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Ancient Greek

Overview

Ninety per cent of all ancient Greek texts of Antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages have been written in Koine Greek (3rd century BC till 11 century AD). This dialect is the language of a vast array of classical texts ranging from the fields of philosophy and medicine to poetry and novels, and it is the original language of the New Testament, that of the Septuagint and of many ancient Jewish and Christian texts. As many of today’s physical and social sciences originated with ancient Greeks and their fascinating treatises on a myriad of topics, knowledge of this language is the key to understanding the birth of Western culture.
If Attic dialect (5th to 4th centuries BC) does not include some linguistic features of Koine Greek, the latter form of Greek, instead, displays all morphological, syntactical, and lexical features of Attic, especially in texts written by well read authors. This is why at Polis we teach both dialects, always specifying in our classes the differences between high Koine and Attic on the one hand, and Low Koine on the other hand.
The course at Polis is intended to familiarize students with the language through natural learning methods. From the first day, all lessons are conducted in ancient Greek using techniques based on the way in which children acquire their mother tongue, allowing the students to develop a keen intuition in understanding and speaking the language. The course is designed to provide speaking skills that, with physical practice, will allow the student to connect with the language and store new information in long-term memory, and reading skills that will allow the student to approach original texts without the reliance on or reference to translations. Finally, the written exercises will enable students to perfect their mastery of this ancient but lively and beautiful language.
The Polis Method was developed using the latest insights on language acquisition. The textbook was written especially for this method and employs such techniques as Total Physical Response and Story Telling. The method is interactive and invites the students to constantly improve in their fluency in the language.
The experience of students in the program have proven the success of the method and its promise for the future of classical education.

Here are some FAQs about Ancient Greek courses at Polis:

Which kind of Greek is taught at Polis?

The dialect of Greek taught at our courses (levels 1 to 4) is the Koine Greek of the 1st Century AD, the one of Epictetus and Plutarch, the Greek of the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers.

What is the difference between Koine and Attic?

The differences between Koine Greek and the Attic dialect are very few: for the first and second level taught at Polis they can be summarized in 3 or 4 pages. You will find a summary of the differences in Polis – Speaking ancient Greek as a living language (Level One, Teacher’s volume).

Does a student with a BA in Classics that has learned Greek with traditional methods need to start the Polis method from level 1 or can he or she skip the first level?

As our classes are full immersion. The student learns to speak the language in order to be able to read ancient texts without translating. A student who starts level 2 should be able to introduce himself or herself in Koine Greek, to say what his or her hobbies are, to say what his or her studies are, to describe his or her family, to be able to make a purchase in ancient Greek, and more. According to our experience, students who already have a BA in Classics benefit greatly by starting from level 1, as this helps them finally to truly internalize the language. Once they havecompleted the first level, they are generally able to read easy narrative Greek texts in a way that was impossible for them before. On the other hand, we have had less ideal experiences with students who chose to skip level one on the grounds that they had already studied all the grammar of the ancient Greek language: in the end, they met with difficulty in level 2. Unless a student can already speak ancient Greek to some degree, we do recommend that students who have never attended a course of living ancient Greek to register for the first level.

Why focus on speaking ancient Greek if the goal is only to read ancient texts?

Our goal when we speak ancient Greek is certainly not to learn to speak an ancient language for the sake of it, but rather to be able to read ancient texts without translating. We do not believe it possible to reach that goal without speaking the language and that is why we have adopted this method. We consider it very unlikely that someone could manage to read any ancient Greek text directly and with speed without first learning to speak the language.

Which level will I reach after two years of study with the Polis method?

The experience with our students is that after completing level VI they will be able to read simple narratives in Koine Greek without a dictionary, and that they will be able to read many other texts with the help of a dictionary but with an ease that is impossible to get through traditional methods.

What is the unique character of the Greek courses at Polis?

Polis is one of very few institutions in the world that offers Koine Greek where one can internalize the morphology of the language from scratch in-person. There are some similar courses offered online by different institutions, but the advantage at Polis is that one can have regular conversations and participate in many activities (both in and outside of class) in Koine Greek. Without practicing the language with one’s fellow students and with the instructor, it becomes very difficult to develop speaking skills.

