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A very new approach to a very old discipline

My teaching philosophy

Professor of Ancient History and Classics
University of Nebraska-Lincoln or




Greek textbooks have not changed much over the centuries, even though we have experienced a seismic shift in the tools and methods available for learning. A typical Greek class will demand that you memorize hundreds and hundreds of vocabulary words and paradigms of inflected forms, but the reality is that much of that vocabulary and most of those forms will rarely occur. You must commit several years of study before you are prepared to read and understand "real" Greek texts on your own.

This class will be different. I have adopted an unconventional approach to learning Greek. I want to make the ancient Greek language accessible to anyone in a short time. I am not abiding by a textbook. The things that I recommend memorizing are elements that occur the most FREQUENTLY in the texts we will be addressing. You will be able to visualize the syntactic structure in a color-coded tree and annotate your own trees. Thus learning Greek will be time- and labor-efficient, for visual and tactile learners.

You will learn how to analyze language as language. Grammar and syntax. You will be able to articulate what each word is doing in a particular context and how you are able to determine that function. This skill will transfer back to the craft of writing correct English prose, as well as giving you a substantial advantage when it comes to learning to read any other foreign languages, especially heritage languages.

I will teach you to use the most helpful and flexible digital tools, freely available on-line, principally Alpheios (a browser extension) and Dependency Trees using Arethusa on the Perseids website. I will also refer to the standard reference work, Smyth's Greek Grammar, available on-line for free and in hard copy for very little money, so that you always have a reference point for further, very detailed explanations, should you want them.

The ultimate aim of this class is to break down the academic barriers that stand in the way, so that you can experience the satisfaction, understanding, and thrill of reading Homer, Demosthenes, Thucydides, or Paul in his own words.


I have chosen to concentrate initially on one text, Xenophon's Hellenika. This historical account picks up where Thucydides leaves off, in 411 BCE, recounting the final years of the Peloponnesian War, the Tyranny of the Thirty at Athens, and the chaos that was Hellas in the first half of the fourth century BCE. Once we are beyond the first few lessons, I will concentrate on giving you real sentences from Xenophon in small pieces, sometimes tweaked slightly. Gradually we will put together all of the grammatical elements until you can read the unadulterated ancient text.

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