Lecturer: Erma Vassiliou
Early in the last century historians drew attention to a Byzantine document, namely the Alexiad, written by Anna Comnena (1083-1154, or 1155) the daughter of the Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenos (1048-1118) and the woman who rightly acquired the title of the first woman historian.
Apart from being the flattering biography of the emperor Alexius Comnenos, the Alexiad is a major source of the historical events of the First Crusade. Anna Comnena’s magnum opus consists of fifteen chapters that narrate the story of Byzantium between the years 1069 and 1118, most particularly of the period of Alexius’ reign (1081-1118). The document under analysis offers an exceptional source for the study of language change in Byzantine Greek.
The first part of this analysis was delivered at the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne in 2011 as well as in universities in Australia and Cyprus. The present second part depicts changes in morphology, displays Latin borrowings in Greek patronymic endings and morphological changes in Greek patronymics. It shows semantic change in Greek toponymics and presents two phenomena of reanalysis: a) of an adjective to an adverb and b) of a possessive to an adverb. Moreover, it exhibits Anna's use of the vernacular through dialectal features that seem to have been broadly in use in her times and are identical to those found in Cypriot today
Anna's work is not simply a historical document, it reflects change in the Greek language in 11th and 12th century Byzantium.
Erma Vassiliou was born in Limassol Cyprus. At the age of five, her parents migrated to the Belgian Congo (present-day Zaire). She spent her childhood and teenage years in tropical forests and bilingual boarding schools.
At the end of her African sojourn, she had developed an astute appreciation for other peoples’ cultures and had acquired varying degrees of proficiency in numerous European and African languages. In 1987 she migrated to Australia and later on completed a PhD in linguistics at la Trobe University.
Presently she is a visiting research fellow at the ANU (Australian National University) in Canberra. As a historical linguist she conducts research in a number of Medieval languages including Byzantine Greek. Her present focus is Anna Comnena’s The Alexiad, a medieval historical and biographical text written around the year 1148.
In October 1916, the Ithacan migrants of Melbourne established the ITHACAN PHILANTHROPIC SOCIETY "The Ulysses", with an inaugural membership of some 153 members. This was in response to pleas for aid from their loved ones in Ithaca who were suffering deprivation during the First World War.
Over the years, however, the Society has been much more than just a philanthropic institution. It has been a constant in the lives of the early Ithacan migrants replacing the homeland which they had left.
The Society takes an active role in the cultural, social, educational and quality of life interests of the Ithacan Community. The Society, as part of its philanthropic role, also makes many monetary contributions to worthy causes, including those outside the immediate Ithacan community. The Society celebrated its 90th Anniversary in 2006.