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Greek 101: Learning an Ancient Language

Greek 101: Learning an Ancient Language

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Greek 101: Learning an Ancient Language

Course No. 2280
Professor Hans-Friedrich Mueller, Ph.D.
Union College
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4.7 out of 5
38 Reviews
94% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 2280
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What Will You Learn?

  • Learn the sounds of individual letters and diphthongs.
  • Explore the three types of accents: acute, grave, and circumflex.
  • Understand how Greek verbs express doubt.
  • Study how verb tenses express the past, future, and completed action in the past.
  • Transcribe Greek words and practice drawing the Greek alphabet.

Course Overview

Ancient Greek is a language like no other. It records an astonishing array of great works in different genres, stretching across a thousand years of history. Homer, the most influential poet ever, recited in the matchless cadences of the epic literary Greek dialect. The Apostle Paul, the Four Evangelists, and the other authors of the New Testament also left their accounts in Greek, using Koine, the beautifully clear conversational Greek spoken in the eastern Mediterranean of their day. Likewise, Sappho, Euripides, Aristophanes, Herodotus, Plato, Demosthenes, and many other ancient authors wrote in Greek, each with a distinct style that makes their individual voices live across the centuries.

After just a few hours of Greek 101: Learning an Ancient Language, you’ll understand why no translation can capture the expressive power of this incomparable tongue. In some ways simpler than English, in other ways more complex, Greek is a delight to study. As you work through these 36 engaging half-hour lessons, mastering the graceful alphabet, the precision of the nouns and verbs, the endlessly flexible syntax, and a vivid vocabulary, you’ll learn words and phrases such as these:

  • μῆνιν: Pronounced mēnin, the first word of Homer’s Iliad means wrath, setting the tone for the entire epic, which is about the consequences of Achilles’ anger and how it leads the Greek army to the brink of ruin in the Trojan War. In this course, you read the first 125 lines of the Iliad—in Greek.
  • ἥρως: Once sounded out—hērōs—this word is obviously hero, and such larger-than-life warriors from Greek mythology are the chief characters in the Iliad. After learning the Greek alphabet and diacritical marks, you suddenly see the wide influence of Greek on English.
  • μαθηταὶ: That’s you, the students, pronounced mathētai, and it’s how Professor Hans-Friedrich Mueller addresses you throughout this course. It has the same root (a verb that means “to learn”) as our word mathematics, and in the New Testament it comes to mean disciples.
  • μὴ γένοιτο: Pronounced mē genoito, it means literally, may this not happen. More colloquially, it translates, God forbid! and it isone of St. Paul’s favorite expressions, used in Romans 7:13 and elsewhere. In this course, you read many such extracts from the New Testament—in Greek.

Read Greek from Two Monumental Works

With no prior experience required, Greek 101 gives you direct access to a remarkable heritage. Covering all of the topics in a typical year of introductory ancient Greek at the college level, these user-friendly lessons focus on teaching you to read unadapted passages from Homer’s Iliad and the New Testament—two of the most important works in the Greek language, which have for centuries inspired people from all walks of life to learn ancient Greek.

Your guide is Professor Hans-Friedrich Mueller of Union College in Schenectady, New York, an award-winning educator who gives classical language teaching a whole new image. Gone is the drudgery of glacially slow progress that is associated with traditional instruction in ancient languages. Instead, Professor Mueller quickly introduces you to authentic Greek, and he presents his subject with charm, wit, and consummate skill in making Greek logical and understandable.

A Unique Introduction to Ancient Greek

With Greek 101, Professor Mueller has created a course that offers the following advantages for students and self-learners of ancient Greek:

  • Video course and textbook in one: Keyed to each lesson, the accompanying guidebook includes hundreds of pages of explanations, charts, vocabulary, and exercises with answers. Also included are summary charts, a grammatical index, and glossaries, plus resources for further study.
  • Multisensory: As Professor Mueller recites in Greek, you see onscreen sentences and charts, highlighting what he is saying and encouraging you to recite along with him. This multisensory approach—hearing, seeing, and speaking—is an ideal way to learn a language.
  • Ready review: Professor Mueller’s lessons are so entertaining and packed with information that you will want to watch them multiple times. His explanations and the accompanying review and practice materials in the guidebook bring clarity to Greek conjugations and declensions.
  • A unique approach: Your focus in this course reflects the outlook of the great American classicist Clyde Pharr, who almost 100 years ago wrote, “Homer offers an unexcelled preparation…for all later Greek literature.” No other introductory course combines the study of Homer with the New Testament, as this series does.

