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Materials for reading Homer in Greek

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Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby hummusshaman » Sat Jul 20, 2013 7:06 pm

I have long wanted to read Homer in the original. Now, the timing is coming for me to make that a reality.

Which books are recommended for self-study?

Is the Pharr book the best launching point? ...how does something like Beetham's Beginning Greek with Homer compare? Amazon seems to suggests that the latter is better for auto-didacts.

What about vocabulary books - it seems that Pharr has one but then there is one from Cunliffe that seems extremely popular on amazon. Have people here tried both?

Finally, there are the texts themselves - the Iliad and Odyssey. Are there particular editions of those that are recommended?

Thanks in advance. Probably, these questions have already been answered somewhere on this website, but my cursory search wasn't enough to find those answers - hence this post.
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Jul 21, 2013 6:46 pm

I myself learned Homeric Greek with Pharr and liked it. You soon get to read real Homer, which is one reason why I liked it. The approach is old-fashioned since the book is old, but it worked for me. The other book you mentioned I don't know.

I don't know about a vocabulary book by Pharr, but the textbook has a vocabulary section, I think all the words in the first book of the Iliad.

Cunliffe's dictionnary is very good. For reading Homer, it's much better than the "general" Greek dictionnaries like LSJ, Little Liddell or Middle Liddell. I think a new (somehow enhanced? I'm not sure how, the work dates from 1924) printed edition of Cunliffe just came out recently, but you can access it also online at TLG.

There's also a much more concise Homeric Dictionnary by Georg Authenrieth, also accessible in the Perseus vocabulary tool and in some iPhone/iPad apps. This too is an old work, from the 19th century. The dictionnary entries aren't remotely as complete as in Cunliffe, but it's good for looking up words really quickly.
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Jul 21, 2013 7:19 pm

As for the Greek texts themselves - as a beginner, you probably don't worry too much about the critical apparatus or other nuances of Greek scholarship. Probably any Greek text produced in the last 100+ years would do, since the texts themselves are very similar (except the French Budé edition of the Odyssey by Victor Bérard, which you probably shouldn't touch even with a pointed stick).

I'd recommend the new revised Loeb editions, because on the opposite page of the Greek, they have clearly the best English translations there are to help you understand the Greek. And believe me, I have tried many. Just make sure you get the editions that were revised in the 90's, not the old ones that are full of archaisms.

Also, you have the Cambridge "Green and Yellow" series (not the official name, it's just the colour of the covers), which are commented editions of individual books. The commentaries don't address all the problems a beginner would encounter though.

I think many people have recommended Geoffrey Steadman's commented editions especially for beginners, but I haven't used them personnally, so I don't know.

Finally, just in case you're fluent in German, there are very good commented editions by Ameis, Hentze & Cauer. The stuff is 100 years old, but it addresses many problems a beginner encounters, though it's also aimed for more advanced students. It's out of copyright of course, here's Odyssey I-VI.
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Markos » Mon Jul 22, 2013 6:40 pm

In addition to Pharr and Beetham, there is Schroder and Horrigan. I used all three. I would recommend that you use all three--I don't think it matters which one you start with. If you put a gun to my head, I would say that Schroder/Horrigan is probably the single best.

I actually found the Middle Liddel the best for looking up words in Homer, because when I first starting reading Homer, I had to look up so many words that I needed a quick gloss, but I was also interested in what root the words were from. Overall, Cunliffe is a little better than Autenreith, but they are both good.

The best annotated editions are Steadman's. Pamela Draper is great. I found Benner useful, and you can find lots of good old school editions on Google books.

I skimmed through Monroe's grammar, but I'm not a big fan of reading Greek grammar in depth.

Paul is right about the Loebs. The revised editions work well as cribs, but Murray's old versions are written in an archaic English that is sometimes harder to understand than the Greek.

I would think that if you wind up learning Homeric Greek, you will at some point want to learn Attic. The best way to read Homer, once you know Attic, is with Gaza's Attic paraphrase and Apollonius' all-Greek lexicon.

Audio learning is to me essential for mastering a language. These files will get you started:

https://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/pdebn ... 101/audio/

There is in fact no shortage of resources for learning Homer except for one--time. It will take you about two years, spending at least one hour per day (that means if you miss a day the next day you have to spend two hours) before you will be able to read Homer with anything near fluency. Probably five years at that pace before you can REALLY read Homer.

I have long wanted to read Homer in the original. Now, the timing is coming for me to make that a reality.