What pronunciation is used?

Pronunciation
The question of the pronunciation of Koine Greek is a very sensitive one, since many pedagogical, emotional and identity factors are involved in this topic. Two main options are available for the student who wishes to pronounce an ancient Greek text: the historical and the modern one.

1. Modern Greek pronunciation
A growing number of Greek teachers advise to adopt Modern Greek pronunciation when studying Ancient Greek. Several reasons are usually given for that choice. First it is argued that nobody will ever get the exact pronunciation of Ancient Greek as no recording is extant for Antiquity. On the other hand, it seems clear that, at least Byzantine Greek pronunciation has been very close to Modern one. The continuity between the different periods of Greek culture would be lost if one had to adopt another way of pronouncing Ancient Greek. Then, it is argued, it would be a pity to cut the student from a natural link with Modern Greek culture, the natural heir of the Ancient Greek world. From that point of view, it goes without saying that Modern Greek pronunciation is the most natural way to pronounce Ancient Greek for a Greek student.

2. Historical pronunciations
Despite of these very powerful arguments in favour of Modern Greek pronunciation, we have nevertheless decided to follow an historical one. The main reason has to do with the communicational character of our method. Because of the main phonetic changes that Greek has undergone since Antiquity, many words have become impossible to distinguish for the hearer. True, Septuagint and New Testament texts are continuously read in the Orthodox liturgy with the Modern Greek pronunciation, without that affecting the understanding of the learned reader. There is yet a difference between reading a text and communicating. According to Modern Greek pronunciation, I should pronounce τεῖχος “walls of a city” exactly in the same way as τοῖχος “wall of a room”: [tiħos]. More problematic even, the basic words ἡμεῖς “we” and ὑμεῖς “you” are impossible to distinguish according to the pronunciation. Both are heard as [imis]. In fact, Modern Greek has solved that ambiguity by developing two different words: εμείς [emis] and εσείς [esis].
True: no authentic recording of any Ancient Greek conversation is at our disposal. But this does not mean that phoneticians cannot reconstruct with a fair degree of certainty the historical pronunciation of a language spoken in Antiquity. Some precious clues have helped experts in their reconstruction: General Phonetics tendencies, spelling errors recorded in ancient inscriptions, spelling of Greek loan words in other ancient languages as Latin, and even descriptions of the Greek phonetics by ancient Greek grammarians themselves. Therefore, phoneticians have reached a very large consensus about the exact pronunciation of Ancient Greek at the different stages of its development. The different articles about this topic in Wikipedia, either in English, Greek or French, reflect that strong consensus among scholars.
In the case of Koine Greek, the historical pronunciation is more difficult to determine than in the case of Attic. For the latter, it suffices to adopt the historical reconstructed pronunciation of Athenian Greek during the 5th and 4th centuries BC. But Koine Greek is a language that spans for roughly one thousand years, from the 3rd century BC till the beginning of the Middle Ages, in large regions of the East Mediterranean.
a) Historical First Century AD pronunciation
For the First Century AD, Randall Buth has made extensive research about the pronunciation of New Testament Greek. Those who would be curious to know the real First Century Greek pronunciation will find in the CD audio of the Polis method (French, Italian or German editions) as a way of example, the reading of the beginning of the Prolog of John’s Gospel as it could have been read by the time it was redacted.
b) Historical Early Koine Greek pronunciation
However, the pronunciation that has been chosen for this book is a more conservative one, quite close to the one that Erasmus reconstructed for Classical Greek (the so called Erasmian pronunciation), that of the cultural elite from the beginning of Koine Greek, save for the consonants φ( θ and χ. For the sake of commodity, these consonants are here pronounced [f], [q] and [ħ] instead of the historical [ph], [th] and [kh] sounds.
Our decision might at first seem arbitrary. Why should we adopt the phonological system of the beginning of Koine Greek while the language that we are learning belongs to the first century AD? The decisive factor in our decision was the pedagogical one. In first century Greek, pronunciation has become far removed from spelling. Many diphthongs have coalesced with vowels (οι is pronounced as υ, αι as ε and ει as ι). Among many other changes, this phonetic evolution adds a new difficulty to a language that does not have the reputation of being easy to learn. As the unity of Koine Greek is based on its literary spelling, it seems advisable to adopt a pronunciation as close as possible to the written texts. This is why we distinguish circumflex from acute accent whenever we read the Greek texts.

