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Greek/Doric Greek Translation of Spartan Story


I'm sure you are familiar with the story of the Spartan's reply when faced with the threat from Philip of Carthage that, and I'm paraphrasing here,  "if he razes Sparta, not a single building will be left standing". To which all the Spartans had to say was "if". I find Greek, and Spartan culture in particular, very interesting. I'm not sure why, but this story on particular really appeals to me, perhaps as it seems to be a good example of the Spartan's overall demeanor, even in their waning days of dominance. I am having trouble finding the Doric Greek word the Spartans would have used for "if", and I was hoping you could help, both in writing, and even a phonetic aid in pronounciation if you could. So far ask I have found on the matter is "aíki", but I am not sure of the accuracy, nor the source. Thank you in advance for your time!


it is in Plutarch, Περὶ ἀδολεσχίας (transliterated as “Perì adoleschías”), section 17, that we read the anecdote about a message sent in 346 BC to Sparta by Philip II of Macedonia (not, of Carthage), father of Alexander the Great.

In such a messsage, Philip II wrote: "ἂν ἐμβάλω εἰς τὴν Λακωνικήν, ἀναστάτους ὑμᾶς ποιήσω” literally meaning “If I enter Laconia, I will destroy you all ", i.e.: “If I invade your  territories, I will destroy you all”.

As you know, in fact, Laconia was the region/district  around Sparta in southern Greece, whose inhabitants were famous for their brevity of speech, i.e. for their laconic wit, which is just witnessed by the Spartan reply: αἴκα (transliterated as “aíka”, not “aíki")  meaning "if”.

To sum up, Doric Greek word the Spartans have used for "if" is  αἴκα (transliterated as “aíka”), while the primary source is Plutarch’s Περὶ ἀδολεσχίας (“Perì adoleschías” meaning  “On Talkativeness/ Loquacity).

With regard to a phonetic aid in the pronunciation of αἴκα / “aíka”, please note that:

-αἴ / aí is pronounced like the 1st person  pronun “I” in English. The accent falls on this English vowel(Greek diphthong "aí")

-κα /ka is pronounced like “ca” in the English word “calendar” or “ka” in “kaleidoscope”.

Best regards,


-Philip II of Macedonia was the king of the Hellenic kingdom of Macedon(aka Macedonia) until his assassination in 336 BC.

-Plutarch of Chaeronea (ca. AD 46 – AD 120 ) was a Greek historian, biographer, and essayist, known primarily for his “Parallel Lives” and “Moralia”(Morals), an eclectic collection of 78 essays, among which there is just “On Talkativeness”.


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I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning ANCIENT GREEK. So, do not ask me please questions regarding MODERN GREEK as it is different from Ancient Greek either in spelling/meaning or in pronunciation.


Over 25 years teaching experience.

I received my Ph.D in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy) and my thesis was about ancient Greek drama (Aeschylus).

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