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Eteocretan language: Wikis


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Spoken in Formerly spoken in Crete
Region Eastern Mediterranean Sea
Language extinction effectively extinct from about the beginning of the 1st millennium BC,
Language family Language isolate or unknown
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3 either:
omn – Minoan
ecr – Eteocretan

The Minoan language is a language of ancient Crete. Minoan was spoken before the island's civilization was replaced with that of the mainland, and its relation to Greek is unknown. While attempts have been made to connect it to other languages, Minoan should be considered a language isolate until a linguistic affiliation can be ascertained. The Minoan language was written in Linear A, a syllabary used extensively up to 1420 BC, primarily for the purposes of religious inscriptions and administrative records in the Minoan civilization.

The Eteocretan (i.e. True Cretan) language is likely descended from Minoan, and is largely written in a Euboean-derived alphabetic script that was the norm after the Hellenic Dark Ages, although Linear syllabic scripts did continue on side-by-side for some time afterwards in the form of a few religious inscriptions. Inscriptions in Eteocretan survive dating from the 7th to the 3rd centuries BC, typically written in the local archaic Greek alphabet and the Ionian Greek alphabet. Five inscriptions have been found that are surely Eteocretan, two in Dreros and three in Praisos in the Cretan prefecture of Lasithi. There are several other inscriptions that might be Eteocretan.



Minoan Crete.

The Eteocretans are mentioned in Homer's Odyssey:

There is a fair and fruitful island in mid-ocean called Crete; it is thickly peopled and there are ninety cities in it: the people speak many different languages which overlap one another, for there are Achaeans, brave Eteocretans, Dorians of three-fold race, and noble Pelasgi.[1]

This translation by Samuel Butler is perhaps too loose as it does not mention the Cydonians. Strabo quotes and elucidates this passage,[2] translated by Horace Leonard Jones as follows:

there dwell Achaeans, there Eteo-Cretans proud of heart, there Cydonians and Dorians, too, of waving plumes, and goodly Pelasgians.[3]

Where Butler has "of threefold race", which might refer to the three Dorian tribes, Jones has "of waving plumes", which both depend on the etymology of trichaikes, a hapax legomenon ("spoken once", a word which occurs only once in the written records). Strabo, who depends of course on the books available to him, goes on to elaborate:

Of these peoples, according to Staphylus, the Dorians occupy the part toward the east, the Cydonians the western part, the Eteo-Cretans the southern; and to these last belongs the town Prasus, where is the temple of the Dictaean Zeus; whereas the other peoples, since they were more powerful, dwelt in the plains. Now it is reasonable to suppose that the Eteo-Cretans and the Cydonians were autochthonous, and that the others were foreigners ...[4]

Decipherment theories

Very little is known about Eteocretan except that it may be the descendant of a language recorded on the Linear A tablets.


  1. ^ Homer. Odyssey. Book XIX, Line 176.
  2. ^ Strabo. Geography. Book 10, Section 6.
  3. ^ The Loeb Classical Library edition.
  4. ^ The Jones translation in the Loeb, which has Greek and English on opposing pages.

See also

External links



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