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Learning Greek

    Elpenor's Lessons in Ancient Greek

In Print:
The Ancient Greeks


by George Valsamis



The Greek language (pronunciation)




WE USE Greek today, even when we are not aware of it:

In a cosmopolitan epoch we don't sympathize with the apostles of ethnical characters. 

Maybe you wouldn't agree with the statement above. The point is, that this sentence is clearly understood, despite of the fact that it is composed of Greek words!  

- cosmopolitan comes from the Greek words cosmos (world, ornament, beauty, harmony, order) and polites (citizen)
- epoch is the Greek epoche
- sympathize comes from sympaschein (sympaschein is a composite word, from syn [=with] and paschein [=suffering])
- apostle from apostolos
- ethnical from ethnicos
- character is exactly the same in Greek, but with the stress in the final syllable (charactèr).


ANCIENT GREEK grammatical and syntactical forms confuse even modern Greeks. A student today in Greece must put great efforts to actually read Homer or Plato, despite of the identity of the alphabet or the almost common vocabulary and all the other similarities. Yet, if one knows the purpose of study and loves it, all difficulties become something like a game - whatever one's mother tongue might be.  

READING a grammar book on the internet, I saw a claim that "there is one and the same thing, that the Greeks call 'oikos' while we call it 'home'". If this is the case, we must stop wasting our time to learn Ancient Greek! If "home" is the same in English and Greek, just close the source and grammar books and do something useful - open the translations. But if things were so simple, there wouldn't have been a variety of translations of the same text, and, to stay to the present example, we wouldn't have invented ecology (a word coming from oikos and legein).

IN THE BOOK of Genesis, God "brought the beasts unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof." (Gen. 2.19). This excerpt always reminds me, that a living and real language is not formed by someone sitting somewhere and deciding indifferently meanings and forms. A formation of a language is how people respond to an extreme responsibility, to a divine demand of a language, and it is primarily oriented towards life and the particularity of life - the world of the particular living creatures. Our language in its highest forms and most of all in poetry, indicates how deep is our gaze upon whatever exists. Importance of communication as a dialogue concerning the primary truths and the importance given to men and each living being, are the grounds of Greek theology, philosophy and science.

EACH WORD, each syllable, each letter is the flesh and blood of people generating their language, forming and making their world habitable. Learn to write the Greek letters. Experiment on how it would be more convenient for you to draw them. Take time to look at each letter with care, like a stranger you meet for the first time - although you won't meet all of them for the first time: not only a large portion of words, but even the English alphabet comes from the Greek.

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Cf. The Complete Iliad * The Complete Odyssey
Greek Grammar * Basic New Testament Words * Greek - English Interlinear Iliad
Greek accentuation * Greek pronunciation

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