seneca2008 wrote:I wonder whether the idea of starting with Homer sprang from in modern times? I wonder if its a feature of 19th century American classical education?
I'm rereading Pharr's introduction to his Homeric Greek: A Book For Beginners
and he claims to have originated the idea in modern times (this is sometime around the turn of the century), which he claims was widely the method of the Romans, with anecdotes of its having been tried or used by others "now and then"..He says that many students find Xenophon boring and Homer more interesting, and that the latter is much greater literature and a cornerstone of Hellenic literary culture.
"If on the other hand we begin with Homer and obtain a good grounding in his language, the transition from that to later Greek is simple and natural and in accordance with well-established laws, so that a student who once gets a grasp of the processes involved not only has acquired a valuable scientific point of view, but he might be untrue enough to the traditions of countless students of the past to find Greek grammar interesting."
He contends that the Homeric forms are actually fewer than those in Attic and more straightforward. "The 'regular' declensions of such words as polis, basileus, naus, pekhus, astu, comparatives in -ion, and other forms which wull readily occur to any one who has studied Attic Greek, are so complicated that they are not ordinarily mastered by students of beginning Greek, and it would be rather remarkable if they were." (Hmm, I didn't have too much trouble with them). There are few or no contractions, which cause a great deal of trouble to beginners, in Homeric (I've needed to review -ao verbs a few times). Long and involved passages in indirect discourse never occur (this gave me some trouble in beginning Latin). It takes as much vocabulary to read the first four books of the Anabasis as it does the first six books of the Iliad. Words are closer to their primitive meanings in Homer. Xenophon was anti-Athenian which showed in his debased Attic.
Homer is a better prepearation for Greek drama, Hesiod, and the elegaic and iambic poets than is Xenophon, and in the other authors the difference is but slight. Many students drop out without having read both Homer and Xenophon so we may as well give them the greater literature (this seems to me somewhat dubious to say the least). Homer and Hesiod are key to the Greek religion and reflects what the Church fathers were up against in NT times.
That's about what I can glean from it.