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Greeks and Anatolians on Lesbos: The Linguistic Evidence

Alexander Dale

This paper brings to bear the linguistic evidence—focusing primarily on toponyms and personal names—for a hybridized Greco-Anatolian culture on Lesbos and its Anatolian hinterland. It is argued that several toponymic suffixes, such as –ηνη and –υμνα, seen in e.g. Mytilene and Methymna, have solid Luwo-Hittite etymologies, and attest to the prominent presence of Anatolian population groups on Lesbos in the pre-Archaic period (see Dale forthcoming 2013). Personal names, from theophoric compounds in Armo-/Ermo-, deriving from the Luwian moon-god Arma, to the name Myrsilos, attested as the name of an Archaic tyrant and of a Hellenistic historiographer, provide further evidence for the island’s Anatolian past. In some cases, either on linguistic or historical levels, we can localize the diffusion of these Anatolian onomastic elements to certain periods, as far back as the Late Bronze Age, while others might appear to be forms introduced in more recent history. It is argued here that the cumulative linguistic evidence suggests the presence of Greek-speakers alongside Anatolians from the Late Bronze Age onwards to the threshold of the Archaic period, a supposition which seems to find corroboration in the textual evidence for Mycenaean and Hittite interaction over Lesbos in the LBA, the hybridized and Anatolian-leaning archaeological record for the Iron Age, and the cultural memory of Lesbos as evidenced in the poetry of Sappho and Alcaeus which, despite being thoroughly integrated with the pan-Hellenic poetic and mythological tradition, can be shown to have distinct Anatolian antecedents.

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Lesbos and Anatolia: Linguistic, Archaeological, and Documentary Evidence for Greek-Anatolian Contact in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages

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