13 thoughts on “Episode 14: The Greek Word Horde

  1. Dear Kevin-
    I have been enjoying your podcasts. One comment: Whether Ancient Macedonian was distinct language or, more likely, a Greek dialect, is unknown. If it was a distinct language, it was probably a sibling language of Greek.

  2. I had a question pertaining to the part of the podcast in which you say that the Ancient Macedonians were heavily influenced by Greek culture, but did not speak Greek. I was going to ask which language was spoken there. Also, I am heavily addicted to the podcast and have been “binge listening” for a week now. Thank you!

    • Hi Charlie,

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast. With respect to the language of the ancient Macedonians, it is generally believed that it was an Indo-European language related to Greek, but distinct enough to be considered a different language. Some linguists argue that it was simply a different dialect of Greek, but that gets into the difficult and complicated distinction between a language and a dialect.

      • Hey Kevin,

        Thanks for your response. Again, I can’t stop listening. The words I hear and speak on a daily basis have so much depth to them now. I can barely get through a 5-minute conversation without wanting to tell the other person about the root of a word they just used, or look one up in my Etymology app. I am an American by birth, studied Spanish my whole life and lived in Barcelona for 3 years. There I dabbled a bit in Catalan. I’ve been living in Scotland with my wife for 2 years now. I am a primary school teacher and struggle at times to understand my Glaswegian students. My school is one of the few bilingual schools in Scotland (half English – half Gaelic).

        I mention all of this to illustrate just how meaningful your podcast is to me. It is bringing a sense of unity to the languages and cultures that are important to me. Not to mention – my knowledge of Ancient European history and geography of Europe is expanding out of control. I am grateful for your work. Take care.


  3. Regarding the words CHURCH and PARA-

    Norwegian has church as “kirke” – now I know why!

    PARA meaning against, beside or almost – doesn’t gel with PARACHUTE – and I am guessing paraglide, parasail etc are not derived from the Greek, but from the word parachute. Still – parachute has me wondering where it came from. I hope you can explain.

    • The prefix ‘para-‘ is words like “parachute” and “paramilitary” comes from the Latin word “parare” meaning ‘to make ready.’ The Latin word passed into Italian where it meant to ‘ward off’ or ‘protect against.’ From Italian, it passed into English as a word forming element. ‘Para’ + ‘chute’ literally meant ‘to protect against a fall.’

  4. Hi, I have recently come across this wonderful podcast and have been listening to it ceaselessly ever since! I think I have covered 32 chapters in a month and to continue at this pace till I catch up… one comment though regarding this chapter. I believe there was a misunderstanding relating to the Hebrew bible. It was never lost to history and have been used by Jews continuously since around 2500 years ago. I myself am not a practicing Jew but it is a fact that the original Hebrew text is read in synagogues (a Greek word I believe…) every Monday, Thursday and Saturday. The Dead Sea scrolls indeed confirmed that the traditional version in use by Jews ever since, is identical to the one that used by the people of 2000 years ago.

    • I don’t really have anything to add; I’ve been listening my way through as well, and greatly enjoying it, and couldn’t resist adding a comment when I saw I am listening to this episode almost precisely one year to the day after you, ha ha!

  5. While the Homeric epics are clearly concerned with the problem of political authority and ruling elites, as seen between Agamemnon and Achilles, their composition predates the introduction of the word tyrannos into the Greek language. The word ‘tyrant’ is derived from tyrannos, which in turn has a pre-Greek origin, likely of Phrygian or Lydian origin, probably derived from Lydian tûran, “lord”, and simply means “sole ruler”.

    The oldest known use of the word tyrannos is associated with king Gyges of Lydia. Gyges, whom Plato uses as a disparaging example of moral depravity and wickedness (Republic 359a-360d), was the first to be known to the Greeks as a tyrant and the one who introduced the institution of tyranny to the Greeks. The Greeks understood the word tyrannos as having the meaning of military leader, specifically of leader of hoplite troops. It was Gyges who made the first use of hoplites; the hoplite bodyguard was one of the particular features of Lydian kingship. That Gyges owed his power to mercenaries is certain: Herodotos relates that the Lydians resented the murder of their king and took up arms against Gyges, but Gyges was able to force the revolting Lydians into submission with his “partisans” or mercenary hoplites (Herodotus, Histories, 1.13). The Greek terminology applying to rulers reveals that archagetes (‘the first leader’, ‘founder’, but also a word that stresses the concept of leadership especially in war, a title used of the kings of Sparta) is the word nearest in meaning to tyrannos. Archagetes has the meaning of “furtherer” and is applied both to divinities and to military leaders. In its second use it can be compared with words such as strategetes (military general, army leader) or strategos (military commander, the official title of Sicilian tyrants). The idea behind the word tyrannos is that of leading some militarily organized formation of people. In other words, the tyrant was a person who had managed to become commander of a body of mercenary troops owing allegiance to him personally and which he could use as a military/police force to control the state politically, using the state itself to collect the money with which to buy his soldiers. For example, Peisistratus, tyrant of Athens, was supported by a very considerable part of the growing population of Athens. Though forced from power, he returned to Athens again by gaining the support of foreign assistance, maintaining power with a mercenary bodyguard.

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