Ancient Greek Language Learning Reviews

Learn Ancient Greek – product reviews, ratings & recommendations.

Score: 9/10

Pros: very relatable; encourages you to start SPEAKING Ancient Greek from day one; provides you with the right words, phrases and structures to start speaking early; dialogues are useful in the student’s contexts rather than the contexts of ancient authors; readings are relatable, interesting, even funny; students who follow along will understand readings without loads of dictionary look up time or parsing work (goes to pacing); covers much grammar and vocabulary; great selection of examples; selection of famous Greek quotes worth knowing at the end of the book

Cons: missing some of the grammar and exceptions introduced in denser courses; requires a teacher or lots of figuring things out on your own; no audio companion for such a conversational course

This may be the love-it-or-hate-it litmus test of Ancient Greek courses. Do you want to speak conversational Greek? Do you want to be able to say “hi!” and ask someone to repeat themselves “again?” on day one? Do you want your grammar, exercises and vocabulary tethered to practical readings and conversations? Then this is your book!

Maybe, on the other hand, you’re put off by this chimera of an approach. You signed up for Classical Greek to leave behind those peppy, integrated conversational lessons snapped up by modern European language learners. You shudder at the thought of a chatty and colorful “Speak Ancient Greek So Simple for Everybody Right Now Today!” If so, this book may turn you off. (It’s not quite so extreme, but it’s currently the closest we Ancient Greek learners have.)

When it comes to Greek, I wasn’t sure which camp was mine until I finished Paula Sapphire’s Ancient Greek Alive. Its pages are full of relatable phrases and vocabulary, grammar and syntax that was rusty and stale but suddenly made sense faster than ever before. And all in the context of actually speaking the language. That’s coming from someone who had already studied Greek with many other resources, so I also feel the need to temper that hearty recommendation for other autodidacts.

The thing is, even if you are on board with a conversational modern approach to this ancient tongue, this book might still rub you the wrong way. It includes very little help for unaware English speakers with little prior exposure to the language. My hunch is that it’s entirely crafted for a classroom. Still, with a good dictionary and – if you’re lucky – another friend who’s bought into the “let’s teach ourselves Greek!” hobby, you’ll have a notebook full of helpful scaffolding that will make sense out of the book in no time. It’s not tough or puzzling, just not directly made for us self-taught learners.

All in all this is a very rare gem of a resource for this tough but entirely learnable – and SPEAKABLE – language! If you want to get your Greek nerd on, pair this with Vox Graeca to start deciding on and shaping your personal Ancient Greek accent.

Score: 9/10

pros: very even pacing; has you reading and understanding Greek very early; intuitive introduction of grammar – it’s only tabular when tables help!; lots of exercises; smart selection of examples; introduces new words and grammar at a good pace, sometimes challenging you with new ones just before they’re explained to see if you can pick up more on your own; fully-contained, so useful for self study along with classroom use

cons: inadequate treatment of the written language (BUT still better than most grammars and textbooks); fails to represent wider koinĂ© Greek (to be fair, this is due to its intended audience) – if you’re averse to reading loads of New Testament passages (and, just at the end, doctrinal assertions about the text), look elsewhere

Beginning autodidacts have a convenient, meaty text at their disposal. Dobson’s New Testament Greek is a fully-featured textbook complete with treatment of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, reading comprehension and exercises. Many, many exercises that are paced out so very well. It’s stated to be intended for classroom use – indeed, the author created the book because of a demand for an easy classroom text on the subject.

However, the book stands up to most any beginner’s needs. I picked up this book after a couple years away from Greek. I felt that odd craving that infects classics aficionados when they spend too much time away from dusty texts and tough verb charts, and this quickly filled my craving. It proved too easy for me, but it struck me how useful this text would be for other self-taught learners. I’ve since recommended this book to new learners of Ancient Greek. And now I recommend it to you!

