Language and Identity
In this first chapter. I want to examine the language consciousness of the Greek elite in the second sophistic period, concentrating on the phenomenon of atticism, its causes, and its meaning. In the next chapter I shall be considering how various individuals encouraged or responded to the pressures of language purism. Here I shall be concerned with the political and social meaning of atticism in general terms. The search for this will involve looking at the development of the so-called koine or 'common' language in the Hellenistic age, at the stylistic classicism and atticism championed by Dionysius of Halicarnassus in Augustan Rome, and at the later combination of this stylistic atticism with the linguistic purism and formalism of the second sophistic. Changes in the Greek language, the political situation of the Greek elite under the High Empire, and the question of their reaction to Rome are other topics to be considered.
Language is one of the most important areas in which cultural groups may adopt definitions for themselves and/or against others. The Greeks had always been highly conscious of their language and the distinctiveness it granted them from non-Greeks whom they called barbaroi. This onomatopoeic term originally signified those whose language was not Greek (cf. 'barbarophone' at Iliad ii. 867), but because of the importance of language in defining cultural behaviour it quickly became (and remained) an evaluative description of non-Hellenic behaviour and attitudes.1 The special place of language in Greek self-definition in the archaic and classical periods is____________________