Papyrus fragment of Euripides’ Orestes, with musical notation (c. 200 BCE).

Ancient Greek, with its rich surviving body of literature, is one of the most influential and pervasive languages of the ancient Mediterranean, and was central to the formation and preservation of Greek and Roman culture. As an Indo-European language, Greek has helped shape English (providing c. 30% of its vocabulary), and it served as the primary language of the ancient Greek world, into the Eastern Roman and Byzantine empires, lasting until the present day.

Since 2021, we have taught Greek beginning with the dialect of Homer. In the first year, students learn to read the epic poetry of the Iliad and Odyssey, and in second and third years they transition to Attic Greek, the dialect of fifth- and fourth-century Athens. Students have opportunities to read tragedies, historians, legal speeches, the New Testament, and any of the many other genres that first developed in Greece: biography, the novel, comedy, etc. Study of the language provides unparalleled insights into how the ancient Greeks lived, thought, viewed the world, and fell in love.

Distinct skills:

  • Learn a new alphabet, grammar, vocabulary, and syntax
  • Develop a deep knowledge of specific authors and works
  • Develop rigorous skills in deciphering ideas from fragmentary, incomplete information; this can include the study of epigraphy and papyrology
  • Encounter a range of dialects and genres in prose and verse that have founded and shaped subsequent European and global literature.

By level:

  • Greek 100/101: learn Homeric Greek, and gain familiarity with the necessary tools to read the Iliad and Odyssey.
  • Greek 201 (first semester only; students proceed to 351 or 352 in second semester): consolidate Homer with more reading, and begin transition to Attic Greek.
  • Greek 351 (prose) and 352 (verse): a small class offering study of specific authors and texts. Readings are typically drawn from Euripides, Sappho, Xenophon, Lysias, and Plato.
  • Greek 401 (prose), 402 (verse), 403 (verse and prose): advanced study of more linguistically challenging texts, or pursuing a theme across multiple authors, including the introduction of key scholarship on the works studied. Typically, the course is taught with graduate students, who are responsible for additional readings.


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