You begin Greek 101 by mastering the pronunciation of this beautiful language, using the restored classical (Erasmian) pronunciation. Then you start building your vocabulary and grammatical fluency. By Lesson 7, you are reading the first sentence of the Gospel of John. In Lesson 14, you tackle the first five lines of the Iliad. In Lesson 15, you learn to read Homer aloud metrically. You’ll crack the code of dactylic hexameter, the epic meter that Homer made famous, and will soon be reading his lines with the intonation and rhythms that help you feel the poetry in a way that no translation can imitate. From here on, you read unadapted Greek.

After you finish these 36 lessons, you will have worked through the first 125 lines of the Iliad as well as scores of verses from the New Testament. Think what it will mean to have read these ancient passages just as they were written down some 20 centuries ago and more!

Learn to Read the Clues in Greek Masterpieces

Greek is an inflected language, which means that the base form of a word is altered to show grammatical relationships, such as number, case, and gender for nouns; and person, number, tense, voice, and mood for verbs. Although English uses some inflections, most grammatical information is conveyed by word order or by auxiliary words. This can make Greek challenging for English speakers. The trick is to learn to read the clues. Professor Mueller is a master at showing you how to spot grammatical tip-offs in sentence after sentence of Greek, using as examples some of the finest passages from Greek literature. A sampling:

  • Iliad, Book 1, lines 1-5: The first sentence of the Iliad evokes wrath over and over, while using the word only once. This is possible thanks to word endings that identify wrath as the direct object of the sentence and connect it to a series of nouns, adjectives, and pronouns.
  • Iliad, Book 1, lines 43-47: This short scene is alive with participles, or verbal adjectives, describing Apollo’s priest praying for vengeance, and the god’s response—burning with rage, holding his bow, bestirring himself, and resembling in his descent from Mount Olympus the shadow of approaching night.
  • Matthew, chapter6, verses 9-10: The Lord’s Prayer contains a series of aorist imperatives, used to denote the urgent need for a pure and simple action. The commands are literally, let it be made sacred, let it come, and let it be produced, with more aorist commands following.
  • John, chapter 2, verse 12: After the wedding at Cana, Jesus goes to Capernaum. Professor Mueller analyzes different translations of the simple sentence that describes Jesus’s entourage, highlighting the difficulty of rendering the subtle meaning of the Greek.

The inadequacy of even the best translation is a theme you encounter throughout the course. No translation can equal the hypnotic effect of Homer’s verse or the mysterious depth of John 1:1. You will discover that there is much you can appreciate while you are still a beginner. After completing Greek 101, you can go in many different directions. The beauty of Sappho’s lyrics, the graceful dialogues of Plato, the stirring historical narrative of Xenophon, the influential translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek called the Septuagint, and many other experiences await you. As Professor Mueller says, “Even when we fail to understand everything, we understand something. And this magic allows the dead, even those who have not breathed this air or looked on the light of this world for thousands of years, to speak to us in their own words.”

