Because Blogger's "Adult warning" often goes into a perpetual loop (isn't working properly), I will be making all new posts at my WordPress blog. You can follow it even if you do not have a WordPress Account. There're also my Twitter and my Tumblr blog, my Facebook and my Google+ page and my group.
(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Know thyself

The Greeks were extraordinary. 1000 years BC, Homer (or somebody, they're still disagreeing about whether it was one or more men, and just how much he took over from original culture and how much he made up from whole cloth himself) wrote the Odyssey and the Iliad. These are among the most sublime poems ever written. They were written in an archaic Greek dialect, which was different (though not very) to the language spoken by the average Athenian of 500 BC. If you never do anything else, try and learn some Homeric Greek, a "gateway to paradise" (Which reminds me of what a French courtier is reputed to have said when informed by a beauty at the court of Louis XIV that she wasn't wearing undies, "Madame, I cannot tell you how pleased I am that the doorway to paradise is always open") A city of just 30,000 male citizens with a total population of perhaps 200,000 includings slaves, metics (foreigners) and women produced a cultural efflorescence which still echoes today across the entire globe.

They had many pithy sayings and phrases (itself a Greek word!)

This particular one comes from the classical period, 500-400 BC. Gnothi seauton (or sauton). 'Know thyself'. 'Gno' is from the same Indo-European root as 'know' (we once pronounced the 'k'). Compare the Scottish/German/Dutch 'ken'. The Latin word in 'Gnosco', where the 'sc' represents what the grammarians call an 'inceptive', i.e., a 'get to' So the Latin originally meant 'get to know'. With co(m) in front it's come into English as 'cognoscenti' (Italian = people who know), 'cognisances' etc. and with 're' in front of that, 'reconnaissance' ('finding out') , 'recognize' and so on.

The 'se' or 's' represents 'you, singular'. 'auton' means self ('automobile' = a self-mover). So 'sauton/seauton' means thyself. By the way, the 'thou/thy' of Middle English (and still used today in Yorkshire) is classic Indo-European. The Greek 'su' for 'thou' (Latin 'tu', German 'du', Russian 'tyi', Sanskrit 'tva') moved via an intermediate stage 'tsu' to 'su'.

There you have it. You'll soon be fluent.

The image (which dates from classical Greece) shows two men about to kiss at a dinner. Filthy perves.

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