I haven’t yet put my hands on a copy of Mollin’s book for review, but I have heard some good things. The book is another grammar-based lesson book with contents in the front and vocabulary list at the back.

Score: 8/10

pros: covers the lot of Greek grammar without shying away from tougher topics; inexpensive & commendable “bang for your buck”; well-picked examples with translations clearly illustrate the author’s explanations; exercises include readings in Attic Greek early on; later chapters explore other aspects of Ancient Greek like dual forms, poetic & Homeric Greek; introduction briefs you on the Greek alphabet, pronunciation, varieties of Greek & grammar terminology; regular & irregular verb tables, numerals & vocabulary in appendix; great index makes for easy searching provided you understand the grammatical terms used

cons: material gets dense fast, making progress slow at times; some of the finer points or exceptions about grammar & word use get lost in supplementary notes; presumes strong knowledge of grammar at points; exercises are simply Greek sentences and paragraphs to read (not “activities” of the kind you’ll find in other Teach Yourself language courses)

I have a long history with Teach Yourself Ancient Greek: it was with an earlier edition of this course that I set off to learn Greek at the age of thirteen. Now it’s time for me to take a second look, after a broader exposure to a wide range of language learning materials. If you’re new to Ancient Greek, how do these lessons stack up to other courses? Sure, the price tag is nice, but what – and how much – can you expect to learn?

First off, this course packs a lot into its 380+ pages. Every noun & adjective declension, verb tense/aspect/mood/voice and every other part of speech of Attic Greek is covered. Exceptional cases and notes about the complexities of language usage abound. New vocabulary appears at every turn, often in the context of example sentences or the “exercises”. The author takes pains to explain grammar and language use precisely and in detail.

That level of coverage in only 300 pages of lessons means that this book is dense and relies on your understanding of traditional grammar. You’ll find fancy terms, and tables with verb, noun & adjective paradigms. Explanations of grammar terms are helpful but spartan, and “exercises” plunge you right into the literary world of Ancient Athens. This is in no way a contemporary approach to language learning.

I scare-quoted “exercises” because they simply consist of Greek sentences & paragraphs pulled from ancient authors for you to read. Later chapters include longer extracts, particularly one late chapter in which you learn the basics of Homeric Greek and read selections from the Odyssey.

The appendix includes a review of Greek cardinal and ordinal numbers, regular, irregular & semi-regular (?) verbs, “answers” to the “exercises” (so, just translations of the Greek texts) and a substantial Greek-to-English vocabulary list. Between the index and table of contents, you’ll have ample help searching through the book, provided you understand the grammar terms.

This course comes recommended as a complete introduction to the Greek of Ancient Athens. It is one of the few beginner books (grammars) with a focus on Attic, with real readings from the period. In his explanations, Gavin Betts proves himself versed in the particulars of the language and its ancient writers. Any reservations I have are directed at the potentially overwhelmed. This course isn’t impossible for beginners – I myself had only begun studying linguistics (especially morphology) when I started in on Teach Yourself Ancient Greek. If you’re determined, methodical, and pace yourself, you’ll have little trouble with these lessons. Other learners may consider less imposing introductions to Biblical Greek (even if you’re destined for another dialect) such as Learn New Testament Greek.

Score: 6/10

pros: proposes Greek vocabulary lists full of words that form the basis of common English terms; actually spends time teaching the basics of the Greek behind the words; includes Ancient Greek alphabet (including accents & breathings) & transliterations of every term; considers first, second & third declension nouns, adjectives, prefixes & verbs; contains vocabulary exercises

cons: spends much more time with Latin than Greek, meaning you won’t end up with as much feel for structure, pronunciation & shape of Greek words here; if Greek is entirely new to you, this requires a lot of vocab memorization; if Ancient Greek isn’t new to you, much of this is review, apart from perhaps some new words to learn

Richard M. Krill’s Greek & Latin in English Today helps English speakers identify the classical roots that support many of the words in our language. He does this with hands-on training in the basics of word formation in the two languages. While the Latin section is similar to the Ancient Greek, I’ll focus on the Greek vocabulary (the first third of the book), since that section is relevant to this website.

