BMCR 2021.07.36

Introducción al griego micénico, 2º edición

, , Introducción al griego micénico. Gramática, selección de textos y glosario. 2º edición, corregida y aumentada. Monografías de Filología griega, 30. Zaragoza: Prensas de la Universidad de Zaragoza, 2020. Pp. 465. ISBN 9788413401928 €24,00.


This book is the second edition of a previous volume that appeared in 2006. Both editions share a similar structure: a general definition of Mycenaean Greek, the texts on which it is documented, and the main resources for its study (part I); a thorough presentation of its writing system, Linear B, attending to its history, signs and orthographic rules (part II); a description of its phonetic and morphological features (parts III and IV);  a less detailed description of the syntactic data retrievable from the texts and some hints on the position of Mycenaean among Greek dialects (parts V and VI); and a selection of texts, including a glossary to help the reader (parts VII and VIII).

As can be seen, every aspect related to the description of Mycenaean Greek is covered, including the origin and use of its writing system. It must be noted, however, that the texts reproduced in the anthology are merely transliterated with some general information about their topic, while facsimiles, translations, and specific commentaries are absent. The reader is intended to read them using the glossary to check the linguistic characteristics of Mycenaean.

The contents are rigorously treated, and Mycenaean data are systematically compared to alphabetic Greek, not only to highlight differences, but also similarities. In every case, the relevant bibliography is mentioned and discussed. It must be noted that the authors have decided to transcribe Mycenaean words with Greek characters in order to enable comparison between the first and the second millennium forms.  Moreover, they have decided to accentuate their transcriptions following the rules of Attic accentuation.

After only fourteen years, one could have expected our knowledge of Mycenaean to be relatively unchanged. Quite the contrary, Mycenologists have been considerably active and the bibliography that has arisen in that time is much more impressive than may be supposed. Moreover, new tablets are still being unearthed by archeological excavations or published after having been abandoned in some deposit. Indeed, a new collection of Mycenaean tablets was found in Ayios Vasileios near Sparta, although most of the documents have yet to be published.[1]

Therefore, this second edition not only incorporates corrections, but also up-to-date data and references. For instance, an important tablet published in 2008, TH Uq 434, has been included in the selection of texts. The values attributed to certain signs and logograms, a term used by Mycenologists to refer to signs that represent a word or concept, have recently been refined. A fundamental landmark has been the publication of Melena’s chapter on “Mycenaean Writing” in 2014. As a consequence, in this second edition 87 syllabic signs—syllabograms—are distinguished rather than 88 because the syllabic nature of *89 has been called into question, and the term logogram has been substituted for the former term ideogram since these signs represent words rather than ideas. Moreover, some new logograms were also recognized at the last two Mycenological Colloquiums held in Paris in 2010 and in Copenhagen in 2015, respectively.

New readings have also arisen between both editions. As a matter of fact, new editions of the main corpora have recently proliferated.[2] As a result, further joins of tablet fragments have been established and some readings have been corrected: for example, the sequence ]ke-ke-tu-wo-e, thus far interpreted as a perfect participle – note the reduplication ke-ke– -. This was the interpretation taken in the previous edition, but the new reading ]ke ke-tu-wo-e has called it into question as duly explained in this edition.

Furthermore, as Mycenology is a thriving field of research, new interpretations of the data continue to be set forth. An illustrative case is that of the verbal form a-pi-e-qe, which appears in one of the Theban tablets recovered in the Odos Pelopidou excavations in the 90s. This is the verb form of a temporal clause that introduces an allotment of cereal rations to be consumed at a feast. The content of this clause must indicate the occasion on which that feast was celebrated: someone, possibly the wanax, performed the action denoted by a-pi-e-qe on all the elders (ke-ro-ta pa-ta/gerontas pantas/), a ceremony that was likely the reason behind the celebration. Our verb form consists of the preposition a-pi– /amphi-/ and a second element related to PIE *sek– on which a new proposal has been set forth by García Ramón (2010)—a third person singular indicative aorist of ἐννέπω ‘to mention,’ cf. ἀμφί μοι Ἑρμείαο φίλον γόνον ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα (h. hom. 19.1)—an interpretation that has been contended by Bernabé & Pierini (2017), who follow Chadwick’s proposal of a reduplicated causative aorist *se-skw-e-.

The main virtue of this book is the comprehensive picture of Mycenaean Greek that it offers, although the treatment of particular issues is also exceptional. In this regard, I would like to discuss a couple of points that continue to ignite scholarly debate. This discussion should not be viewed as a criticism—some of the contentions to be cited are not even the authors’—but rather they serve as an illustration of the fine-grained analyses to be found across this wonderful book.

In my view, some of the linguistic phenomena that are difficult to assess because of the inadequacy of Linear B to render Greek cannot be ascertained on the sole basis of spelling given that it was probably less consistent than usually implied. An example of this is the issue of transition glides, which are opposed to graphic hiatuses in order to render intervocalic aspiration, compare –i-je-si /hiēsi/ with a-pi-e-ke /amphihēke/. However, inconsistencies are frequent and have received different interpretations, as stated by the authors. These interpretations tend to focus on the linguistic reflection of different spellings. For instance, i-e-re-u has been considered a traditional spelling of the much more frequent i-je-re-u /hiereus/ entailing the metathesis of the etymological aspiration (*iser-), while ki-ti-e-si, as opposed to ki-ti-je-si /ktiensi/, has been considered to represent a secondary aspiration generated to avoid hiatus. But to what extent were the scribes reluctant to comply with orthographic rules? Such a reluctance is well known in other cases and would be expected in rendering the outcome of ongoing phonetic developments, such as the aspiration of intervocalic yod or the metathesis of aspiration. For instance, is o-pi-a2-ra /opihala/—a compound of the preposition opi ‘on’ and the noun hals ‘sea’ meaning ‘seashore’—an archaic form opposed to o-pi-ja-ro /ophialos/ – a man’s name based on it? It is possible of course but alternative spellings such as a-pi-o-to / a-pi-jo-to for /Apiontos/—the genitive of a man’s name Apiōn—seem to point to mere inconsistencies of an orthographic nature.

