1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
The original is oinopa ponton (acc.), literally "wine-faced sea". I was wondering if it might have something to do with libations poured from ships, but the term is also used of a kind of dark-red cattle; so I think it may just mean "(wine)-dark". CB
There has, I believe, been some discussion about 'wine-dark sea' ... of either the wine or the sea having changed colour.

Or even better: the theory that the ability to see colours is culturaly aquired. Those poor old Greeks just didn't ... didn't have words for them. I am not inventing it, the theory has been proposed and defended in all seriousness,

But not for a while. That appears to have been the theory of William Gladstone, published in 1858.
In his Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age , Gladstone calls attention to the apparent lack of truly abstract color terms in the writings of Homer .... His conclusions were based on a comparison of numerous passages referring to color in both the Iliad and the Odyssey. In so doing, he "... found such uncertainty and inconsistency in the application of colour names as to lead him to deny to the Greeks of Homeric times any clear notions of color whatever"(1) (Woodworth 1910:325). Gladstone did allow, however, that the Homeric Greeks saw differences in brightness, that is, light and dark. His contention was that these people possessed a less developed ability to perceive color than modern man, "... that the organ of color and its impressions were but partially developed among the Greeks of the heroic age" (1858:457-499).
Berlin and Kay, Basic Color Terms , 1969, p. 134
The mantle was then taken up by Lazarus Geiger in 1867, who posited a definite sequence to the evolution of sensitivity to color:

Having decided that "colour terms originate according to a definite succession..." he resorted to a physiological explanation. He concluded, "It would seem, indeed, that we must assume a gradually and regularly rising sensibility to impressions of colour, analogous to that which renders glaring contrasts of colour so unbearable to a cultivated taste, while the uneducated taste loves them" (1880:61).
According to Berlin and Kay, this theory was under serious attack by
1879.

Their own tenative treatment of Homeric Greek(2) is as a "stage IIIb" language, containing four colors, roughly black, white, red, and yellow, but each extended so that the entire space is covered. The terms they take as "basic" are "glaukós" (BLACK), "leukós" (WHITE), "erythrós" (RED), and "khlo:rós" (YELLOW). They quote their source as saying
Whenever a color is definitely specified, as in kýanos 'dark blue', it is usually a metaphorical transfer: kýanos is the lapis lazuli first of all. In other words, Greek color terminology was concerned with shades, not with color in the modern artistic sense.
(1) Yeah, the book really does have "colour" and "color" in the same sentence in the same quote.
(2) Based, to be fair, on an single passage in a sociolinguistics text. The bulk of their data in on contemporary languages and was either collected from them or used from primary sources.

Evan Kirshenbaum + HP Laboratories >This isn't good. I've seen good,
1501 Page Mill Road, 1U, MS 1141 >and it didn't look anything likePalo Alto, CA 94304 >this.

(650)857-7572
http://www.kirshenbaum.net /
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Or even better: the theory that the ability to see ... the theory has been proposed and defended in all seriousness,

But not for a while. That appears to have been the theory of William Gladstone, published in 1858. In his ... while the uneducated taste loves them" (1880:61). According to Berlin and Kay, this theory was under serious attack by 1879.

It was "under serious attack" right from the beginning, along with the rest of Gladstone's book. He was, of course, much better known as a politician, and, although he fancied himself as a Homeric scholar, the serious classicists of his time didn't. However, since he was Prime Minister for much of the relevant period, they were much more polite than they would have been to an ordinary crank, which may give the impression that his theories were taken more seriously than they were.

Don Aitken
Mail to the addresses given in the headers is no longer being read. To mail me, substitute "clara.co.uk" for "freeuk.com".