AM   #6
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Re: Byzantium and its languages


It's worth remembering that any civilised Patrician in the Rome of Cicero spoke and read Greek as a matter of course, and that a major poet like Catullus found it necessary to follow Greek forms: they clearly saw it as the language of cultured human beings which, given the Greek achievement, is hardly surprising.
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Old September 5th, 2010, 07:04 AM   #7
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Re: Byzantium and its languages


Yes. It looks like even in Egypt, cultured Roman citizens spoke and read Greek. Ptolemy is only a great example.
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Old September 5th, 2010, 07:35 AM   #8

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Re: Byzantium and its languages


Quote:
Originally Posted by Iolo View Post
It's worth remembering that any civilised Patrician in the Rome of Cicero spoke and read Greek as a matter of course, and that a major poet like Catullus found it necessary to follow Greek forms: they clearly saw it as the language of cultured human beings which, given the Greek achievement, is hardly surprising.
Hmm..
Even though what you'r seing is a fact i remamber that there was some "hostility" to say the least, toward greek language, and it was likewise, some greek scholers of Byzantine Empire regarded latin as a barberic language.
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Old September 6th, 2010, 03:42 AM   #9

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Re: Byzantium and its languages


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Originally Posted by sturm View Post
some greek scholers of Byzantine Empire regarded latin as a barberic language.
The way I understand it is that Byzantine scholars considered Latin to be unsuitable for discussing elevated theological concepts.
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Old September 6th, 2010, 09:48 AM   #10

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Re: Byzantium and its languages


In fact there are plenty of inscriptions in latin, till about 7 cnt. The latin decayed, is right, but resisted long enough to be imposed to thracian, illirian and dacian population, developing in popular latin. Justinian origins are in a this kind of region. Finally, only vlachs remained with latin idiom, but vlachs never were few.
I'm not an expert in greek, but I heard that, anyway, not even greek remained completelly unchanged. Greek from 20 cnt is different from greek from 17 cnt, which was different from greek in 14 cnt, which was different from greek in 2 cnt. Many ancient greek form of words were added to modern greek
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