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Getting started on ancient Greek
Getting started on ancient Greek

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Session 2: Sounds


In this session, you will discover more about how ancient Greek was spoken and what it might have sounded like. You will receive plenty of opportunities to develop and practise your own pronunciation. You will also learn about how the sounds of an ancient language can be reconstructed without access to native speakers.

Speaking and listening offer another way to absorb Greek, in addition to reading (introduced in Session 1) and writing (Session 3). For this reason, it is highly recommended that you take every opportunity to read aloud.

An additional reason to pay attention to the sounds of Greek is that most literature in the ancient world was meant to be heard – sometimes through song or performance – and not just read in silence. When learning Greek, it is important to keep in mind that the language was encountered through the ears as well as the eyes.

Described image
Figure 1 Douris cup

This fifth-century scene depicts the musical and literary education of a young boy. The stringed instrument, of which there are four examples, is a ‘barbitos’ (βαρβιτος), a relative of the lyre. The teacher holds open a papyrus roll, containing what appears to be the beginning of a poem. The poem begins with an address to the muse (Μοισα), as do the Iliad and Odyssey.