ὁ μὲν χρόνος, ὁ δὲ χαιρός...
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Qimmik » Mon Jul 22, 2013 8:01 pm

Cunliffe's Lexicon is essential. Much better than Authenrieth. Even after many years of experience, you will encounter many, many obscure words and forms that you will need to look up.

Benner's Selections from the Iliad is a good student text to start with. It includes most of the main passages and explains obscure words at the bottom of the page. It has been reprinted and is available in paperback, but some versions have been poorly reproduced and are difficult to read. Used versions are available.

You might consider the commentaries by Willcock (Iliad) and Stanford (Odyssey), two volumes each, which were originally published by Macmillan but are available in reprints by the Bristol Classical Press. These are succinct but very helpful commentaries, slightly out-of-date but still eminently useful. You might be able to find hard-bound used copies on AbeBooks for less than what you would pay for a new paperback.

At a somewhat more advanced level, there is a six-volume commentary on the Iliad published by Cambridge and a three-volume commentary on the Odyssey published by Oxford. Even in paperback, complete sets of these would be quite expensive to acquire, but they offer a lot of information. Each of them is the work of a team of scholars, with individual scholars taking different segments of the poems. The Cambridge volume by Janko is particularly good.
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby hummusshaman » Tue Jul 23, 2013 6:10 am

I must say that the quality and quantity of this advice has completely exceeded my expectations!

I am grateful for all the great suggestions.

Ironically, I now feel almost guilty saying that I may not be able to start quite as soon as I would like.

It may actually take another year or two before I can really clear out the time properly. ...though its such a strange desire, isn't it? I've been reading the Iliad since it was read to me when I was a kid and it has stayed new - I don't know how long I've wanted to read it in the original, now... don't even know where that came from.

Obviously, this sort of endeavor is much, much easier when you can take it in the context of a course. In fact, I believe that Attic may be taught at the local university here. Would it make sense to perhaps take a course like that as a first step? (this is not to say that I necessarily can as the timing conflicts with work but the question still feels like an important one)

Of course, an intensive course would be best of all - I was shocked at how comfortable I felt in Spanish after just 5 weeks - but Homeric Greek isn't Spanish... moreover, you can't really immerse yourself in 'the community' and the courses tend to cost you a lot more (the Spanish course I took in Mexico cost me less than $1000). From what I understand, a similar intensive ancient Greek course would cost me more or less ten times as much. Am I wrong? Is there a place that offers cheap courses in Homeric or any other kind of Ancient Greek?

...I imagine there must be religious institutions that teach Koine at low cost. Would it perhaps be beneficial to take a class in Koine to get the basics?... or would I be better spending my time diving directly into Homeric Greek?

I realize that I have now completely redirected my own question and I apologize if this is not alright.

Thank you all again!
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby hummusshaman » Thu Jul 25, 2013 2:36 am

[I thought that my previous post had not made it through which is why I posted this one... but they were both admitted and, really, only one is necessary.]
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Bart » Mon Feb 10, 2014 8:24 am

I will start reading the liad in two or three weeks and am gathering resources. So far I have collected the following items:
-commentaries by Wilcock
-commented edition of the Iliad by Karl Ameis
-Iliad with paraphrase in Attic by Gaza
-last edition Loeb of the iliad
-Homerisch Woordenboek by Mehler (a kind of Dutch Cunliffe)

Do I still miss something essential? Maybe I should specify that I have read book I of the Iliad 1 year ago using the edition by Pamela Draper, but that I do not need that much help anymore.
I found a copy of Chantraine's Grammaire homérique, tôme II for 80 euro but I'm not sure if it's worth that much money. I also looked at Brill's new Companion to Homer, but it's on sale for no less than 250 euro. Is there something similar but more reasonably prized?
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Scribo » Mon Feb 10, 2014 1:35 pm

Yes Chantraine's work is handy and can be had for a lot less than £80 however if you're having trouble with simple comprehension you're probably not going to need it. Pick up something like Monro's Grammar instead. Though with so much commentary help you'll probably barely need it.

Homer is an odd poet, it can be amazingly simple (variant forms aside) to read through but staggeringly complex - Homeric philology is after all the crown jewel of Classics - just dictate your own pace. I would suggest keeping detailed notes as you read and to revise from then relatively frequently. Always review text you've "read". Also having a working knowledge of dactylic hexameter will be handy and you can learn that from any number of sources, including the internet.

Don't over think it too much. I went through the Iliad for the first time with an OCT and Cunliffe and occasionally checking a commentary.
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon Feb 10, 2014 3:18 pm

I agree with Scribo... It looks like you are very well equipped. I didn't have any of those when I first read the Iliad. I went with the Cambridge commentary, which was too advanced then, and Cunliffe. I woud say that of all of those you have the Ameis et al. commentary best understands the needs of a "first time Homerist", but it only helps with the Greek. I suppose Willcock will be the second most useful.

