Moran, Pádraic


Moran, Pádraic, “Greek in early medieval Ireland”, in: Mullen, Alex, and Patrick James (eds.), Multilingualism in the Graeco-Roman worlds, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 172–192.

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Citation details
“Greek in early medieval Ireland”
Alex Mullen • Patrick James, Multilingualism in the Graeco-Roman worlds (2012)
From the publisher:

This study explores bilingualism in the area of literary education, that is, the formal study of another language using written documents. Its focus is the study of Greek in early medieval Ireland, in the period from the seventh to the ninth century. Though never absorbed into the Roman Empire, by the seventh century Ireland had thoroughly embraced Christian culture, and with it the prerequisite of Latin literacy. In their study of the Latin language, using late antique school books and commentaries, the monastic schools of early medieval Ireland might be regarded to some extent as inheritors of the Graeco-Roman tradition, and in particular the late antique grammatical tradition. It has long been suggested that the Irish interest in classical languages was not limited to Latin (itself a foreign language), but extended also to Greek. Although the means by which such a knowledge may have been acquired has never been clear, this discussion presents new evidence for the study of Greek in Ireland, and explores how late antique manuals of bilingual Greek–Latin instruction were later reused in circumstances far removed from those of their origins.

Knowledge of Greek in the West is generally held to have declined sharply by the end of the fifth century, when the compilatory efforts of Latin writers Boethius, Macrobius and Martianus Capella provided the main points of access to Greek literary culture for subsequent generations. There are plenty of indications, however, that the Greek language maintained a special prestige. It was recognised as the language of the New Testament and featured on the titulus of Christ's cross. Accordingly it was classed among the ‘three sacred languages’ (tres linguae sacrae) during the Middle Ages, along with Latin and Hebrew. Augustine regarded these as ‘pre-eminent languages’, and praised Jerome for his singular attainment in all three. Greek learning was also acknowledged as the foundation of secular scholarship
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Greek language
Dennis Groenewegen