The introduction gives an informative overview of the Indo-European language family (which includes Greek, Latin & English), explains borrowings, cognates & word relationships. It even prompts you to begin to understand how to use a dictionary to identify etymologies.

The Greek section presents the alphabet alongside the Semitic characters it evolved from, and explains pronunciation. It ties in the shape of Ancient Greek words to transliteration, while not shying away from tougher points like accents, diphthongs and the h-sound. After this, the rest of the section explains Ancient Greek word forms clearly with numerous examples organized by grammar topic – first, second, third declension nouns, adjectives, colors & numbers, prefixes, verbs and plural forms. All explanations are accompanied by vocabulary lists and exercises. Vocabularies list Ancient Greek words in Greek and transliteration next to the English translation and a sample English word containing that Greek root. A general Ancient Greek vocabulary index on page 71 also allows you to look up words in Greek and reference then in the text.

Greek and Latin in English Today doesn’t teach anything specific about Ancient Greek grammar, sentence structure or language use, but it’s an easy recommendation if you’d like to understand Classical Greek vocabulary through words already found in English.

Score: 3/10

pros: casual readers may appreciate the nontechnical presentation of Ancient Greek words/roots & the approachable explanations that list example words; clarifies potentially confused roots, antonyms & derivational affixes (“combining forms”) relevant to each root; a way to expand your English vocabulary

cons: explains more about English than the underlying classical languages; “definitions” (really more of explanations) can mislead with respect to the original language; no help in pronouncing or deepening understanding of structure of roots; picks & chooses which roots to include, so many Greek words not represented

Apart from a very short introduction to how Latin and Greek words entered English, the entirety of NTC Dictionary of Latin and Greek Origins presents an alphabetized selection of ancient roots in simplified transliteration, along with paragraphs that give examples of English words containing each root. These explanations focus on the meaning of roots as found in modern words, and they take a casual tone. For example:

An ERG is a unit of work or energy. Hence, ERGophobia is an aversion or a fear of work. Hey, it’s past get-up time; are you an ergophobic or something? ERGomania is a compulsive and excessive addiction to work, often as a symptom of a mental disorder” (from page 86).

The dictionary also lists roots that may be potentially confused with this root (urgency < Latin urgere), combining forms (all- ‘other’ as in allergen), and antonyms.

The list is good enough to learn from and expand your knowledge of English vocabulary. Also, it’s backed up by an English word-Classical root lookup index in the back, which allows you to search for the Ancient Greek root of a modern word. Still, I have a hard time recommending to anyone reading this site, since we’re learning Ancient Greek here. To learn more about Greek roots through English vocabulary, Krill’s Greek and Latin in English Today presents a much deeper, hands-on alternative to this work.

Score: 5/10

pros: interesting account of the academicians that discovered the oldest written Greek, and how; limited examples show some of the specifics of deciphering & reading Mycenaean Greek & its relation to Classical Greek

cons: as a book, it tells a moderately interesting story (geared especially to linguist/archaeologist/classicist types), but as a language resource, it’s stingy

John Chadwick’s The Decipherment of Linear B recounts the informative story of how twentieth century scholars came to re-read the oldest written Greek texts in the Mycenaean dialect, which predates Homer by more than four centuries. Along the way, it shares information about the history of the Mycenaeans on the mainland & Crete, their artifacts, especially from Knossos. Crucially for this site, the book contains scattered explanations on the structure of the language and the writing system, including an appendix of Mycenaean tablets in transcription.

I don’t recommend The Decipherment of Linear B as a general language resource for Mycenaean Greek learners (how many of you are there?). If, like me, you’re interested in historical forms of the language like Mycenaean & Proto-Hellenic, that book will provide a bit of background for your studies. After finishing its tale, you’ll have to settle into real lessons on the script and its language, like the introduction above.

