Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

selves with inquiring what alterations they have made in the pronunciation of their ancestors. We use, as Quinctilian says, their current language as we use their current coin. And if we had considered the present inhabitants of Greece as speaking essentially the same language which was spoken there two thousand years ago, we should go to Athens to learn to speak Greek, for the same reasons which send us to Paris to learn to speak French. But we do not so consider them; we look upon the modern Greek as es. sentially a distinct language from the ancient : but when did the race of ancient Greeks cease ? To this question it will be answered, that, though we cannot fix on any precise date when the people speaking the ancient Greek ceased to exist, their language was gradually altered, so as to be at last virtually destroyed by successive corruptions : that it is clear there was a period of classical purity, which was succeeded by a period of barbarism, though we may be unable to define with accuracy the extinction of the one or the commencement of the other. The consequence of this statement of the question is, that any line which we may draw between the age of purity and the age of barbarism must be arbitrary, so that no two persons would fix it at exactly the same period; and yet it is difficult to · discuss the subject without drawing such a line, in order to know to what authorities we are to appeal for a decision of the various topics which

may arise. When I maintain that a word ought to be pronounced in such a manner, and in support of this proposition I show that it was so pronounced at a given period, if that period be considered by my opponent as an age of barbarism, he will be so far from admitting my conclusion, that he will consider the authority upon which I rely, either as affording no proof at all, or as leading to a directly opposite inference from that wbich I draw from it. To avoid any such misunderstanding, I propose to draw the line at the end of the second century of the Christian era, and to consider the ancient Greeks as having preserved their language uncorrupt down to that period. None of the writers on the subject have ventured to date any extensive or general corruption of the structure or pronunciation of the Greek language earlier than this; and the line will scarcely be considered as drawn too low, which excludes Longinus from the age of purity.

Assuming then that the ancient Greeks, as far as regards the present inquiry, continued to the end of the second century, I propose, not to consider the pronunciation of any letter or word which prevailed after that period as any authority; not that those, who have leisure and inclination to sift the subject fully, will ever be content to leave the later writers unexamined; but that the generality of readers will be better satisfied with a small body of proof, drawn from writers of unquestionable authority, than with a

more elaborate inquiry, in which it would be necessary at every turn to examine, not only what is said, but who has said it; and in which I should be constantly running the risk of relying upon the testimony of witnesses, whom my opponents might think incompetent. But although, for this reason, the research be not carried lower than the second century in support of any proposition advanced, yet an objection founded on a passage from an autbor of later date may well be answered by an appeal, either to another passage from the same author, or to the authority of some other writer earlier than the one cited though later perhaps than the second century ; because here the authority of the answer must at least be admitted by the person relying on the objection; and he who will disregard the answer as drawn from an age of barbarism, will for the same reason disregard the objection. Further, when an author later than the second century relates historically, and with competent means of knowledge, what was the pronunciation of an earlier period, he may be considered as an authority, not for his own time, but for that of which he writes.

If the first rude efforts of the founders of the Hellenic race had been handed down to us, it might have been necessary to draw a line between the infancy and the maturity of their literature ; but as the earliest work extant, that of Homer, displays an uncommon degree of perfection in

the diction as well as in the sentiment, we may say, that, though some writers may be too modern, none are too ancient, to be considered as good authority.

But supposing all authors born before the third century to be of authority, are all of equal authority? In answer to this, it may be said, that, as the structure of the language, during the period which the inquiry is to embrace, remained the same, the pronunciation also may in general be presumed to have continued without material change: so that if we find a word pronounced in a given manner in the time of Athenæus, we are warranted, in the absence of proof to the contrary, in supposing it to have been pronounced in the same way in the time of Homer: and what prevailed in Homer's time may be presumed to have continued till the age of Athenæus. But in some cases we have proof to the contrary; as for instance, we learn from Plato, that the first letter in nuépa was written and pronounced in his own time in a different manner from that in which it had been in former times; which way then of writing and pronouncing this word is the right way? Certainly the way in which Plato wrote and pronounced it, namely that which prevailed last. For the same reason why, in modern languages, the pronunciation which is, is right; so in Greek, the pronunciation which is last is best, supposing it to have been altered within the period which we admit to have any authority at all; so that if between

the time of Plato and that of Athenæus the pronunciation had been again changed, the last mode would still have been the best." Superest igitur consuetudo : nam fuerit pene ridiculum malle sermonem quo locuti sunt homines, quam quo loquantur."- Quinctil. I. 6. 43. So that all writers born before the third century, on points in which they do not contradict each other, may be cited as of equal authority. Where there is any discrepancy, the later author ought, for the reasons already given, to be considered as better authority than an earlier one. The writers who will be cited as authorities are the following:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

.........

Born before Christ. Homer ....

1000 Hesiod ......

950 Pindar

517 Sophocles

498
Cratinus.....
Herodotus

484
Euripides
Thucydides .... 471
Aristophanes .... 456
Plato .........

430 Demosthenes.... 385 Aristotle

384
Aristoxenus .... 364
Callimachus ....
Plautus ......

227
Aristarchus .... 203
Dionysius Thrax . 190
Cicero .......
Virgil.......
Horace .....

65 Strabo

60 Livy ....... Dionysius of Halicar

nassus............

Born before Christ.
Tryphon............ 20

Born A. D.
Apion.......
Herodorus .....
Quinctilian
Juvenal
Plutarch......
Aristides Quinct
Suetonius
Draco, ........ ....
Terentianus Maurus . .
Ælius Dionysius ...
Aulus Gellius....... 100
Hephæstion ....... 106
Apollonius Dyscolus
Lucian ............
Herodian ..........
Sextus Empiricus ....
Alexander Aphrodisi-

ensis.
Diogenes Laertius. ... 1
Athenæus ...........

290

120

135

150

06

170

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

188

[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »