Greek-derived toponyms

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by hungryplanets00, Apr 5, 2011.

  1. hungryplanets00

    hungryplanets00 Junior Member

    Where the good food is
    English - US

    I was recently reading a Wikipedia article about the previous names of Istanbul. I read that the word Istanbul comes from the Greek phrase "εις την Πόλιν".

    Do you know of any other toponyms (place names) that come from Greek and refer to places in Turkey/the Middle East/West Asia?
  2. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Well, we cannot produce a list of all place names in Turkey of Greek origin. Many (most?) Turkish names names of historical cities derive their modern names from their former Greek names: Ephesos>Efes, Smyrna>İzmir, Attaleia>Antalya, Ancyra>Ankara, Antiochia>Antakia and many, many more.
  3. Maroseika Moderator

    This is just a folk etymology. How is it possible to imagine such a way of naming the cities, especially so ancient and well-known? Such versions are always have a problem on which language spoke those who have broght this name in the alien language. If they spoke Greek, they would have known that this phrase means 'to the city' and is not the name. If they spoke Turkish, they would have never realized what is this phrase about. And it's clear that since Turks and Greeks neiboroughed for centuries, situation of such a misunderstanding is impossible.

    Unfortunately, there is no precise etymology of this name, but maybe the most trstworty one is that Istanbul is a broken "Constantinopolis".
    Another version, also of the folk etymology nature, is that Istanbul < Islambol (state of Muslims).
  4. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Not exactly...there are a couple of other cities named this way:
    İznik-->Εἰς Νίκαιαν (Bithynian Nicæa)
    İzmit-->Εἰς Μήδειαν (from Bithynian Νικομήδεια)

    Something that is repeated in neither a coincidence nor random occasion
  5. Maroseika Moderator

    Even these etymologies are conjectural. And very important difference is that they include proper names of the cities. Look like they just wanted to provide a basis for Istanbul using the same scheme.
    Are there any evidences that Greeks used to call Constantinople just "polis", so that anybody hearing "to polis" understood what exactly polis was meant?
  6. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    The most common name for Istanbul by their inhabitants was by far just «ἡ Πόλις» the City (and amongst the Greek Constantinopolitans now, this name prevails); even today they call themselves «Πολίτης/πολίτες» (sing./pl.) Citizen/Citizens

    A few more:
    «Ἀδραμύττιον» (Edremit)
    «Πάνορμος» (Bandirma)
    «Πέργαμον» (Bergama)
    «Πηγαὶ» (Biga)
    «Βηλόκωμα» (Bilecik)
    «Δίδυμα» (Didim)
    «Ἀδριανούπολις» (Edirne)
    «Αἶνος» (Enoz)
    «Φώκαια» (Foça)
    «Καλλίπολις» (Gelibolu)
    «Χαριούπολις» (Hayrabolu)
    «Χάραξ» (Hereke)
    «Κύψελα» (Ipsala)
    «Σπάρτη» (Isparta)
    «Σκάμανδρος» (Karamenderes)
    «Καρσούς» (Kars)
    «Κασταμονὴ» (Kastamonu)
    «Καισάρεια» (Kayseri)
    «Ἰκόνιον» (Konya)
    «Λάμψακος» (Lapseki)
    «Μελιττηνὴ» (Malatya)
    «Μάλγαρα» (Melkara)
    «Μαγνησία ἡ ἐπὶ Μαιάνδρῳ» (Manisa)
    «Μαίανδρος» (Menderes)
    «Μαρμαρίς» (Marmaris)
    «Μαινεμένη» (Menemen)
    «Μυρσίνη» (Mersin)
    «Μύλασσα» (Milas)
    «Μυριόφυτος» (Murefte)
    «Μίλητος» (Milet)
    «Μόβολλα» or «Μόγολα» (Muğla)
    «Νυμφαῖον» (Nif)
    «Νεοκαισάρεια» (Niksar)
    «Νίγδη» (Nigde)
    «Σαμψοῦς» (Samsun)
    «Χηλὴ» (Şile)
    «Σελεύκεια» (Silifke)
    «Σινώπη» (Sinop)
    «Σεβάστεια» (Sivas)
    «Ταρσός» (Tarsus)
    «Τραπεζοῦς» (Trabzon)
    «Βρύουλα» (Urla)
    «Κλαζομεναὶ» (Kilizman)
    «Βιζύη» (Vize)
    «Σίλας» (Zile)
  7. Maroseika Moderator

    And what does mean την?
  8. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    «Τὴν» is the feminine definite article for nouns in the accustive. «Εἰς τὴν πόλιν» is translated into English as "to the city", with «την πόλιν» being in the accusative. The derivation of Istanbul from Εἰς τὴν πόλιν, is plausible because in Greek the final -n of the definite article fuses with the initial π of the noun and creates a sound that to the ear of the non-Greek speaker sounds like -mb- (a phenomenon I think in linguistics called Sandhi). For the untrained ear, if the Greek speaker talks fast, the Εἰς τὴν πόλιν sounds a lot like Εἰς τημ πόλιν (Is tim bolin)
  9. Maroseika Moderator

