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Ancient and Modern

Greek is the language of the poets, thinkers, and investigators whose work laid the foundations for the subsequent development of western literature, theatre, history, science, philosophy, mathematics, and law. The minds that conceived the American Republic and wrote its founding documents were formed by the avid study of the language, literature, and history of Greece. Greek is the first language into which the Hebrew scriptures were translated; it is the original language of the New Testament and the language of the early Christian Church; and to this day it remains the ecclesiastical language in the Eastern Orthodox Church, as Latin has been in the Roman Catholic Church. It is the ancestor of the Modern Greek language, in which, despite the pronounced affects of three thousand years, the language of Homer can still be heard to resound. Greek is a significant lexical ingredient in modern English. Its alphabet is a predecessor of the modern English alphabet.

Athens and Alexandria

Greek learning, long centered in Athens, provided the principal materials and models for Roman education, and the Greek language became, in effect, a second language in the Roman world. Throughout the Mediterranean region, and especially in its eastern reaches, where the conquests of Alexander had proceeded, Greek remained the common language, the lingua franca, for centuries. The city of Alexandria, in Egypt, became a prominent center of Greek culture. We know as koiné this Common Greek language of the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Nonetheless, Alexandrian Greek was descended from Attic Greek, the dialect of Athens and its surroundings and the most prominent form of what we think of as Classical Greek. The Modern Greek language has grown from the Attic-Alexandrian koiné, which was also the language of the New Testament.

Greek and English

The Greek language, together with the conceptual acquisitions and presuppositions that shaped it, underlies our own way of seeing the world and continues to influence us in ways of which few of us ever become aware. When we do begin to become aware of them, we enrich immeasurably both our understanding of the English language and our ability to understand both our cultural heritage and the world in which we live. When we study mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, history, poetry, philosophy, anthropology, or theology, we are moving in the shadow of the Greeks and their language. The mathematical sciences are Greek insofar as they include arithemetic, geometry, trigonometry, and topology. When we consult a general practitioner, a pediatrician, a dermatologist, a podiatrist, an orthopedist, a cardiologist, a neurosurgeon, or a physician of nearly any other type, we are relying on the Greeks. The atomic theory is Greek in word and in idea. Indeed, every idea and every theory recalls a Greek phenomenon, as does every phenomenon, every school, every gymnasium. Every tone and every phrase of music is in that sense Greek. Freedom, although a Germanic word, is a Greek idea and a Greek pursuit par excellence. Democracy is Greek in word, in idea, and in deed. All but two of the italicized words in this paragraph are Greek in origin. Par excellence is Latin, as spoken in present-day Gaul. You may find it amusing to learn that italicus (Latin for "Italian"), whence italic, came into Latin from Greek but had come into Greek from Latin. It's a long story.

Enjoyable and Rewarding

The Lancaster Center for Classical Studies offers an extensive program of studies in the language and literature of ancient Greece. Employing methods of instruction that make this rich, complex, and rewarding language accessible and its study enjoyable for active learners, The Lancaster Center for Classical Studies is able to guide the student through a sound introductory sequence into the intermediate stages and onwards, at an increasingly advanced level, into the close reading of original works by Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Thucydides, Plato, and the authors of the New Testament, among many others.

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