Reading Ancient Greek Texts

If you have studied the basics of Ancient Greek and are able to consult Greek grammars and dictionaries on-line, it would be a pity if you do not profit from this to read original Greek literary texts. Fortunately there is much material on the Web to help you. In the following selection I include sites meant for professional reading and scholarly research as well as didactic tools, but I deliberately leave out sites containing only Greek texts without any translation help or comment.

Large collections

Perseus Digital Library: here you find the primary texts with English translation of the following authors: Aeschines, Aeschylus, Andocides, Antiphon, Pseudo-Apollodorus, Aristophanes, Aristotle, Bacchylides, Demades, Demosthenes, Dinarchus, Diodorus Siculus, Euclid, Euripides, Herodotus, Hesiod, Homer, Homeric Hymns, Hyperides, Isaeus, Isocrates, Josephus, Lycurgus, Lysias, New Testament, Pausanias, Pindar, Plato, Plutarch, Pseudo-Xenophon (the Old Oligarch), Sophocles, Strabo, Thucydides, Xenophon. The texts have been broken into chunks for ease of browsing, with links and a lookup tool to help you navigate through the texts quickly. Moreover, clicking on any Greek word in the text takes you to the morphological analysis for that word, and from there you can use the other text tools: for example you can ask for the LSJ- or the Middle Liddell-entry, look for synonyms or co-occurring words, analyze the frequency of the word (‘Word Frequency Tool’) and even view a list of all the passages from the same author or from the whole of the Perseus Library where it occurs (‘Search for Lemmatized Words in Greek’) or where it occurs in combination with another word or phrase (‘Greek Words in Context Search Tool’). Thus Perseus not only gives you the opportunity to read Greek texts but also to study their language in a way unthinkable without these digital tools.

Hodoi elektronikai. This site (an inititative of the Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve) offers the full text (often with French translation and concordance tools) of more than 100 Greek authors. The main advantage of this site lies in its hypertext tools. Each Greek word is linked to a database of forms, which allows the user to search the frequency of each word or word form and to see in which contexts every word tends to be used. In a way, this makes Hodoi elektronikai a (less sophisticated) forerunner to the University of Chicago's Perseus and Logeion projects. Nevertheless, Hodoi elektronikai remains useful thanks to its rich material; many texts cannot be found freely anywhere else on the Web.

Αρχαία Ελληνικά Κείμενα: a Greek site offering many Greek texts in downloadable zip-format.

Elpenor: The Greek Word. Three Millennia of Greek Literature. As a part of the splendid Ellopos site, edited by George Valsamis, these pages contain a multitude of well chosen extracts from Greek literature from its very beginnings to the modern poet Cavafy. The anthology, which presents the Greek texts in Unicode with facing English translation, presents passages from the epic poems of Homer, Hesiod and the Orphica, the lyric poets Archilochus, Sappho, Alcaeus, passages from the tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides and from the comic poet Aristophanes, the early philosophers Anaximander,Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaxagoras and the great philosophers Plato and Aristotle, the historians Thucydides and Herodotus, and finally a large section of Christian, Byzantine and modern Greek literature: the New Testament, Epistle To Diognetus, Ignatius Theophorus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Plotinus, Athanasius the Great, Gregory the Theologian, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, the Ecumenical Synods, Proclus, Romanos Melodos, Dionysius the Areopagite, Maximus Confessor, Peter Damascene, Symeon the New Theologian, Nicholas Cabasilas, Gennadius Scholarius, Dionysios Solomos, Cavafy and Papatsonis. Apart from these extracts two complete works, the ''Timaios'' of Plato and the New Testament, are included.

Greek and Latin Texts with Facing Vocabulary and Commentary: free digital files for the textbook series written by Geoffrey Steadman. If you want to train your fluency in Greek by reading Plato, Herodotus, Homer, or Lysias, Geoffrey Steadman helps you out. He created text books displaying the Greek text on the left-hand side, whereas the right-hand side provides the reader with both corresponding vocabulary and grammatical explanations. The following quote is taken from Mr. Steadman's introduction to his Cebes-textbook:

The top half includes all of the corresponding vocabulary that occur 19 or fewer times in the dialogue, arranged alphabetically in two columns. The bottom half is devoted to grammatical notes, which are organized according to the line numbers and likewise arranged in two columns. The advantage of this format is that it allows me to include as much information as possible on a single page and at the same time insure that the numerous commentary entries are distinct and accessible to readers. To complement the vocabulary within the commentary, I have added a short Core Vocabulary List ( see p. vii) that includes all words occurring 20 or more times and strongly recommend that readers review this list before they begin reading. Together, this book has been designed in such a way that, once readers have mastered the Core List, they will be able to rely solely on the Greek text and facing commentary and not need to turn a page or consult outside dictionaries as they read. The grammatical notes are designed to help beginning readers read the text, and so I have passed over detailed literary and philosophical explanations in favor of short, concise, and frequent entries that focus exclusively on grammar and morphology. The notes are intended to complement, not replace, an advanced level commentary, and so I encourage readers to consult some of the additional readings listed below. Assuming that readers finish elementary Greek with varying levels of ability, I draw attention to subjunctive and optative constructions, identify unusual aorist and perfect forms, and in general explain aspects of the Greek that they should have encountered in first year study but perhaps forgotten. As a rule, I prefer to offer too much assistance rather than too little.

Textes grecs et traductions (by Philippe Remacle, …): among other valuable materials on ancient civilization this site contains important extracts from multiple authors accompanied by a French translation. The anthology includes some myths of Plato (Er the Pamphylian, Atlantis and the famous myth of the cavern in Republic VII), about 20 extracts from the historiographers Herodotus, Thucydides (the famous funeral oration of Pericles and the desription of the plague), Diodorus of Sicily, Flavius Josephus, Appianus and Procopius, some other prose texts taken from Strabo, Oribasius, Lucianus and Athenaeus (''Deipnosophistae'' 13) and finally a small and diverse selection from the poets: Hesiod’s ''Works and Days'', Aristophanes, Musaeus’ ''Hero and Leander'' and some erotic epigrams of Rufinus and Archias.

Griechische Textstellen (by Egon Gottwein): as part of his marvellous website Gottwein presents here a multitude of interesting extracts from Greek literature: as ''Anfangslektüre'' he proposes among other texts Pseudo-Apollodorus’ narration on the trials of Heracles, a fragment from Appianus on Seleukos, the famous allegory in Xenophon’s ''Memorabilia'' on the Choice of Heracles and some extracts from Polybius VI 3-7 on the different polities. Furthermore, there are extracts from Hesiod’s ''Works and Days'', from Homer’s ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey'', from Herodotus, Thucydides, Sophocles, Aristotle, Plato (esp. from his''Politeia''), several fragments from Sappho, a large collection of fragments on the Presocratics (Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Leucippus and Democritus) and on the Sophists (Protagoras, Gorgias, Antiphon and Critias). Apart from all this, one finds here some interesting selections of thematically ordered fragments on the sanctuary at Epidaurus, on Olympia and the Olympic Games and on the gods Dionysus and Zeus. All of them are suited for classroom use and for this purpose provided with notes on vocabulary or on matters of interpretation, sometimes with more extensive comments, an introduction or some bibliography and only rarely with a translation (most in Latin!). In some cases Gottwein also adds questions occasionally combined with answers given by his pupils: this way we are allowed a glimpse into his actual classroom practice. On the opening page there are two useful alphabetical indexes, one of passages from ancient authors and another of themes and concepts treated in these texts.

The Little Sailing: Ancient Greek Texts with Translation: a visually very attractive collection of Ancient Greek texts with facing translation, mostly in modern Greek and often accompanied by a commentary. These include Aeschylus ''Prometheus Bound'', Archilochus, Aristophanes''Lysistrata'', Aristoteles ''De Anima, Parva Naturalia,'' Demosthenes ''Olynthiaca'', Euripides ''Bacchae, Iphigeneia in Tauris, Medea'', Heraclitus, Homer’s ''Odyssey'', Lucianus'' Alexander, Quomodo historia conscribenda sit, De saltatione'', Rufinus, Sophocles ''Philoctetes'', Theocritus, Theophrastus ''Characters''. But special mention should be made here of some Greek texts with English translation: Aristotle’s ''Ethica Nicomachea'' (by W.D. Ross), ''The Seventh Letter'' by Plato (by J. Harward), and Xenophon’s ''Symposion'' and ''Anabasis'' (with translation and notes by H. G. Dakyns).

PHILOCTETES: Textes Classiques / Classical Texts: primary texts with translation of a limited number of classical authors: Homer (Iliad and Odyssey), Aeschylus (Persae), Plato (Phaedrus), Heraclitus (all the fragments), Parmenides (all the fragments), Zeno, Euclid, Thales and Anaximander. Most translations are in French but for Heraclitus, Parmenides, Thales, Anaximander, Zeno and Empedocles an English translation is added as well. For some of these texts the Greek version is simply adopted from the Perseus Digital Library.

Interessanten Lektürethemen (Griechisch): on this Swiss website you can freely download some short Greek texts with introduction, comments and vocabulary, adapted to use in high school. You can choose between RTF- and MS Word-format and for the Greek you have to download a special font, ''Xanthippe'', available on the same site. These documents include some selections from Arrian’s ''Indica'' about Nearch’s expedition with the fleet of Alexander, portions fromEuclid’s ''Elementa'', part of the ''Epitrepontes'' of Menander (can also be downloaded from this website of the ''Kantonsschule Zürcher Unterland'' ), eight fragments from Parmenides’ Περὶ φύσεως and some passages on ethics, mainly from Plato and Aristotle. The rather unusual but sensible selection presented in this anthology and the elaborate commentaries make it particularly useful.

Βικιθήκη: this online library, which belongs to the WikiMedia family of websites, offers a limited collection (93 authors, on 19-01-2014) of Ancient Greek texts. A list of ancient authors can be found here. Interestingly, this online library also contains a number of Mediaeval and Modern Greek texts. Browsing is entirely in Modern Greek, but very intuitive. All texts can be downloaded in PDF format. Almost every text is linked to translations in several languages (most often in English and French, but often in other languages). A disadvantage for more advanced readers is the fact that in most cases, Βικιθήκη does not indicate the text edition of ancient writings.

Specialized collections ■■

Lyric poetry

Noctes Gallicanae (by Alain Canu): on this excellent website one finds important extracts from Plutarch’s ''Vita Antonii'' provided with a French translation and copious comments, including stylistic analysis and ample quotations from later literature, such as Shakespeare’s ''Anthony and Cleopatra''. Combined with various essays and with the introductory material on Plutarch and his sources, on the biographical genre and on the historical background, this yields an ideal resource for classroom reading. The pages on lyric poetry contain, apart from a general introduction on the Greek lyric genres, a large though incomplete collection of fragments from a great number of authors accompanied by a French translation. Choral lyrics are excluded but all other great names are there: Alcaeus, Alcman, Anacreon (and Anacreontea), Archilochus, Corinna, Mimnermus, Sappho, Semonides, Simonides, Tyrtaeus. Even less known poets are included, such as Anyte, Arion, Ariphron, Eumelus, Lamprocles, Praxilla, Scythinus, Telesilla, Terpander, Timocreon and a selection of thematically arranged epigrams from the ''Anthologia Palatina''. All the Greek texts on this site must be viewed with the ''Athenian'' font, that can be downloaded from the Perseus website.

Philosophical texts

The First Philosophers of Greece (ed. and transl. by Arthur Fairbanks, London, 1898): the whole of this edition of the Presocratics, which includes all fragments and testimonies with translations and introductions, is reproduced here in ten long html-pages, one page per author: Anaxagoras, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Empedocles, Melissos, Parmenides, Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans, Thales, Xenophanes, Zeno. These pages have been executed as part of the Hanover Historical Texts Project. The Greek text is presented with jpg-files, which are somewhat too small to allow for easy reading.

(by Robin Delisle): in these pages the author presents a collection of fragments of the Presocratics (Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Pythagoras, Parmenides, Xenophanes and Critias) accompanied by his personal French translations and annotations. It’s a pity that the Greek texts are made with unattractive and often difficult to read JPG-files: only the Pythagorian ''Golden verses'' are really pleasing to read in Greek. However, in Les jardins de Lucullus the webmaster presents some of these fragments, together with the famous Oath of Hippocrates.

