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When reading about the Persian invasion of Greece one of them main points mentioned is that Greece did not unify against the Persians because to the Greeks there was no such thing as Greece.

At the time Athens, Sparta, Argos, etc, they all considered themselves as members of their seperate cities. The unifying concept did not exist.

So this got me wondering.

If an Athenian and a Spartan sit down at a table in a tavern together. Can they talk to each other?

Did the members of the various city-states all speak the same Greek language? Was it one language with dialects like American ones that take very little effort to understand? Were they like German dialects each one practically its own language?

Even further along how different would the language of Illyria or Macedonia be from what was spoken in Athens, Corinth, Olympia, or Argos?

If they were all different languages or very different dialects then which one can we trace modern Greek back to most solidly?
The ancient Greek language modern schools teach in Attic (Athenian) Greek. There were definite differences between various subgroups, though it seems that if you were, say, a Corinthian, you could understand what an Athenian spoke, and vice versa and et cetera. But the evidence isn't exactly overwhelming. A lot of it is guesswork.
It is unknown whether Makedonian language was a form of Greek or not, but very few examples have been found. But from what I have heard, people from different city states would be like a person from Chicago and a person from Tennessee, or a person from vermont and a person from california, or an American and a Brit.
Different words,different accent,different pronunciation of the same letters,non existance of some letters in some dialects...many things to consider. I think there was not such a difficulty to understand each other,and there must also have been a way to speak more officially,as all the greek dialects had the same source. Today in Greece a Thracian or Macedonian or an Epeirot may have difficulties understanding a Cretan old guy who's speaking in his dialect with all its slung terms. But if they have to comunicate,they'll understand each other for sure. Of cource some dialects may had been closer to each other than others.
As for macedonian...the idea that they spoke a different language is just speculation. The written evidence points to some sort of Dorian dialect I think.If the farmers were using their own slang terms,they may have,but how it sounded and where it was based,it's unknown. After all,influences from foreighners must have been much greater than say Attika or Peloponnesos,who's among other Greeks.The macedonians had to deal with different tribes of Thracians,Illyrians and Persians,and who knows what else.
Very interesting.

Sounds like Greek was used over a rather large area and stayed fairly uniform for a pretty long period of time.

If you took a similar sized area of Italy before Roman domination how many different languages would you have to know to talk to everyone.

How similar was Greek during the Mycanean era and Attic Greek? Are they similar at all or completely different languages?
I don't think anyone can tell you how similar mycenean and attic languages were. But I'd guess they weren't so similar. The truth is that the Myceneans were speaking a primitive form of Greek,as their writings proved. But they used completely different writting system.A sylabic one.
Giannis K. Hoplite\\n[quote]Different words,different accent,different pronunciation of the same letters,non existance of some letters in some dialects...many things to consider.

I agree with Giannis on this point.Although ive no great knowledge of ancient greek, id hazard a guess and say that ,a bit like modern english,different dialects existed and while a bit different id say communication was far from impossible.

Thats just my two cents,i could be totally wrong though(it happens now and again Big Grin )
I understood ancient Greek was spoken and written throughout the medeteranean, at least through her colonies? There must have been something very familiar and identifiable to them all for the Hellenic identity to be percieved?

I guess there were two important points in ancient hellas which united them all: the epics of homer and the language.
of course there were dialects but they were be able to understand each other.
Quote:If you took a similar sized area of Italy before Roman domination how many different languages would you have to know to talk to everyone.

How similar was Greek during the Mycanean era and Attic Greek? Are they similar at all or completely different languages?
There were a whole bunch of different languages in the Italian peninsula before the Roman domination. Extent will vary depending on when exactly you're asking about, but the major ones were Etruscan in Etruria and parts of Campania and the Po Valley, and Oscan and dialects thereof throughout central and eastern Italy. In addition, you have various dialects of Greek in the colonies along the southern coast, Latin in Latium, Faliscan a bit further north along the Tiber, Umbrian and related dialects in Umbria and Picenum, Venetic around the mouth of the Po, Rhaetic and Camunic in the Alps, Celtic eventually in the northern Appenines, Messapic in Apulia, and Sikel, Sican, and Elymian in Sicily, whatever they may have been. And those are just the ones we have any record of.

Latin and Faliscan are closely related -- some have argued (insufficiently in my opinion) that the latter is just a dialect of the former. Umbrian and Oscan are relatively closely related, but definitely different languages; Oscan, Umbrian, Latin and Faliscan together (and maybe Venetic, and maybe maybe Sikel) make up the Italic branch of Indo-European. Messapic seems closer to the Illyrian branch, Celtic is in the Celtic branch (duh). Etruscan is unrelated to anything else, except Rhaetic, and we just don't know enough about Camunic.

It's hard to say exactly how similar Mycenaean Greek was to later forms of Greek, since it's attested in Linear B in syllabic writing, which isn't perfectly suited to recording the phonology. That said, it's definitely just an earlier stage(s) of Greek, not a completely separate language.
For Greek to be uniform then the migration into the region must have happened over a very short period of time and completely displaced (annihilated) any and all peoples who were there before their arrival.
The thing is...some Greeks believed they were there from the beginning of time,like the Athenians. And they were partially true,as Athens was not destroyed,like Mycenae,Tyrins and Pylos. And even if the latter were destroyed,the destruction couldbn't have come from foreigners,as the language they spoke was the same as of those who came. The earliest writing ever found in Greece proved to be an early form of the later greek. So some say that Greek was actually an evolution of an Indoeuropean common language and existed much before it ever started being written.
As for the Greek identity,even before the Persian Wars,the Greeks knew very well what linked them,and had a common identity. Among these things were religion,customs,morals,and language. Before you say the Greek city states could not unite before the Persian threat because they had no common identity,remember what was the actual "reason" the Great King invaded Greece. Wasn't it because some mainland Greek cities took part in the Ionian revolt? The Greeks were united from very early,as proved by Homer.Where they called "Hellenes"? It doesn't really matter. What matters is that these same city states are mentioned by Homer as a unit.So this common identity is recorded from at least the 8th century bc,if not earlier.
If you want to be honored by Greece you ought to be useful to her ' atributed to Sokrates.
Giannis is right. Dialekts exist in all languages. The "common Greek" is attributed to Alexandrine scholars (B*****s :evil: :evil: :evil: )

If you visit distant vilages in the mountains of central Greece they have tendency to omit vowels at the end of the word.

The first recorded such practice is on a comedu of Epicharmos where s common fisherman is trying to sell shrimps and lobsters!!!!

There is no language in the world that does not have dialekts.

Kind regards