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36 lectures
 |  30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Greek Alphabet & Pronunciation
    Learn the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet using the restored classical pronunciation, recognizing that there was some variation in pronunciation in the ancient world. Practice the pairings of vowels called diphthongs, and sound out a selection of words that you will soon be reading in sentences. x
  • 2
    First-Declension Nouns
    Discover that Greek nouns have gender and their endings supply a host of information, such as whether the case is nominative, genitive, dative, or accusative-a function usually performed by word order or prepositions in English. Begin with the eight noun endings of the primarily feminine first declension. x
  • 3
    Basic Rules of Greek Accentuation
    Invented over two thousand years ago by Aristophanes of Byzantium, head of the Library of Alexandria, accents are important clues to the pronunciation of Greek words, and they often provide other crucial information. Learn the rules for the three types of accents: acute, grave, and circumflex. x
  • 4
    Additional Patterns of the First Declension
    Look at two variations in the pattern of the first declension-one used in Homeric Greek and the other in Koine, the Greek of the New Testament. Despite being separated by almost a thousand years, the two dialects have remarkable continuity. x
  • 5
    Verbs in the Present Tense
    Greek verbs can be described in terms of person, number, tense, voice, and mood. In this lesson, focus on verbs that are present active indicative. Learn that voice, person, and number are indicated by endings on the verb base. For the present tense, these are called primary endings. x
  • 6
    Adjective Forms & Second-Declension Nouns
    So far, you have studied first-declension nouns, which are mainly feminine. Now expand your range into masculine and neuter nouns, many of which use second-declension endings. Practice these endings together with their adjectival forms in words that you will encounter in Homer. x
  • 7
    Building Basic Translation Skills
    Review what you have learned up until now. Then try your hand at translating from English to Greek-first into Homeric Greek and then into Koine, noticing the key differences between the two dialects. Close by reading the opening passage of the Gospel of John in its unadapted original Koine. x
  • 8
    First- & Second-Declension Pronouns
    Delve deeper into the first and second declensions, discovering that the endings for demonstrative adjectives and pronouns differ in only minor ways from those for nouns. Practice using different types of pronouns, and learn that they underwent a fascinating evolution from Homeric Greek to Koine. x
  • 9
    Verbs in the Imperfect Tense
    Greek has several ways of talking about the past. Focus on the imperfect tense, which describes an action that was ongoing in the past-for example, The Achaeans were dishonoring the gods." The imperfect is built by adding a vowel prefix, called an augment, to the verb base, plus secondary endings." x
  • 10
    Verbs in the Future & Aorist Tenses
    Learn two new tenses: the future and aorist. In the process, encounter the concept of principal parts, which are indispensable for recognizing different tenses. Concentrate on the first three principal parts for regular verbs (present and imperfect, future, and aorist). Also inspect some irregular verbs. x
  • 11
    First-Declension Masculine Nouns
    Although first declension nouns are generally feminine, some masculine nouns also fall into this class. Learn how to recognize them (as well as the declensions of all nouns) from the nominative and genitive forms supplied in Greek dictionaries. Then investigate some finer points of compound verbs. x
  • 12
    The Root Aorist
    The aorist is a past tense that makes no reference to the duration or completion of an action, and focuses instead on the simple act. In Lesson 10, you learned the morphology of the first aorist. Now study the second aorist and root aorist. Analyze examples of all three aorist tenses in the New Testament and Homer. x
  • 13
    Third-Declension Nouns
    Encounter the third and final declension, focusing, as usual, on the genitive, which is the key to identifying the declension. This is especially important with the third declension, since the noun base is not obvious from the nominative form. Then make your final preparations to read Homer's Iliad in unadapted Greek. x
  • 14
    Understanding Dactylic Hexameter
    Read the first five lines of Homer's Iliad, focusing on vocabulary and grammar. Then investigate the quality that makes Homer a great poet: his use of sound and meter. Homer composed in dactylic hexameter, which was used throughout antiquity. Learn the rules that govern this epic meter. x
  • 15
    Practicing Dactylic Hexameter
    Practice reciting the first five lines of the Iliad, hearing how the meter enhances the meaning of the text. Then study third declension neuter endings, and read three verses of unadapted New Testament Greek, covering the conversation between the angel Gabriel and Mary in Luke 1:32-34. x
  • 16
    The Middle/Passive Voice: Present & Future
    Go deeper into Homer with lines 6-10 of the Iliad. Then discover the middle and passive voices. The passive operates as in English, with the subject receiving the action of the verb. However, English doesn't have a middle voice, which in Greek signals that the subject is acting in its own interest. x
  • 17
    Aorist & Imperfect Middle/Passive
    In the previous lesson, you learned the primary middle/passive endings, which are used for the present and future tenses. Now compare these to the secondary middle/passive endings, which are used for past tenses. Then read lines 11-16 of the Iliad, learning new rules for scanning dactylic hexameter. x
  • 18
    Perfect & Pluperfect Active
    Learn the fourth principal part, which governs the formation of the perfect and pluperfect tenses. Discover the great utility of these past tenses for talking about completed action. Study an example of the perfect in John 3:13, and read lines 17-21 of the Iliad. x
