Dreaming of Greek

There’s probably no language that I’m more excited to read fluently than classical Greek.

I’ve spent time studying ancient Greek in the past, but I’m somewhat rusty with it by now, and it’s not the next language up on my roster to review. Still, I am hoping to get back to it within the next year or two (after spending some time in the next while strengthening my German and French).

I wrote in a previous post that there are a number of people in the West who wish they could learn Latin, because Latin held such a place of importance in our history and still somehow has a powerful hold on our imagination and identity. I mentioned there that Greek has a similar place in our history, but somehow also a weaker grasp.

The exception that I didn’t mention is how there are some groups of Christians who are strongly attracted to Greek because it allows access to the New Testament in the original language. (It also lets us read the ancient translation of the Old Testament in Greek, which is super cool, but people generally seem to get less excited about that thought.)

I have to admit, though, that personally what makes me most energized to study Greek is the thought of being able to read the Socratics, and their contemporaries, and their predecessors and successors. Philosophy and rhetoric, history and epic, tragedy and comedy. It sounds wonderful.

The age of Socrates was a fascinating time, and the events and thoughts and phrases of that time have echoed down the ages, ever since, ever relevant.

There are other languages and ages that I’m looking forward to immersing myself in. The Hebrew of the prophets. The Latin of the scholastics. The Italian of Renaissance Italy, perhaps. The German of Kant and those who came after. The French of the early 20th century.

If you told me that one of those other languages and its window into intellectual history seemed most fascinating to you, I would not try to argue the point. I too am attracted to all those paths, and hope to make my way to them eventually.

For now, though, for me, having not yet really mastered a single one of these languages or literatures, the moment that towers over all the others is Periclean Athens, and the intellectual movement which eventually found its centre there.

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