ΛΟΓΟΣ : ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΓΛΩΣΣΑ ΑΥΤΟΕΙΚΟΝΟΓΡΑΦΗΜΕΝΗ (Logos. Lingua Graeca Per Se Illustrata)
by Santiago Carbonell Martínez
Note: there is a resource site with a large number of auxiliary resources, which I have not reviewed here. But here is the link:
To write an “LGPSI” is no easy feat. I should know, I’ve been at it for more years than I care to mention. But Santiago Carbonell Martínez has done so, and put it in print, so we all better sit up and pay attention. So, in this review I offer my thoughts, observations, reflections. Below the main review you’ll find some ‘reading notes’ – things I noted in each chapter, and then a few errata (I didn’t go looking for mistakes, but I noted a few along the way).
The book is 32 chapters long, a solid 382 pages. Introduction and publication material is an admixture of Latin, Greek, Spanish, and English.
With any book like this, there are inevitably going to be comparisons with Ørberg’s LLPSI, and I won’t shy away from making some of those too. The first difficulty is, of course, that a printed Greek text is not transparently pronounceable to a reader the way that a Latin text putatively is. I say putatively, because in no way does the autodidact picking up Familia Romana know how to properly pronounce Latin either, but Ørberg wasn’t quite so concerned with that since he (ὅσον οἶδα) was writing a textbook for leaners to learn to read.
ΛΟΓΟΣ opts for a colour-coded introductory few pages where sounds and Greek letters are presented with two pronunciations (‘historic’ and ‘Erasmian’; I was going to presume they mean what I would term ‘reconstructed Attic’ and ‘contemporary European Erasmian’, but ‘historic’ looks a lot more like modern Greek pronunciation, and so the choice to call that ἱστορική is itself an interesting one), with a simplified rendering of those sounds in the Latin alphabet.
I don’t presume that ΛΟΓΟΣ actually was written for autodidacts working completely solo, so I am prepared to grant that the following pages on accents and breathings and pronunciation are all useful tools especially with a teacher (or supporting audio or similar) taking a student through what these sound like in practice. I will say that I am a little disappointed at the decision not to mark long ᾱ, ῑ, ῡ. That is an incredibly helpful practice found in Athenaze, and while students will not normally read texts with those vowels marked long, in a learner’s text I consider it almost as valuable as marking macrons in Latin.
Chapter 1 begins with ‘gods, humans, and beasts’, which is a nice and reasonable change from a map of Europe. It also orients the cultural setting of this text – we are firmly here with a book that aims at transmitting classical Greek cultural and historical context. This will be welcome to anyone looking to use this book in a school setting, where classical Greek is primarily tied to classical Greece (I mention this because there is so much written in various forms of Greek from the 8th century BCE to the 15th CE which is not directly bound up in, e.g., 5th century Athens, that it’s perfectly possible and reasonable to centre one’s historical and cultural orientations elsewhere).
One of the challenges of any book like this is introducing the meaning of words. It’s clear enough from a reader’s knowledge of the world, who these Greek gods and these people; the illustrations are well done, illustrative but not intrusive. I’m not quite so convinced that introducgion θηρίον with examples that are all mythological creatures was the best choice, because it suggests to me that θηρίον implies mythological, a semantic mapping that will need to be modified latter.
The grammatical section that ends the chapter is very Ørbergian – a clear and concise precis of the grammar presented in Greek, then three exercises in series: cloze with endings, cloze with words, and then sentence-type questions.
One of the things I have noticed after reading a fair bit is that a lot of the chapters are thematically organised, which is fine, that works better in an LGPSI style book because those conceptually related words are working in synergy with the structures and the illustrations. So, it’s far better than being given a list of related words. BUT, unlike LLPSI, LOGOS does not really get a story going until far later in the book, and you are not getting the slow, drip-fed, skilful repetition and reintroduction of vocabulary between chapters, which Ørberg really was a master at.
Also, as you read on, there appear more and more vocabulary items (i.e., new words), probably a too great volume. At various points there were words I’ve never encountered before (which, to be fair, is true of any textbook I read), but some of these are quite rare, unusual, or just odd. In the later chapters, a number of words appear without really being adequately explained, illustrated, or marginalised, so that the reader is left to either wonder what they mean, or resort to a lexicon.
