Probably one of the most bizarre stories in the Hebrew Bible is the story of Samson. The story of Samson is generally confused. The narrative is sketchy and full of riddles and often makes allusions the author seems to expect the reader to be able to connect but are meaningless to modern readers. It becomes much more clearer when viewed through the lens of ancient near-eastern mythology. Samson (שמשון) is related to ‘shamash’ (שמש) or “sun,” while his infamous wife’s name, Delilah (דלילה), is related to ‘lilah’ (לילה), the Hebrew word for “night.” He is a solar mythic hero related to Gilgamesh, the hero of the Babylonian myth, and Hercules, the Greek mythic hero. (Indeed, Gilgamesh’s patron deity is the sun-god Shamash).
Tag Archives: Linguistics
I saw the new Ridley Scott movie, Prometheus, this weekend. Over at Language Log there is an ongoing discussion in an attempt to translate a sentence spoken in the movie, which is thought to be proto-Indo-European.
The movie’s connection to proto-Indo-European language and mythology doesn’t end there, however.
Turkish and Modern Greek have language games like English’s Pig Latin. These two languages’ games are syllable based like Pig Latin and show signs of being related to each other. For example, Modern Greek’s game is called Korakistika, which translates to ‘Language of Blackbirds.’ Likewise, the Turkish game is called Ķus Dili which literally means ‘Bird Language.’ Barıs Kabak, “Hiatus Resolution in Turkish: an Under Specification Account,” Lingua (2006) 15. Besides the similarities in these two names the game rules are almost exact duplicates. Language games offer some pretty valuable opportunities to explore the grammatical rules languages have.
In the early 1950s archaeologists were digging up ancient Jericho. This is one of the oldest cities on earth dating straight back to the prehistoric Neolithic era. In strata dating to about 7,000 BCE, the archaeologists found human skulls. But these weren’t just any skulls:
“[The Proto-Indo-Europeans] occupied a part of the world — the steppes — where the sky is by far the most striking and magnificent part of the landscape, a fitting environment for people who believed that all their most important deities lived in the sky.” (Anthony 99)
I’ve got a version of Aesop’s fable “Fox and Grapes” for you today that I’ve abridged slightly. This version introduces a mouse who taunts the fox. You may have already seen the Greek word for ‘fox’ in another post.
A fox seeing a cluster of ripe grapes on a trellis was desiring to eat them, but was unable to find a way to eat as they were at some height. A mouse seeing this laughed aloud saying: “You’ll munch on nothing.” The fox not wanting to give credit to the mouse said: “They are sour grapes.”
Throughout the history of Rome, citizenship was a desirable status to have. Wars were fought over this issue. Even as late as the early part of the first century it seems like it was an uncommon and privileged status in the provinces.
In 212 C.E. citizenship was extended to every free person in the entire empire.