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What is included with this book?
?ρχ? δ? τοι ?µισυ παντ?ς (Well begun is half done)
—one of Pythagoras’ sayings, quoted by Iamblichus inPythagoras162
Greek belongs to a large and colorful family of Indo-European languages, all thought to be descended from a very old, now extinct language spoken by people who roamed over the Eurasian continent during prehistoric times. Other prominent members of the family are the Italic (including Latin and the Romance languages), Germanic (including English), Celtic, Baltic, Slavic (including Russian), Armenian, Iranian, and Indic languages.
The Greek language has been in continuous use for more than three thousand years; its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation have been evolving gradually over the centuries. There is a great deal of difference between, say, Greek of the seventh century BCE and Greek of the first century CE, even though they are both “ancient” from our point of view. Moreover, each geographical region of Greece had its own dialect. Some authors wrote in their native dialect; others, working within an established literary genre, wrote in the dialect(s) that tradition demanded.
The ancient Greek taught in this book is Classical in date. It is the sort of Greek that would have been used by educated people during Greece’s Classical age, roughly the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. These were glory days for Athens, artistically and intellectually as well as militarily. Much of the literature surviving from the Classical period is written in Attic, the dialect of the Athenians. (Attica is the name of the district that includes Athens.) The philosopher Plato, the orators Lysias and Demosthenes, the historians Thucydides and Xenophon, the comic playwright Aristophanes—to name just a few of Athens’ most famous authors—all wrote in Attic.