Coverage: The book covers a fair amount of ‘the grammar’ you’d expect from a ‘complete course’. I put those in quotation marks because they are problematic ideas. But, for instance, the book does not appear to cover the optative mood at all. It doesn’t appear to really get into conditionals, and it’s treatment of the subjunctive is limited. These are all things that you’d expect in a ‘complete 1st year college sequence’, a notional entity if ever. To be fair, there are things Athenaze never covers or even hints at – the dual, 3rd person imperatives, etc.. And even if you push a book to ‘cover’ them, well, how well can you master something in the second last chapter of a textbook? This is a flaw of LLPSI itself – Familia Romana delays the subjunctive to very late and then you’re dealing with a whole lot of things in chs 31-34 that you don’t get the chance to solidify them. So, I’m not convinced that pushing LOGOS out with another 3-4 chapters would solve this problem. There’s plenty in here, e.g., to keep a 3-4 year sequence in schools busy with.
Word Count: So, it’s a little difficult to accurately count the words in a text like this. I employed the following method – avg of 7 words a line, only counting the main text, gives 26187 words for the whole main text. I suspect that might be a little generous, but I’m not going to manually count it. The main narrative line of the English 3rd edition of Athenaze comes out at 17488, so on that calculation LOGOS seems longer. I don’t have an accurate number for all of the Italian double volume of Athenaze, but given the vast amount of extra Greek text, it would dwarf both these. My whole point in counting though was to get and idea, and give you an idea, of how much text is here. Would that we had dozens of variously designed Greek textbooks and readers with around 20k words or so.
Is this an Athenaze-killer? (Ask those who are used to hearing that Athenaze is the best textbook that at least can be molded to a communicative approach, even if Athenaze leaves much to be desired) – Maybe? I can’t say for sure. Honestly, I’d be happy to teach from LOGOS, and I’d be happy to assign it for students to read from the beginning. I don’t plan to shift my whole teaching program over to using LOGOS as its basis though, but partly that’s because I’m very familiar and invested in Athenaze at this stage.
Is this really the fabled LGPSI that we’ve all long awaited? – Almost (?). Honestly, this is a really well written text that carries the spirit of Ørberg’s LLPSI deep in its DNA. So much of the book echoes, appropriately, its Latin predecessor, and its use of repetition, attention to marginal notes, illustrations, scope and sequence, is well-laid out, and remains “Greek-only”. It does fall short, though. There are numerous points that a learner in this book is going to remain confused, and just cannot figure out what’s going on from within the text itself. The more you read LLPSI, the more you see the careful genius of Ørberg at so many points. This includes, not the least, his good efforts at introducing words and then bringing them back into the narrative later on. LOGOS suffers from thematic units which introduce a lot of words that you won’t meet again. And it suffers from inconsistent narrative – I think this would be a stronger book if the narrative elements carried more of the book, and we had more of a story. Again, comparisons are inevitable and so Familia Romana achieves a huge amount of story in a putative 3 day period, interweaving it with some thematic discourses, but LOGOS sets aside its nascent story to do thematic work, and alternates more than interweaves. Athenaze, of course, maintains narrative steam throughout (but then lacks some important thematic parts). JACT purports to have a narrative thread but quickly abandons it in place of extensive adaptations from ancient sources.
Final assessment: LOGOS is great. It’s a tremendous achievement, and the author and all the other contributors deserve incredible respect and thanks from the broader community of ancient Greek teachers, students, speakers, and devotees. It has its flaws, and I think I’ve been frank and clear about pointing out where I see them above (and below), but none of this should take away from the simple fact that here is an introductory textbook written all in Greek, suitable for students from zero, which is mostly per-se-illustrata, and will carry them very far in their early stages.
Post-Script: Hey, Seumas, what does this mean for your LGPSI? Well, I am still at work on that, even if you haven’t seen much public progress. It’s both an encouragement to me to keep at work, and a signpost of sorts. There are things here that I don’t want to do, and that’s because my vision of LGPSI is different, both pedagogically and content-wise. There are things here that I probably do want to do, but want to do differently, precisely because we need a lot more Greek content for beginners. So, onwards with my own LGPSI (which, to be fair, probably needs its own name someday).
Chapter 2: ΘΕΟΙ, ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟΙ ΚΑΙ ΘΗΡΙΑ
I’m not entirely sold on the distinctions they introduce in chapter 2 between παιδίον καὶ παῖς, νεανίας, κόρη. That is, I think they are suggesting stricter age distinctions than those words will bear.
