466 UNIVERSAL HISTORY.-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
In all the countries brought under the sway of Alexander, the language of the Greeks
became the language of the governing class and of the philosophers. In every such country
was a gradual and perhaps inevitable corruption of the speech thus imposed upon native
tongues. From the third century of our era, the departure from the old standard of purity
and elegance became so great that the Greek authors were no longer understood by many of
the peoples pretending to speak their language. Meanwhile, the transfer of the capital of
the Roman world to Constantinople introduced a large element of Latin into the heart of
Hellenism, and then the pilgrims and crusaders from the West brought in their importation
of Gallicisms, until the degeneration of Greek was well-nigh complete. Still, in the hands
of purists and scholars, it continued to be the vehicle of literature until, surviving the
barbarism of the Middle Age, it became a potent factor in the revival of learning.
Turning to the structural forms of the language of the Hellenes, as distinguished from its
historical development, we find much of interest. The original Greek alphabet consisted of
sixteen characters, which were reputed to have been brought into Hellas by the Phoenician
CADMUS. He was a mythical king of Thebes and brother of the monarch of Phoenicia. The
whole matter is legendary, but perhaps contains some grains of truth. It is probably true
that the Greek letters had a Phoenician origin, but it is more likely that they came in a
regular way from the contact of the Ionians with the scholars of Sidon than that they were
the beneficent contribution of a traveling philosopher. As to the date of the
introduction, modern antiquarians are divided in opinion, some holding it to have been as
early as the fourteenth, others as late as the eighth, century before our era. The
addition of several letters to the sixteen given by Cadmus is ascribed to PAL- AMEDES; but
others think that twenty-two of the characters were derived directly from Phoenicia, and
that only the letter hypsilon was of a truly Hellenic origin. At any rate, the number of
characters in the Greek alphabet proper is twenty-four.
It happened, however, in making up the list, that two of the letters, the vav and the
kappa, were discarded, but their places were filled with two others, the phi and the chi.
The other modifications were the addition of psi and omega by the Ionians, and finally the
introduction of the aspirated e, called eta, to serve the purpose of e long. The alphabet
thus completed was officially adopted in Athens, B. C. 403.
Of the seven vowels employed in Greek, two (n, w) were long, two (^, o) short, and three
(a, i, u) common. Every initial vowel was written with a breathing (') (*) above it to
indicate whether it was to be pronounced with a smooth utterance, as in the case of an
initial vowel in English, or be given with an aspiration, that is, with the sound of h
preceding. Marks were also employed to show the accentuation of words. The circumflex
accent (*) might be placed on either of the last two syllables of a word;. the acute (')
on either of the last three, without respect to the length of the vowel in the syllable so
accented; the grave (^), on every syllable not other- wise marked, but was not written
except on the last.
In the earlier ages of Greek literature the characters employed in writing were what is
called uncial, that is, a kind of square, capital-like letters, much larger than the body
of ordinary type. There was no cursive or modified style of writing differing from the
established forms of the letters. Such a device as a running-hand of Greek was unknown
until the second century before our era, when the scholars of Alexandria introduced the
cursive sys- tem. The ordinary small letters, such as make up the body of a Greek page,
were not adopted until about the middle, of the eighth century, A. D.; at any rate, no
manuscripts or inscriptions containing that style of letter are known to antedate the:
year 750 of our era.
In its grammatical structure the Greek language is one of the most complete, and, at the
same time, one of the most flexible in the world. The next preserves five cases out of the
original eight belonging to the primitive Aryan. It also has three numbers; singular,
dual, and plural. By