  • 19
    Forming and Using Infinitives
    Study the fifth principal part, which forms the basis of the perfect and pluperfect middle/passive, and the sixth and final principal part, which forms the basis of the aorist passive. Then learn how to construct the infinitive in different tenses, looking at examples in Homer and the New Testament. x
  • 20
    Active Participles
    Participles are verbal adjectives. Like verbs, they have tense and voice. Like adjectives, they agree in case, number, and gender with the nouns they modify. Learn to form participles in different tenses of the active voice. Study examples in the Gospel of Matthew and in your reading of lines 22-27 of the Iliad. x
  • 21
    Middle/Passive Participles
    Move on to middle/passive participles. Greek participles pack a lot of meaning into a single word that may require an entire clause to translate into English. Look at examples from two different verses in Matthew as well as your Homeric reading for this lesson: lines 28-32 of the Iliad. x
  • 22
    The Perfect System in the Middle/Passive
    Learn to form the perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect middle/passive tenses on the basis of the fifth principal part. Study examples in Matthew and Luke. Then read lines 33-37 of the Iliad, which includes a stirring scene along the shore of the much-roaring sea."" x
  • 23
    The Subjunctive Mood
    Turn from the indicative mood to the subjunctive mood, which denotes situations that are doubtful, wishful, purposeful, or fearful. Subjunctives are easily recognized by their long vowel that precedes (or constitutes) the verb ending. Explore several examples, including one from Luke's Nativity narrative, and read line 38 of the Iliad. x
  • 24
    The Imperative Mood, Active
    Encounter the imperative mood-the verb construction used for commands. Study the imperative endings in the present and aorist tenses. Find three aorist commands in Luke 22:36, and even more as you continue your reading of the Iliad with lines 39-47. x
  • 25
    The Imperative Mood, Middle/Passive
    Learn to form imperatives in the middle/passive, looking at examples in Matthew 3:2 and John 14:1. Note that in Homeric Greek the imperative and other verb endings tend to be uncontracted. Then read the Iliad lines 48-52, experiencing the devastation wrought by Apollo's silver bow. x
  • 26
    The Optative Mood
    The last of the moods is the optative, which expresses a wish-as in line 42 of the Iliad, where the priest Chryses implores Apollo, May the Danaans requite my tears..." Find more examples of this easily recognized form in the New Testament. Then continue your reading of the Iliad with lines 53-58." x
  • 27
    The Aorist Passive
    Delve deeper into the aorist passive, which was introduced in Lesson 19. This tense may sound exotic, but it's a workhorse in Greek sentences. For example, study the string of aorist passive commands in the Lord's Prayer in Matthew. Then work your way through lines 59-63 of the Iliad. x
  • 28
    Third-Declension Adjectives
    In the next four lessons, return to the declension of adjectives and pronouns to explore variations on patterns you have already practiced. In this lesson, focus on third-declension adjectives. Close by reading lines 64-69 of the Iliad. Also learn about a handy class of words called particles. x
  • 29
    Demonstrative Adjectives & Pronouns
    Investigate the use of Greek demonstrative adjectives and pronouns, which correspond to English words such as this, that, these, and those. Chart a rich sampling of demonstratives, including a reflexive pronoun, in Luke 23:28-29. Then continue with the heightening tension in lines 70-75 of the Iliad. x
  • 30
    Personal & Possessive Pronouns
    Plumb the depths of Greek personal and possessive pronouns. Begin with the historically later forms of the New Testament, revisiting the Lord's Prayer in Matthew. Then focus on the pronouns in your next extract from the Iliad, lines 76-80. Along the way, discover a classic figure of speech called chiasmus. x
  • 31
    Relative, Interrogative & Indefinite Pronouns
    Conclude your exploration of Greek pronouns with interrogative, indefinite, and relative pronouns. These are words such as who, which, and what; and, for indefinite pronouns, someone, something, and similar unspecific descriptors. Look at examples in the New Testament and in the Iliad 81-85. x
  • 32
    Regular -?? Verbs in the Active
    Bring your study of Greek verbs to a close by focusing on an important class of verbs that end in ?? in the first principal part. There aren't many such ?? verbs, but they are useful and common, and they appear frequently in compounds. x
  • 33
    Regular -?? Verbs in the Middle/Passive
    Extend your exploration of ?? verbs, studying the middle passive, which is more regular than the active voice covered in the previous lesson. Note examples of ?? verbs in Luke 22:19, which depicts a moment from the Last Supper, and lines 86-100 of the Iliad. x
  • 34
    Review of Regular -?? Verbs
    Search for the features that distinguish ?? verbs from the verb forms encountered earlier in the course, whose first principal part ends in ?. Resume your study of the Lord's Prayer, discovering two ?? verb aorist commands. Then read lines 101-108 of the Iliad, which open with a ?? verb compound. x
  • 35
    The Verb ????
    The most common ?? verb is also one of the most irregular: to be. Study its forms, discovering that, as unpredictable as it appears, it is more regular than its English counterparts: I am, you are, he is. Then learn to count in Greek, and analyze lines 109-117 of the Iliad. x
  • 36
    Irregular Verbs & Tips for Further Study
    Learn two more irregular verbs, to go and to know, seeing them at work in sentences from John and Matthew. Then complete your last passage from the Iliad, lines 118-125, and consider strategies for continuing your Greek studies-whether you want to dig deeper into Homer and the New Testament, or discover new masterpieces. x

