Short Writings Volume IV | “Observations on Greek dialects in the late second millennium BCE,” by Gregory Nagy

Professor Nagy, on the occasion of his induction as a corresponding member to the Academy of Athens, presented a lecture entitled “Observations on Greek dialects in the late second millennium BCE,” now available in “Short Writings: Volume IV.” (2011.04.06)

By looking into the linguistic evidence, Professor Nagy explores Greek identity in that era:

§9. In terms of such linguistic archaeology, what basically matters is not whether epic characters like (a) Minos and (b) Agamemnon and (c) Diomedes and (d) Kadmos and (e) Nestor as we see them represented in the medium of Homeric poetry were historical figures. What matters is how they were viewed by the audiences of Homeric poetry, a medium that took shape around the eighth century BCE. And the audiences of this medium did in fact view such characters as historical figures. More than that, they viewed the Ἀχαιοί/Akhaioí of Homeric poetry to be their very own heroic ancestors: as we see clearly from the overall plot of the Iliad, the Greek-speaking people who were the audience of this epic believed that they would not even exist, that they would have become extinct as a people, if the ships of the Achaeans had been destroyed during the Trojan war, making it impossible for these warriors to return to their Helladic homeland (Nagy 1979/1999, chapters 5 and 20).