Where Does The Name Greece Come From?


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The modern English adaptation of Greek is derived from the Latin Graecus, which in turn originates from Greek Γραικός (Graikos), the name of a Boeotian tribe that migrated to Italy in the 8th century BC, and it is by that name the Hellenes were known in the West. Homer, while reciting the Boeotian forces in the Iliad's Catalogue of Ships, provides the first known reference to a Boeotian city named Graea,[36] and Pausanias mentions that Graea was the name of the ancient city of Tanagra.[37] Cumae, a city lying to the west of Neapolis (now Naples) and south of Rome, was founded by Cymaeans and Chalkideans as well as Graeans who by coming into contact with Romans may very well be responsible for naming all Hellenic speaking tribes Graeci. The modern Italian city of Grai was also founded in antiquity by Graeans.

Aristotle, our oldest source mentioning the word, states that a natural cataclysm swept across central Epirus, a land where its inhabitants used to be called γραικοί (Graecoi) and were later named Hellenes (Έλληνες).[38] In mythology, Graecus is a cousin of Latinus, and the word seems to be related with γηραιός (geraius, anile), which was the title given to the priests of Dodona. They were also named Σελλοί (Selloi)—which shows the relation between the two basic names of the Greeks. The dominant theory on the colonization of Italy has it that part of the people living in Epirus crossed Dodona and migrated to Phthia, becoming infamous as Hellenes the tribe Achilles led to Troy. The remaining part merged with other tribes that arrived later, without losing its name. From there they traveled westwards to Italy, before the first wave of colonists in the 8th century BC arrived at Sicily and southern Italy.

As the Romans strove to dominate all spheres of public life - in their own right, the term 'Greek' took on a derogatory connotation. Horace used it admiringly, Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit et artes intulit agresti Latio (The defeated Greece conquered the victor and civilised the peasant Latins). But Virgil coined the expression, Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes, which became known as 'fear the Greeks who bring presents'. Cicero gave the coup de grace by coining the truly derogatory term, Graeculi.

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