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Your professor

Hans-Friedrich Mueller

About Your Professor

Hans-Friedrich Mueller, Ph.D.
Union College
Dr. Hans-Friedrich Mueller is the Thomas B. Lamont Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He earned his M.A. in Latin from the University of Florida and his Ph.D. in Classical Philology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before coming to Union College, he taught at The Florida State University and the University of Florida. Professor Mueller won the American...
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Reviews

Greek 101: Learning an Ancient Language is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 38.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greek 101 This course is perfect for me who tried to learn Homeric greek via self-study in order to read the Iliad. Tried Parr's text several times, a few other 'self-study' books, always to fail in earlier in the course, partly because the answers to the exercise are not readily available. This course provide (albeit only to Lesson 36) the answers for most exercise you find in Parr's book (as the course use it as the base) which is a great resource for me. However, I would say that the best feature of the course is the professor's enthusiasm. He can make even a rota learning of declensions and conjugations sounds fun - incredible. Explanations are concise and to the point and if you want in-depth knowledge, you probably need Parr's book or other books on Homeric greek, but this course takes you a long way (I'm still in the middle).
Date published: 2017-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great refresher As someone who studied Koine Greek a long time ago and nearly forgot it, I found this course to be extremely worthwhile. I highly suggest getting Clyde Pharr's, "Homeric Greek: A book for beginners" to use with the video. This course is based on the first 36 chapters (about half) of Pharr's book, which is just enough get the student to fly solo and finish Pharr's book and the first book of the Iliad. If you plan to go further with Homer, take note that the Greek text used in this course is not the critical text of the Iliad (EG: Loeb), having DAITA instead of PACI (line 5) or LUSAI TE instead of LUSAITE (line 20), etc.
Date published: 2017-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I first thought that this would be like Latin but I have found that it is much harder because I had to learn a totally new alphabet. This has slowed me down because I am learning both Latin and Greek together but I am making progress. I would recommend that you ask Professor Mueller if he would consider producing a linguistics course.
Date published: 2017-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Ancient Language Course Always wanted to learn Greek and Latin. Took Latin in college and now 45 years later I have the chance to take Greek. Professor is funny, charming and informative. Excercise while difficult are ecpxtremely usefully. Best of all the course uses Homer and the New Testament as original source materials
Date published: 2017-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from friendly teacher I open the lesson feeling that the prof is waiting there for me. He has a sly sense of humor and great pace. I took reading course in Homeric Greek in high school about 60 years ago, and I am pleased how much is coming back with this course.
Date published: 2017-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect for my purposes I was trying to work my way through Pharr's Homeric Greek on my own, while also trying to memorize as much of the Iliad in Greek as I could (I am up to line 21). I have now added watching the Greek 101 lectures (repeatedly), 2 at a time, on a daily basis, while I walk on a treadmill. I've really only just started the course. I'm up to lecture 10. I feel that the lectures allow me to pace myself better than I can without them. I also like that the lectures contrast ancient Greek with Koine, even though my primary interest is the Iliad. The professor has a pleasant style. I am planning on watching these lectures on a daily basis for many months.
