War of Troy

By: | Post date: 2009-08-27 | Comments: 13 Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Literature, Mediaeval Greek
Tags: , , , ,

For far, far too long, scholars have treated Early Modern Greek literature as linguistic quarry, and have neglected these texts as literature in their own terms. Over the past couple of decade, this injustice has finally started to be redressed, as the Romances in particular have gained much deserved attention.

This post, on the other hand, continues in the bad old tradition.

As the TLG expands its coverage into Early Modern Greek, I have gone through the word recognition of the War of Troy. The War of Troy is an interesting text, and I am going to say some very superficial things about it.

The War is a retelling of the events of the Iliad. It’s not a first hand retelling. Around the end of the Roman empire, two people calling themselves Dictys the Cretan and Dares the Phrygian—and eyewitnesses to what went down in Ilium—wrote popular Latin retellings of the story. The Middle Ages being a gullible time, Dictys’ and Dares’ narrative ended up taken more seriously than Homer’s. After all, Dictys was there!

A few centuries later, Benoît de Sainte-Maure based his Roman de Troie on Dictys’ and Dares’ Latin. Some time after that, an anonymous Greek produced a Greek translation. (Outside Crete, anyone writing in the vernacular was anonymous: it wasn’t the kind of writing you took credit for.)

So we have a three generations down retelling of the Homeric original. Greeked by a writer who knows the names of Achilles and Helen in Greek, but not much else: there’s no evidence the translator knew any Homer. (And why would he need to? After all, Dictys was there!)

So you can imagine what’s happened to the names in this. That was a fun couple of nights to work through. The translator would take a look at the Old French, breath in, and guess. From what I can see, Benoît had done the same. Telemachus (Τηλέμαχος “Fights-Far-Away”) becomes Θελέμαχος “Wanna-Fight”. Assyria becomes Ζύρη. Boeotia Βοιωτία becomes Βοέκη (via Boëce). The King of the Scythians Rex Scytharum became Citare and thence Κιτάριος. A king from Syme, ex Syme, became Essimieïs and thence king of Ἐξιμιόνη. Somehow, Zeleia Ζέλεια ended up as Σιτζήλια, and Sicily Σικελία as Ζήλικος. We even have a Ἱουπιτής and a Νέπτιπος in the cast. That’s Jupiter and Neptune to you. And the only way I can explain Iphinoös Ἰφίνοος becoming Ἰσίδιος is via f looking like ſ (long s). (Did they have long s in 1400?)

All very fish in a barrel, that, so we’ll move on. The War of Troy was first published very very late. In fact, 1996. Each romance has its own vocabulary: the romances liked coining compounds, the War in particular has a lot of partly digested Old French, and there are some words that look to be one-offs anyway. But there are three reasons why we’re going to have serious gaps in documentation of the War’s vocabulary for a long time.

  • Most Early Modern texts had some sort of edition, however crappy, available by the time Kriaras started writing his dictionary. The War didn’t. So the volumes of Kriaras written before 1996 won’t know anything about its vocabulary.
  • The volumes of Kriaras up to 1997 each had addenda about new words that had turned up since the last volume. A horrid chore if you’re looking up a word, but editing Early Modern Greek is still a boom industry. (Or it was 10 years ago, when I was able to follow it.) So that kind of update does need to happen. After its decade hiatus, the new volumes don’t have addenda. So unless there’s a change of policy (or they become a real electronic dictionary, with dynamic update), Kriaras is not going to cover the War at all.
  • That’s *real* electronic dictionary. The online abridgement was supposed to keep updating with each volume of the post-hiatus full dictionary. Nothing’s happened in the past three years.
  • The editors of the War said they would publish a Volume II with a glossary. (Mercifully, they did put in a few pages of the more common undocumented words in Vol. I.) It’s been 13 years, and Google tells me naught; I have no particular reason to hold my breath that I will see a Vol. II.

It’s a shame, because the glossary they do include has some words that I’m scratching my head about.

  • I’m convinced I’ve seen καιρογεύω “to hire” somewhere before, but I have no idea where. Neither does Kriaras or Trapp.
  • A γορζέρα is a visor on a helmet, translating French ventaille. (Yes, of course the War of Troy has visors and jousting and mediaeval stuff.) But ventaille is not [ɡorzera], and there’s no way that’s a Greek word. Where did it come from?
  • καλανίζω means “to spatter”. Where did *that* come from?
  • Ditto τόρτσα [tortsa] for chandelier, and χωρίγιν [xoriɣin] for “cement”.

I suspect some of this is Italian or Venetian, but some of it clearly isn’t.

