This is more for me than for anyone else.

I find the accent marks in Greek and Latin frustrating.

I have been studying both languages for over 20 years.  The accent marks in both languages have helped me exactly not at all.  But, they have been a great hindrance and a great stumbling block.

Same for my students.  The accent marks in both languages have slowed my students down.

Modern Latin (French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Portuguese, etc.) have dumped or greatly simplified the accent marks.

Modern Greek has done the same.

So, why did the ancients feel the need to accent their languages so heavily?

Oh.  That’s right.

They didn’t.

One of the ancient Greek accent marks is the circumflex.  WordPress will not let me type it.  It looks like the top half of the letter o.  Or the top part of the number 0.

Guess where it came from…?

Um… it was invented by Richard Parson, an English classical scholar.  He lived from 1759 until 1808.  In case you haven’t guessed it, he wasn’t Greek.  Nor was he ancient.

What does this mean?

It means Homer wouldn’t have known what a circumflex was if it rode up in a two-horsed chariot and announced, “I am a circumflex and I am here to confuse future Greek students!”

No.  Homer wouldn’t have any idea what a circumflex was.

Richard Porson invented it around the time the American colonists started chucking tea into the harbour.  He invented it around the time American colonists started spelling harbour without the letter u.

Here’s more about Richard Porson:

Here’s the more about the rule he came up with:


By the way, I went to Greece to find out how to pronounce ancient Greek.  I went three times.  I searched for answers.  Finally, I sat down with a scholar from the Universty of Athens.  He has a Ph.D. in ancient Greek.  He was born and raised in Athens.

I asked him.  “How did the ancient Greeks pronounce Greek?”

“We don’t know”, he replied.

“Well then, how do you pronounce ancient Greek when you read it out loud?”, I asked.

He replied, “We Greeks just pronounce it the way modern Greek is pronounced.”

At that very moment, I stopped searching for the ancient Greek pronunciation.

Want to learn to pronounce Greek?  Start here: