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Homeric Greek: the Odyssey


Homeric Greek: the Odyssey

  • Course ID:GREEK 587
  • Semesters:1
  • Department:Classics
  • Course Rank:Honors
  • Teachers:Lionel Yaceczko

Description and Objectives

ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πόλλα / πλάγχθη!

O, tell me, Muse, of the versatile man that wandered / far and wide!

As the world’s greatest adventure story, the name of The Odyssey has itself become synonymous with “adventure”.

As the first great character study in Western literature, this epic has challenged and educated readers for millennia to understand the relationship between actions, habits, and character. One recent scholar called Homer the first psychologist in history.

Students of this course will read selections from different books of The Odyssey, or an entire book of the epic. Most books of The Odyssey are about 400–600 lines.

One semester. Offered every other year. Prerequisite: Intermediate Greek.



Greek text with selections from The Odyssey will be provided and used daily.

Spring 2020: Steadman, Geoffrey. Homer’s Odyssey 9–12.


These are reference works to be used for a lifetime, and the student is strongly urged to consider that digital versions of reference works lack the essential characteristic of delay, the interval between the time when the question arises in the mind and the time when the question is answered. This is the time period in which the space in the memory where new information will dwell is created. If one definition of learning is the expansion of the capacity for memory and the actual exercise of memory, then digital reference workds skip this essential step  of the learning process.

Course Requirements

Students will be expected to prepare at least ten lines of dactylic hexameter per day to translate in class. This will enable us to accomplish the goal of reading an entire book, or the equivalent of about 600 lines, in about 60 class meetings.

In addition to in-class translation, every two or three weeks we will have seminar days, on which we will discuss a text that we have all read. For seminar days students will be expected to read about 20–30 pages in English.

Students will take six translation exams over the course of the semester. If the student is consistently preparing his daily translations, he should not need to study for these exams.

Since this is a poetry course, students will be scan dactylic hexameter on these exams.

Students will undertake a large memorization project—called the Rhapsody—which they will deliver in a public recitation near the end of the semester. This performance will be called the dokimasía, the testing. It is an ancient tradition according to which a student who has gone off to college comes home and proves to his community what he has learned.

Successful Students

  • study Greek at least fifteen solid minutes every day of the week, (that means tunnel vision from 0–15, no distractions, no touching or looking at a phone, not even a bathroom break
  • re-translate, as soon as possible, on the same day, what we have translated together in class, to consolidate and firmly establish new knowledge,
  • seek extra help outside of class, not only from the instructor, who is available before/after school every day, but also from classmates.
  • do synopses and ANAs.

Additional Resources

Greek ANA Sample

Greek Verb Synopsis

• Smyth Greek Grammar

° a PDF of this and many other useful Latin and Greek language learning texts can be found at

° Digitized version hosted by Tufts University’s Perseus website here

Logeion online Latin and Greek dictionaries

• Basic Greek Vocabulary by J. R. Cheadle. Available from Bristol Classical Press. Many university classics departments will require students to master this vocabulary list.