Why, I am often asked, why study Classical Greek? Those people are all dead, their language is dead, whassamatta you?
Okay, nobody really asks me anything, but I imagine people would if they were real people. But it’s a good question. What’s the fascination? Well, look at it. Here’s a pic of the opening of Plato’s Phaedo from the Loeb Classical Library. Just the look of it intrigues me, as if it were a page of mystic runes describing secrets of hidden worlds, which in a way it is except for the fact that English translations are readily available and the only mystic part is that it’s about ideas instead of magical creatures and demons and such. I look at a page of Athenian Greek and can almost hear it saying to me, “Well, what am I saying, huh, c’mon, what?” It just sucks me in to a world that is no more, and yet is all around us, in our institutions, in our language, in our beliefs and culture. It speaks of where we’ve come from, and in some sense, just how little progress we’ve made in twenty-five hundred years.
And the page becomes even more intriguing now that I’ve learned a little, can read the alphabet, pronounce the words, however crudely, and can recognize some of them. That’s the opening crack into a doorway of time.
It doesn’t hurt that the dual-language text comes in such an appealing package. The Loeb Classical Library books are hand-sized and handleable. They feel good. They’re books. They’re gateways. They’re little miracles about the miracle of the human mind.
And color coded. Green for Greek, red for Latin. Get it? [Gr]een for [Gr]eek. [R]ed for [R]ome.
Yes, I’m easily amused.
In any event, I won’t be reading the Phaedo anytime soon, but just knowing it’s there on the shelf and that I may be able to read the original sometime just gets the neurons firing in my brain. And that’s just ever so cool for an old guy.