to promote the study of Greek 
in the state of Texas and beyond!
from the Texas Classical Association



And at another website:

Also, see the numerous articles at Thinking Classics by Erling B. Holtsmark

If you have an article which you would like to contribute to this website, please send it to We would greatly appreciate your help in making this a very useful website.


Greek, Too:

Presentation to the California Classical Association

by Richard Evans

These remarks, advocating Greek instruction in Latin courses, will address first, the published facts about the state of Greek enrollment at the secondary level and inferences from those facts, and then more anecdotally, will relate some of my personal efforts to integrate Greek in Latin courses.

As good a place as any to begin an empirical assessment of the state of school Greek in both the West and South is with bald remark of the late Ed Phinney, based on a 1994 survey that he conducted in conjunction with the National Greek Examination and reported in an article in The Classical Journal, “Greek 2000- Crisis, Challenge, Deadline”: “As a whole, the South and West are not areas where Greek is available at the high school level” (411).

Lest university professors of Classics begin to feel too comfortable at this point, although their circumstances are far better (simply because some study of Greek is better than no study of Greek), we note the lament, even if somewhat rhetorical, of Victor Hanson and John Heath in Who Killed Homer: “Greek is disappearing from the college curriculum” (xix). Statistics bear out Professors Hanson and Heath despite the many excellent classics departments spread over the Western and Southern United States: As of 1995, Greek accounted for .113 per cent of university-level enrollments (La Fleur, “Latina Resurgens” 126).

The remark of Hanson and Heath sounds ominously like a similar statement regarding high school Greek, made by James Turney Allen in the preface to his 1917 textbook, the First Year of Greek: “However regrettable it may seem, during the past decade or so Greek has come to be in this country largely a college subject.” What Hanson and Heath see happening today in universities, Allen noted happening in American high schools between 1910-1920. Is the history of Greek in American schools of the early 20th century doomed to repeat itself in our colleges and universities at the beginning of the 21st? Logic dictates that there must be some sort of connection between the virtual extinction of Greek in schools eighty years ago and receding university enrollments now: Clearly, the fewer students who go to college with no exposure to Greek, the fewer who will think of it as a real option for study at university. Do university classics professors need to be concerned about the growth of Greek at the school level? The self-interested answer can be nothing other than absolutely “yes”. A bubble-up of interest in Greek from school to college levels could be a welcome boon to lagging enrollments higher up the ladder.

To come at this issue from a different angle, one not specifically oriented to classics, but reflecting on the situation of classics within a broader spectrum of literary culture, we may turn to a book used to introduce students to the discipline of comparative literature, Comparative Literature, A Critical Introduction, by Susan Bassnett, a translation theorist. Commenting on the shifting historical position of classical languages within the European literary landscape, Bassnett remarks:

Whereas a Browning or a Pushkin had read works in various languages without thinking twice about it, a century later the ability to read in several languages was beginning to be considered a sign of exceptional intelligence and education. Where once knowledge of Greek and Latin was fundamental for any educated European, so by the 1920’s that pattern had changed radically and by the 1990’s knowledge of Greek and Latin is limited to a small specialist group. (43)

It is significant to see how other academicians perceive our discipline and its scope, yet the assessment of an observant non-specialist seems to square with views from inside the field, and both perspectives paint an unsettling picture of the present state of Greek studies, at least in terms of the absolute numbers of students learning the language and its literature.

Finding an accurate count of the real numbers of high school students in Greek, however, is difficult and, at this point, and not very scientific because of limited and partial reporting, a situation which, in itself, tends to reflect the small numbers of this marginalized activity in our information-saturated society. Whenever there are major numerical trends to report, particularly in education, some number-gathering organization is more than willing to collect and publish the figures. As far as there is evidence available for school Greek enrollments in 2000, Richard LaFleur published the following figures in “Latin and Greek in American Schools and College: An Enrollment Update”:

ACTFL reported only 928 students in high school Greek for 1994. This figure may reflect some under-reporting, since, for example, Greek is sometimes taught gratis by a dedicated Latin teacher during a “free” period or as an after-school class; and of course, the ACTFL survey excludes thousands of private schools around the country, including Christian schools, many of which require Greek. Nevertheless, total Greek enrollments in schools are undeniably low, and the National Greek Exam (NGE) participation rates have actually declined over the past six years, from 1,114 in 1994 to 869 in 1999… (101).

A further inference about the current state of Greek in schools can be drawn from the 2001 job advertisement list on the ACL website. Of the jobs advertisements for school classics positions posted, typically fewer than ten percent mention Greek as part of their classics programs. Although these advertised positions are not a scientific sample of the proportion of schools that offer Greek as part of a classics program, the persistently small number of total advertised school positions with a Greek component does seem in line with all the published information suggesting the unfortunate marginality of Greek at the secondary level.

