Perseus and new, enhanced introductions to Ancient Greek: Fall 2022

Gregory Crane
Tufts University
March 25

Tufts University will offer two different sections of introductory Ancient Greek in fall 2022, each of which takes a complementary approach. Both sections of the class have been designed to exploit increasingly powerful digital tools for understanding Ancient Greek and other languages — the skills that you learn will also help you exploit, and go far beyond, what you can do with translation, whether those are literary translations by human beings or the product of systems such as Google Translate or DeepL. Both sections build directly on an emerging new version of the Perseus Digital Library. Neither section has any prerequisites.

The first section will follow a textbook and will teach you to produce, as well as to understand, ancient Greek. It will, however, also give students far more exposure to ancient Greek source texts from the opening weeks of the semester. The second section, which will be online at a time to be determined, will focus on exploiting increasingly sophisticated digital tools to analyze ancient Greek sources.

Figure 1: the first line of the Iliad with exhaustive annotation in a new reading environment being developed for the Perseus Digital Library, with translations and glosses into English and Persian. More than 1 million words of Greek has this level of linguistic annotation.

The first section follows a traditional textbook but exploits a range of digital methods to enhance the experience of learning Ancient Greek, providing substantial immediate feedback as you practice traditional exercises. Instead of translating Greek into English or English into Greek and then waiting days for correction, you will be able to receive substantial feedback. We will also spend as much time possible seeing how the vocabulary and grammar are used in actual Greek sources and minimize use of artificial textbook Greek. The goal is to give you active as well as passive command of the Greek. This section is better suited to your needs if you feel you may wish to go beyond first year Greek. It will meet Mondays and Wednesdays 1:30-2:45 PM local time.

This section will be primarily in person but will be open to those who wish to participate remotely. If you are at an institution where you can cross-register with Tufts (such as Boston College or Brandeis), you would not have to travel across town — scheduling may prevent you from taking your local introduction to Greek or you may wish to participate in this novel approach. Those seeking credit should be able do so through Tufts’ University College.

Figure 2: A translation of Iliad 1 by Amelia Parrish (Tufts ’21) designed to be aligned at the word and phrase level with the Greek original to expose the working of the source language.

The second section will meet online at a time to be determined. It will focus entirely on reading and is designed for those who may have only one year — or even one semester — to study Ancient Greek. This second section represents a more radical departure from traditional approaches as it focuses on annotated texts themselves and could be applied to any corpus with sufficient annotation. After one semester, practice with digitally enabled tools will allow you to compare a translation of Homeric epic to the original Greek, to explore what the words really mean in Homeric Greek (end not just how they are translated), and to engage with the epics on your own. In the second semester, you will be able to move on to more syntactically complex sources such as Plato.

If space allows, we would particularly encourage participation in this online section by students from outside of Tufts. We want to understand how to apply this more radical departure from traditional pedagogy. We are building on work done by Farnoosh Shamsian, Phd student at the University of Leipzig and participants in this class will be contributing not only to her research but to an ongoing reimagining of how we work with historical languages.

Figure 3: Metrical analysis for the Iliad and Odyssey (and much else) published by David Camberlain, with a recording of Camberlain reading those lines: see the original with recording at

We are aware of no modern language programs that will provide such transferable skills. You will not only learn how to work with sources in Ancient Greek but will have tools to analyze Latin as well as modern languages such as French, German, and Italian but also Croatian and Latvian, Arabic and Mandarin. Our goal is not to help you check into a hotel or order dinner. Our goal is to allow you to work directly and quickly with not only Ancient Greek primary sources but with scholarship about these sources in a variety of modern languages. Our goal is to transform who can participate in traditional scholarship about the Greco-Roman world and then to enable new forms of scholarship and new intellectual communities that were never possible in print culture.

Figure 4: Automatically generated map of place names mentioned in Odyssey 4, annotations thanks to Josh Kemp, Furman University ’23 (Beyond Translation: Building Better Greek Scholars)

Description of this version of Greek 1 as it appears in the course book for the Department of Classical Studies at Tufts University.

Greek 1: Fall 2022
Introduction to Ancient Greek
Section 1: Monday/Wednesday 1:30-2:45
Section 2: To be scheduled.
Gregory Crane, Professor of Classical Studies, Editor-in-Chief, Perseus Digital Library
Christopher Petrik, Tufts ’24
Farnoosh Shamsian, Phd Candidate, Leipzig University

The rise of digital methods and, increasingly, of machine learning has begun to enable a transformation in the study of Ancient Greek. What you can learn in an introduction to Ancient Greek can be far greater now than was ever possible before. At the same time, what you can do with what you learn will take you much farther now than was possible before. Tufts University has been at the forefront of this transformation. In taking Ancient Greek, you not only can benefit from this work but will have an opportunity to contribute yourself, creating during the course of first year Greek materials that will serve other language learners and advanced researchers alike.

You will have more exposure to authentic Greek in this introductory class than has ever been. Exhaustive annotation exists explaining the function of more  than a million words of Ancient Greek while a new generation of translations, designed to clarify the working of Greek for those who do not know the language makes it possible to see how grammar and vocabulary actually work in some of the most famous works of Greek literature, from the time you learn your first words. The very same methods that you learn to begin working with Ancient Greek have been applied to dozens of other languages

A major barrier to learning historical languages has been the slow pace and limited reach of the feedback that you receive. You do an assignment one day, hand it in the next, and then see how you did in the next class, two days or more later.  When you practice what you have learned, you will often be able to get immediate feedback and then be able to practice what you have learned until you have mastered it. 

We offer two different sections, each with a complementary approach aimed to serve different audiences. The first section builds off of a traditional textbook, offering all exercises online with immediate feedback. Class time will be devoted to questions that you cannot resolve on your own and to seeing how what we have learned in class helps us begin to understand real texts. Students will also begin working with short passages from the Iliad and Odyssey, Sophocles, Thucydides, Plato, and the New Testament. The second section is designed to support those who may be able to devote only a year or even a semester to the study of Ancient Greek. You will learn enough of the grammar to understand the basic working of highly inflected languages such as Ancient Greek (and Latin and Russian and many other languages) but you will spend most of your time learning how to apply the rich set of tools available to help you read Ancient Greek – and many other languages. If you do choose to continue your study beyond the first year, we will provide you with a framework by which you can do that.


This work was made possible by the Beyond Translation Project, funded by NEH HAA-266462-19, by support from the Data Intensive Studies Center at Tufts University, and by collaboration with Eldarion.

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