2 Mar 2010

How many fingers do you see?

Phoenix recently relayed a story told him by his teacher of Berber which was in turn recounted to him by an aged Morrocan professor about an interesting coincidence between the names Crete, Kos and Samos and the Berber numbers for 'three', 'four', and 'five'. This fun game of telephone may remind one of how Plato got his hands on the whole Atlantis scoop and how things got blown totally out of proportion thereafter.

Lest anyone take the hearsay seriously, I should stamp out that notion quickly. It's merely an idle novelty of factlessness, of course. I'm not sure about the real origins for the name of Crete or Kos offhand. However, I can manage to cut off one of these pernicious tentacles of ignorance by referring to dear Strabo who had long ago alluded to a connection between the name Samos and words for 'high' (Strab., Geo. 8.3.19) which, it turns out, are Semitic. Given its history, the naming of Samos is attributed therefore to Phoenicians and not to the counting proficiency of the Berber.


  1. Great! Phoenicians are definitely a lot more plausible than Berbers in Greece.

  2. Place names rooted "Sam" are also found in two other Greek islands with highly mountainous landscape, Samothrace (the two components of the name are easily visible) in the northern Aegean Sea and Sami, city at the eastern of the island of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea. Are the place names to be attributed to the Phoenicians or we should seek some Aegean linguistic influence?