“Just Enough” Greek: Actions in Time, with Leonard Muellner

Ancient Greek for All Tutorials

Would you like to explore masterpieces such as the Iliad and Odyssey in the original Greek, but don’t have time to the learn the language? Many members of our community who have never studied ancient Greek are using online resources to go “beyond translation” and explore words or passages in the original language. Tools available through the Perseus Digital Library can automatically define and “parse” words to tells us if they are nouns or verbs, singular or plural, masculine or feminine. We recently shared a video tutorial with Professor Joel Christensen in which he helps us decode the information available through these tools and in ancient Greek dictionaries. With these online resources and with a basic understanding of how the ancient Greek language works, everyone can begin “reading out” of original texts to learn more about ancient Greek society and institutions. Our “Ancient Greek for All Tutorials” are intended to facilitate these first steps beyond translation by presenting key concepts in the use of the ancient Greek language.

Key Concept: Verbal Aspect—Describing Actions in Time

Looking more carefully at ancient Greek verbs can help us to read in exciting and new ways, especially since ancient Greek verbs can convey information that English verbs in our translations often can’t or don’t. In this brief video tutorial, Professor Leonard Muellner of Brandeis University presents an accessible introduction to the way that ancient Greek language conveys actions in time, a concept that is often misunderstood even by scholars and textbooks. Assuming no previous knowledge of ancient Greek, Muellner first clearly defines the concept of verbal aspect and then explains how a verb can mark an event as ongoing or complete, or leave this information unstated. Using examples drawn from Homeric epic and the everyday use of the English language, he enthusiastically explains how this flexible verbal system allows speakers and authors to make the past vividly present in the most powerful ways.

Stay tuned for more Ancient Greek for All Tutorials with Muellner and other scholars!

Video Tutorial: Verbal Aspect in Ancient Greek, with Leonard Muellner

Transcript: You may download a transcript of this tutorial:  H25_Verbal_Aspect_Leonard_Muellner (PDF)