There’s a reason the War took so long to publish. It’s huge by the standards of the time: 14000 verses. It was quite popular (six surviving manuscripts), so there’s a lot of manuscript collation to do. We have the French original, which you also have to take into account when doing the collation. What that leaves you is a lot more donkey work than usual for editing a text: normally you’d be lucky to have a couple of manuscript witnesses.

It also means the temptation there is emend the text, to match the French original more closely. The degree of emendation in the War is more than most scholars these days are comfortable with; and because the emendation did not prioritise linguistic plausibility, you have to look in the margin (the source readings) if you’re going to do any linguistics with the text. There are anachronisms in there.

Emendation in mediaeval texts is inevitable, just as it is inevitable in Classical texts: texts got miscopied, mistransmitted, misconstrued. But vernacular texts don’t work like Classical texts in transmission: the scribes feel a lot freer to tinker with the text, because ten centuries of Ancient Authority aren’t going to gainsay them. And the results of a scribe tinkering with a vernacular text are not as noticeable as with a Classical text—so you have less of a gut instinct to go with, for which of two variants is the original.

Gut instinct is a risky thing to rely on anyway, and Early Modern Greek texts have suffered a lot from Modern Greek scholars coming along, and assuming they know the language and metre and poetics of the texts better than the scribes did. The scribes were often enough blockheads, that’s true. That doesn’t mean modern editors aren’t fallible.

The world owes Stylianos Alexiou, for instance, gratitude for making the Escorial Digenes legible, and reviving Cretan Renaissance theatre. The world does not owe Stylianos Alexiou gratitude for:

  • Assuming 14th century iambic heptameter was the same as 20th century iambic heptameter, and emending it when it wasn’t
  • Assuming the 16th century dialect of Rethymnon was the same as the 20th century dialect of Rethymnon, and emending it when it wasn’t

It’s not that they are not usually the same; but they are decidedly not always the same, and you’d better have an explicit argument for when you do tamper with the text.

And I’m sorry, but in the same vein, if you’re editing a 14th century text like the War of Troy, and you’re looking to emend a verse with a single-syllable future particle, because the French original is in the future tense—you do NOT use a particle that first appeared in Greek in 1700! What on earth use is that? Would you put “gonna” into your Chaucer? “Kthxbye” into your Dickens?

“tl;dr”, that you can put into Dickens…

The particle in question is θα, which in 1400 was only starting to be emerge as the uncontracted θέλω να. The monosyllabic particle they were actually looking for was να, the subjunctive marker: the future was “I may go” in 1200 before it started becoming “I will go” in 1400, and by 1700 “I’ll go”—if I can use English analogy here.

“θα exists in this text only by emendation (1816, 8796, 8972)” p. lxxvii—it shouldn’t be there at all. Verse 1816:

Ἐτοῦτοι ὁποῦ εἰς τὰ κάτεργα θὰ εῖναι διωρθωμένοι
“Those who in the galleys shall be set right”
1816 θὰ Pap[athompoulos], cf. 4669 E cil qui remandront as nes : ἂς ABVX.

The ἂς reading is grammatically awkward, and somewhat odd (“those who in the galleys may they be set right”); but it’s in all the manuscripts, and is not outright wrong. If you want to claim that the translator must have rendered the future remandront with a future, then for pity’s sake use the historically plausible future: Ἐτοῦτοι ὁποῦ εἰς τὰ κάτεργα νὰ εῖναι διωρθωμένοι

Let that be a lesson to… well, to someone.


  • Nauplion says:

    Ditto τόρτσα [tortsa] for chandelier,

    Torch? from torchere.

  • MariaAk says:

    The link below displays the results (125 entries) and an easy way to search for entries in Kriaras that come from the War of Troy (you should type Τρωαδ. in the search box and then check the box "Αναζήτηση και στο σώμα των λημμάτων).

  • Peter says:

    I've been curious about what happened to Greek between the New Testament (never read any Plutarch) and the Modern Greek I heard and studied in Athens during the semester I was there…

    Nothing much—relatively speaking, of course.

  • TAK says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • TAK says:

    Dear godson,

    thanks for the separate answer (godfather is flattered!).

    I don't know how I managed to catch pneumonia in August (in Cyprus, mind you!), but it's been horrible: I spent nearly a month in bed with high fever… I am hopefully recovering but it takes time…

    Back to the War of Troy. You will be happy to know, I guess, that Tassos Karanastassis agrees with you: he too believes that it is more likely that the redactor/translator eclectically slipped in Italian terms of chivalry for French rather than that he actually used an Italian translation/version.

