Brian Hamilton

Some resources for learning Ancient Greek

Ancient Greek is a difficult language to learn all on its own. Adding insult to injury, though, is the difficulty of finding good learning resources that could make the job easier. As I teach Greek for the first time, I am slowly working to compile (or, where necessary, create) the books and recordings and tools I have found most useful.


For Greek to English, use Logeion or Wiktionary. Logeion compiles all the classic dictionaries and gives you a comprehensive sense of a word, but Wiktionary is less technical and easier to understand. It also supplies related words.

If you encounter a word while reading whose form you don't recognize (e.g., what does πατράσι mean?), use Morpho (a parser tied into Logeion) to figure out what it is. If you're trying to write a word in Greek and you can't remember how to decline or conjugate it (e.g, what's the dative plural form of πατήρ?), look it up in Wiktionary. Wiktionary's form charts are much cleaner and more complete than Logeion's.

For an English to Greek dictionary, use Woodhouse. Note that this dictionary will only show you words that actually appear in ancient Greek texts. (No lipstick, no pizza—sorry!) You might have to try a few variations of an English word before you find one that has a parallel.

Many of these resources require you to be able to type in Greek. I'll add some resources about typing later.

Reading and listening

I suspect that the linguist Stephen Krashen is right that the bedrock of language learning is comprehensible input. The more messages you receive and understand in a language, the better your implicit mental model of that language will become. This is one of the reasons that classical languages like Greek are so much harder to learn than modern languages: there are vastly fewer sources of input, especially for beginners. But there are some!

For absolute beginners, Luke Ranieri’s Ancient Greek in Action videos on YouTube are a great way to start internalizing the sounds of the language and learning the alphabet inductively. If you have a teacher (or just a slightly more advanced student), the dialogues at the start of Paula Safire’s Ancient Greek Alive are pure gold. Here too are a few easy dialogues that I wrote up for my students (caveat lector, however: I wrote these quickly and have not yet had a chance to copyedit them) and an audio recording of those dialogues.

Once you’re ready to start reading in earnest, the best sources are Athenaze in combination with Seumas Macdonald's Galilaiathen. Galilaiathen is a supplementary reader designed to be paired with Athenaze, but focused Koine instead of classical Greek. Mark Jeong's Greek Reader is also indispensable. What makes these three texts so superior to everything else is that they are continuous and entertaining stories. That makes it much more likely you will stick with them, and much more likely that the words and phrases will stick in your head.

Luke Ranieri has made audio recordings of Athenaze. I have made audio recordings of portions of Macdonald’s Galilaiathen and Jeong’s Greek Reader, but I’m not distributing them publicly. If you are one of my students, ask me.

When you hit a wall or get bored, you’ll want more easy sources. Then you should reach for some of the other textbooks with lots of input (Logos, Thrasymachus, Ancient Greek Alive, 46 Stories, Mythologica) or the handful of short stories that enterprising Greek teachers have written for students (e.g., Hermes Panta Kleptei, Ho Kataskopos, or LGPSI). There are more good sources, too, but that's plenty to get on with.

Finally, once you hit an intermediate level and are ready to tackle authentic texts, your best friends are Geoffrey Steadman and Stephen Nimis and Evan Hayes. These folks have done the painstaking work of creating learner-friendly editions of ancient texts marked up with lots of vocabulary and grammar help.

Grammar and vocabulary

I am not yet persuaded that any grammar guide is better or worse than any others for beginning and intermediate students. The grammar sections in Athenaze have been good enough for me, though I think it gives far more detail than is really necessary early on. For a good free grammar written with students in mind, see Juan Coderch's Classical Greek: A New Grammar (which comes with its own book of exercises).

I don’t think it’ necessary to do any dedicated vocabulary work, either. It’s more effective just to keep reading. But if you want to do flash cards, use Anki. David Miller has created a marvelous set of picture-based flash cards keyed to Athenaze and made them available for free. Here are some vocabulary lists for the Greek New Testament that you could use as a base for your own Anki deck.