The New Companion to Homer can be found much cheaper than that at Amazon. But you don't really need it, at least for the present.

Chantraine is great, but I don't think it's something you need if you're reading the Iliad for the first time, though the second part (syntax) might be more useful than the first one. But I wouldn't recommend Monro, unless 1) you have difficulties reading French, 2) you want to read it for free online.

I think you have everything you need for the present, start reading and fill your library as you go if you need to! And post here to discuss anything you like.

If you insist ( :) )that you must get more books, I think the next thing you might need is recent commentaries on individual books, which exist at least for books I and IX (Oxford) and VI, XXII, and XXIV (Cambridge).

Check this, if you haven't already... It's the best attempt I have heard to reproduce what Homer really sounded like.
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon Feb 10, 2014 3:45 pm

One more thing: I think most of the newer single book commentaries have a concise general introduction to Homer, if you're looking for that sort of thing. The New Companion to Homer is really quite massive, a collection of articles on different subjects (some of them excellent), but probably not much of an introduction.
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Scribo » Mon Feb 10, 2014 4:22 pm

The "New Companion" has as I said in the other thread some excellent articles on things like textual transmission, papyri, scholia, metre etc and some...not so good ones on history/archaeology but yeah It's not necessarily something you need as a beginner but it is much better than the Cambridge equivalent which is too arty-farty. I got mine for £2.80 + shipping on Amazon because a bot must have spasmed or something, even so I don't use it and am more likely to consult it in the library than at home anyway.

Paul is right re: stand alone commentaries. The one on VI (Green and Yellow) is excellent but, again, I'd minimise cost to begin with.
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Bart » Mon Feb 10, 2014 6:08 pm

Thanks! I'm all set to jump in then.

The part Scribo wrote about not overthinking it is spot on I guess. Overbuying is another problem. There is this strange temptation to acquire more and more books in search of the ultimate commentary/ essay bundle/ textbook that will make everything clear. Of course it doesn't exist but the illusion is hard to fight. Anyway, I'll try, but order Chantraine sometime anyway :D

Paul, thanks for the link to the audiofiles.

I'm really looking forward to this.
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Qimmik » Mon Feb 10, 2014 10:52 pm

The first volume of Chantraine would probably be more useful than the second. It's not really a grammar, but rather a compendium of all the philological information that had been developed about the language of the Homeric poems over the century and a half of Homeric scholarship that preceded its publication around mid-century. In the initial stages, the really useful information will be found in Willcock's notes. In reading the poems, you'll encounter many words that seem puzzling, and that may or may not find an explanation in Chantraine, but it's not worthwhile tracking down all of his explanations. Just keep reading.
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Bart » Tue Feb 11, 2014 3:55 pm

Mmm, I was under the impression that it was just the other way around, I mean part II being more useful than part I. Isn't part II one of the most quoted reference grammars for Homeric Greek?
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Feb 11, 2014 5:30 pm

As you see, we don't exactly agree in everything... Chantraine's grammar is more like a scholarly monograph than a student's reference book. The first part explains the word forms that are encountered in Homer, the second part is on syntax. I find the first part especially is really for quite advanced students, except if you're really interested about historical linguistics or that kind of thing. But opinions differ, I guess... Anyway, I think that at first at least the Oxford and Cambridge commentaries cover much of the same ground in more manageable doses. But really, I think you are quite well equipped already!
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby PelianAsh » Sun Mar 23, 2014 3:34 am

Hello everyone,

Great suggestions! My teacher last year recommended a book that I found to be really useful as well, Selections From Homer's Iliad by Allen Rogers Benner. It seems to be out of print and the copy I found online isn't exactly the best quality, but it came highly recommended. Unfortunately, I borrowed quite a bit and no longer have the books, but I still have Benner and the Owen and Goodspeed Homeric Vocabularies.
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby BenThumb » Fri Jul 25, 2014 6:46 pm

Hi Scribo, where can I get a copy of Chantraine's book? I can't find it on Amazon or eBay. I'm in the UK if that helps. Thanks.
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Re: Materials for reading Homer in Greek

Postby Victor » Fri Jul 25, 2014 11:58 pm

BenThumb wrote:Hi Scribo, where can I get a copy of Chantraine's book? I can't find it on Amazon or eBay. I'm in the UK if that helps. Thanks.

Chantraine's Grammaire Homérique is available through Amazon UK, but it's probably cheaper to get 2nd hand copies through Abebooks.
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