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Suggested Path for Survey of Greek Literature

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Suggested Path for Survey of Greek Literature

Postby euphony » Sun Feb 18, 2007 2:24 am

Hi all,

I was nosing around on Amazon.com and I saw this review/essay and found it to be interesting. It is a possible path for those interested in reading widely of pre-modern Greek literature.

As I am studying Homeric Greek now, I am going to attempt it. My question: do any of you disagree with either the textbooks or literature choices? What would you modify in his selections? Any comments or criticisms would be welcome. The link is here in case there are any copyright issues in posting from another website.

Thanks in advance.

Here it is:

So you'd like to... learn ancient Greek well and then read the New Testament
A guide by S. Blackwelder "fountain pen daily user"

Do you want "to read the Greek Classics (non-Jewish and non-Christian) in the original?" Then don't start Greek in the New Testament; start in Homer!
Or, are you considering a Christian seminary? If you master your ancient languages BEFORE applying for admission, you will prevent much stress and expense. I wish I had done that. I've also posted a Hebrew language-and-Bible list.

For the importance of reading ancient Greek literature in the original, read Hanson and Heath, Who Killed Homer: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom.

Start where the ancients started in Greek literature:
Homer! The Iliad and Odyssey will enjoyably help you better understand almost everything written later in Greek. Homer's language is almost as easy as the NT's; the Athenian "Golden Age" is the hardest place to start Greek!

There are two ways to start Homeric Greek as a total beginner, no Latin necessary: The best way is through Schoder & Horrigan's "A Reading Course in Homeric Greek," third revised edition (by Leslie Edwards of UC San Diego), from R. Pullins & Company, Focus Publishing, www.pullins.com. Book 1, ISBN 1585100978, is available now (12/2004); Book 2 will come out in the summer of 2005. Go through both books, because there are no shortcuts into Greek.

The other way is through Pharr & Wright's Homeric Greek: A Book for Beginners, assuming you can think in "noun cases" and "declensions;" if you can't, prepare through Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, lessons 1 through 15, or Balme & Lawall's (Golden Age Athenian) Athenaze: An Introduction to Ancient Greek: Book I (Athenaze), Volume 1.

Enjoy reading the Iliad and Odyssey.
The Iliad is rather long; for the best 4900 lines in Greek, language help and summaries of the rest in English, use Benner's Selections from Homer's Iliad. Build your memorized vocabulary using Owen and Goodspeed et al, Homeric Vocabularies: Greek and English Word List for the Study of Homer, to ease reading. The quickest dictionary is Autenreith et al, Homeric Dictionary for Schools and Colleges. The most authoritative one is Cunliffe, Lexicon of the Homeric Dialect, which is inexpensive and complete, but a bit hard on the eyes.

The Loeb editions of the Iliad and the Odyssey in Greek are
The Iliad: Volume I, Books 1-12 (Loeb Classical Library No. 170),
The Iliad: Volume II, Books 13-24 (Loeb Classical Library No. 171),
The Odyssey: Books 1-12 (The Loeb Classical Library, No 104)
and The Odyssey: Books 13-24 (Loeb Classical Library, No 105).
Yes, I said to enjoy the Iliad and Odyssey before going on. They're interesting! Most if not all Greek-language authors have assumed that their audiences knew these stories well.

Step forward through ancient Greek literature. Next, read some selections from the Homeric Hymns in Hesiod: The Homeric Hymns and Homerica (Loeb Classical Library #57). Homer's successors may have written them, but the vocabulary and grammar are Homeric.

To help you read any author after Homer and outside the New Testament, get Morwood's new quick-reference grammar, Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek (Smyth et al, Greek Grammar, is still the "gold standard" in English; even Morwood says so). Also, get a general dictionary or lexicon for classical Greek. The best pocket-sized one is Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary. For more authority and detail, you'll need to spend more money, either on the mid-sized, older Liddel-Scott An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon: Founded upon the 7th ed. of Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon. 1889. or on the huge, newer Liddel-Scott-Jones A Greek-English Lexicon, Ninth Edition with a Revised Supplement.

Now you can move forward in Greek. The following list is based on comments by Hanson and Heath, and on Smyth's history of dialects and authors. Herodotus' entertaining Ionic-dialect prose is now an easy step. Use Barbour's anthology, Selections from Herodotus, with vocabulary and grammar notes for students like you who started Greek in Homer.
Now step back to read Hesiod, also in Hesiod: The Homeric Hymns and Homerica (Loeb Classical Library #57), first "Works and Days" and then "Theogony." Do read all of Hesiod.