    Now, I cannot exclude this possibility and I cannot contradict you on this, but it is the literary parallels (besides linguistic evidence, I mean) that make me believe that an Italian version is more possible. Let us not forget that we have texts from the same period (14th c.), the same region (Peloponnese) and even of the same genre (romances) that have followed the same route, i.e. not directly from French but via Italian translations. The most telling example would be the Greek romance of Florios which does not translate the French Floir et Blancheflor of the 12th c. but the 14th-c. Italian Cantare di Fiorio et Biancifiore . Equally, Apollonius of Tyrus follows the same route to enter the early modern Greek literary tradition, i.e. via Italian translations/redactions (most notably that of Antonio Pucci) and the same is valid for the fragmentary Arthurian romance The old knight/Ο πρέσβυς ιππότης . If we believe Spadaro's hypothesis, at the same time (14th c.) and in the same region (Peloponnese) Boccacio's Teseida found its way to Greek literature thanks to the Acciaiulo family's intervention. As for Imberios , it is quite clear that it is not a direct translation of the French Pierre de Provence et la belle Maguelonne , but we have been unable to find an intermediary (Schreiner thought it to be Catalan, but this remains an (intriguing) hypothesis since the Catalan text was never found). In any case, if the Greek War of Troy is a direct translation from the French original, then this makes it a unique case at the time and we still need to find an explanation for the Italianisms of the text. As I said, I cannot exclude the possibility that the Greek translator/redactor would turn to Italian to 'translate' the anyhow inexistent in Greek French chivalric words and notions. But given the literary parallels, I find it more likely that there was an Italian version that he used, a version that remains to be found.

    Karanastassis (who has been following this discussion and I hope that at some point will join us too) also reminded me that in Kriaras we used the War of Troy even before pi: Papathomopoulos, before the publication of the edition with Jeffreys in 1996, had published a series of articles in Dodoni, where he presented and discussed his emendations, etc., using excerpts of the text. All these had been card-indexed and used whenever needed in Kriaras Lexicon from the 5th vol. (1977) onwards. So it is not true that we are lost up to pi, but it is true that we are lost without the Addenda and I do hope that they will review this policy in the Lexicon.

    As for my response on monotonic, no, we do not disagree essentially (though you seem to be far more sympathetic with the polytonic than myself). But I have to come back on this with a more concrete answer.

    Thanks for your wishes and keep up the good work!

    Btw, I do not think that not including the Papathomopoulos-Jeffreys edition in TLG is a solution. A banner warning linguists that this text includes many emendations and divinations of the editors that do not exist in the manuscripts would better serve your purposes, I think.



  • Mind you, χωρύγι is included in Πάπυρος-Μέγα Λεξικό της Ελληνικής Γλώσσας:
    < *εγχωρύγιον < έγχωρος + ορύσσω

  • opoudjis says:

    @ Tasos (thou who art mine godfather):

    … pneumonia?! How did I miss *that* on your facebook status?! Dude, get well! Not least because you've got an extra mouth to feed now. 🙂

    I was reticent to go into the scuttlebutt about two living scholars, but (a) it's not like I'm going to become a professional Hellenist, and (b) you did it for me. 🙂 I gather one of the editors was more responsible for the emendomania, and will leave it at that. 🙂 But yes, the intrusion of a 1700 particle is far from the only indication that the text is linguistically irresponsible.

    In fact, someone has explicitly told me that this edition should be avoided for inclusion in the TLG; but I don't exactly see people queuing up to edit it (given how monsterpiece it is); and as literature, the text is important. As with any work in the TLG, if you're doing linguistic work, try and get hold of the apparatus criticus, and check what the original manuscripts said.

    I'm happy to be corrected about the extent of Kriaras' coverage of the text. (Btw Karanastassis is Tassos Karanastassis, the long-term managing editor of Kriaras; dictionary.) We are lost up to pi, but not from pi on. (Though without an addenda policy, we're still lost up to pi.) My strategy on this blog seems to be to say something ill informed about my erstwhile field, and get the people who actually know about it to say "well, actually, it's like this…" 🙂

    I know an Italianist who's told me about this "oh, you can always go to the library in Siena" attitude. It's contemptible. You can't google dead trees, you can google Siena libraries even less. Damn it to hell, Italianists, they're not YOUR texts, to pop over to Siena when you feel like it: they're the world's, the world should have access to them.

