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The scholars of Alexandria, therefore, and of the rival academy of Pergamus, were the first who studied the Greek language critically, that is to say, who analyzed the language, arranged it under general categories, distinguished the various parts of speech, invented proper technical terms for the various functions of words, observed the more or less correct usage of certain poets, marked the difference between obsolete and classical forms, and published long and learned treatises on all these subjects. Their works mark a great era in the history of the science of language. But there was still a step to be made before we can expect to meet with a real practical or elementary grammar of the Greek language. Now the first real Greek grammar was that of Dionysius Thrax. It is still in existence, and though its genuineness has been doubted, these doubts have been completely disposed of.
But who was Dionysius Thrax? His father, as we learn from his name, was a Thracian; but Dionysius himself lived at Alexandria, and was a pupil of the famous critic and editor of Homer, Aristarchus. Dionysius afterwards went to Rome, where he taught about the time of Pompey. Now here we see a new feature in the history of mankind. A Greek, a pupil of Aristarchus, settles at Rome, and writes a practical grammar of the Greek language - of course, for the benefit of his young Roman pupils. He was not the inventor of grammatical science. Nearly all the framework of grammar, as we saw, was supplied to him through the labors of his predecessors from Plato to
1 Suidas, 3. ν. Διονύσιος. Διονύσιος Αλεξανδρεός, θραξ δε από πατρός τούνομα κληθείς, 'Αριστάρχου μαθητής, γραμματικός ος έσοφίστευσεν εν Ρώμη επί Πομπηίου του Μεγάλο».
Aristarchus. But he was the first who applied the results of former philosophers and critics to the practical purpose of teaching Greek; and, what is most important, of teaching Greek not to Greeks, who knew Greek and only wanted the theory of their language, but to Romans who had to be taught the declensions and conjugations, regular and irregular. His work thus became one of the principal channels through which the grammatical terminology, which had been carried from Athens to Alexandria, flowed back to Rome, to spread from thence over the whole civilized world.
Dionysius, however, though the author of the first practical grammar, was by no means the first “ ' professeur de langue” who settled at Rome. At his time Greek was more generally spoken at Rome than French is now spoken in London. The children of gentlemen learnt Greek before they learnt Latin, and though Quintilian in his work on education does not approve of a boy learning nothing but Greek for any length of time, “as is now the fashion," he says, “with most people,” yet he too recommends that a boy should be taught Greek first, and Latin afterwards. This may seem strange, but the fact is that as long as we know anything of Italy, the Greek language was as much at home there as Latin. Italy owed almost everything to Greece, not only in later days when the setting sun of Greek civilization mingled its rays with the dawn of Roman greatness; but ever since the first Greek colonists started Westward Ho! in search of new homes. It was from the Greeks that the Italians received their alphabet and were taught to read and to
1 Quintilian, i. 1, 12.
write. The names for balance, for measuring-rod, for engines in general, for coined money, many terms connected with seafaring, not excepting nausea sea-sickness, are all borrowed from Greek, and show the extent to which the Italians were indebted to the Greeks for the very rudiments of civilization. The Italians, no doubt, had their own national gods, but they soon became converts to the mythology of the Greeks. Some of the Greek gods they identified with their own; others they admitted as new deities. Thus Saturnus, originally an Italian harvest god, was identified with the Greek Kronos, and as Kronos was the son of Uranos, a new deity was invented, and Saturnus was fabled to be the son of Cælus. Thus the Italian Herculus, the god of hurdles, enclosures, and walls, was merged in the Greek Heracles. Castor and Pollux, , both of purely Greek origin, were readily believed in as nautical deities by the Italian sailors, and they were the first Greek gods to whom, after the battle on the Lake Regillus (485), a temple was erected at Rome.5 In 431 another temple was erected at Rome to Apollo, whose oracle at Delphi had been consulted by Italians
1 See Mommsen, Römische Geschichte, b. i. s. 197. “ The Latin alphabet is the same as the modern alphabet of Sicily; the Etruscan is the same as the old Attic alphabet. Epistola, letter, charta, paper, and stilus, are words borrowed from Greek.” – Mommsen, b. i. s. 184.