    Thank you for explanation.
    All these version still seem to me a bit far-fetched, though. The biggest problem I see here is a contradiction between Turks knowing Greek language enough to understand about what city Greeks are talking, but still not enough to understand that it is a combination of the preposition and city name or nickname. Plus this strange level of knowledge is encountered several times withdifferent cities.
  10. ancalimon Senior Member

    There is another theory connecting Istanbul with "Astanabalık" which means "city hanged to heavens". Turks gave this title to cities in which someone holy to them lived and died. The only name that comes to my mind is Joshua if that is the case.. and also Hagia Sophia (not as a person of course, but maybe some connection to Heavens).. But I'm probably mistaken.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2011
  11. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    When the Turks conquered Constantinople, they found it full of Greek-speakers, most of whom remained. It is very common for incomers, even conquerors, to adopt the existing name of a place.
  12. artion Senior Member

  13. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    The most credible reports are that Istanbul is an Ataturkian attempt to "de-Islamise" the name Islambol, which was in use as an affectionate name for the city amongst the locals.

    The simple fact is though, that right up until the very last days of the Ottoman Caliphate, the official name of the city remained Qustantaniyya (Arabicised form of Constantinople). I have Ottoman coins from the early 20th. century, and they all say "struck in Qustantaniyya".

    This seems highly unlikely, given that the city was called by the Arabic version of Constantinople anyway. Also I don't think Turks would change p->b. in fact they couldn't even pronounce most Arabic words with b in them, and instead changed b->p.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2011
  14. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    The name that appears in Bosnian folk-songs, tales etc. is Stambol. If the Stanbul version reflects some older Greek/Turkish name, the i- then seems awfully parallel to other instances of prosthetic i- in Turkish. The derivation from Islambol sounds ridiculous.

    Called by whom? All we have so far is your mention of some coin from the 20th century bearing the name "Qustantaniyah" which may or may not have referred to Istanbul and may or may not reflect historical usage. Many things were happening in the Ottoman Empire starting with the 19th century in terms of modernization and approaching the West, that name could also have been some attempt at making the name sound more ancient or more European.

    This happens only word-finally as far as I know.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2011
  15. Maroseika Moderator

    Sure, it is common. But this situation was a bit different from, say, conquistadors in America, where they encountered people speaking absolutely unknown languages and the cities which names were quite new for them.
    Unlike this, Turks knew about Constantinople for centuries and they should have a name for it.
    To say nothing about Greeks calling this city "to the polis" while being in the polis.
  16. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    The name Istambul, Istambul, Stambul and other variants have been attested in Arabic and Armenian centuries before the Turkish conquest of Constantinople. That makes it impossible for Istambul to be derived from Islambol. The latter is most likely a later folk-etymological re-interpretation of former.

    It is correct that Istanbul has never been the official name of the city before Atatürk.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2011
  17. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    The custom to call Constantinople colloquially simply "the City" existed long before the Turkish conquest.
    Not only while being in the city. It is not unusually for an area with a dominating metropolis to call it just "the city". If e.g. people in England hundreds of miles away from London talk about "the City" it is still totally unambiguous that they talk mean the City of London.
  18. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    The correct spelling is Atatürk.
  19. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    "Latakia" (Syria's principal port) is said to derive from Greek "Laodicea". Other transliterations exist for both.
  20. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    Not entirely true according to this:

    So there was a break in the 18th century, unfortunately they don't specify which name was used during this time prior to returning to Kostantiniyye in the 19th century. Moreover:

  21. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I see no contradiction. The Wiki article never claimed Istanbul to be the official name of the city in Ottoman times.
  22. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    If it was used in official titles, in my book that makes it the official name in at least some contexts.

  23. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    But in Ottoman times Turkish was still written with the Arabic alphabet, right? Can you tell an "o" from a "u" in the Arabic alphabet? Not from what I can see here...
  24. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    So you are saying, what changed in the 1920s/1930s was that Istanbul is now the only official name of the city while it had several in Ottoman times. Fair enough.
  25. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    In Bosnian arebica, there does seem to exist a difference, at least in later stages of arebica. What is the question related to? Stambul vs Stambol?
  26. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    If that Wikipedia article is correct, yes, that would be my opinion. However, the break in the 18th century coinage still intrigues me.
  27. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Yes, or Istanbol vs. Istanbul.

    Arebica was used to write Bosnian, but apparently not Turkish.
  28. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    These names were not only used in Languages written with Arabic letters. You find them in various Western languages and in Armenian.
  29. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    Ok *1, I thought you were wondering about the Bosnian name Stambol I mentioned.