    You're a philologist and I'm not, but there is still a lot of what looks to be half-digested old French in the glossary. And while contaminatio does happen (the scribe has access to two versions of the source text, and mixes them up in his copy, so you can't draw a neat family tree), I've always thought contaminatio a greater degree of painstaking than the vernacular manuscripts seem to betray. Is it possible that the translator eclectically slipped in Italian terms of chivalry for French, *without* reference to a fully spelled out Italian version?

    Looking forward to your response on monotonic if and when you get time. I don't think we essentially disagree, but I'll see whether you think so!

    Και πάλι καλή ανάρρωση!

  • opoudjis says:

    Kind correspondents all, my thanks!

    @ Blackerby: it turns out Early Modern Greek is not all that different from Modern Modern Greek, and that the drastic grammatical simplification between Koine and Early Modern Greek is not well attested. But I will find some samplers and post them; there's already one from 813—which actually is more archaic than I'd have expected.

    @ John: thank you for googling, and for giving me "gorget"—I needed that gloss for another Greek word, in the romance of Libistros and Rhodamne. (The more Greek-looking χερόψιν, which apparently also means "handcuffs".)

    The edition was quite single-minded about relating the War Of Troy back to Benoît de Sainte-Maure's Old French; I haven't done any comparing, but would have no reason to think the author really did mean a ventaille by his gorgiera, and was quite as literal as the editors expected.

    @ Diana: if only I could be half as entertaining as your blog! But you historians have an unfair advantage.

    @ Nikos: Thank you for doing my homework for me. I don't *think* χωρύγι/χωρίκι has made the lexica I've used for the TLG, but that's not really a surprise.

    @ Tasos (thou who art mine godfather): separate comment for you—godfather's privilege!

  • TAK says:

    Dear Nick,

    as you have noticed, the apparatus of the Papathomopoulos-Jeffreys edition is full with emendations and divinatios, which are not to be taken seriously as linguistic evidence…

    As far as I know, the main reason why it took Papathomopoulos and Jeffreys so long to publish the text was that they disagreed on editorial principles and this is also the main reason why there will never be a vol. 2 – the other reason being the text's length: the War is indeed the longest text of Early Modern Greek literature that has survived to date.

    In my view (and I hope I will be able to write something on this in a more scholarly fashion in the future), there is abundant linguistic evidence in the text that points to an Italian intermediary (gorzera or gorgiera, a word that appears in Italian in 1287 according to Palazzi-Folena in the form chorgiere, is one of the many words that point to this Italian intermediary that must have been used as a model by the Greek redactors).

    The problem is that Italian scholarship has long given up on preparing modern editions of early modern texts: the preparation of such editions seems to be, bluntly, out of the question when it comes to "minor" texts and what most Italian scholars do nowadays is to provide their readers with the exact location of the rare manuscripts and old prints they use (including the infamous collocazione), in order to facilitate researchers who might be willing to go to the trouble of checking these sources for themselves in Italy…

    Anyway, I have to say that I realized the existence of this Italian intermediary thanks to Kriaras: in 1996, when the Papathomopoulos-Jeffreys edition appeared, I still worked for Kriaras' Lexicon and I must state that the info you provide about Kriaras in your text is not accurate. It is true that the War's edition arrived at a time when the 14th volume was nearly finished. However, Kriaras insisted that we should at least card-index the words included in the few pages of Papathomopoulos-Jeffreys Glossary and so we did.

    So, it is not true that Kriaras does not cover the War at all: I remember that I have used the text in many of the entries I edited (see e.g. παρά, p. 318, παππούς, sense 2, p. 315 and πανιτσέλι, an entry that comes exclusively from the War of Troy). In fact, it was πανιτσέλι that made me first suspect the existence of the Italian intermediary I mentioned above. I had discussed this entry both with Karanastassis and Kriaras, and back then, in 1996, I had asked my friend Stamatia Koliademou (the modern editor of Άνθος των χαρίτων, that will appear soon) to contact her friend Cristina Stevanoni in Verona for more info on the Italian versions of the War of Troy. Cristina could not come up with any info at all, which most probably means that the issue has not been looked at by the Italians rather than that such versions never existed. In any case, I abandoned the whole thing, because I was busy with my Mirrors of Women.

    It is regrettable indeed that there are no more Addenda in the 15-16th vols. But perhaps this is a policy that may change if we all tell them how useful they were…

    Best wishes,

    Tassos A. Kaplanis

    PS. I still owe a reply for your summary-presentation of my views on monotonic. I will do it in due course. For the time being, I am trying to recover from… pneumonia!!!

  • Nauplion says:

    Fs & Ss are always a problem in 15thC manuscripts.

    Terrific fun, as usual.


