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Balme, Maurice and Lawall, Gilbert, Athenaze: An Introduction to Ancient Greek, Books I and II; Teacher’s Handbook, Books I and II, Oxford University Press, 1991. Book I, Pp 270, ISBN 0-19-505621-3; Teacher’s Handbook, Book I, Pp 110, ISBN 0-19-506384-8; Book II, Pp 297, ISBN 0-19-505622-1; Teacher’s Handbook II, Pp 129, ISBN 0-19-506930-7. 

Balme and Lawall introduce their well-planned beginner’s course in Ancient Greek with the following statement of purpose and scope: “This course was written for use in schools, colleges, and universities with students who have not necessarily been exposed to any other highly inflected language. The course aims at teaching students to read and understand Greek within the context of fifth century civilization and culture.” Through 31 well-developed lessons in two volumes, linked by a fictional narrative about the Aristophanic Dikaiopolis and culminating with adapted and some unaltered selections of Classical writers, the course stresses learning to read Ancient Greek through an inductive approach; that is, in the lesson plan readings come first and direct morphological and syntactical explanations with exercises follow the readings where the new language points have been encountered already by students. Follow-up grammatical material, however, is copious and detailed so that a student will understand clearly what grammar needs to be mastered within any given lesson. Moreover, unlike many contemporary beginners’ Latin programs, which use a reading approach, sentence-level composition is not omitted from Athenaze, a feature which will appeal to more traditional teachers of Greek. Each student’s book also contains a full “reference grammar”, a Greek-English, English-Greek glossaries at the back of the volume. In addition to the student’s texts, two teachers’ handbooks, paralleling the students’ volumes, offer instructors such useful pointers as a scope and sequence charts, summaries of lesson purpose for each lesson as well as suggested answers for exercises. 

Carefully designed and engaging lessons, constructed to give students confidence in reading continuous text with a clear understanding of Greek morphology and a feeling for syntax, stand at the core of Balme-Lawall program. A typical chapter evolves as two lessons, separated by a cultural topic, into alpha and beta Greek sections with basically the same format in each section. First in section alpha comes new vocabulary that will be found in the following Greek reading of 20-30 lines. After the Greek reading, new forms and rules of syntax are explained in detail with exercises and drills (including writing in Greek) for reinforcement. Between the two Greek sections of the chapter a pertinent cultural topic on Greek history, myth, religion, archaeology or daily life is inserted. Section beta again presents more vocabulary and another reading in Greek, with further grammatical material explained and drilled through another bank of exercises. These major Greek readings are for the most part fictional and centered on the character of Dikaiopolis , a fifth century Athenian farmer, known from Aristophanes’ play, the Acharnians. After the grammar exercises in section beta, additional Greek reading selections based on Homer, Herodotus and Thycidides, and reading comprehension questions conclude the lesson. All the readings have good glosses on difficult or unusual words and constructions. 

Overall, as an introductory program, Balme and Lawall offer a sound approach, particularly for younger students. Much of the more demanding morphology and syntax, such as the full principal part structure of the verb, mi-verbs, conditions, indirect statement, is postponed until the second volume of the course. This postponement lessens for the younger beginner a sense that Classical Greek is “hard” to learn. For the more mature student and language learner, the Hansen and Quinn approach of “verbs up front” in Greek: An Intensive Course might generate more momentum. But for any teacher of Greek who has taught from a text such as Chase and Phillips, the Balme-Lawall program offers real improvements, fuller morphological explanations, thematically linked and continuous reading texts, while at the same time retaining traditional sentence drills and English-to-Greek composition. Some might wish for more authentic Greek earlier in the course, but again the younger or linguistically inexperienced student might find uncut Greek tough going at first. Designed to be completed in two to four semesters, the Balme-Lawall approach is planned to ease the student into Greek by offering strong cultural context, based in daily life, coupled to readings of graduated difficulty and ample explanation of morphology and syntax. 

One final word on the looks of the text, a matter of less a concern at the college than the school level. The texts are pleasingly formatted using black and white print, with some items printed in bold type to focus attention. There are pictures and illustrations throughout the two student texts: all are in black and white. Although one should not expect the color splash of the Oxford Latin Course, the all black-and-white color scheme does not seem to detract for the decorous formatting and presentation of the text. The paper, too, is of high quality and printing conventions consistent with the excellence expected of books from the Oxford University Press. 