    What exactly are you claiming (not rhetorical, it's still unclear to me :) )?

    *1 Though not necessarily true. For one there are bilingual Bosnian-Turkish works.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2011
  30. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Perhaps we can't be sure whether the Ottomans said "Istanbul" or "Istanbol", if all the records we have prior to the 20th century were either:

    • in the Arabic script, which does not distinguish between these vowels, or
    • in foreign languages that could have nativized the pronunciation of the word.
    Having said this, if all neighbouring languages used "o" instead of "u" in this word, then that is likely to be significant.
  31. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    Ok, true. But what difference does that make actually?
  32. Maroseika Moderator

    All this is very clear. But - "the city", and not "to the city". Is there any explanation why Turks have used this indirect case with preposition for Stambul, Iznik and Ismit?
  33. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    The entire Muslim world.

    Are you for real? Do you think it instead refers to Timbuktu perhaps?

    Since the dawn of the Islamic period, until the 20th. century, this is the name attested in the Islamic world.

    How about we leave speculation and conjecture at the door and just deal with the facts?

    Perhaps. The only examples I can think of are indeed word-final. Can you think of a case in which p->b?
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2011
  34. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    Why does that make it impossible? Keep in mind the Islamic texts speak of the [future] Islamic conquest of the city.
  35. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I see what you mean. Maybe someone with better knowledge of Turkish phonology should verify this: I take it for granted, that these initial i-s have no etymological base but exist for purely phonological reason to avoid double consonant syllable onsets: Greek Smyr-na becoming Turkish İz-mir.

    This would then be a similar development as in Vulgar Latin where scri-be-re became es-cri-be-re from which Spanish escribir and French écrire are derived.
  36. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Because Islambul is not attested before the 15th century but (I)sta{m/n}bul half a millennium earlier and not only in Islamic sources but also in Armenian (if this is correct). Besides, how could Ataturk have "de-Islamized" the name in the 10th century.
  37. ancalimon Senior Member

    I looked into this out of special interest and I found only two explanations.

    1- The soldiers who captured "The Polis" weren't sure about which city they captured. As a result of they kept asking the Greeks who were going to the city where they were going and they kept answering "eist ten Polli". The Turks thought the name was "EistTanPoli" and they started calling it "Istanbul" over time.

    2- Either foundation of Istanbul was connected somehow to Turks or someone extremely important and holy had a part in the foundation of this city. As a result, the city gained the title "Astana balık"

    Astana: "hanged to Heavens", "the connection to Heavens" Balık: city

    Also "I think", in Persian "Asitane" is supposed the mean something close to "the threshold of Royalness"

    Turkish EŞİK: threshold (the passage between two pillars)

    These are the explanations I found. Both of them are weird and they don't make sense.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2011
  38. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Another possibility we haven't explored so far: I have learned to pronounce Constantinopolis with the stress syllable and pattern Con-stan-ti-no-po-lis (-no- being the primary stress and -stan- the secondary). If was correct in Byzantine Greek the Stanbul would be a plausible contraction of Constantinopolis (contractions usually preserve stressed syllables). Stambul would then be a phonetic variant (-nb- > -mb- is a plausible assimilation).Is this a possibility too or are there reasons to exclude this theory?
  39. artion Senior Member

    More reasonable than "eis tin Poli". Even the Greeks are tired of pronouncing or writting the full name of the city and use Poli.
    Contraction was not necessarily made by turkish-speakers because,
    1) The city was multinational since the byzantine period .
    2) The majority of the ottomans in the Middle Ages were bi- or even multi- linguals, as they were locals who adopted the Turkish language. This is supported by modern genetic studies.
  40. Maroseika Moderator

    Well, at least this is what my toponymic dictionary considers as the most possible etymology. However it is outlined there that phonetic difference between two words it still too serious for the implicit admission of this version.

    But what I can deduce from this discussion is that Greek etymology of Izmik, Izmit and Istanbul is very unlikely from the point of view of common sense: nobody managed to explain why Turkish names of these cities are basing on their Greek names taken in the indirect case with preposition.
  41. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    You've gotta be having a lend of us?

    The Muslims had been trying for generation after generation to capture the city, to fulfill the prediction that the leader and the army who captured it for Islam would be the greatest. Sultan after Sultan of the Ottoman Sultanate had tried to capture it, using religiously based propaganda to incite their soldiers to sacrifice all to capture it, and the Ottomans had been living around all sides of the city for years, yet you insist they didn't even know which city they were capturing?

  42. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    So, Constantinopel was conquered by a bunch of morons who lost their way, saw a city, wondered what its name was, but since they were slightly socially challenged, decided to capture that city first and then ask around for the name?
    Do you have references for this? Do you have a title of book or article, the name of the author and of his mental pathology. You know, the usual stuff with which we normally back up claims in a debate here.

