by Melanippe of Themascyra
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. What language would she have spoken?

Probably not literally so, but this archaic Greek dialect, preserved in the folds and nooks of the rugged Black Sea side of Asia Minor, may be as close as any living person will get to hearing Themiscyran.  After all, only a little over 100 kilometers west of Trabazon, the heart of the Romeyka-speaking area, is Aretias, the island formerly sacred to Ares, where Amazons were alleged to have worshipped; and another 200 kilometers along the coast is the river Thermodon (or more recently, Terme), next to which the original Themiscyra was built.

Dr Ioanna Sitaridou of the University of Cambridge has been studying this small population – only about 5,000 – of Romeyka-speakers.  The most distinctive feature of their language, which was preserved by colonial isolation (as Icelandic and Appalachian English also were) is the retention of the infinitive case, long vanished from modern Greek.  The dialect also has several pronunciation variants, and other grammatical features not seen in demotic Greek.

The name ‘Romeyka’ itself is from around the 500s C.E. (give or take a few centuries) when the Greeks referred to themselves as Rhomaioi or Romioi, virtually all Greeks having become Roman citizens. The name which modern Greeks now call themselves and their language,”Hellene”, developed Byzantine Christian implications of paganism, looked down upon by the Imperial state.  Curiously enough, the modern Romeyka-speakers are almost entirely Muslim, having not retained either Olympian worship nor Byzantine faith due to the cultural pressures of the area.

Although there is a little debate on the somewhat simplified, popular-news version of Dr Sitaridou’s studies, there is no question that the preservation of yet another modern-civilisation-threatened cultural variation has value and importance.  If nothing else, Romeyka provides a glimpse into the evolution of a language that used to rule the Occidental world – a common past for Europe and half the Americas.

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