The Weekly Quill — The Delta of Omicron

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Νέστορος [εἰμὶ] εὔποτ[ον] ποτήριο[ν]·
ὃς δ’ ἂν τοῦδε π[ίησι] ποτηρί[ου] αὐτίκα κῆνον
ἵμερ[ος αἱρ]ήσει καλλιστ[εφάν]ου Ἀφροδίτης.

Nestor’s cup I am, good to drink from.
Whoever drinks this cup empty, straightaway
the desire of beautiful-crowned Aphrodite will seize.


History conquers the notion that it was the Ancient Italians who had a way with words. In 1954, the Cup of Nestor, a clay drinking cup or kotyle was found during the excavation of an Ancient Greek grave in Lacco Ameni on Ischia, the ancient Pithekoussai, an island in the Gulf of Naples. Because the three-line inscription was carved around 750-700 BC, the dating precedes the Romans arrival by at least 500 years.

That is not to say that the cup, thought to be one of the oldest known examples of writing in the Greek alphabet, is on display in an Italian museum by pure coincidence. It comes down to Euboea, which the Romans conquered in 199 BC.  They first captured Histiaia and then Eretria the following year. By 196 BC, the whole island had been taken from Macedonian control by the Roman general Titus Quinctius Flamininus.

As for the inscription, while the actual cup of Nestor was said to be owned by the mythical hero of that same name and described in Book 11 of the Iliad, the editorial license taken is distinctly Italian. Scratching the words onto the cup was the effective equivalent to the first known graffiti, which is, of course, rooted in Italy. The ancient meme was also quite spicy as the writer is said to have enhanced the original meaning by adding that any member of the fairer sex who drank from the cup would be taken with irresistibly amorous desire for the cup’s owner. One could say Italians are known for making things hot…in the kitchen, of course.

This paesana thus leans towards Italians having some semblance of an influence on the world’s first phonetic alphabet. According to History Extra, “Greek was an Indo-European language and had sounds which the Phoenicians didn’t, and vice versa for Phoenician. The real genius of the Greek invention (or re-invention) of an alphabetic script was that it not only copied roughly the Phoenician signs for sounds that the Greeks themselves used, but also brilliantly borrowed Phoenician signs for the Phoenicians’ non-Greek sounds and applied them to write Greek vowel sounds: alpha, epsilon, iota, omicron, omega, upsilon.” What fun would communication be today without vowels, especially ones that end words, which is also quite Italian!

Color my affinity for my ancestors, whose town of Guardiagrele in Abruzzo pre-dates the Romans, an aftereffect from interviewing Alfonso Peccatiello for Down the Middle late last week. After running a $30 billion portfolio, the Italian has roared onto the public scene via social media with his Macro Compass, which does brilliant work on the credit impulse, or these days, the lack thereof. The Chinese not being part of the global slowdown ‘solution’ in 2022 is going to become increasingly apparent and painful as Xi Jinping looks to solidify support for his run at a third term come November’s 20th National People’s Congress.

The subject of what’s not to come on the Chinese stimulus front in addition to appreciably lower odds of any further U.S. stimulus brings us back to the Greek alphabet, in particular the divergence between the economic effects of the Delta vs. the Omicron variants.

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