    Last edited: Apr 7, 2011
  43. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I am not sure what you mean by indirect case. I've never heard this term. The preposition "εις" governs the accusative case; so I assume that's what you mean.

    I still think, the İ in İzmir is nothing more than a modification to adapt the name to Turkish phonology (see #35 above). This Prothesis is apparently not uncommon in Turkish.

    This obviously does not explain how Nicomedia should have become İzmit.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2011
  44. ancalimon Senior Member

    If Turks changed the name of the city from Constantinopolis to "Eis tin Poli": "to the city", the only thing that comes to my mind is Turks asking the question "where are you going" and renaming the city to the answer they get. Turks wouldn't give a name like this to their cities; simply check out the map of Central Asia and the toponymy which was called Turkestan. And as you have clearly pointed out, the soldiers would have to be really morons to name their city that way.

    This is the picture that forms in my mind and I think I don't need to read about it somewhere to reach this conclusion. (I actually read several articles about it after hearing the theory about "Istanbul" coming from "eis tin poli" and after this picture was formed in my mind. I find this theory a bit weird for many reasons.

    I don't support this theory and I don't think the name İstanbul comes from the Greek "Constantinople" but from the "Pagan" barbarian Turkic tribes that migrated to West before the Muslim Turks" according to the information about "Astanabalık". Still it doesn't make sense because "I can't find" a migration of Turkic tribes in history books before they converted to Islam (only Bulgars and Kipchaks but they are not old enough). They all have different names and none of them are Turkic according to the books I checked (although many of them lived where Turks lived and if Turks didn't migrate to those lands in AD 1000s from an unknown place on Earth) . It looks like Turks started migrating "only after" they converted to Islam according to history books.

    Also found the following information but I couldn't find that book. (probably because I don't know the correct spelling)

    1 - el-Mesûdî wrote in his book “Efembih Vellişref” that the name of the city was "ASTAN-BULEN" during 10th century.

    Istanu (Ištanu; from Hattic Estan, "Sun-god") was the Hittite and Hattic god of the sun. In Luwian he was known as Tiwaz or Tijaz. He was a god of judgement, and was depicted bearing a winged sun on his crown or head-dress, and a crooked staff.

    I wonder.. Is it possible to make a connection between Turkish "Isıtan: the one that warms, the one that heats" and Hattic "Estan"

    ISI: heat, warmth T: he does, she does, it does AN: the one
    IŞITAN: the one which illuminates, gives light
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2011
  45. Maroseika Moderator

    Yes, this is exactly what I meant: Nominative is a direct case, others - indirect.

    I second this.

    It would be possible if Greek used shortened for of Nikomedia - Media. Since Nικoμήδης apperently consists of two words (though I cannot udnerstand the second), it's quite natural to shorten it this way.
  46. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    @Abu Rashid

    The entire Muslim world is a bit larger than the Arabian desert. I can't know for sure but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find more than isolated examples of using Qustantiniyya for Istanbul in the European part of the Ottoman Empire. I heard it the first time yesterday.

    Qustantiniyya could have referred to any location with the name Constantine in it. There is a Qustantiniyya in Egypt as well.

    What was the prevailing name of that city in the Arabian desert is not exactly relevant to what was its prevailing name in the Ottoman Empire.

    Yes, I think you should do that. Anecdotal evidence about a coin you saw I classify under speculation and conjecture.

    Not p > b but rather np > nb. We could look for examples but voicing in that environment is rather natural.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2011
  47. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I see. The term for this is oblique case. It is not unusual that inherited or loaned words in non-case-inflected languages are taken from oblique versions of the word in original case-inflected language. E.g. the vast majority of Latin nouns exist in modern European languages based on their accusative form, i.e. limit < limitem, accusative of limes; or all the words ending in -tion are from accusative -tionem, nominative is -tio; or the common -ending -o for masculine nouns in Italian or Spanish is from -um, the common accusative ending of masculine and neuter nouns ending in -us and -um in nominative. Greek personal names are often imported into European languages in the vocative case, so we say e.g. Aristoteles (Aristotle) and not Aristoteles (Greek nominative form of the name).
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2011
  48. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    How can genetic studies say anything about people's langauge or multilinguality?
  49. Maroseika Moderator


    Sure, it is not. But - with a prepostion?
    Anyway, I second your approach.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 8, 2011
  50. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    In principle I agree with you, equating genetics and language/people is very dangerous indeed. However, if genetic studies show that a large number of modern Turks share genetic makeup with their non-Turkish speaking neighbors, and those haplogroups on the other hand do not appear or are very rare in their original homeland, it is quite a strong sign of linguistic assimilation. But I believe we could also find historical sources for this and not resort to genetics at all.

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