Why do the spellings of ancient Roman and Greek names differ in English than in other languages?

Partly, source morphology. Partly, mediation via Latin. Partly, particularity of English.

Remember first that Classical names in English came in via Latin most of the time. Hence Plato rather than Platon, and Hercules for Heracles.

Second, not all final -ns are the same. So there’s no contradiction about Latin keeping the final -n in Xenophon and not in Plato.

On both, see Why do some Latin borrowings of Greek words ending in -ων end in -o (like Apollo), while others end in -on (like Orion)?

Third, English chops off more final inflections in Latin names, though less than French and (sometimes) German. That I don’t know as much about, but it’s partly to do with how the languages developed (French), and partly just random change.

So English avoids final –anus, and so does French (where English got the names from). So the names have the same ending as the corresponding adjectives, which have the same original suffix in Latin: Octavian, Vespasian, just like Christian < Christianus, quotidian < quotidianus. English and French have done the same with Latin names ending in –alis: we say Martial and martial, both of which are Martialis ~ martialis in Latin.

German does the same with –tus names, changing them to –t: German Herodot, French Herodote, English Herodotus. English does this with Theodoret, but not generally.

What is the weirdest song in your language?

Zavara Katra Nemia, Greek, 1968.

The songwriter Yannis Markopoulos was routinely subject to censorship during the Greek Junta, as a left winger. So he wrote a song with nonsense lyrics and lots of 5/8 and 11/8 metre, which got past the censors. And everyone assumed it was against the dictatorship anyway.

Zavara katra nemia Zavara katra nemia
Hallelujah Hallelujah

Zavarakatranemia Mercy Mercy
lama lama nama nama nemia
Hallelujah Hallelujah

To my disappointment, I find on the Googles that the songwriter himself has provided an explanation of the seeming nonsense lyrics, which turns out to be a call for revolt against the dictatorship. Whether or not it’s past facto, it’s plausible-looking: (Zavara = lavara, katra = katrami, nemia = anemisan, lama “blade”, nama = mana)

Pitch-black banners waving, pitch-black banners waving
Consequence Consequence

Pitch-black banners wave Mercy Mercy
Blade blade Mother Mother Waving
Consequence Consequence

And I have to say, it’s still disjoint enough to be not that much closer to lucidity. Everyone who quotes his explanation says sagely how obvious it is that he’s calling for a popular uprising. Maybe in Greek it is…

Doesn’t matter. The combination of the oracular music and Nikos Xilouris’ even more oracular vocals are meaning enough.

What is the response to “Christos anesti” in Greek? What are some other phrases used around Easter?

Martin Pickering is right. A somewhat more emphatic response you’ll hear occasionally is Alithos o Kyrios, “truly the Lord has”. (It’s in response to Christos Anesti, “Christ is risen”.)

What is the importance of the Hellenistic culture?

Thx4A2A, Anon. As my fellows have asked, we’ll need more detail on what you’re asking.

I’m going to stab at a related question, which is the legacy of Hellenistic culture. In fact, that might be a good approach to vague questions like this, my fellow respondents: we grab a bit each of the possible answers that we can relate to.

We owe the Hellenistic—under which I’ll conflate Greek culture under the Romans:

  • Linguistics, which started in Alexandria (Callimachus and co.) as a way of teaching the now obsolescent language of the Classics.
  • Philology and textual criticism, which started in Alexandria (Callimachus and co.) as a way of stabilising the texts of the Classics.
  • Library science, ditto, Alexandria.
  • The novel, through a circuitous path (including Dictys Cretensis and the Roman de Troie).
  • The comedy as we know it, from Menander via the renaissance revival of the Latin comic poets.
  • Several influential schools of philosophy, including Stoicism and Neo-Platonism.
  • The intellectual wherewithal of Christianity.
  • Statues in Buddhism, through Greco-Buddhist art.

If you want to include a word or phrase in Greek in a novel, should you write it in Greek letters or should you transcribe it by pronunciation?

A novel with mass readership, not in Greek, where you don’t want to alienate readers unnecessarily, and you care to give readers some notion of what it sounds like? Use transliteration rather than original script. Same as if you were putting Hindi (or whatever your language happens to be) into a non-Hindi (or whatever) novel.

Yes, I write Greek in Greek characters here, and when I don’t, I use IPA. But I’m not writing a novel.

How difficult will Albanian be to learn if I already speak Modern Greek?

Yes, the vocabulary is completely different—except for the large number of Greek loanwords in Albanian, which is substantial, and the rather smaller number of Albanian loanwords in Greek.

OTOH: Balkan sprachbund. The syntax and inflections are remarkably similar: you can often translate Albanian into Greek and vice versa, word for word.

I’m reminded of what renowned linguist BRIAN D. JOSEPH once told me, when he was encouraging me to learn Macedonian. “It’ll be no trouble at all. You just swap the words.”

Are there really 10 times as many ancient texts written in Ancient Greek as there are ancient texts written in Latin?

It’s kinda true; I’ve certainly seen the number cited multiple times—it was the guess around 1900, for scholars saying there was no point even attempting a dictionary of all of Greek, to rival the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae.

I work at the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, although it is not a dictionary per se, but an online lemmatised corpus. As I wrote in How much writing from ancient Greece is preserved? , we know how many words there are of Ancient Greek texts—our collection is reasonably complete up to Middle Byzantium.

I think the 10 times as much figure is too much: it means excluding Mediaeval Latin (which you can do), but not excluding Mediaeval Greek (which I would start as early as the Church Fathers).

Some possible reasons:

  • Lots of scientific/scholarly texts in Hellenistic Greek. Galen alone accounts for 3 million words.
  • Huge amounts of Christian theological works, which the monk copyists preserved assiduously.
  • A much longer literary tradition.
  • A lot more people writing to begin with, I suspect.

But if you let Mediaeval Latin in, the scores balance.