Reading classical Greek: language and literature (A275) - a brief introduction

Reading classical Greek: language and literature (A275) – a brief introduction

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Dr James Robson introduces Reading classical Greek: language and literature (A275)

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I'm Dr James Robson and I'm course
team chair of Reading Classical Greek
Language and Literature. This is a course designed for anyone
interested in classical Greece and so if you'd like to know more
about the culture and history of classical Athens, and especially if you'd like to get
to grips with the language that was spoken in
the ancient Greek world, then this course is a good place to
start. There are two main strands to the
course: the language strand and the
literature strand, and I'm gonna talk a little bit about
these in turn. In terms of language, then this
course represents an introduction to the Greek that was
spoken, heard, read and written in the classical era in Greece. It assumes no previous knowledge
whatsoever, and so you begin by acquiring the
basics of the Greek alphabet, and then throughout the course you gradually acquire a core
vocabulary of words which will help you get to
grips with ancient Greek texts. You begin by studying at a steady and
sure pace, and you read passages which are
adapted from some of the major authors of the
era, such as Herodotus, Thucydides,
Aristophanes and Plato. The way the course works is you use
specially written text books and these are accompanied by online
interactive quizzes and CDS, which give you plenty of opportunity
to hear how Greek was spoken in the classical era. Throughout your studies, you also
have access to a tutor, so you get feedback on your work,
you can ask questions and you also get the chance to attend face-to-face tutorials with
other students. In this course, you get to look at a
number of classical authors, but you focus on three main set
texts in particular. The first of these is Euripides'
Medea, a tragedy about the bitter revenge that Medea wreaks on her husband
Jason after he abandons her in a foreign
city. The second of the texts
is Aristophanes' Clouds, a bawdy comedy about the changing
intellectual climate in Athens at the end of the 5th century BC. The third of the texts is Plato's
Defense of Socrates, and this is a version of the defence
speech which Socrates delivered during
his trial for impiety in 399 BC, after which he was executed by the
city of Athens. To support your study of these texts, there's a DVD of a performance of
Medea and also audio recordings of the
other two texts, recorded especially for this course
by professional actors. In addition, there are written and
audio materials provided by the course team, and these help you explore the
language and the themes of the texts and also the contexts in which they
were originally written. About halfway through the course, you
get the opportunity to decide whether you want to
continue studying at a steady pace or whether you want to accelerate
your study of Greek and so to get that much closer, by
the end of the course, to being able to read unadapted texts
in the original language. What I find so exciting about this
course is that it brings together the study of the history, culture
and language of classical Greece in a completely new way and allows you to get a really
rounded impression of the culture in all its vibrancy. And for that reason, I hope you enjoy
studying this course as much as I have preparing it.


  1. I was all set to learning Ancient Greek with a self-help book and I thought, wow, this is too good to be true. Going to the website and searching through the languages section, I found that it is! The guy who liked the course wrote 2 years ago. What happened to it?

  2. @geragna personally i find it very difficult to read and understand ancient/hellenistic greek but nonetheless i do catch a few phrases of similarity if im lucky. For me, knowing modern Greek complements the understanding of ancient Greek so i would say they should be studied separately. I would say knowing the grammatical format of modern Greek, an easier language compared to ancient Greek, would create a great basis for learning ancient Greek.

  3. @GREdimitraki12 Question: How much different is Hellenistic/Ancient Greek as compared to Modern Greek? If you can speak and read modern Greek, are you able to understand Hellenistic as well? Or is it so different that it should be studied separately from Modern Greek? Please comment back! 🙂

  4. i speak both english and greek fluently and im starting to learn spanish but there is such a difference when you live ur daily life in the greek language…it is like the greek language opens up so many more doors of explanation that the romance and germanic languages cannot comprehend.

  5. @MikhalisBramouell NO but i once read a story translated in modern greek of the Arios Pagos (supreme court) in Ancient athens. A guy was defending himm self but the athenias were making fun of his "funny accent", the guy was from Ephesus I think ot other Micrasiatic city and i can only remember that Athenians were specifically made fun of his strange "Π" becasue it sounded like what we call today "F= Φ", years have passed i cant remember the source, but i can ask somene to help me find it. 😀

  6. @MikhalisBramouell You are sure Future Tense is eliminated? I think we do use it still we use 3 future tenses = english. (Tha Kano – will do, Tha ekho kanei – I will have done, Tha Ekhana – would do). Tha "Θα" means "will". Modern greek like italian or french use the "helping verb" (have – ekho) to form the tenses. Yes Dative is lost, but Genitive is still here but in modern all Klinations are made with pronouns are not anymore put in the end as a part of the noun

  7. @AkaMouTinn I can disagree here. I am greek and I think Latin are still spoken in Vatican city till this day and is not concidered "dead". Also modern greek have many differences in pronounciation from ancient greek and vocabulary as well. Greek language is a non-top-living-one and this forced it to change so much inlcuding its many modern variations, Vlachika (that I think are the closest to Latin), Tsakonika, Kerkyraika, (which is mostly dead by now) Kretika, Roditika, Kypriaka,Thermiotika etc

  8. That's right gold333 Greek pronounciation have changed through the years. You can find your answers by visiting the Greek Islands which the pronounciation has not change on the degree of the rest Greek area changed because of the isolation. I have origin from the Greek island Crete and I can assure you that we still use Ancient Greek words with the Greek ancient accent which make it sometimes extremely hard for the rest of Greeks to understand us.

  9. By comparatively looking at Greek and Latin transliterations, we can see that the ῾ denoted a minor aspiration in contrast to the ᾿, ὁπλίτης becomes hoplites and ἔφεσος becomes ephesus. Latin did not come to be widely used until the late 300's in the West, and it spent much time developing under strong Greek influence, and so far it provides the most authentic extra-Greek criticism of the language, assuming anyone pronounces Latin correctly…

  10. True that the written language was not accented; it read like this· ΜΕΝΟΥΝΓΕΩΑΝΘΡΩΠΕΣΥΤΙΣΕΙΟΑΝΤΑΠΟΚΡΙΝΟΜΕΝΟΣΤΩΘΕΩ; However, pronunciation without accentuation is monotone and unpalatable, and even German, which has no written accentuation, has a degree of implied stress on specific syllables, much like English. Some have suggested that the diacritics where more musical in nature than the traditional western understanding.

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