Selections from the Ionic poet Archilochus, between Hesiod and Herodotus, are next for you. He trusted neither authorities nor rebels. He was a vile curmudgeon, so guard your heart. He gives useful insights into Greek culture.

Skip the Lyric Poets for now. You can come back to them later.
Attic, the dialect of classical Athenian literature, was a separate branch of Ionic. Skip Aeschylus for now; your easiest glide into Attic is through the poet-playwright Euripides. Read his"Suppliants" and "Bacchae," in that order.

After him, read his colleagueSophocles' "Ajax" (a.k.a. "Aias" or "Ajas")and "Antigone," in that order. Then, read lots of Plato. His writing style was between "earlier" (harder) and "later" (easier). After Plato, step back to some earlier-style passages by Thucydides.

With all that background, you can "get" the jokes by the later-style comic poet-playwright Aristophanes. Also, read the orator Demosthenes' "First Philippic." Then, read selections from Xenophon. He is one of the easier prose writers, with simpler sentences and a useful-for-later vocabulary, but don't read him until now! Otherwise, you won't "feel" his attitude and nonstandard style.

After Xenophon, read some Aristotle. Aristotle's student Alexander "the Great" led the multi-dialect army that conquered the empire that produced the Koine dialect by necessity. Koine soon replaced almost all other Greek dialects, in formal literature too.

Read selections from these Koine authors now:
Theophrastus,
Apollodorus (or was that Pseudo-A.?),
Dionysius of Halicarnassus,
Diodorus Siculus,
Diogenes Laertius,
Plutarch
and Epictetus (Arrian's summaries of lectures & discussions).

Now, move into the Greek Bible.
By now, you should have read some passages from the Hebrew Bible, in Hebrew. Read Conybeare & Stock, Grammar of Septuagint Greek: With Selected Readings, Vocabularies, and Updated Indexes lightly, as follows: Skim through the grammar section once. Then skim through all the selected Septuagint readings, referring to the grammar section and the vocabulary lists as needed.

Caution: C&S believed that the Septuagint (LXX) is mostly better than the MT; this belief has since been reversed in Christian circles, both liberal and conservative (and of course never believed in Jewish circles).
Don't spend any effort on LXX vocabulary. You can read the LXX whenever you need to, with the excellent new lexicon by J. Lust, E. Eynikel and K. Hauspie in two volumes (ISBN 3438051257 and 3438051267; one, not both, stocked at Amazon as of 02/27/2002).

After C&S, read some apocryphal/deuterocanonical selections (Maccabees, Wisdom, etc.) in the LXX. The best single-volume edition is by Alfred Rahlfs, ISBN 3348051214 (not carried by Amazon 7/20/2003).
After the LXX selections but before the New Testament, keep reading some Hebrew Bible while you read some Philo, Josephus, and documents from Egyptian Koine Greek papyri (available in the Loeb series). Also, confirm and/or build your NT-specific vocabulary. Use any of the books for building New Testament Greek vocabulary.

Some people claim that one edition of the Greek NT is God's clear choice, while all other editions are destructively misleading. Such people are in danger of becoming prideful, narrow-hearted control freaks. I defy them to find one text choice, in the edition they trust the least, that would change the basics of following Jesus (there is no "advanced" Christian discipleship). Of course, I'm not considering the ridiculous methods and results of the self-styled "Jesus Seminar."

Read these NT books, in this order. While you read, fill in your memorized vocabulary down through the 10-occurrence words.
I John,
Mark,
Matthew,
James,
Galatians,
Philippians
and Luke.

Because NT Greek is not "Classical," don't consult Smyth or Liddel-Scott(-Jones). Instead, consult the BDAG lexicon A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature and the delightful (no joke) Zerwick-Smith grammar Biblical Greek.

After you finish this list, all non-modern Greek is yours!
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Postby thesaurus » Sun Feb 18, 2007 7:46 pm

As a beginner I can't comment on his selections, but that does look like a very interesting and expansive survey. I'd like to cover that some day.

Out of curiosity, do many people read the entirety of Homer? Also, approximately how long would that take starting from Pharr? Is it better to just hit up select passages?
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Postby GlottalGreekGeek » Sun Feb 18, 2007 9:33 pm

While this guide is very interesting (I have seen it before), and can give the beginner a lot of ideas, I don't think you have to follow it religiously. Formulate something based on what you want to accomplish (which, I admit, can be a real leap in the dark for beginners).

I do recommend starting with Homer if you do not have a strong reason not to start with Homer. I went through Pharr in about 4 months, and I finished reading the Iliad in its entirety about 10-11 months after I completing Pharr - but note that those 10-11 months include at least a few months of hiatus where I made no progress at all.

