Page 0464

464 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

into the darkness of the Middle Age, and the patriots of every civilized country of the

world have found their precedents among the liberties of the Greeks. How these qualities

of body and mind and moral nature in the Hellenic race will work in the elaboration of a

national career will be exhibited in the chapters to follow.

CHAPTER XXXVIII-LANGUAGE, LITERATURE, AND ART.

BY far the richest speech of Ancient Europe was the Greek; and among the languages of Asia

it had no rival except the Sanskrit. The genealogy of this famous I tongue has already

been referred to in the notice of the origin of the Hellenic race. Indeed, the tribe-

origin of the Greeks could never have been known but for the science of language, which

has become the torchbearer of ethnology in every quarter of the earth. The race-history of

every people is recorded in its language, and if only that language has been crystallized

into a national literature, there is little trouble in tracing out the prehistoric career

of the people by whom it is spoken.

Greek, then, is one of that great group of languages known as Aryan or Indo- European. It

has for its cognate tongues, Sanskrit and Persic in Asia, and Latin, Celtic, and Teutonic

in Europe. It is now understood by scholars that in the migration of nations to the West

the Celts, the Germans, and the Slavs preceded the other members of the European group. In

a later movement came the two remaining branches of the family, the Greeks and the Romans.

These were closely allied in ethnic and linguistic affinities. Anyone at all familiar with

the Latin and Greek tongues will recall their fundamental identity in both vocabulary and

grammatical structure. The two peoples by whom these languages were spoken held together

for a long time after their separation from a common parent stock, and only at a

comparatively late period began to differentiate into peculiarities of race and speech.

The one people settled around the shores of the Aegean, and the other in the Italian

peninsula.

In the former situation, Greek was a spoken tongue as early as the fifteenth century

before our era. At a later date the language spread with the adventures and colonizations

of the Hellenes, until their accents were heard from the coasts of Asia Minor to Sicily,

and from Thrace to Cyrenaica. At a still later time it became the prevailing tongue in the

Macedonian, Syrian, Egyptian, and Byzantine empires. In modern times fragments of the

language are spoken in parts of Southern Italy, and even in one of the cantons of

Switzerland. In Greece, at the present time, an abridged and simplified form of Greek is

the language of the people, and this Romaic tongue differs less from the language of

Demosthenes than does the English of today from the tongue of Chaucer.

The history of the Greek language has been divided by scholars into three periods, the

first of which embraces its literary development from the time of the composition of the

Epic poems to the establishment of the common speech by the historians and philosophers of

Athens. The second includes the period of diffusion, during which, from its inherent

excellence as a medium of communication, Greek became first the language of scholars in

all civilized countries, and was then contracted, ,by the gradual decline of the Roman

power, to its original seats. The third division embraces the degeneration of classical

Greek, and the rise of the same of the vulgar or common tongue spoken by the descendants

of the Hellenes.

The tribal divisions of the Greek race on its settlement in Hellas soon gave rise to

dialectical differences in speech. It was