Chapter 3: ΑΝΔΡΕΣ ΚΑΙ ΓΥΝΑΙΚΕΣ
δύο Ἑλληνικὰ γράμματά εἰσιν – choice to use plural noun with plural neuter subject. Was this a pedagogical choice?
Λατινικός – this is not a well attested adjective; I presume it was used to distinguish ‘Roman’ and ‘Latin’, but ὅσον οἶδα it would have been more correct to stick to Ῥωμαϊκός.
κεφαλαῖον – I don’t know if this term can be used in the grammatical sense of a ‘capital’ letter.
Chapter 4: ΖΩΙΑ
I don’t mind learning ἄναιμα and ἔναιμα, just wasn’t quite sure those were words I needed to learn. In fact, similarly throughout this chapter there are a lot of terms useful for classifying different types of animals. I suppose they are all relatively understandable. I just felt stuck in Intro to Natural Philosophy 101.
We are given the word τέρας here to get a handle on mythological creatures.
Chapter 5: Ο ΟΙΚΟΣ
Very much like LLPSI ch 4, introducing family relations including slaves.
Chapter 6: Ο ΚΟΣΜΟΣ
I appreciate the use of some ancient sources here, e.g. the 5 planets, the Hekataios reference to 3 continents. I’d personally like to see a modern complement to this chapter, with 8 (dare we still say 9) planets, and 7 continents, etc., still in AG.
Chapter 7: Ο ΜΥΘΟΣ
This chapter is a really nice treatment of the gods and their parentage, with good repetitive structures and also you just get a good overview of lots of Greek gods.
Chapter 8: ΕΥΡΩΠΗ
This is Logos’s ‘geography’ chapter. We’re better prepared for it having done 7 prior chapters. It reads very much like LLPSI 1, and that’s fine. We all probably need a chapter like this. I certainly wrote one.
Chapter 9: ΕΛΛΑΣ
The illustration on this page suffers from not being as clear and crisp as one might like for a map of Greece and its islands.
This is the first chapter I note a neuter plural noun with a singular verb.
Chapter 10: Η ΟΙΚΙΑ
Finally we return to the family. This chapter is simple, repetitive, but fun. The repeated structures work well language-wise, but following the ‘action’ is difficult. Line 101 probably needs improvement grammatically, it’s unclear who the subject of τρέχει καὶ πέτεται is – presumably Ὑπατία, but it needs better syntax.
Chapter 11: Ω ΖΕΥ! Ω ΗΡΑ!
νίζω : interesting choice of word. Nothing wrong with it, just interesting.
Interesting to choose προσεύχομαι in preference to εὔχομαι.
Not sure what I think of ὅρᾱ.. πρὸς τὸν οἶκον μου. Think I’d prefer βλέπε here. I suppose it’s okay.
l 23 : I’m not sure φέρω is typically or properly used with living persons as the object. I’ve been told that it’s not typically used with living persons, and that the saying ἄγεται μὲν γὰρ τὰ ἔμψυχα, φέρεται δὲ τὰ ἄψυχα bears upon this, attested in ancient grammarians. So, look, could you use φέρω to ‘get’ someone? Maybe, but I don’t think this is exemplifying “ideal Greek for beginners”.
Chapter 12: Η ΥΠΑΤΙΑ
I’m not convinced that μέγας and μῑκρός should be used as adjectives for siblings unless perhaps describing physical or metaphorical stature.
l.77-78 . I think οὐκέτι would be better here for connecting the sense of χήρα
Chapter 13: Η ΤΡΟΦΗ
I feel like we are skimming over the fact that children often did drink wine.
Chapter 14: Ο ΚΥΚΛΩΨ
Is it an ancient Greek textbook if there isn’t a Cyclops episode? I’m not sure I needed to learn so many new vocabulary items in the first paragraph, like οὐρητικός (diuretic), πεπτικός (digestive), διάπυρος (inflamed), ἡδύποτος (pleasant to drink), τρόφιμος (nourishing), or that these would be applied (perhaps with dubious accuracy) to red and white wine.
There’s more vocabulary in this chapter that is not ‘per se illustrata’ and probably does require an explanation.
Also, we’re introduced to the imperfect tense, without a good and clear set-up like Ørberg used. I’m not sure there are any temporal indicators to tell the reader they are now in the past.