EDIT : And learning to read Homer is ... well, the learning curve looks something like y=-1/x where y is positive (sorry, I don't know how else to describe it). The first 4-6 books will be excruciatingly slow to work through ... but at some point, you will become much much faster. Towards the end of my Grand Illiad Reading, I could read an entire book in 2 days (two days when I had to deal with the rest of my busy life, not two days where I did nothing but read Greek).
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Postby cthomas » Mon Feb 19, 2007 1:03 am

I'm just starting to study New Testament Greek. And this thread is really making me ask some questions. Why is reading Homer in greek easier then reading the New Testament in greek?
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Postby GlottalGreekGeek » Mon Feb 19, 2007 2:28 am

Well, I have only read little bits and pieces of the NT, and while they were hella easy, I would hardly consider it a substantial sample to say whether or not NT Greek is easier/harder than Homeric Greek. However, based on what little NT Greek I've seen, and second-hand reports, NT Greek is easier for beginners than Homeric Greek. But the premise of this guide is that your understanding of Greek as a whole will be much deeper and sounder if you start from the beginning of Greek literature (Homer) and move down, and presumable people who are really interested in the New Testament want to understand it really well since it's the word of God and all.

Also (according to second/third-hand information), it is easier to go from older Ancient Greek to newer Ancient Greek than vice versa.
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Postby Bert » Mon Feb 19, 2007 2:44 am

GlottalGreekGeek wrote:Well, I have only read little bits and pieces of the NT, and while they were hella easy, .....

There are easy books but there are some that are far far from easy.
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Re: Suggested Path for Survey of Greek Literature

Postby modus.irrealis » Mon Feb 19, 2007 3:14 am

After reading the list, the first word that came to mind was ambitious, but I don't know what time frame's being suggested so maybe not. Anyway, for my comments:

About textbooks, I learned using Mastronarde which I thought was very good, and reviewed using Ancient Greek Alive, which I don't really remember well enough to say if it was good or bad, but it sort of pushed dual forms under the carpet which is something I (perhaps irrationally) dislike.

For who I'd take out of the reading, I'd probably say Aristotle. I mean, I can see someone reading him if you they're interested in (the history of) philosophy and I guess some knowledge of his terminology would be useful for reading Christian theological works, but I've read a bit of him and it's like reading random but highly condensed notes that somebody just threw together. (There's probably others I'd take off if I were making a list for myself, but when the goal is "all non-modern Greek," it's kind of hard to argue :) - although non-modern could also mean things like Anna Comnena's Alexiad).

As for adding people, I would say Lysias (and maybe Isocrates) deserves a spot somewhere, since he makes for decent but not overhard reading. The list could also be rounded out by adding some math (Euclid), some geography (Strabo), maybe even some medicine (Hippocrates), but that would really depend on how broad your interests are. The big thing the list misses in my opinion is Oedipus Rex, but I think that it is one of the greatest works in all of literature, so I'm biased.

Is it true, though, that Plato's earlier works are the harder ones? I've only really read from the earlier works so I can't judge, but that comment surprised me.

About what's hardest, my opinion is that Attic Greek is hardest but is also a good place to start because I think it's easier to go from it to Homer or the New Testament, instead of the other way, especially with Attic to New Testament where you basically just have to forget about a bunch of inflectional forms, and learn only a few new syntactical constructions. I can't decide though whether Homer or the New Testament is harder, probably the former, but I don't think Homer helps you learn New Testament Greek unless you go through Attic anyway. But that's just my personal opinion of course.
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Postby euphony » Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:09 pm

Thanks all for your input. You all gave me some really useful comments. I have an idea of what to do with the list. I think I will do some substituting as I especially want to read Alcestis, so that will be in there somewhere.
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Postby Amadeus » Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:30 pm

Hey, if I'm starting Attic Greek with Athenaze, will I be able to read Homer later on, because he is the first author I'd like to read, yet my main interest is in Plato and Aristotle? Is this a case of 'the hard part is over (Attic), the rest (Homeric, Koine) should be easy'?
Lisa: Relax?! I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or... Only two synonyms? Oh my God! I'm losing my perspicacity! Aaaaa!

Homer: Well it's always in the last place you look.
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Postby modus.irrealis » Wed Feb 21, 2007 3:14 am

Amadeus, my experience was that while going from Attic to Homer, the main thing is you have to learn a few new inflections (especially with the personal pronouns) and a few new uses of various moods/tenses. But knowing Attic, I think the differences are of the sort that you can learn what you have to as you read, at least as long as you have some kind of reference that explains those differences, so after a bit of slogging through at the start, you'll eventually be fine.
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