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Are there any rules for converting Ancient Greek names into an English (borrowed) pronunciation? I'm imagining an algorithm of Ancient Greek letters → English IPA that would work in 90% or 80% of cases. I have noticed the following “rules” that seem to hold:

  • Stress falls on the penultimate syllable if long (in Greek), otherwise on the antepenultimate syllable. Like the rules for Latin accent retrofitted for Greek words.
  • Final -es is pronounced /iːz/, regardless of an etymological ε or η. (An exception would be Thebes.)
  • oe is pronounced /iː/.

A more specific question could be — if it is useful — when do Great Vowel Shift style sound changes occur?

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    Thebes is a weird case because the city name was plural (Θῆβαι), like "Athens." So the "s" comes from an English plural, not the Greek (or Latinized Greek) name.
    – brianpck
    Commented May 4 at 14:49
  • Regarding Homeric names, there is a method if not an algorithm: read the name out loud in context, with surrounding lines of hexameters and their long or short syllables, and fit the pronunciation of the name into those hexameters.
    – Lee Mosher
    Commented May 5 at 18:35

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Like the rules for Latin accent retrofitted for Greek words.

This is the key! The traditional English pronunciation of Ancient Greek is actually the traditional English pronunciation of Latin borrowings of Ancient Greek words.

This means sources on the traditional English pronunciation of Latin are the best place to start. For example, οι is pronounced /iː/ because it would be borrowed into Latin as oe, and in later Latin this merged into ē, and the Great Vowel Shift turned ē into /iː/.

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