Programs

Language Courses
Academic Programs

Jerusalem

Ancient Greek Fall 2022

Enrollment

Open

Dates

Oct 19, 2022 – Feb 15, 2023

Length

4 Months

Check here for the online offer, Level I, Level III, Level V, Level VII, Greek Lunch I, Greek Lunch III, Ancient Greek Readings I: Philosophy - Epictetus, Ancient Greek Readings III: Early Christian Writings

Online

Ancient Greek Fall 2022 ONLINE

Enrollment

Open

Dates

Oct 19, 2022 – Feb 15, 2023

Length

4 Months

Level I, Level II, Level III

International

2022 - Σύνοδος ἑλληνική - Synodos hellènikè

Intensive

Enrollment

Open

Dates

Jul 18 – 22, 2022

Length

5 Days

18th July 9 am through 22nd July 4 pm
Σύνοδος ἑλληνική - Synodos hellènikè

Rome - Ancient languages and methodology courses - Summer 2022

Intensive

Enrollment

Closed

Dates

Jul 4 – 22, 2022

Length

3 Weeks

, , ,

Virginia - Ancient Greek - Summer 2022

Intensive

Enrollment

Closed

Dates

Jun 27 – Jul 15, 2022

Length

3 Weeks

Monday to Friday 8:30-11:15 and 13:00-15:45
Level I, Level II

Jerusalem

Ancient Philology - Third-Party Accredited MA

Enrollment

Open

Start Date

Sep 1, 2022

Length

2 Years

ILS 27 / Year

Fluency in Ancient Greek

Enrollment

Open

Start Date

Sep 1, 2022

Length

2 Years

ILS 27 / Year
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Meet the Students

Michal Kabat

Warsaw, Poland

What attracted me was studying Ancient Greek as a living language. I had studied Classics so I thought that it would be a great opportunity for me to learn Greek better. I’d had difficulties learning Greek in the past as I could not memorize everything so the translation process seemed to me very abstract. My studies at Polis exceeded my expectations, personally, academically and culturally. The method was very effective, the staff and students were very personable, and life in Jerusalem was culturally enriching. I was able to picture how the world looked in ancient times, in Hellenistic times, when all the people were mixing their cultures.

One Year Program in Ancient Philology (’19)

Cooper Bryan

United States

Studying a BA at Harvard made me think about being Christian in an increasingly secularized society. I came to Polis to learn Ancient Greek and Hebrew so I have a clearer lens to study the Bible. I love The Polis Method because it helps me gain a deeper understanding of ancient texts.

One Year Program in Ancient Philology (’21)

Reuel Martinez

Brazil

The Polis method is the best means to study Biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek. By speaking and listening to these languages, I was able to read a good amount of ancient works in their original language with ease by the time I received the MA in Ancient Philology degree.

Ancient Philology (’16)

News & Articles

Courses

Ancient Greek

Ancient Greek I + II (Intensive)

Ancient Greek III

Ancient Greek IV

Ancient Greek Readings I, II, III, IV

Ancient Greek V

Ancient Greek VI

Ancient Greek VII

Ancient Greek VIII

Greek Lunch (Symposium) I, II, III, IV

Greek Lunches (Symposia) 1

Greek Lunches (Symposia) 2

Greek Lunches (Symposia) 3

Greek Lunches (Symposia) 4

Greek Palaeography

Greek Philology

Greek Readings

History of Writing Systems (Taught in A. Greek)

Issues in Teaching Ancient Languages

Seven Seals I (Taught in A. Greek)

Seven Seals II (Taught in A. Greek)

Speech in Ancient Greek

Speech in Ancient Language

Translation Theory (Taught in A. Greek)