Date published: 2017-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pharr and Mueller Make a Great Team I will start with the good points and pointers and then list a few shortcomings as well as make a suggestion or two. 1. This is a real college level lecture series. I have been slightly turned off by some of the Great Courses' recent productions on lightweight subjects-Life Lessons from Bugs Bunny and the like. Not that there isn't a place for such things, but the brand always seemed to me to be about weightier material. This is serious in subject matter, mature in presentation and challenging to complete. 2. You need to have a solid command of English grammar and terms. Experience with another inflected language would be of great help as well, perhaps necessary. If terms like pluperfect and dative confuse you, try something easier first. 3. The lectures here are based on Clyde Pharr's Homeric Greek textbook. I strongly suggest you get a used copy of this book to go along with the guidebook and DVDs. Get an old edition, not a revised one and make sure it is in hardback so it lays flat. There are some shortcomings to the guidebook that I feel Pharr can make up for. Many self learners have tried to use Pharr and failed because of the lack of answer key and the poor layout. Combined with these lectures, that is no longer a problem. 4. Professor Mueller respects your intelligence and keeps things going at a good pace. This I like. He also has a good sense of humor--you'll need one too if you want to get through any course of study in Ancient Greek--as well as a clear voice. His lectures are well organized. He also wears some sharp sport coats in my opinion and likes cats 5. There are well designed charts in the guidebook. There are also plenty of English to Greek translation exercises. This is the key to learning a foreign language. No matter how painful, awkward or difficult, you must go from native language to target language to really learn. The professor also is an advocate of chanting and repetition to learn forms. Some of the problems: 1. The guidebook does not contain many of the points covered in the lectures. Some of these are small but important points made by the professor quickly. It would be helpful to have them summarized in the guidebook at the end of each lesson. Pharr does in fact have a fairly complete grammatical explanation of each lesson which is one reason I think getting a copy of Pharr is important. I suppose I could always take notes of these points, but I really like to listen to the lectures without worrying about note taking. Perhaps i am soft but when you are lecturing for self learners, you have to be thorough in presentation both spoken and written. 2. Mueller has altered the declension charts to put the feminine first. This is done to show the relationship of the masculine to the neuter. Perhaps the professor caught a little PC feminist bug, I don't know, but I find it a bit confusing as it is different than most every other language and language textbook or course I have taken. The other problem is that Clyde Pharr himself put the cases in an order in the declension charts which I have never seen anywhere in any language book, with the genitive second and the accusative last, going from top to bottom. Mueller follows this and it does at times drive me nuts. You do get used to it. 3. The lectures end before they cover all the grammar in Pharr's book going only to 36 lectures. I would,have liked to see this set extended to cover all the grammar in the textbook. Some suggestions... 1. Mueller likes chanting and I feel it is helpful. Why not a separate DVD with nothing but chanting of the forms from beginning to end. This would make it much easier to practice and review. As it is you would have to keep inserting DVDs and skipping to the proper part of the lesson and so on. A dedicated review DVD would make it much easier. 2. I realize the point here was to go along worth Pharr's text, but I still feel the best way to learn a language is to focus solely on the grammar as Michel Thomas used to do, with very few lexical items. Once the verb system, the structure of the language is in your head, then adding readings and vocabulary are much easier and less stressful. Overall this is a big time winner. I hope there is more to come from Professor Mueller on Ancient Greek. More advanced grammar and the Odyssey.
Date published: 2017-01-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Ancient Greek 101 I purchased this course for my brother who studied Greek in High School He wanted it to renew his contact with the language. I really don't know the level of the course, but I do know he has started it. I prefer all the music and music instruction courses. I think Robert Greenberg is the best. His presentation are clear, precise, and meaningful. .Unless there is a sale, I do find the art and music courses rather expenses......SO...thanks for the 2 day sale. Madeline Ferris
Date published: 2017-01-13
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