Recently I have been writing and semi-publishing a series of texts with the title ‘A Spartan Tale’. You can see the first two here and here, via my patreon. I will, at a future point, provide a more stable means of accessing the text.
In this post I talk simply about what I am doing, why, and where it’s going.
A Spartan Tale is designed as a series of interconnected narrative texts that provides a story that parallels and complements the narrative found in the popular Athenaze textbook series. Especially in the early stages, the text follows the grammar and vocabulary in that textbook closely, with some variation and expansion. It can be used as a supplement to anyone using that textbook, or as a standalone source of reading.
How does it differ?
A Spartan Tale tells a very different story of ancient Greece. Instead of the tale of Philippos, an Athenian boy who hears of the great exploits of Athens, is inculcated in the values of Athenian democracy, and faces the challenges of the oncoming Peloponnesian War, we follow instead the story of Elena, a Spartan helot and female enslaved person. I don’t want to give away too many details of her story, but it provides both a different perspective on the events of the era, as well as the shared past of Athens and Sparta. Elena’s story is unAthenian, female, and centered on a non-citizen in ancient Hellas.
It also differs in using Doric Greek as its primary dialect. This is challenging on multiple levels. We don’t have that much Doric. Doric was limited in its literary production, and then transitioned into being a literary dialect used by other Greek writers for specific literary purposes. Doric itself was still spoken, and seems to have survived to become modern Tsakonian, a critically endangered Greek language spoken today.
So, writing in Doric is a considerable challenge. It’s also a challenge to read! Most students get inculcated into either a high-register Attic, or else a broad-register Koine. Adjusting to Doric is possible, but not straightforward. However it is worth it. It provides a linguistic alternative to the literary hegemony of Athens.
Where is it going?
I have planned out roughly 25 ‘chapters’ which will follow the sequence and scope of Athenaze, but tell an entirely fresh and new tale. There will be points of parallelism in content and grammar, as well as vocabulary, which make it an ideal reader for those who have used Athenaze previously. At the same time, it’s a completely new story that introduces you to a different Greece. A mostly historical one. And it expands your enjoyment and your knowledge of ancient Greece and greek language.