πέριξ ? really?
ὑπὸ is used with the accusative, which I feel is a more Koine usage. But I prefer the use of the middle κρύπτομαι here to Athenaze’s reflexives.
Unsure we needed to learn βυθίζω.
Chapter 15: ΚΑΘ’ ΟΔΟΝ
line 18: I’m not sure why you wouldn’t gloss χαμαί with ἐπὶ τῇ γῇ or ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς instead of ἐν τῇ γῇ.
Chapter 16: Η ΑΓΟΡΑ
Is χορτοφάγος really the right word to describe Kallirroe? I presume this is meant to mean that she is a vegetarian, not that she literally is a grass-eater. The word is attested 6 times in TLG, so there’s a bit of a question here about vocabulary choice.
Unsure of the choice not to decline δύο. Certainly that is true in some dialects, but this feeds into my question of ‘which dialect or period is this book aiming at?’
Chapter 17: ΤΑ ΜΕΡΗ ΤΟΥ ΣΩΜΑΤΟΣ
So, when Ørberg does this section (human body parts), he uses the dying Gaul statue and places a fig leaf over the genitalia. LOGOS has opted to open with a picture of a reclined Hermaphroditos, breasts exposed, the suggestion of a penis. When I reviewed Via Latina, I received sniggering criticism from Europeans that simply raising the fact that some illustrations in that book contained either nudity or gore, in a way that American schools would find unacceptable, was somehow a sign of US prudishness. Those things were brought to my attention by a US teacher. Frankly, I’m not bothered by a naked Hermaphroditos picture in a textbook, but you would have to be either blissfully unaware, or deliberately uncaring, to think that this wouldn’t impact the ability of your book to sell in a US marketplace. Given that the illustration is not used as a main point of reference in teaching body parts, what is gained by visually depicting this? And what would be lost by having a textual discussion of Hermaphroditos without a picture? The amount of space that talking about Hermaphroditos takes up in the text is incredibly minimal (1.5 line, no discussion of the mythological content of the Hermaphroditos’ story).
Also in this chapter is the sensitive topic of gods turning humans into other things, mostly because these are stories of male gods attempting (or actually) raping human women. This isn’t a topic I intend to treat here, I think contemporary scholarship on these kinds of myths is far superior to anything I would offer up here, but these particular myths present a challenge for textbooks in particular. They can be taught appropriately, sensitively, intelligently; the question is can they be presented in a textbook in a way that suits. I leave that for teachers to decide. The necessity of facing such a challenge lies in the fact that change and transformation (as this chapter amply reminds us) pervades Greek myth.
Introduction of “passive structure(s)” παθητικὴ σύνταξις – long-time readers will know my positions on the middle and ‘passive’ voice.
Chapter 18: ΟΙ ΠΑΙΔΕΣ
It wasn’t transparent to me what the ὄχθος was here.
Also why are there Macedonian visitors just playing at the river? And Spartans? I suppose we should just embrace this as a pedagogical conceit.
ἰλιγγιάω : well that’s a new word for me.
I have to wonder if tripping over a stone and falling to the ground is a little nod to Athenaze.
Chapter 19: Ο ΔΑΚΤΥΛΟΣ
I’m not really sure using a present participle of λαμβάνω makes best Greek in the context here.
This chapter has another nod to Ørberg, about the seemliness of noses.
I’m not really sure why Kallirroe is wearing a στεφάνη?
In line 70 τάδε strikes me as odd, because it would normally be kataphoric.
line 79 , ἄληθες is quite correct here, but this adverbial form used in questions appears (afaik) only in drama, and then in grammarians discussing it.
line 123 : I don’t at all get the point of a marginal note (ἔστιν ὅτε…) which doesn’t tell you anything but repeats the structure from the text.
Chapter 20: Ο ΒΙΟΣ
It’s not really clear in the text what ἄπορον means.
This chapter has a clear, not bombastic or overly moralist, identification of what slave and free means.
Chapter 21: ΓΕΩΡΓΙΚΑ ΚΑΙ ΚΑΤ’ ΟΙΚΟΝ ΕΡΓΑ
I would say this is the chapter that is really a tipping point in terms of reading difficulty. Sentences are getting both longer and more complex, and we’re reading decent narrative Greek. And this probably has to do with participle usage.