Biblical texts

Greek New Testament (by Tony Fisher): the text of the New Testament is rendered here as images (GIF files), normally one for each verse, which yields a text of exceptional readability for any visitor without his having to install a Greek font. With the help of a practical table of contents you can directly navigate to the chapter you are interested in. If you click on a Greek word, it turns red and a table appears, giving morphological information about the word, including its root and grammatical category. The usefulness of this site is greatly enhanced by its search facility: you can search for a given word, for a word occurring close to another given word or for a word with a given root and you can limit the search by grammatical category: so you can look for example for all plural forms of a particular word. Translations are not given, because, according to Fisher, this might hinder the learning of the vocabulary.

The Unbound Bible: this website permits you to browse the Bible in some dozens of languages, including ancient Greek, so you can easily switch between the Greek Bible (New and Old Testament or Septuagint) and the corresponding translation in your own language. The Greek text can be viewed with the common Symbol font (without accents) or with Unicode (with accents). Moreover the site is provided with some interesting tools: a search facility allowing simple and complex searches throughout the Bible, a lexicon and a lexical parser, which provides you with all the grammatical forms of a given word occurring in the Greek Old or New Testament. However, these tools are not integrated into the Bible text itself: you cannot click on a word in the text to access this information, as it is possible in the Perseus New Testament.

Notes on the Greek New Testament (by Peter Misselbrook): excellent, nicely organised notes downloadable in "Word" format on virtually all of the Greek New Testament. The text itself is not given but these 250 sets of notes contain introductions and partial translations; they also provide help with grammar and vocabulary and with comprehension of the text. The notes are designed to encourage even those who have a limited knowledge of Greek to read through the New Testament in the original language. Requires Biblescript font.

Single authors ■■

20 epigrammen van Anyte van Tegea (by Ankie Kuyvenhoven): these 20 epigrams by the Hellenistic female poet Anyte of Tegea (ca. 300 BC) are presented here with a Dutch translation. A commentary on the text is under construction; so far the reader is referred to a full bibliography and hyperlinks page. The Greek text, shown with the Antioch font, appears to be impeccable, the translation is fluent and the site as a whole is a gem, just as Anyte’s poetry!

Peitho’s Web: Empedocles of Agrigentum: in this collection of ancient texts on persuasion (mostly in modern translation) you find all the fragments of Empedocles in the original Greek together with W.E. Leonard’s English verse translation.

Greek Historical Texts - Herodotus, ''The Histories'': this website, edited by Prof. T.R. Bryce (University of Queensland), offers the full Greek text of Herodotus’ ''Histories'', including an elaborate and concise commentary. By means of colours the students can distinguish between passages which have been translated in the notes and matters of language and grammar on the one side and matters of content (including historical and political allusions) on the other side. Bryce’s website also contains a thorough introduction to the ''Histories'', with information on the author, the historical background (e.g. the Persians), Herodotus’ sources and the Ionic dialect. The font required for viewing the Greek characters, can be downloaded from the website.

Peitho’s Web - The Divine Sappho: featuring H.T. Wharton’s ''Sappho'', The Divine Sappho includes 170 fragments of Sappho with an English translation, both by Wharton himself and by other authors (e.g. Ambrose Philips, John Herman Merivale, F.T. Palgrave). Several of these English versions however aren’t literal translations, but paraphrases and imitations (thus also the famous Latin poem ''ille mi par esse deo videtur'' by Catullus is included). To access the many fragments Wharton made a first line index: the first line of each fragment is displayed in English and you can click for the Greek text, for a translation / adaptation and for further information on linked sites. Moreover the website contains an interesting chapter on the life and works of Sappho and a great amount of resources and links. Finally Wharton presents a list of audio-fragments of poems of the "divine poetess". (by William Annis): this website is presented as an ambitious project dedicated to the study of Greek poetry from the Epics to Hellenistic Anacreontics. There is no translation but the commentary focuses on simple vocabulary and grammar references at the expense of controversies on interpretation or textual criticism and is an ideal reading help for beginners.

Nosside: I 12 Epigramma (con testo greco) (by Salvatore La Rosa): this page contains 12 Greek epigrams, i.e. the complete extant oeuvre, of the female poet Nossis, who lived in Locri (South Italy) at the end of the 4th century BC, accompanied by an Italian translation. For the Greek text simple gif-files have been used.


Other links to collections of Greek texts can be found at Library of Ancient Texts Online.

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