Richard L.S. Evans, St. Thomas' Episcopal School,

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Lysias on the Murder of Eratosthenes

Lysias on the Murder of Eratosthenes. Edited with introduction, notes, and vocabulary by Douglas Domingo-Foraste. Short Greek and Latin Texts for Students. Materials available from Professor Gilbert Lawall, General Editor of CANE Instructional Materials, 71 Sand Hill Road, Amherst, MA 01002.

This compact presentation (only 55 pages) of the famous Speech 1 of Lysias , according to its Preface, "…is designed to provide reading material for students who have completed Book II of Athenaze (Oxford University Press 1991)." Constructed as a follow-up to the Athenaze I and II series, a set of introductory Greek texts built on the reading approach, parallel to the Oxford Latin, Lysias on the Murder of Eratosthenes is a realistic intermediate text for a student's initiation into authentic, Attic Greek. Every line of the Greek text is numbered, by page, with vocabulary, syntactical, and historical notes on the opposite, facing page. Vocabulary items previously not seen in the Athenaze series are glossed on pages facing the Greek text and all words found in Lysias 1 are included in the vocabulary section at the end. The heavy glossing of vocabulary purposefully promotes the editor's view that the "…intermediate Greek student's time is more productively spent in enjoying and reading Lysias than in turning pages in Liddell, Scott, and Jones." Clearly, reading more text of an original Greek author should be the outcome of this wise and very realistic orientation toward students who have just come off their basic introduction to elements of Greek.

In addition to vocabulary glosses, the facing-page notes offer fairly detailed syntactical comments, especially pointing out constructions which might be a challenge, such as conditionals, accusative absolutes, duals, future optatives, analytic perfect middle forms and the like. This careful notice of syntactical issues goes beyond what is typical for a commentary on Lysias like the Selected Speeches, edited by C. Carey, in the Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics series. Such grammar support is very useful for the intermediate reader and is one of the strongest features of this edition of Lysias 1.

Very basic cultural and legal information about Lysias and the speech is provided in the Introduction, together with an interesting reconstruction of Euphiletos' house, but almost no remarks on the position of Lysias in the canon of Greek orators and little in the way of rhetorical background is offered. There is limited commentary on formal, rhetorical structure, devices of style or parallels to other orators in the notes. Further, the editor does not mention what text he is following nor is there an apparatus criticus; all of this adds up to what we are told up front, that we have a student's text, not a scholarly edition and commentary. Teachers must be prepared to do some filling in of rhetorical and historical issues for themselves and their students, but after all, that's what teachers are meant to do.

The text itself is printed in large, clear typeface with vocabulary and glosses in boldface. Thus, the Greek is very legible and easy on the eyes; notes appropriately attract the reader's attention. The binding is a light tan paper, featuring a reconstruction drawing of the house in which Eratosthenes was caught and killed by Euphiletos.

Richard L. S. Evans, St. Thomas' Episcopal School,

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Ancient Greek Alive.

This review originally appeared in Classical Outlook. Many thanks to Rick LaFleur and Mary Ricks for allowing to post this article.

Ancient Greek Alive. By PAULA SAFFIRE and CATHERINE FREIS. 3rd ed. Chapel Hill NC: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1999. Pp. xxiv and 271. Paper. $19.95. 

Almost every teacher of ancient Greek will find Ancient Greek Alive both praiseworthy and problematic, sometimes for the same reasons. The bottom line, though, is that this spirited introduction to ancient Greek, meant for a two-semester sequence, will raise many beginners to a plateau from which they can confidently ascend to the reading of continuous ancient texts. 

The authors have combined clear, detailed, and correct exposition of grammar and syntax with several creative ingredients-initial "scripts" for class conversation, the conscious employment of "translationese" as a mediator between Greek and English, and readings that include Saffire's Greek translations of the legendary figure of Sufi wisdom literature, Nasrudin, along with renderings into Greek of African, Armenian, Chinese, Indian, Siberian, and Yiddish folktales. A "Thesauros" offers appropriately glossed selections from an interesting range of texts in verse and prose. Each of the book's 54 lessons is structured around one or two grammatical themes and features many worthwhile in-class and homework exercises. Along the way, memorization of poetry plays an important pedagogical role. Informative readings in English about various aspects of Greek civilization and folklore appear throughout. 