Score: 7/10

pros: covers a huge range of Greek language use, structure, vocabulary & reading, all relevant to the NT, without rote memorization; really a series of well-organized notes that build on each other to allow you to clearly understand the text of Acts; explains & defines grammar & linguistic terms when used; great vocab & index references; avoids the pitfalls of modular (explanation-example-exercises-readings-vocabulary lists) courses

cons: recommended for a class led by a knowledgeable teacher who can answer questions (unless you’re a particularly strong self-guided learner); formatting is clear, but looks dated & typewritten; uses technical terms at every turn; recommended that you buy both books to succeed with this method; not widely available

In his Handbook of New Testament Greek: An Inductive Approach Based on the Greek Text of Acts, La Sor sets out a unique, challenging course for new students of the Ancient Greek language. The book is unique because it does not teach through modular lessons. Instead, the course is a series of notes composed in the form of short paragraphs that help you read through the text of the Book of Acts in the Greek Bible.

The organization of these notes is based on language use topics tied to Acts in the first book, then based on linguistic/grammar topics (phonology, morphology & syntax) in the second book. These books do explain and define new terms, but they also expect you to pick up technical concepts quickly and build on them. On top of this consistent reliance on grammatical and linguistic terms, the writer’s knowledge of the breadth of the Hellenic world, coupled with Semitic influences on the Greek New Testament, will sometimes manifest itself in the form of information that overwhelms less academic students.

Each note is short, to the point, somewhat technical, and, in extreme cases, not relevant to the preceding or following note. Examples include short quotes, phrases/words cited & paradigm tables. Examples are always brief, but occur regularly throughout the notes. Not all the Greek comes from Acts – the author cites the text of other New Testament books as well.

The second book focuses on grammar, pronunciation and sentence structure, explaining those using the same notes-based format. In the second book, there’s usually more flow between paragraphs, but the use of challenging terminology . Fortunately, if you can hang on to the terminology, the author manages to clearly explain the whole of beginner-intermediate Ancient Greek grammar with more clarity and precision than you’ll find in other lessons, leaving you with a productive base for evaluating any Greek word or sentence in the future without the need to rely on irregular tables or “because that’s the way it is”-type explanations.

This second book includes some extras, too, such as vocabulary word groups by lesson, a frequency vocabulary list, and a lookup index that references individual paragraph numbers. There’s even a cross-reference table that helps students compare the same entry in separate concordances and lexicons.

Its learn-as-you-read approach makes the Handbook of New Testament Greek ideal for dedicated and thoughtful students who can learn various pieces of the language while reading through the book and through Acts. The results will be considerably weaker if you can’t make it through the whole course. Even stopping halfway, which entails a lot of study, just won’t do. Recommended with minor reservations.

Score: 7/10

pros: includes nearly all Ancient Greek words beginners & intermediate learners are likely to encounter when you read Greek; formatting & organization are acceptable; actually pocket sized!; affordable

cons: no English-Greek translation section; the word lists are bare-bones, giving a bunch of translations without any aid in choosing between them

The Langenscheidt Pocket Classical Greek Dictionary is a reduced lexicon of the language that helps learners translate from Ancient Greek to English. It packs all of the words found in any text the average beginning student will read, including “the New Testament and the classical Greek authors” (as stated on the back cover), but it makes a few sacrifices to do that.

The formatting and organization are as expected – a list of Greek words in alphabetical order with translations to the right of those words. Ancient Greek entries are given in bold, and the first and last words on each page appear at the top of the page (on either side of the page number) for easy reference.

Ancient Greek nouns are listed in the nominative, with the genitive singular ending and article, as is custom. The dictionary only lists the first person singular of both regular and irregular verbs, with no information about their principal parts or irregular forms. The part of speech of invariable words is abbreviated (adv. for adverb, conj. for conjunction, etc.). For the most part, you’ll need to have some grammar under your belt or a handy grammatical reference to make sense out of these entries.

