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
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