Matters connected to declension occupy most of the first 24 lessons. The order of cases followed in paradigms is nominative, accusative, genitive, and dative. The generally good formal treatment of verbs does not begin until about halfway through the book and stretches over 20 lessons, with contract and -mi verbs saved until the very end. However, the informal treatment of verbs begins much earlier, and the comfort level of many students will be so expanded by then that the intimidation factor of verbs will be greatly reduced. Pauô is the model -ô verb. Verb paradigms at the book's end are generally clear, though imperfects are not labeled as such. There is a good list of principal parts of important verbs, with those whose first three parts should be learned designated by asterisks. Consistently clear, if sometimes idiosyncratic, exposition helps offset the often cluttered appearance of individual pages. Errors are minimal, most confined to the introduction. 

Many other introductory Greek texts have already raised the issue of the use of synthetic Greek. Might too much turn off students impatient to get to the "real stuff"? In most cases today, I doubt it. It is a sad fact that ever more students have little idea of what, perhaps beyond the New Testament and maybe Plato, the "real stuff" is. I am convinced that Ancient Greek Alive will actually lead to more, better- prepared students continuing-indeed, looking forward to continuing-their study of Greek. I encourage all teachers of Greek to examine this text. Even if it does not fit your needs perfectly enough to warrant its adoption, there is a good chance you will find much in it that is useful and inspirational. 

Canisius College Buffalo, New York

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Xenophon's Gynaikologia

Doty, Ralph, Ed. Xenophon's Gynaikologia: The Training of a Greek Housewife. Short Greek and Latin Texts for Students, CANE Instructional Materials, 71 Sand Hill Road, Amherst, MA 01002.

A short introduction, thirty sections of text from Xenophon's Oeconomicus (VII.1-IX.13) with facing lexical glossing and brief grammatical and cultural commentary, and a concluding vocabulary glossary comprise this new students' edition of the animated dialogue between Ischomachus and his adolescent wife on household duties and management, known as the Gynaikologia.

The full Oeconomicus of Xenophon is structured carefully like a Chinese box: first a dialogue between Socrates and Critobulus, son of Critias; next an encounter between Socrates and the gentleman estate holder, Ischomachus, who explains the art of good estate management; then within this discussion of Ischomachus on estate management, a third dialogue, the Gynaikologia, between Ischomachus and his wife about her proper role as wife and manager in the home.

This handy edition of a socially provocative work from ancient Greece offers reading material appropriate for intermediate students of Greek who have finished the Athenaze course as the Introduction of the Gynaikologia reminds us: " This book is keyed to the vocabulary in the introductory Greek textbook Athenaze…Words in the text that also appear in Athenaze will be listed in the end vocabulary. Words that do not appear in Athenaze will be listed in the running vocabulary at their first appearance…." The usefulness of this text for intermediate Greek students other than those who have used Balme and Lawall should not be overlooked, however. There is excellent support in the commentary for syntactically challenging items and sufficient historical and cultural information to keep a student reading without long pauses away from the text for consultation of lexica or classical dictionaries. All lines of the Greek text are numbered conveniently on a given page, by page, for quick reference and keyed to a line-numbered commentary that itself faces the Greek text on the opposite page. The typeface is a large font for a clear, legible text, making work with this edition painless and pleasant.

Additionally, with the exception of the traditional Anabasis and selections from the Hellenica, little of Xenophon is packaged for the beginning reader of authentic Greek prose. This edition by Doty of a selection from the Oeconomicus helps remedy that disadvantage to the beginning reader for the works of Xenophon, a writer prized by the ancients for his smooth style which Quintilian lauds with this remark, "ut ipsae sermonem finxisse Gratiae videantur" (Institutio Oratoria X.1.82). Ralph Doty's text will bring the pleasure of Xenophon's stylistic finesse as well as engaging social issues to a wider readership while stimulating a broader view of Socrates than many intermediate students obtain from Plato's dialogues alone.

Richard L.S. Evans
St. Thomas' Episcopal School


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Last updated: May 30, 2002This 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