Hommage á M. Ventris

“Hommage a Michael Ventris “ or: “the hidden beauty of language …”

When I first saw the Linear B inscriptions as a high school student, and, later, as a visitor to the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, on the island of Crete, I could not foresee that these small symbols, inscribed on clay, would carry me off one day on a journey in space and time, an inner journey to my roots, my language and my consciousness …

I first had to pass through a stage of admiration for Chinese calligraphy, and to emigrate …
Gradually, these symbols started dancing in front of me, demanding my attention and compensating me by transporting me mentally to Greece, to a Greece celebrated by its poets…

It seems that these symbols preferred to take the indirect path, by choosing a young British architect, Michael Ventris, to be the one to restore their “Greek sound ” by deciphering them, something that happened in 1952-53 with the official publication of Ventris and J. Chadwick’s discoveries in the “Journal of Hellenic Studies” (1953) and a lecture by Ventris in London the same year. This brings us to the current fiftieth anniversary of this extraordinary achievement, which pushed the historical proof of the Greek language in the Aegean area further back, to a few centuries before Homer…

A reading of the texts, a unique experience, suddenly brought to mind a poet’s words: ” And I started slowly to string words along like diamonds, to cover over the land I loved, in case someone could see its beauty. Or maybe suspect it never did exist… ” ( Odysseus Elytis, Young Nautilus –my own free translation).

This immediately inspired the next thought: What would the reverse be like? I do not know if it exists already, but this is my attempt here, with cowardly hand since I am no philologist (and may the experts forgive me ), and by artistic license alone. There are no literary texts in Linear B.
So here are some attempts to transcribe:

Modern Greek poetry in a voyage through time, connecting with the past …
Words dressed in their glittering jewelry…
Challenging words for hopeful lovers of an ancient language …
Hunting for the hidden treasure …

 

Nikos Samartzidis, February 2003