Apart from long/short marks on vowels, the dictionary offers almost no pronunciation help, as is also custom. Try the pronunciation guide at the beginning of your favorite course book. If you’re up for it, Vox Graeca provides very thorough linguistic overview of phonology of Ancient Greek.

Like other Greek lexicons on the market, this one just lists a few translations for each terms, without any key words or meaning hints to help students select the best translation. There are no examples of words in context, nor will you find clues to the dialect or use of words (the author, region, time period, level of formality). Most dictionaries that deal with major languages include this kind of helpful information. Otherwise, the search for the right term can be confusing – you are forced to guess.

If you’re willing to forgo the small size and low price, you might as well make the jump to Liddel-Scott’s Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon. You’ll find far more words, examples pulled straight from ancient writers, and loads more information about grammar and word choice.

If, however, you’re fine with a longish but bare-bones word list, and you’re looking for a small, on-the-go lexicon, Langenscheidt’s Classical Greek Pocket Dictionary comes adequately recommended. It has no extras, and, like all Ancient Greek dictionaries besides the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary, can’t help you translate between English & Ancient Greek.

Score: 9/10

pros: massive coverage of every word found in the most read Classical Greek authors; thorough definitions indicate when, how & by whom words are used; entries contain information on related roots & sometimes Latin translations (great for classicists); indicates grammatical information such as principal parts of verbs, & when meaning changes for different grammatical forms of the same word; gives vowel length, accents, & dialect differences; the English translations are clear & explore the various meanings of each Greek word

cons: no English-Ancient Greek section; examples are more useful for knowing how certain Greek writers used a word/phrase than how you might “use it in a sentence”; missing certain vocabulary from later classical Greek works (but plenty sufficient for Homeric, Doric, Attic Greek and the Greek New Testament); older text & formatting makes some definitions slightly cumbersome or dated for modern readers

Liddell & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon has long stood as the definitive dictionary for English speakers looking up Ancient Greek words. For most students, this is the recommended go-to reference you’ll save your dollars to buy. For the most part, that’s because the lexicon is thorough, clear and extremely useful, despite its age – the first edition dates to 1889. Sometimes, though, you’ll realize that this tome owes its longtime position as the best available dictionary to the outmoded nature of Ancient Greek dictionaries in general.

The formatting of entries is readable – pages are laid out in two columns, with the first and last term on each page given at the top of the page for quick reference. Ancient Greek entries are given in bold text, and their definitions are slightly indented.

Each entry includes grammatical information followed by English translations of the term. Often, extra information clarifies the translation or use of the term. The first portion of the definition for the entry ???? (“dĂȘta”), for instance, reads: “Adv., more emphatic form of ??, certainly, to be sure, of course“.

The dictionary takes time to explore the various ways each word is used, referring to quotations from individual works that range from Homer to Plato to the New Testament. The fact that nearly every entry lists who used the word or in which dialect of Greek it was found, coupled with the wide coverage of its word lists, adds a layer of depth absent from smaller, cheaper dictionaries.

This lexicon has no supplemental material like verb tables or a pronunciation guide. It supplies grammatical material for specific entries as needed, and focuses all its pages on its robust word list.

Comparing it to modern dictionaries, especially the best dictionaries for modern languages, students will rightfully complain that it lacks extra learner-friendly reference materials (grammar, pronunciation & “language in action” sections). Also worth noting is that the entries are geared towards helping you read words in context much more than helping you use words in context. That’s not all – the publishers of Ancient Greek lexicons face a bigger complaint, and a tougher challenge – to build and incorporate an equally robust English-Classical Greek section, which would help learners translate into Ancient Greek. Moving forward, we can only hope someone has the foresight to fill this clear gap in the language learning market.

Despite its age, and precisely due to its exhaustive depth and clarity, Liddell-Scott’s Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon is my current favorite recommendation to anyone searching for a solid Ancient Greek lexicon that will last throughout your years of learning Greek.