Yevanic (Judaeo-Greek)

Since the Hellenistic period, a Hebrew population that spoke Greek enriched with Hebrew elements emerged in the wider area of the Eastern Mediterranean, today's Greece, the Levant of the Middle East, Alexandria, Asia Minor and other places.

This population was the Romaniotes and their language was Yevanic or Judaeo-Greek.

The Romaniotes were neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardim . They trace their origin back to the Eastern Roman Empire in the Levant long before the Empire broke up into two parts.They were Greek speaking already at the time.

Yevanic quadratic script in a 10th-century Greek-Jewish glossary (Leningrad Public Library)

The name of the language comes from Yavana -the Hebrew name for Greeks and they used the Hebrew script for their language.

Yevanic survived until about World War II ,the German occupation which brought about the decimation and emigration of most Romaniotes to the United States and Israel.

Sephardim were an easier target for the Nazis than the Romaniotes for the reason that the former , coming from Spain, spoke Ladino , Spanish with Hebrew elements, as their mother tongue.

The accent that the Sephardic Jews spoke in Greek was distinctive, somewhat singsong like their Spanish and they could be distinguished more easily.In contrast, the Romaniotes had Greek as their mother tongue and were more indistinguishable.

Today,in Greece, the remaining Romaniotes are indistinguishable from the Sephardim as a community and together they number between 3 and 4 thousand.

A very well known member of the Romaniotes community was the Greek Army officer Mordechai Frizis, who distinguished himself in the 1940s war with the Italians.

The Romaniotes colonel of the Greek army

The history of Yevanic Greek starts from a very old time, from the Hellenistic era and comes from the common Greek, the Alexandrian.

In addition it includes several influences of Hebrew and was written in the Hebrew alphabet.

Texts from the Hellenistic period in the Hebrew alphabet are almost non-existent from Greece and Asia Minor; however, there are some from Magna Grecia in Italy. 


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