Trojan language

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Erac. 1200 BCE
Language codes
ISO 639-2und
ISO 639-3und

There are no direct records of the language the historical Trojans spoke at the time of the Trojan War.[a][b] The language likely to have been prevalent in the historical city is Greek (or Luwian).

Greek theory[edit]

There is not much information available about ancient Troy. According to Homer, Trojans shared a common language, religion and customs with the Achaeans. This may mean that Trojans were Greeks or Hellenized Anatolians.[1] He also mentions that the Trojans spoke different languages from some of their allies, and he refers to the Achaeans as subjects of the Greeks[2] (something that might mean that Trojans could be also Greeks). So, if we agree that the Homeric Epics could have an historical basis, it is very possible that the Trojans were speakers of the Greek language.

Before the era of the Trojan War, the area belonged to the Hittite Empire, but this does not mean that they were of Anatolian (Luwian) origin. It is known that the Aegean Coast was inhabited by Greeks.

Additionally, the name Arzawa, used by the Hittites to describe the area, does not prove that the Troad was inhabited by Anatolian people, because we do not know the name the Trojans used to refer to themselves. The Hittites used place names based on their own language; for example they referred to Achaeans as Ahhiyawa.

Greek epics[edit]

Greek legend gives indications on the subject of language at Troy. For one thing, the allies of Troy, listed at length in the Trojan Battle Order which closes book 2 of the Iliad, are depicted as speaking various languages and thus needing to have orders translated to them by their commanders (2.802–806). Elsewhere in the poem (4.433–438) they are compared to sheep and lambs bleating in a field as they talk together in their different languages. The inference is that, from the Greek point of view, the languages of Trojans and their allied neighbors were not as unified as those of the Achaeans.[citation needed]

Luwian theory[edit]

There was not enough evidence to fruitfully speculate upon the language of Troy until 1995, when a late Hittite seal was found in the excavations at Troy, probably dating from about 1275 BC. Not considered a locally made object, this item from the Trojan "state chancellery" was inscribed in Luwian and to date provides the only archaeological evidence for any language at Troy in this period. It indicates that Luwian was known at Troy, which is not surprising since it was a lingua franca of the Hittite Empire, of which Troy was probably in some form of dependency.[citation needed]

Additionally, the Alaksandu treaty describes Mira, Haballa, Seha and Wilusa (usually identified with Troy) as the lands of Arzawa, although this "has no historical or political basis",[3] suggesting that it was the language that they had in common. Frank Starke of the University of Tübingen concludes that "the certainty is growing that Wilusa/Troy belonged to the greater Luwian-speaking community".[4] Joachim Latacz also regards Luwian as the official language of Homeric Troy, but he finds it highly probable that another language was in daily use.[4] Ilya Yakubovich provides a critical evaluation of the arguments by Watkins and Starke in his University of Chicago dissertation and concludes that the ethnicity of the Trojans remains completely unknown.[5]

Pre-Etruscan theory[edit]

Herodotus reported a Lydian assertion of a Lydian origin for the Etruscans, and Virgil and Horace refer poetically to Etruscans as Lydians. [6] According to Herodotus these people, led by a Tarquin, abandoned Asia Minor after a series of famines in the eighth century, migrating to today's Italy at that time. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, citing language and custom like a modern ethnologist, found an autochthonous rather than Lydian origin.


  1. ^ Corresponding to the archaeological site Troy VIIa.
  2. ^ This language is identified with the Troy of the Greek epics to a greater or lesser degree, depending on judgements regarding the historicity of the Iliad.


  1. ^ …Αφρήτωρ αθέμιστος ανέστιος εστίν εκείνος ος πολέμου έραται επιδημίου οκρυόεντος… 2 «Αυτός που θέλει το φριχτό εμφύλιο πόλεμο δεν έχει ούτε σόι, ούτε νόμο, ούτε σπίτι» Ιλιάς, Ι, 63 (translation : "Those who want that terrible civil war, have no family, no rule, no home", Iliad, I, 63)
  2. ^ At the Rhapsody B, Homer mentions that Ajax the Great could use his spear better than all the Achaeans and the Greeks generally (Homeric Greek: ἐγχείῃ δ᾽ ἐκέκαστο Πανέλληνας καὶ Ἀχαιούς", Greek: Στο κοντάρι ξεπέρναγε όλους τους Έλληνες και τους Αχαιούς)
  3. ^ Latacz 2004, p. 115.
  4. ^ a b Quoted from Latacz 2004, p. 116.
  5. ^ Yakubovich, Ilya. Sociolinguistics of the Luvian Language, Leiden, 2010, pp. 117–129
  6. ^ [Noted by Giuliano and Larissa Bonfante, "The Etruscan Language: An Introduction" (Manchester University Press) 2002:50.]


  • Bachvarova, Mary R. (2016), From Hittite to Homer: the Anatolian background of ancient Greek epic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) pp. 361-366 Preview at Google Books
  • Dalby, Andrew (2006), Rediscovering Homer, New York, London: Norton, ISBN 0-393-05788-7 CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link), pp. 129–133.
  • Latacz, Joachim (2004), Troy and Homer: towards a solution of an old mystery, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-926308-6 CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link), pp. 49–72.
  • Mackie, Hilary (1996), Talking Trojan: speech and community in the Iliad. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Puhvel, Jaan (1991), Homer and Hittite. Innsbruck: Universität Innsbruck Institut für Sprachwissenschaft
  • Ross, Shawn A. (2005), "Barbarophonos: Language and Panhellenism in the Iliad" in Classical Philology 100, pp. 299–316.
  • Watkins, Calvert (1986), "The language of the Trojans" in Troy and the Trojan War: a symposium held at Bryn Mawr College, October 1984 ed. M. J. Mellink. Bryn Mawr. Online copy
  • Woudhuizen, Fred (2017), "The lang(u)age of the Tro(j)ans" in Valérie Faranton, Michel Mazoyer, eds, Homère et l'Anatolie 3 pp. 127-140