Now that we have surveyed the evidence, much of which seems depressing, we come to the critical question of what we as teachers and professors of classics can do to move Greek to a more visible place, to excite wider interest, to encourage school students to begin to learn the language and to offer them that opportunity, to promote full classics, not one-legged classics, especially at the school level. (I do not mean to preclude the university sector here, but most classics departments at the university level do offer Greek, even if it is not well enrolled, whereas, as we have shown, this is not the case in schools.) The most powerful resource for reviving Greek in schools is the Latin/classics teacher. This seems a trite statement, indeed, but the truth is sometimes very ordinary.

To recall again well-known facts, we remember that two of the most significant teachers of the Western educational tradition, a Athenian philosopher, Socrates, and a Jewish rabbi, Jesuha, although they wrote nothing themselves, forged cultural history: They made not just an impact on their own times but they founded movements that continue to this day. Their distinguished disciples, Plato and Paul of Tarsus, teachers who did publish (both in Greek, interestingly enough), contributed formatively to their respective movements with definitive and unalterable effect. Teachers can and do form culture, as our intellectual history reminds us.

As teachers of classics, at whatever level, we are well positioned to be part of the educational reform movement that is engaging the country at present. We are masters of an academic discipline of venerable tradition, with an international community of scholars and teachers, with an intellectual scope and substance to offer true knowledge in the basic areas of grammar, rhetoric and logic as well as many more advanced fields of historical and literary endeavor. Our discipline, properly learned, promotes a multilingual, critical consciousness of considerable power and a multicultural view of the world. We are most cosmopolitan, diachronically and synchronically; we are positioned for educational leadership.

As a group, we share the good fortune of an expansive growth in school Latin enrollments (LaFleur, “Latina Resurgens” 127-128) and explosive growth in the Latin Advanced Placement Examination program: “Between 1994 and 1999 the number of College board Advanced placement Latin exam participants increased over 49%, from 3,768 to 5,624…” (LaFleur, “Latin and Greek in American Schools and Colleges” 102). Against this flourishing of Latin, Greek, as we know, in our regions of the West and South has not made a good showing. With so much interest in Latin, however, how can the Greek contribution to the development of Roman literature and intellectual history go unnoticed? Classicists, even aggressive Latinists, cannot ignore the contribution of Hellenism to Rome if they are intellectually honest. All Latin students, then, need to be aware of the contribution of Greek to the Latin language and especially to the development of Latin literature (Evans, “A Call for Greek in Schools” 13).

To solve the problem of the demise of school Greek, in part, is simply for high school Latin teachers to piggyback some Greek onto every Latin class at appropriate openings in the course. This simple approach may seem to a burden or an intrusion into the Latin curriculum, but objections reflect more on our ideology as pedagogues than on substantive problems with minor adjustments to our syllabi. We have been schooled to think of Greek and Latin as related, yet pedagogically separated entities. Most of us learned Greek in separate classes, after all. This traditional segregation of Latin from Greek is both confirmed as the normal state and seemingly affirmed by the language of the Standards of Classical Language Learning (American Classical League, 1997). For example, in the five goals for learning discussed on pages 7-16 of the Standards, the phrase “Greek or Latin” occurs no less than 43 times, whereas I find no example of the phrase “Greek and Latin” in these pages. This phraseology gives the strongest impression that knowledge of just one or the other language is an obvious and perhaps even desirable. We teachers and professors can step out of this mold by rethinking our ideology, by demonstrating Greek as the linguistic and literary background of Latin literature. Our Latin students can easily learn the Greek alphabet, some Greek words that come over into Latin and English. They can by easy analogy compare some aspects of declensional morphology in Greek and Latin, read a few easy Greek sentences or mottoes, understand mythological and geographical names in Greek. A few motivated students might even begin to ask for more, although most will not end up reading the First Olympian or The Third Olynthiac. But in sum, if all students of high school and college Latin have even a limited exposure to Greek, more of these students, no doubt, will explore Greek as their intellects mature and as they gain a greater insight into the intellectual roots of contemporary thought, so implicated, as it is, in Greek origins. This piggyback approach to boosting Greek may appear somewhat idealistic, but it is truly feasible if professors and teachers of Latin take the initiative by offering just a bit of relevant Greek in each Latin class that they teach.
At this point, I would like to comment, more personally, on some of the techniques that I have tried in order to interest students in Greek through Latin classes. Over the past five years, I have used successfully the piggyback approach to Greek through Latin in two schools of very different characters: one, a large Catholic high school with a two year language requirement where Latin was struggling to hold its own against an 85% Spanish enrollment in the language area; the other, a K-12 Episcopal school with a Latin requirement (grades five through twelve) and Greek on offer as an elective.

At the Catholic school, several students approached me about offering a Greek class, but after much going around with schedules and administrative enrollment caps, this venture did not go forward. Yet I was left with a sense most Latin students would profit from a bit of Greek in order to appreciate the Roman intellectual and educational experience. Since the Greek alphabet was already an extra-credit bonus in Latin 1 and 2, I determined that adding more Greek as enrichment would not be a radical step. Latin 1 introduced the Greek alphabet, a few basic Greek words which have English derivatives, names of Greek mythological figures, and a few easy mottoes or famous quotations in Greek. Latin 2 went forward with the article, declensions, the verb, to be, and present tense of the omega verb, together with short sentences and easy verses from the Greek New Testament with teacher assistance (Evans, “A Call for Greek in Schools” 14-16).

