Why Study Ancient Greek?
"I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin
as an honor,
and Greek as a treat." ---Winston Churchill
Ancient Greek! The language of Aeschylus, Aesop, Alexander the Great, Archimedes,
Aristophanes, Aristotle, Euclid, Euripides, Hippocrates, Homer, Pericles, Plato, Ptolemy,
Sophocles, Thales, Thucydides, Xenophon, and lots of other famous characters from
our Western heritage. It's also the language of the Greek New Testament.
Why Study Ancient Greek? First: If you are interested in ancient Greek literature,
you could be reading it in the original language. So much is lost in translation!
Second: Vocabulary building and improved grammar comprehension in English—Spelling
and syntax in English improved. The reason? Ancient Greek is the foundation of many
English words, from alpha 'adamant' to zeta 'zodiac'. In fact, roughly 60% of all
English words and 90% of technical and scientific terms are derived from ancient Greek
and Latin. And, if you are interested in a career in law or medicine, you will benefit
enormously from the vocabulary building you will gain in the ancient Greek classes.
How is Ancient Greek Different? Ancient Greek lives on in modern Greek, but we learn
ancient Greek primarily to read and study ancient texts written originally on papyrus
(papyrology), on stone monuments (epigraphy), or coins (numismatics). A person who
studies ancient Greek & Latin literature is called a philologist. From ancient written
sources we have a good idea of what the dialects of ancient Greek sounded like, but
you will not be learning how to speak Greek in this course; rather, you will learn
the grammar and syntax through oral and written drills. The goal of a course in ancient
Greek is to learn enough grammar and vocabulary to be able to read ancient Greek literature:
poetry, prose, and the Greek New Testament.
Are there other ancient non-spoken languages to learn? Yes! Many other ancient (pre-modern)
languages are taught at universities around the world: Latin, Sanskrit, Arabic, Pali,
Persian, Old Tamil, Coptic, Hittite, Sumerian and Akkadian Cuneiform, Egyptian Heiroglyphics,
and Old English. Many of these languages are taught at our neighboring institutions:
U of I, and U. of Chicago.
Many of IWU's best students in majors as diverse as English, Computer Science, Biology,
Music, Religion, and Philosophy have taken Greek. Some of their comments include:
"I read English very differently now--I am much more aware how my own language works
and see nuances of meaning that I never noticed before." "I recommend this course
for pre-meds because of the vocabulary building. tachycardia? echolalia? osteophyte?
Got 'em covered."
"As a computer science major I am amazed at the similarities between the language
of computers and the language of the Greeks." "I've always been fascinated by Greek
culture, and learning the language has helped me to understand their lasting contribution
to our own."