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The Best Books for Learning Ancient Greek

Books for Learning Ancient Greek

Whether you want to supplement what you are learning in your Ancient Greek class online or you want to be an autodidact and teach yourself Ancient Greek, a good textbook or two will go a long way in getting you to the fluid reading skills that you are working towards.

On this page, you’ll find some of my recommendations for Ancient Greek textbooks. While I prefer the natural method of language acquisition and take this immersion-based approach in my online Ancient Greek classes, I have also included resources that use a more traditional grammar translation method, and others that are somewhere in between.

So, without further ado, here are some of the best books for learning Ancient Greek that are available for purchase online.

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Best books for learning Ancient Greek

Athenaze: 1 (Italian Edition) 

The original Athenaze series was written in English and published by Oxford University Press. In a way that is similar to Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata: Familia Romana, it uses stories to immerse the student in the Ancient Greek language, this time borrowing a character named Dikaiopolis from one of Aristophanes’ works.

So, why use the Italian edition if there is a perfectly good version available in English?

The trouble with the English edition of Athenaze is that it is not designed with self-taught students in mind. For it to be really effective, you would need access to the teacher’s handbooks in the series, and they are very difficult to get.

The Italian version has improved upon the original: it’s been Ørberg-ized, made to be more similar to Ørberg’s Familia Romana with the addition of margin notes on vocabulary and grammar, all written in Greek.

Polis: Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language

The Polis Institute in Jerusalem have been pioneers in using modern foreign language education strategies to teach ancient languages. Handling tongues like Ancient Greek differently just because they are “dead” is doing everyone a disservice. This is why books that use the Polis method focus on learning Ancient Greek, Latin, and others as living languages.

Polis are big believers in monolingual immersion education, and while this method is necessarily limited when you can’t be physically present in their facilities, Polis: Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language does maintain the spirit of this approach. They provide the student with a series of Greek texts ordered according to a natural progression, with the goal of allowing you to read Ancient Greek texts without relying on a dictionary as a crutch by the time you are finished.

One interesting aspect of this method is TPR or total physical response, which is helpful for beginners—especially kinesthetic learners—to get familiar with some basic vocabulary and grammar structures by physically responding to simple commands.

The book also comes with audio files to aid in listening comprehension and pronunciation, which can be downloaded for free at the Polis Institute’s website.

Grammar-focused books for learning Ancient Greek

Reading Greek: Text and Vocabulary

This is one of three books from Cambridge University Press that I would recommend if you want to teach yourself Ancient Greek, the other two being Reading Greek: Grammar and Exercises and Reading Greek: An Independent Study Guide. Note that at least the Vocabulary and Grammar books are necessary for an effective learning program, with the Study Guide being a very useful, if optional, tool for autodidacts.

The Reading Greek approach is designed for mature beginners who wish to read the classics, and so it places a greater emphasis on reading than on speaking. Overall, the teaching method is more on the traditional side, and certainly when compared to Polis.

Greek to GCSE: Part 1

From the name, it should come as no surprise that Greek to GCSE Part 1 is exactly the sort of text that you would expect to encounter in school. The authors’ goal with this series was to create an Ancient Greek textbook that was condensed enough to be manageable and did not skimp on grammar. A very traditional approach to learning Ancient Greek that is more grammar-focused than I prefer, but may be suitable for certain learning styles