Greek Language and Literature

The ancient Greeks pioneered, developed, and in fact, named almost every literary genre known to the Western tradition: epic, lyric, and pastoral poetry, tragic and comic drama, prose history, philosophy, and the novel all have deep roots in the literature of ancient Greece. The Greeks did this despite not having adopted a writing system capable of recording these literary forms until relatively late in their cultural history. Alongside Latin, ancient Greek (sometimes called “Classical Greek”) is one of the professional Classicist’s most powerful tools for identifying and analyzing culturally significant texts, events, objects, and ideas. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, for instance, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Plato’s dialogues, the Hippocratic Oath, and Aristotle’s treatises on ethics, politics, and physics were all written originally in Greek over two thousand years ago. Our researchers and students use their understanding of the Greek language and its various dialects to further our understanding of these influential texts and of the ancient culture that produced them.

While our undergraduate Greek curriculum emphasizes extant works, which either have intrinsic literary interest or have exerted particular influences on later literature, it is important to note that ancient Greek literature is growing all the time. The discovery every year of new material texts in the forms of inscriptions, fragments of papyrus, and broken pottery adds details to our knowledge of Greek cultural history and daily life.

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