Greek 10. Apology & More
Summer: Time for baseball, lolling in the grass, and not forgetting your Greek! Here's a list of resources, with links, for reading Greek this summer without a teacher. Please contact me if you would like help planning or carrying out anything, whether covered below or not. My big list of Classics links may also be useful (it includes everything useful on the internet of which I'm aware). Keep in mind that a single play is still a big project—reading widely in translation will help you decide what you most want to pursue. An aid for figuring out difficult verb forms, mentioned in class, is available in a smaller and a sturdier edition. One day soon, you will want your own copy of Smyth's Greek Grammar (older edition: free, PDF); opening it up physically can do more to clarify the language than consulting it piecemeal online (e.g., via the forms provided on all my intermediate Greek course pages).
For a wider selection of used books than what's listed at Amazon, try BookFinder.
This is the one series of commentaries where you can be sure that every title is intended for beginning Greek students: they're all recently written and geared to the needs of American college students. Some of these are referred to below, but you should browse the whole list to see if anything catches your fancy. These are inexpensive pamphlets.
Highly recommended: A Greek Anthology (contents, PDF excerpt). Meant to follow the Reading Greek course, this is a delightful collection of 20 readings (18 of them new to you) from Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, tragedy, comedy, philosophy, oratory, Plutarch, and the New Testament, with running vocabulary lists and grammatical notes.
For more Herodotus, in the unmodified original (you'll find that Herodotus' Ionic dialect is not a big hurdle—not at all like Sappho's Greek), and in selections that allow you to appreciate the larger design of the Histories, I recommend Amy Barbour's Selections from Herodotus. The introduction discusses Herodotus' language, and in the back there are full notes and a complete vocabulary. (Our Atticized Herodotus sight readings were taken from this book, which includes notes and glossary, if you just want to keep up your Greek by reading more interesting stories and don't care if the language has been normalized and simplified somewhat. We did not read much more than 10% of what's there.)
From the Bryn Mawr series, consider Sophocles' Oidipous Tyrannos (a.k.a. Oedipus Rex) and Euripides' Hippolytus. There are also commentaries for beginners on Euripides' Alcestis [review] and Medea.
Your best bet would be the Bryn Mawr series. Also very useful is Dover's student edition of Aristophanes' Frogs.
The most painless introduction would be P.A. Draper's heavily annotated Iliad, Book 1. For more Iliad, there is a book of great selections, with an excellent glossary and a thorough treatment of Homeric language: Benner's Selections from Homer's Iliad (free PDF). For the Odyssey, the best approach would be to use Stanford's edition of Books 1-12 together with the Bryn Mawr commentary on Books 1, 6, and 9 (prone to grammatical errors, but useful for the vocabulary glosses). For any Homer reading project, Cunliffe's Lexicon of the Homeric Dialect is an amazing help, as it cites virtually every line of Homer. (It would be an absolute must for the Odyssey project mentioned here.) Finally, if you want to bone up on Homeric vocabulary, there's a book for that.
The perfect Greek New Testament for a beginner is the "reader's edition," published in rival versions by Zondervan and UBS; these provide vocabulary glosses for all but the commonest words at the foot of every page. (Adequate definitions of the commonest vocabulary in the appendix, English section headings, and wider margins make UBS the edition of choice if you can afford it; the clearest point in favor of Zondervan is that fuller literal definitions are given page-by-page instead of just "contextual" glosses that can sometimes be misleading if the word's basic meaning is unknown to you.) The second book to consider is Abbott-Smith's Manual Greek Lexicon of the NT, which is the only small dictionary that provides an adequate account of how words are used in NT Greek (seek it out used). If you want a commentary, consider the public domain (you will learn a lot from Plummer on Luke, for example); a few books (Acts, 1 Corinthians, Romans) are covered in the Bryn Mawr series.
If you are seriously interested in the New Testament, you may want a critical edition, with an apparatus listing important variant readings. If you don't want to make do with what's in the public domain (and Tischendorf's remains the easiest-to-consult apparatus with any claim to completeness), three in-print editions deserve consideration: UBS, NA (DBG, etc.), and Merk (, , ). UBS has section headings in English, an uncluttered text, and points out only the variations in text and punctuation that the editors consider meaningful for translators; if you choose the UBS edition, I recommend that you find used a third corrected (1983) or earlier edition, because the text is presented in a more attractive and readable (i.e., not horrible) font. NA has the same text in a more scholarly format (fuller but still incomplete apparatus, good marginal cross-references, and extras such as a collation of modern editions and Eusebius' canons). Both editions are available bound with (as in my links above) or without a brief glossary. Merk's edition is the definite choice if you prefer a good critical edition of the Greek text and the Latin Vulgate on facing pages. Finally, if your main interest is in the New Testament, you may eventually want the standard large lexicon of NT Greek. Unfortunately, it is very expensive; the 2nd edition of 1979 is also perfectly serviceable, and easier to find used.
CANE publishes an anthology for beginners. You may also enjoy browsing the texts at aoidoi.org; the ones with comments are very thoroughly glossed.
Sidgwick's Easy Selections from Plato is one of many Greek readers available as a free PDF file from textkit.com. Despite a few too many errors, Helm's commentary on the Apology of Socrates probably has the edge in helpfulness over the Bryn Mawr. The Bryn Mawr series has commentaries on Plato's Symposium and Book 1 of the Republic. Also recommended is the edition of Plato's Crito in Malcolm Campbell's Greek Prose Reading Course for Post-Beginners. (For a fascinating taste of the Presocratic philosophers, the Bryn Mawr series has a pamphlet on Heraclitus, whose surviving fragments fill only seven pages.)
Focus Publishing has recently produced what might have seemed a contradiction in terms: Blaise Nagy's Thucydides Reader, "for the fledgling Greek student who wants to read the History but needs help with forms, syntax, and the peculiarities of Thucydides' style." Another easy introduction to these texts would be via Malcolm Campbell's Greek Prose Reading Course for Post-Beginners. This series includes Thucydides: Events at Pylos and Sphacteria, Demosthenes' Third Philippic (a good introduction to political oratory), and a speech of Lysias to cover law-court oratory (this is the apologia of a defendant who killed the man he found in bed with his wife). If you wanted to continue with Thucydides, the next step would be to read Book 6 with the extra assistance of the Bryn Mawr commentary by Cynthia Shelmerdine.