Monday, September 19, 2011

Parian marble, Arundel-marble, Aeschylus, and Greece

Thomas Carlyle in Heroes . . . makes reference to 'Arundel-marble', obliquely referring to the Parian Marble or Chronicle, an early Greek chronological inscription. It is just possible to decipher the words in the continuous string of incised capitals, and colour helps in this calligraphic rendering of one typical entry.

Treating the letters with less reverence [perhaps] and injecting some lyricism it is harder to read, but only if we read Greek, so does it matter if it is almost illegible? Perhaps not, as its purpose is chiefly to be a decorative foil and accompaniment to the text. What is lost is any suggestion that the source of the text were letters are carved in marble.
The inscription translates as: 'From when Aeschylus the poet first won with a tragedy, and Euripides the poet was born, and Stesichorus the poet [arrived] in Greece, 222 years, when Philocrates was archon in Athens'. It dates to around 850 BC.
I will confess, I do not read Greek, nevertheless it is fascinating to discover in this sentence the roots of English words such as tragedy (Greek: τραγῳδία, tragōidia), written here as ΤΡΑΓΩΙΔΙΑΙ and poets, such as Aeschylus (Greek:  Αἰσχύλος, Aiskhulos) ΑΕΣΧΥΛΟΣ, and the Greek for Greece (Elláda) which is instantly recognizable in the inscription as ΕΛΛΑΔΑ.

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