Still reading Ostler, I’ve come to a nice quote from Plutarch about Cleopatra:
There was pleasure in the very sound of her voice. Like a many-stringed instrument, she turned her tongue easily to whatever dialect she would, and few indeed were the foreigners with whom she conversed through an interpreter, since she answered most of them in her own words, whether Ethiopian, Trogodyte, Hebrew, Arab, Syriac, Median or Parthian. The kings before her had not even had the patience to acquire Egyptian, and some had even been lacking in their Macedonian.*
The footnote reads:
Plutarch, Antony, xxvii.4-5. All these languages must have been heard on the streets of Alexandria in Cleopatra’s day. Ethiopian would be the language of Kush, and Syriac is a form of Aramaic. Trogodyte would have been spoken along the Red Sea coast, and is perhaps the ancestor of modern Beja. The Medjay, supposed to be the same, had been an eastern desert people employed in Egypt as police in the fifteenth to thirteenth centuries (Gardiner 1957 [Egyptian Grammar]: 183, n. 2). There is no mention here of Libyan—or of Latin, although Plutarch adds that Cleopatra is said to have spoken many other languages besides the ones he does mention. Most likely her amours with Caesar, and later Antony, were conducted in Greek.
of course according to Plutarch, be Troglodyte; if it had just occurred once, I’d have corrected it as an isolated typo, but twice deserves a slap on the wrist. Proofreading! Do it! [“Troglodyte” apparently is a folk etymology, but one already established by Plutarch’s time—see comments.]
(The quote reminds me of this post about Murray of the OED: “With several I have a more intimate acquaintance as with the Romance tongues, Italian, French, Catalan, Spanish, Latin & in a lesser degree Portuguese, Vaudois, Provencal, & various dialects. In the Teutonic branch, I am tolerably familiar with Dutch (having at my place of business correspondence to read in Dutch, German, French & occasionally other languages), Flemish, German, Danish. In Anglo-Saxon and Moeso-Gothic my studies have been much closer…”)
Incidentally, I wanted to link to a Greek text of the Plutarch, but I can’t find one online. Tsk.