Re: Beginning Classical Greek

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Feb 23 1997 - 21:17:52 EST

At 5:31 PM -0600 2/23/97, Eric Weiss wrote:
>Texts recommended to me for beginning learning Classical Greek include:
>- READING GREEK (Cambridge - also referred to as JACT Joint Assoc. of
>Classical Teachers)

This is also referred to as the "Cambridge Greek Course." Although I've
taught out of several other textbooks, this is the one I have used most and
like most.
Nevertheless, I know that it is anathema to some who have taught out of it
and have learned out of it. I think it is probably easier to get into
classical Greek than some other textbooks for one who already has a pretty
good grounding in Koine. The best thing about it is that it gets the
student into ever-more undiluted original Greek quicker than any other text
I know, and it also is loaded with direct perspectives on 5th and 4th
century Athenian life, public and private. Much of the reading after the
earlier sections is in material from Aristophanes; then by degrees in the
course of the second half of the book one is reading a bit of Euripides'
Alcestis, pieces from the corpus of Demosthenes illustrating the life of
women in Athens (KATA NEAIRAS) and the functions and dysfunctions of public
and private justice. In the last sections of the text one is reading
directly from Herodotus, from Plato's Protagoras, and finally from Book 6
of the Odyssey in unaltered Homeric Greek. It is perhaps heavy going, but
the helps are there, and for one who already has a foundation in
Hellenistic Greek, it takes you a long way toward ability to read Homer,
Plato, or the Tragedians.

>- ATHENAZE (Oxford?)

This is constructed on much the same principles as _Reading Greek_ but is
somewhat slower and somewhat simpler, i.e.,it takes longer to get there.
There are, I think, three books for the whole course. There's a connected
story based, like some of the early stuff in _Reading Greek_, on the
character Dikaiopolis from Aristophanes' "Acharnians." There's more made-up
Greek than I would like in this series, but it seems to be pretty GOOD
made-up Greek. There was a long thread on the Classics list last fall over
whether the story didn't present a rather uncritical view of Athenian
slavery; I don't know enough to judge that question, but I do know there
were strong arguments put up on both sides of the issue.

>- TEACH YOURSELF ANCIENT GREEK (Betts & Henry "Teach Yourself" series -
>NTC Publishing)

I don't know anything about this one, but I saw its predecessor by Melluish
and Kinchin-Smith, and I hope this is better than that, but I doubt it
tries to accomplish much more than its predecessor, which didn't really try
to give a student any solid grounding in the language but rather just
enough basics to get a running start on it. It may be enough for the
self-motivated, and perhaps I shouldn't even say this much without having
seen it, but I'm somewhat dubious that it will take you as far as you need
to go to read Plato or Euripides or Homer, whereas either of the other two,
if followed conscientiously, will. Don't let the price be your MAJOR
criterion or you may just get what you pay for.

>- Gullick(? or Gullickson?) (something like that - and someone else

I don't know this one.

>Comments on strengths/weaknesses/preferences of these? Another person
>who doesn't have much money will be studying with me, so the $16.95
>price of TEACH YOURSELF looked attractive. We'll DEFINITELY need answer

That last item may limit you to the "Teach Yourself" book; I would question
undertaking this at all, however, without having someone you could consult
about the questions that will inevitably arise, even when you have an
answer key to the exercises.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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