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Ancient Greek language

version of the Greek language used from roughly the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE

Ancient Greek was the language spoken by the people of Ancient Greece from the 9th to 4th century B.C. Ancient Greek and Latin are the most important extinct languages (languages which are no longer spoken) for speakers of English today. This is because the majority of English words come from Greek and Latin.

Ancient Greek
Region eastern Mediterranean
Era developed into Koiné Greek by the 4th century BC
Language family
Writing system Greek alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-2 grc
ISO 639-3 grc
Homeric Greece-en.svg
Inscription about the statue of Athena in the Parthenon, 440/439 BC
Beginning of Homer's Odyssey

The Greek language had many different dialects,[1] but the “Attic Greek” which was spoken by the people of Athens is thought to be the purest of the forms. Because the Greeks became very powerful in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea their language spread very quickly. Alexander the Great even took it into Asia. Later, in the Roman world, children were taught Greek as a second language in the same way that many non-English speakers today learn English as their second language. They used a version called "Koine" which mixed the Attic dialect with several others.

The great poems of the Ancient Greek poets like Homer were written in Greek. The poems of the Iliad and the Odyssey tell exciting stories about warfare, travel and the Greek gods. In the 5th century B.C., some great plays were written by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. This was the "Golden Age" of Ancient Greece. These works of Ancient Greek literature inspired people for centuries and are still read today.


All languages change with time, and Greek has changed a lot since 25 centuries ago. Modern Greek is often said to have started in the year 1453 A.D.[2]

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 language. Pronunciation has changed extensively. For instance, the letter "b" called beta is now pronounced "v" and Greeks now call this letter "vita". The spelling has not changed, 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 "meet". The verbal system has radically changed. It is now much simpler. The tonal system of Ancient Greek has disappeared. In spite of this the language, until recently, was spelled as if the old tones were still present. In spite of the extensive changes, it is remarkable how much has survived intact through the centuries.[3]

There is a community near Trabzon in Turkey which speaks a dialect very like that of Ancient Greece. [4]

Related pagesEdit


  1. Woodard, Roger D. 2008. Greek dialects, in: The Ancient Languages of Europe. R.D. Woodard (ed) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 51.
  2. Nordhoff, Sebastian et al (eds) 2013. Ancient Greek (to 1453). Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. [1]
  3. Palmer, Leonard 1996. The Greek Language. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, p. 262. ISBN 0-8061-2844-5
  4. The Independent, 3 January 2011 Jason and the argot: land where Greek's ancient language survives