Why did Benjamin of Tudela write that the Vlachs in Greece were treating travellers of Jewish origin better? Why did the Vlachs tell him, “that’s because we are cousins”?

Benjamin of Tudela, a Jewish traveller from Spain, visited Greece around 1170, when the Jews of Greece were all Romaniotes (Greek-speaking). Benjamin’s fellow Sephardic Jews only moved to Greece when they were expelled from Spain, three hundred years later. So whatever was going on, it was not because of any linguistic kinship between the Vlachs’ Aromanian language and any Greek Jews’ Ladino language.

Might it have been an appeal to Benjamin’s Ladino? No; language does not come up at all. The sum total of what Benjamin writes about them is:

From there it is a day’s journey to Sinon Potamo, where there are about fifty Jews, at their head being R. Solomon and R. Jacob. The city is situated at the foot of the hills of Wallachia. The nation called Wallachians live in those mountains. They are as swift as hinds, and they sweep down from the mountains to despoil and ravage the land of Greece. No man can go up and do battle against them, and no king can rule over them. They do not hold fast to the faith of the Nazarenes, but give themselves Jewish names. p.18Some people say that they are Jews, and, in fact, they call the Jews their brethren, and when they meet with them, though they rob them, they refrain from killing them as they kill the Greeks. They are altogether lawless. The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Itinerary Of Benjamin Of Tudela

Wherever Sinon Potamo is, it is two days walk from Gardiki, Trikala; so Benjamin was in Thessaly, where there is a substantial Vlach population.

As you can well imagine, historians have found this intriguing. That doesn’t mean it’s true; Benjamin of Tudela also claimed a Jewish Kingdom in Ethiopia, which recent scholarship is sceptical about (Desperately seeking the Jewish Kingdom of Ethiopia: Benjamin of Tudela and the Horn of Africa (twelfth century)).

The Vlachs in the area openly rebelled against Byzantium two decades later, and may not have been willing to accept Byzantine religious suzerainty, so Greek priests may have been in short supply in Vlach Thessaly. While most Greeks don’t use Old Testament given names, Cypriots do, Bulgarians did, and maybe Vlachs did too; a credulous Benjamin could well have run with that as evidence of something.

I think what’s likeliest is, the Thessaly Vlachs welcomed Benjamin as a non-Greek, were intrigued by his background, and told him some tall tales to impress him.

How is the letter Y (ypsilon) pronounced in modern Greek and how was it pronounced in ancient times?

Our guesses for Ancient Greek are that it was /u/ in most ancient dialects of Greek, and /y/ (German ü) in Attic.

Upsilon was the last letter to change pronunciation in Modern Greek, to /i/. <oi> had also come to be pronounced as /y/ in late Antiquity (they are routinely confused, only with each other, in the proto-Bulgarian inscriptions); it too went to /i/.

  • We have a poem from 1030 AD making fun of the new pronunciation (Michael the Grammarian’s irony about hypsilon: a step towards reconstructing byzantine pronunciation): a rustic priest is ridiculed for pronouncing <xylon> the modern way.
  • We have evidence from placenames indicating the old pronunciation was around in the 1100s and 1200s (Koryfoi > Old French Corfu, Oinoe > Turkish Ünye).
  • We have archaic dialects of Greek—Old Athenian, Tsakonian—in which the reflex of upsilon is [ju], just as French /y/ went to English [ju] (pure).
  • And most sensationally, Nikos Pantelidis has recently published a paper unearthing evidence he finds persuasive, that the /y/ pronunciation survived in Old Athenian (the original dialect of Athens, before it was overwhelmed by Peloponnesian settlers in the new Greek state) until the 1840s: https://www.researchgate.net/pub…
Answered 2017-05-28 · Upvoted by

Heather Jedrus, speech-language pathologist

Do Australians regularly eat kangaroo meat?

Another data point:

  • Routinely served to tourists, as an exotic offering. Like crocodile is.
  • Available in gourmet restaurants on occasion, as an exotic offering.
  • I’ve had it two or three times. The last time, in an Ethiopian tagine.
  • Available in supermarkets, but not plentiful in supermarkets.
  • Very plentiful as pet food.
  • Very lean meat, so very easy to overcook.
  • Has not captured the people’s imagination, it must be said. Australians have changed their staple meats (from rabbit to chicken), and Australians pride themselves on being foodies; but there has not been a groundswell of enthusiasm about roo meat.