Chapter 22: ΔΕΣΠΟΤΑΙ ΚΑΙ ΔΟΥΛΟΙ
So this chapter introduces the aorist, and again there isn’t the sophisticated temporal set-up like Ørberg, we are just straight in.
This chapter is fun though! And echoes some of LLPSI in its drama and structures. Line 135 has a beautiful Socrates allusion.
Interesting choice to use οἶδας in place of οἶσθα.
Chapter 23: Η ΑΤΤΙΚΗ
This is a nice little geography of Attica chapter.
Chapter 24: ΑΙ ΑΘΗΝΑΙ
It’s not useful to put a marginal note telling us that θέα does not equal θεά, if the reader doesn’t know what θέα means. This is not very PSI, and could have been alleviated by, well, having introduced and used θέασθαι before this point and using that as a way in.
This chapter feels a bit like ch 36 of LLPSI, the infamous ‘tour of Rome’ chapter. It’s good, but it really is hard to process a bird’s eye tour of Athens with names and features flying at you one after the other.
The alignment of line numbers with lines is a little off in this chapter.
Chapter 25: ΓΛΩΣΣΑ ΚΑΙ ΔΙΑΛΕΚΤΟΙ
I am not convinced that ἐπιδέξιος ’s range of meaning and appropriate sense is transparent enough by itself here.
This chapter suffers the same difficulty as the Athens’ tour – we are treated to a smorgasbord of names, giving the mythical origins of Ἕλλην, Γραικός etc., and this isn’t easy for a learner to ‘track’ all that’s going on.
Chapter 26: ΤΟ ΣΥΜΠΟΣΙΟΝ
It’s a nice touch to have Sappho presented in the original and then Atticized. I think that’s a good approach.
Chapter 27: Η ΔΗΜΟΚΡΑΤΙΑ
I have some hesitations about different parts of this chapters ‘ready intelligibility’ to a student. e.g. line 32-34 μετέχουσιν τῆς πολιτείας οἱ ἐξ ἀμφοτέρων γεγονότες πολιτῶν καὶ ἐγγράφονται εἰς τοὺς δημότας ὀκτωκαίδεκα ἔτη γεγονότες. I’m not really convinced that a learner will get οἱ ἐξ ἀμφοτέρων γεγονότες πολιτῶν as “having been born on both sides from citizen-parents”, especially alongside the differently-nuanced usage of ὀκτωκαίδεκα ἔτη γεγονότες.
This chapter does lay out (relatively) simply and elegantly the political organization of Athens, which I’ve never seen a Greek textbook do before.
Chapter 28: Η ΚΛΟΠΗ ΤΟΥ ΠΥΡΟΣ
φύγω – is that an aorist deliberative subjunctive being introduced with not enough context?
κώνειον – how is a learner to guess this?
So, here we’re introducing ἐλεύσομαι as a future for ἔρχομαι, one more thing suggesting that this book is comfortably leaning into Koine rather than a strict Attic.
Chapter 29: Ο ΔΟΥΡΕΙΟΣ ΙΠΠΟΣ
A good prose retelling of the start and end of the Trojan war. Once more, probably too much going on in terms of new language content.
We’re into the subjunctive here, and ἵνα purpose clauses.
Chapter 30: ΤΑ ΜΗΔΙΚΑ
Recounts the Persian invasion, Thermopylae, Salamis
Chapter 31: Ο ΠΟΛΕΜΟΣ ΤΩΝ ΕΛΛΗΝΩΝ
Recount of the Peloponnesian war.
The aorist ‘passive’.
Chapter 32: ΠΕΡΙ ΕΙΡΗΝΗΣ
We finally get a treatment of the perfect participle here, as well as aorist passive participles. We seemingly won’t get any further into perfect verbs.
P 5 Contents : the Roman numeral for the last chapter (32) is missing an X.
P 104, line 12. τὸν οἶκον μου should be τὸν οἶκόν μου
P 119, line 100 τῇς should be τῆς
P 152, line 122 δοῦλος μου > δοῦλός μου
P 152, line 123 δοῦλοι μου > δοῦλοί μου
P 283, line 179 This is a Sappho poem, but I believe that it’s usually accented : οἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον, οἰ δὲ πέσδων…
P 318 I’m not sure about ἐρᾶμαι. My understanding is that this verb (related to ἐράω), accents as ἔραμαι.