Ancient Greek was an Indo-European language spoken in Ancient Greece from the 9th to the 4th century BC. Ancient Greek and Latin are very important languages. Although they are no longer spoken, they influenced almost all modern European languages.
|Era||9th century BC to the 4th century AD|
Map of Ancient (Homeric) Greece
Greek had many different dialects. Attic Greek was spoken in Athens, the largest city, and was thought to be the purest form of Greek. Later, in the educated Roman world, children were taught Greek as a second language in the same way that many people now learn English as their second language. Koine Greek was then the common language of Greeks. It used and mixed Attic Greek with several other dialects.
Homer spoke and wrote in an old dialect that was somewhat different from Attic Greek. The Iliad and the Odyssey are long poems that tell exciting stories about warfare, travel and the Greek gods. In the 5th century BC, some great plays were written by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. The "Golden Age" of Ancient Greece then inspired the literature that has been read by people for centuries.
Attic Greek is the dialect that was spoken in Athens and the rest of the region of Attica. It is the most similar dialect to later Greek since it was the standard form of the language. It is studied in Ancient Greek courses because it was the most common dialect.
Unlike Latin, the Ancient Greek language did not split into many languages, but it is still considered to be a separate language from the Modern Greek. Pronunciation has changed: for instance, beta was pronounced "b" in Ancient Greek but is pronounced "v" and then called "vita" in Modern Greek. The spelling has not changed much, which gives the appearance of less change than actually happened. Also, many different vowels and diphthongs all merged into "i", the vowel sound in the English word "ski". The tonal system of Ancient Greek has disappeared, but the language only recently changed its spelling to match that change.
In spite of the extensive changes, it is remarkable how much has survived intact through the centuries.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Ancient Greek (to 1453)". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Woodard, Roger D. 2008. Greek dialects, in: The Ancient Languages of Europe. R.D. Woodard (ed) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 51.
- Nordhoff, Sebastian et al (eds) 2013. Ancient Greek (to 1453). Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
- Palmer, Leonard 1996. The Greek Language. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, p. 262. ISBN 0-8061-2844-5
- The Independent, 3 January 2011 Jason and the argot: land where Greek's ancient language survives