  • Very interesting!

    Let me help a bit. Τόρτσα is almost certainly a loan from fr. torche (en. torch).

    As to χωρίγι, it is what we call ασβέστης (lime something). I know this because there is a small family story, about my grandfather's brother. He had just come to Piraeus from Mani, about 8 years old, and he went to school, and the tutor asked the class what the word "χωρικοί" (villagers) means. Apparently the word was not used in Mani, so he answered, quite sure of himself "Αυτοί που φτιάχνουν το χωρίκι!" (those who make lime).

    Googling χωρίκι gives nothing, but χωρύγι does give a couple of hits (excluding the 300 or so that point to a village named Χωρύγι). But even TLG has πηγάνου φύλλα μετὰ χωρυγίου ἐπίθες εἰς τὰς ὀπάς, from pseudoGalen.

  • John Cowan says:

    Well, I took the obvious step of googling [gorzera Greek], and the second hit showed me the tantalizing verse fragment "Seguiva apresso Avorio, Avino e Ottone, Il duca Namo e il duca Amone a lato, Ed altri, tutti gente da gorzera, Che più di cento sono in una schiera." That looked like gente da gorzera was some sort of Italian equivalent of noblesse de l'epee, and the meter (boy, is Italian verse big on elisions!) told me that the word stress was in the right place. Granted, there was the slight phonetic mismatch of Italian [ts ~ dz] vs. Greek [z], but I had to be on the right track.

    Google's link led me to the Logos Library, which Google had found more or less by accident (the only mention of Greek on the linked page was in a list of languages), specifically a word search on schiera. I redirected it to gorzera instead, and turned up these somewhat longer snippets, with attributions:

    Context information for: gorzera
    Match N. 1

    Author: Boiardo Matteo Maria
    Source: http://www.italicon.it/index_biblio.asp?MNUEICON=0
    Subject: ITALIAN FICTION (853) Download text

    … furor che par che il mondo cada; Gradasso il vidde e riparò col scudo, Ma non giova riparo a quella spada: La targa e usbergo in fino al petto nudo Convien che 'n pezzi a la campagna vada, E la gorzera e parte del camaglio Ne portò seco a terra de un sol taglio. Quando il re franco del colpo se avvide, Mena a due mano e il fren frangendo rode; Sino alla carne ogni arma li divide, E 'l gran

    Match N. 2

    Author: Sacchetti Franco
    Source: http://www.liberliber.it/biblioteca/s/sacchetti/in
    Subject: ITALIAN FICTION (853) Download text

    … poter resistere al freddo che sosteneano per la levata gorgiera. E quando cominciorono a uscire fuori, e andare per Verona, a chi gli avea veduti in gorgiera parea una nuova cosa, e diceano: – Guarda li Toscani che s'han levado la gorzera -; e molte altre cose. E cosí rimase la cosa. E non fu ella al mondo sopra tutte le altre usanze maravigliosa questa della gorgiera? Di tutte l'altre che furono mai nel mondo, questa fu la piú strana e la piú

    Match N. 3

    Author: Boiardo Matteo Maria
    Source: http://www.italicon.it/index_biblio.asp?MNUEICON=0
    Subject: ITALIAN FICTION (853) Download text

    … Re Desiderio e lo re Salamone E Brandimarte (che era dimorato Alquanto per disciorre ogni pregione), Ricardo e Belengieri apresiato. Seguiva apresso Avorio, Avino e Ottone, Il duca Namo e il duca Amone a lato, Ed altri, tutti gente da gorzera, Che più di cento sono in una schiera. E' già son gionti presso a quelle mura, Ove la zuffa è più cruda che mai, Che era cosa a vedere orrenda e scura, Come di sopra poco io ve contai. Grande

    Now you'll note that in the second fragment, gorzera is embedded in what seems to be a dialect quotation, and that we have gorgiera in the next sentence. Now that must mean a neck protector (gorget in French and English), as indeed the Italian Wikipedia confirms, and not a visor at all! Semantic shift of that sort is certainly not unknown, but how sure are you that gorzera here was meant to be a literal translation of ventaille? Perhaps that word does not mean what you think it means.

  • blackerby says:

    Fascinating stuff! I've just entered the non-academic world after completing an undergraduate degree in Greek at a small US college, so it's been nice to stay in touch through your blog. I've been curious about what happened to Greek between the New Testament (never read any Plutarch) and the Modern Greek I heard and studied in Athens during the semester I was there (lots happened, I know, but you get my drift). The interaction with French is particularly interesting as well. So, thanks from an amateur Hellenist.

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