One of the most striking constructions of Mycenaean is the use of pa-ro + dat. to express origin. Note that pa-ro is the Mycenaean pendant of παρά, probably documented by Alcaeus (πάρο, Alc. 130a.12 Voigt). This construction would entail an innovation shared by Mycenaean with Arcadian, where the construction of prepositions expressing origin with the dative instead of the genitive case is a well-known trait.[3] However, this isogloss could be an illusion. The interpretation of this as an origin construction is mainly based on the phrase pa-ro da-mo, which refers to plots of land whose tenancy is granted by the dêmos (/dāmos/ in Mycenaean). Notwithstanding, one may also interpret that these plots are in the dêmos, probably an agrarian district. If that is the case, the construction with the dative case—the genitive case is da-mo-jo—would be quite natural.

All in all, this new edition can undoubtedly be considered an essential volume for Mycenaean studies.[4] It is not a monumental grammar containing a collection of every possible instance and variant, nor a companion that deals with different aspects of Mycenology.[5] It is rather a handbook, in which beginners will find a highly accurate, accessible description of Mycenaean Greek, while experts will encounter a considerable number of inspiring ideas and a wide range of fresh data. It is a most welcome contribution that definitely improves on the first edition and similar handbooks that were already out of date in 2006.[6]


Bernabé Pajares, A. & Pierini, R. (2017), “What, when, why: Tablet functions and o-te expressions in context”. In: M.-L. Nosch, H. Landenius Enegren (eds.), Aegean Scripts. Proceedings of the 14th International Colloquium on Mycenaean Studies, Copenhagen, 2-5 September 2015, 523-536. Rome: CNR.
García Ramón, J. L. (2012), “En travaillant à une grammaire du mycénien: 1. a-pi-e-qe /amphihenkwe/ ‘(on) mentionna, (on) énuméra’. 2. Absence d’augment et mode injunctif. 3. di-ri-mi-jo: Drimios, fils de Zeus.” In: P. Carlier et alii (eds.), Études Mycéniennes 2010. Actes du XIIIe colloque international sur les textes égéens, Sèvres-Paris, Nanterre, 20-23 septembre 2010, 435-454. Pisa-Rome: Fabrizio Serra.
Melena, J. L. (2014), “Mycenaean Writing.” In: Y. Duhoux, A. Morpurgo Davies (eds.), A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Greek Texts and Their World III, 1-186. Louvain-la-Neuve: Peeters.


[1] See V. L. Aravantinos & A. Vasilogamvrou, “The first Linear B documents from Ayios Vasileios (Laconia).” In: Études Mycéniennes 2010, 41-54.

[2] J. L. Melena, The Knossos Tablets, Sixth Edition. Philadelphia: INSTAP, 2019; L. Godart & A. Sacconi, Les archives du roi Nestor. Corpus des inscriptions en linéaire B de Pylos, vols. I-II. Pisa-Rome: Fabrizio Serra, 2019-2020; J.-P. Olivier & M. Del Freo, The Pylos Tablets Transcribed, 2nd edition. Padova:, 2020. Note that Melena’s new edition of The Pylos Tablets has just appeared: The Pylos Tablets. Third Edition in Transliteration by José L. Melena with the collaboration of Richard J. Firth. Vitoria: UPV, 2021.

[3] See R. J. Thompson, “Prepositional usage in Arcado-Cypriot and Mycenaean: a Bronze Age isogloss?” Minos 35-36 (2000-2001), 395-430.

[4] Errors and typos are surprisingly rare despite the use of different alphabets and transcription systems. For instance, the outcome of consonant clusters affected by the first compensatory lengthening is variably rendered, compare ἀνῶϝες (< *an-ou̯s-es-) with παραϝhίω (< *par-au̯s-i̯o-). The few typos that I have encountered are of different natures, such as ἴκκων for ἴκκwων (p. 88), /notβe/ for /notʃe/ (p. 102), δebería for debería (p. 166), lesb. ῑ̓́λᾱος for ἴλλᾱος (p. 177), etc.

[5] For two such companion-type publications see Y. Duhoux and A. Morpugo Davies (eds.) (2008, 2012, 2014), A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Texts and Their World, Vols. 1, 2, and 3, Louvain-la-Neuve: Peeters; and M. Del Freo and M. Perna (eds.) (2016), Manuale di epigrafia micenea: Introduzione allo studio dei testi in lineare B,Padova: Edizioni.

[6] See E. Vilborg (1960), A tentative Grammar of Mycenaean Greek. Göteborg: Almqvist; C. Magueijo (1980), Introduçâo ao grego micénico. Lisboa: Instituto Nacional de Investigaçâo Científica; A. Bartonĕk (2003), Handbuch des mykenischen Griechisch. Heidelberg: Winter; E. Risch & I. Hajnal (2006), Grammatik des mykenishen Griechisch, available at: Universität Innsbruck, Institut für Sprachwissenschaft.