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BardSkye
12-22-2010, 06:14 AM
Would anyone know if Greek would likely have been a trade language along the Silk Road in about 6BC? I have MCs from China and Persia meeting up with my Jerusalem MC and have to get them talking.

Albannach
12-22-2010, 06:18 AM
I don't know but Latin would seem more likely, wouldn't it? Although the Greeks did get as far as India. Interesting question.

KingM
12-22-2010, 06:19 AM
I thought the Silk Road didn't open a full trade route between the east and the west until the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th Century, although I know there were precursors operated by the Persians and Scythians.

KingM
12-22-2010, 06:21 AM
I don't know but Latin would seem more likely, wouldn't it? Although the Greeks did get as far as India. Interesting question.

I don't think so. Rome was a minor city in the 6th Century and even at the height of Roman power, Greek was at least as common in the eastern half of the empire as Latin.

Albannach
12-22-2010, 06:32 AM
He said 6 BC not the 6th century BC. :)

The Silk Road was definitely open by that time.

I didn't say Greek wasn't common. It was. So was Latin. It is an interesting question which was more common. I suspect Latin but it would be difficult to prove. It might also depend on the part of the eastern empire you were in.

Edit: I would accept either in a story, but I would go with Latin if it were me.

KingM
12-22-2010, 06:41 AM
He said 6 BC not the 6th century BC. :)


Oops, you're right. Where's the little blushy face?

In that case, I would say Greek is just fine. Latin would probably work, too.

thothguard51
12-22-2010, 06:44 AM
Well, the Romans stole/borrowed a lot from the Greeks, education, medicine, and education just to name a few. So I think Greek would have been a very popular language.

But along the silk road, I am not sure. Maybe have a greek translater who understands other languages...

Priene
12-22-2010, 08:03 AM
Koine Greek. The Hellenistic Kingdoms spread Greek far further than the bounds of the Roman Empire. The Yeuzhi, who conquered the Greek Baktrian kingdom, were Hellenized to the point of using the Greek alphabet. There was even still a Greek kingdom in the Punjab at that time.

BardSkye
12-22-2010, 08:34 AM
I've come across references to Aramaic, a Persian dialect, and Cantonese as trade languages in use at the time, depending on which end of the road a person was on. To my mind, though, the chances of somebody of the time speaking Aramaic/Cantonese would be far less likely than persons on either end speaking Aramaic/Greek and Cantonese/Greek. All three MCs have one thing in common: they're all astrologers.

Appreciate the help.

PeterL
12-22-2010, 05:41 PM
Greek probably was one of the common languages, at least where the road went through the Hellenistic Kingdoms, BardSkye's comment is correct.

Smiling Ted
12-23-2010, 08:03 AM
Koine Greek would have been used in the Eastern Roman Empire and throughout what was once the Seleucid Empire. Aramaic would have been used in Mesopotamia and the Levant, Parthian in what is now Iran. Latin would have been used in the Eastern Roman Empire, but mostly as an official language and a language for Imperial officials and other expatriate Italians.

Bear in mind that it would have been very rare for any trading party to travel the entire length of the route; instead, like drug smugglers today, different trading parties would travel to markets along the route, sell on their cargo, and return to their own homes; the goods would move from party to party until they reached their final destination.

BardSkye
12-23-2010, 08:44 AM
Yes, that's sort of the problem. Ordinarily, my Chinese MC would have turned his goods over to the Persian traders. In fact, as part of their trading agreements, the Chinese caravans were not permitted to continue past Persia (and this is mentioned in the manuscript). His caravan is not going all the way to Jerusalem, but he is, as an envoy from the Emperor.

The reason I was thinking of Greek is because all three MCs are astrologers and I had it in mind that most of the scientific (for the time) writings were ordinarily in Greek, but I'm not sure.

As always, I appreciate everyone's input.