This extra-credit approach to Greek worked well for most students since there was no penalty for non-participation and bonus points for students who took extra-credit quizzes on Greek. The primary goal here was to introduce students to a taste of Greek and stimulate interest for the future although immediate successes developed. I recall especially one peak moment when I was discussing the nine Muses with a Latin I class. Each student came forward to my desk to look at lines 77-79 in Hesiod’s Theogony which were displayed in Greek on my desktop computer. This group had gone back to the original naming text and they could read the names of the Muses in Greek. How many students of Greek mythology today have or take the opportunity to go to the source of names commonly used in Greco-Roman mythology?

It was during this period when I was involved in a somewhat beleaguered Latin program, and I was attempting at the same time to find a place for Greek in the formal or informal curriculum of my school that I joined forces with colleagues in the Texas Classical Association to inaugurate the Greek, Too website: (  Ginny Lindzey, editor of Texas Classics in Action and Dr. Linda Fleming, chair of Classics at St.Thomas’ Episcopal, supported a joint effort to launch an on-going web initiative for the promotion of Greek, especially at the secondary level. Teachers of Greek and Latin, particularly those trying to begin Greek programs or integrate Greek into their Latin classes, need helpful ideas for curriculum resources and pedagogical materials in a central clearinghouse. We are trying to serve that need, and we invite interested instructors of all levels (university professors, too) to survey our site and make contributions in the various categories of reviews, texts, pedagogical articles and a pertinent links to other ancient Greek sites on the web.

In my current position at St. Thomas’ Episcopal School (Houston, Texas), where Greek is part of the official curriculum, the goals of piggybacking Greek in Latin classes are primarily directed toward stimulating enrollments for a growing Greek elective program. My colleague, Dr. Fleming, and I have held “Greek Week” lessons, introducing at different levels of the Latin program the Greek alphabet and a few basic words in order to encourage excellent Latin students who have yet to try Greek to join the Greek program. Greek week paid off immediately by recruiting a group of seven to ten 11th-grade students for a senior Greek reading class that the Headmaster was willing to support.

Another Greek initiative came in a Latin 3 class in which the students were frankly bored and displeased about their Latin requirement. I had tried various approaches to foster more interest in Latin, but with little success. As we worked our way into the First Catilinarian, I determined to demonstrate to the students the Greek background of Roman rhetoric. I suggested that extra-credit would be given for writing the names of rhetorical figures in the original Greek; students perked up and learned the Greek alphabet, learned to recognize and write in Greek the names of figures such as anaphora, hyperbaton, anadiplosis, kokophonia, euphonia, polyptoton, klimax, paronomasia, polysyndeton, asydeton and metaphora. These students acquired enough Greek within a three-week period to read, with teach assistance, some verses from the New Testament illustrating rhetorical figures under consideration in class. The class attitude became more positive about reading Cicero and more appreciative of the concepts of ancient rhetoric. One student reported that she had found the excursion into Greek the “most interesting part of Latin this year”.

Many areas of Classical Studies offer similar pathways into Greek: grammar, poetics, mythology, history, geography and topography, theology and art and archaeology. In these settings where Greek language is not the focus of the course, learning just the alphabet and a few terms or proper names will foster further interest among the bright and dedicated students and leave the average student with, at least, some more appreciation for the formative impact the Greek language on our contemporary intellectual world of thought.


Works Cited

Allen, James. The First Year of Greek. Rev. ed. The Macmillan Co., 1931.

Bassnett, Susan. Comparative Literature: A Critical Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.

Evans, Richard. “A Call for Greek in Schools: Recovery of a Renaissance Tradition.” Texas Classics in Action, Winter 2000: 12-16.

Hanson, Victor and John Heath. Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom. New York: The Free Press, 1998.

Kitchell, Kenneth, Edward Phinney, Susan Shelmerdine and Marilyn Skinner. “Greek 2000-Crisis, Challenge, Deadline.” The Classical Journal, 91.4, (1996): 393-420.

LaFleur, Richard. “Latina Resurgens: Classical Language Enrollments in American Schools and Colleges.” The Classical Outlook, Vol. 74.4 (1997): 125-130.

LaFleur, Richard. “Latin and Greek in American Schools and Colleges: An Enrollment Update,” The Classical Outlook, Vol.77.3 (2000): 101-103.

Standards for Classical Language Learning. American Classical League, 1997.

return to menu



ginnyfx.jpg (12724 bytes)

Greek Too Home Page | Main Menu | TCA Home Page

Last updated: February 10, 2002
This site was created August 2000 by Ginny Lindzey, TCA Editor, Porter Middle School, Austin, with the help of Richard Evans and Linda Fleming of St. Thomas Episcopal, Houston. To report problems  please contact Ginny at