2 Mommsen, Römische Geschichte, b. i. s. 186. Statera, the balance, the Greek grathp; machina, an engine, unxaví; nümus, a silver coin, νόμος, the Sicilian νουμμος ; groma, measuring-rod, the Greek γνώμων or yvõua; clathri, a trellis, a grate, the Greek klipa, the native Italian word for lock being claustra.
8 Gubernare, to steer, from kvepvāv; anchora, anchor, from eykapa; prora, the forepart, from mpūpa. Navis, remus, velum, &c., are common Aryan words, not borrowed by the Romans from the Greeks, and show that the Italians were acquainted with navigation before the discovery of Italy by the Phocæans. 4 Mommsen, i. 154.
6 Ibid. i. 408.
ever since Greek colonists had settled on their soil. The oracles of the famous Sibylla of Cumæ were written in Greek, and the priests (duoviri sacris faciundis) were allowed to keep two Greek slaves for the purpose of translating these oracles.?
When the Romans, in 454 B. C., wanted to establish a code of laws, the first thing they did was to send commissioners to Greece to report on the laws of Solon at Athens and the laws of other Greek towns.3 As Rome rose in political power, Greek manners, Greek art, Greek language and literature found ready admittance. Before the beginning of the Punic wars, many of the Roman statesmen were able to understand, and even to speak Greek. Boys were not only taught the Roman letters by their masters, the literatores, but they had to learn at the same time the Greek alphabet. Those who taught Greek at Rome were then called grammatici, and they were mostly Greek slaves or liberti.
Among the young men whom Cato saw growing up at Rome, to know Greek was the same as to be a gentleman. They read Greek books, they conversed in Greek, they even wrote in Greek. Tiberius Gracchus, consul in 177, made a speech in Greek at Rhodes, which he afterwards published. Flaminius, when addressed by the Greeks in Latin, returned the compliment by writing Greek verses in honor of their
1 Mominsen, i. 165.
2 Sibylla, or sibulla, is a diminutive of an Italian sabus or sabius, wise; a word which, though not found in classical writers, must have existed in the Italian dialects. The French sage presupposes an Italian sabius, for it cannot be derived either from sapiens or from sapius. — Diez, Lecicon Etymologicum, p. 300. Sapius has been preserved in nesapius, foolish. Sibulla therefore meant a wise old woman. 8 Mummsen, i. 256. 4 Ibid. i. 425, 444.
5 Ibid. i. 857.
gods. The first history of Rome was written at Rome in Greek, by Fabius Pictor, about 200 B. c.; and it was probably in opposition to this work, and to those of Lucius Cincius Alimentus, and Publius Scipio, that Cato wrote his own history of Rome in Latin. The example of the higher classes was eagerly followed by the lowest. The plays of Plautus are the best proof; for the affectation of using Greek words is as evident in some of his characters as the foolish display of French in the German writers of the eighteenth century. There was both loss and gain in the inheritance which Rome received from Greece; but what would Rome have been without her Greek masters? The very fathers of Roman literature were Greeks, private teachers, men who made a living by translating school-books and plays. Livius Andronicus, sent as prisoner of war from Tarentum (272 B. c.), established himself at Rome as professor of Greek. His translation of the Odyssey into Latin verse, which marks the beginning of Roman literature, was evidently written by him for the use of his private classes. His style, though clumsy and wooden in the extreme, was looked upon as a model of perfection by the rising poets of the capital. Nævius and Plautus were his cotemporaries and immediate successors. All the plays of Plautus were translations and adaptations of Greek originals; and Plautus was not even allowed to transfer the scene from Greece to Rome. The Roman public wanted to see Greek life and Greek depravity; it would have stoned the poet who had ventured to bring on the stage a Roman patrician or a Roman matron. Greek tragedies, also, were
1 Mommsen, i. 902.