Smiling Ted
12-23-2010, 09:12 PM
There was no hard dividing line at the time between science, religion, philosophy and magic, or between astronomy and astrology. Alphabets (as opposed to pictograms) were in use throughout the Ancient World at that time, from the Roman Empire through the Parthian one. However, the odds are that anyone who learned his trade learned it more as an apprentice from his master than from written scrolls in any language.

BardSkye
12-23-2010, 09:47 PM
Astrologers use many charts, though. Would those not have been in Greek, at least for the western end of the road?

If I can get away with Greek as a common language, it can easily be explained for both the Persian and Chinese MCs. The Chinese one's father has been a trader all his life and his mother is an outlander.

It'll probably boil down to a sentance or two. Much ado about nothing, but I would like to get it right. :)

ETA: I've already noted in the manuscript that the Chinese and Western astrologies differ somewhat. Jupitor, for example, was the planet of Wood for the Chinese.

Maxx
12-23-2010, 09:59 PM
There was no hard dividing line at the time between science, religion, philosophy and magic, or between astronomy and astrology. Alphabets (as opposed to pictograms) were in use throughout the Ancient World at that time, from the Roman Empire through the Parthian one. However, the odds are that anyone who learned his trade learned it more as an apprentice from his master than from written scrolls in any language.

How about Sogdian as a Lingua Franca? It worked during the Tang Dynasty and maybe 700 years earlier as well (and apparently its still spoken out there somewhere).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sogdian_language

PeterL
12-23-2010, 10:35 PM
There was no hard dividing line at the time between science, religion, philosophy and magic, or between astronomy and astrology.

There still isn't.

Medievalist
12-23-2010, 10:39 PM
The nature of trade in the era and the area required people to be multilingual.

And if you can learn spoken Persian, you can learn spoken Greek, and vice versa.

They were, comparatively speaking, as close as say Swedish and Norwegian are today, maybe even closer.

PeterL
12-23-2010, 10:44 PM
Astrologers use many charts, though. Would those not have been in Greek, at least for the western end of the road?

Astrologers would use whichever language was convenient for the.


If I can get away with Greek as a common language, it can easily be explained for both the Persian and Chinese MCs. The Chinese one's father has been a trader all his life and his mother is an outlander.

It'll probably boil down to a sentance or two. Much ado about nothing, but I would like to get it right. :)

There probably were some people who spoke several languages and went all the way along the road sometimes. It is also likely that there were people in most stops along the road who spoke enough languages to communicate with anyone who was likely to come along.

Albannach
12-24-2010, 05:38 AM
It seems to me that traders would speak whatever languages they need for trade, certainly the language of the rulers of the countries where they trade to deal with them. On a trade route that long it would have to be several languages. With Rome as important as it was, I can't imagine some of them not speaking Latin, but almost certainly Greek as well and probably Persian. I'm not sure what languages were spoken in India at the time, several, if my vague memory on the subject is anything to go by.

Smiling Ted
12-25-2010, 04:33 AM
How about Sogdian as a Lingua Franca? It worked during the Tang Dynasty and maybe 700 years earlier as well (and apparently its still spoken out there somewhere).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sogdian_language

Sounds good to me.

Rachel Udin
12-26-2010, 03:29 AM
I'd also expect a little pidgin if not outright effort to learn the language. (Mostly using nouns.)

Trader points and raises 10 fingers and points to purse. The other trader shakes head and goes, "No. Good fabric." Gestures with finger upwards, or flashes hands twice.

That sort of thing. Where you get signing, etc. And later on you get "Pineapple? Five gold."
"Bad. Lower."
"Good Pineapple. Five gold."

That sort of thing. Later on, you get verbs, usually the dominant language. (Language Instinct by Steven Pinker.)

Korean and Japanese have a large number of loan words from Cantonese and Qing, but not from Mandarin due to trade with Qing and Canton. So there must be some pidgin going on.

BardSkye
12-28-2010, 06:28 AM
Appreciate all the input while I've been off-line. As the general concensus seems to be that I could get away with Greek for the three characters as a second (or third) language, I think I'll go with that.