January 2023 Reflection

Ἑρρίκος τοῖς φίλοις ἀναγιγνώσκουσιν εὖ πράττειν.

One month ago, I released the first of what was to be a series of regular reflections on the work of the Quillen School. Much has been done since then. And while I take great pride in some projects in particular, I remain ever cognizant of the radical dependence of my good fortunes on the continued goodwill of friends, supporters, and students of the Quillen School. μεγίστην χάριν ἔχω ὑμῖν. 

This month, I’ll be sharing updates with you on four priorities: infrastructural development, phonological work, intellectual development, and future projects, listed and discussed in order of their priority.

Infrastructural Development

In my last reflection, I reported, “Having built the website to the point that it could support private tutoring and project development, I decided to postpone its completion until experience better elucidated the direction it would need to take. The website will be accessible in more complete form sometime in 2023.” 

Since then, I’ve completely rebuilt the Quillen School website. It still looks mostly the same, but the skeleton, ὡς ἔπος εἶπεν, has been completely redone. The result is a much more stable website with fewer bugs and more aesthetic consistency. The website isn’t completely finished, but it basically is. It now needs only content updates and minor adjustments to fine details. I’d show you details, but, as you’ve already seen, there’s not much to see.

Phonological Work

January was a big month for the Quillen School mainly because of the release of two systems of Ancient Greek pronunciation, the Alexandrian System and the Caesarian System. The former is a reconstruction of both a conservative and a majority system of pronunciation for both mid-to-late 4th century BC Athens and mid 4th century BC to mid 2nd century BC Alexandria (early Alexandrian Koine was almost identical to mid 4th century BC Attic). The latter presents two reconstructions: the first, a conservative system of pronunciation of elite Romans or Greeks from Athens or Rhodes; and the second, a majority system of pronunciation that’s more diatopically and diachronically generic, both for the period 150BC-150AD.

I began this project because, while I’ve used a reconstructed historical pronunciation in some form or another for over a year, I often wondered about how to deal with the many different changes in pronunciation undergone within the period that we call  “Classical Attic” while still maintaining historicity. I decided it doesn’t really make sense to reconstruct a system of pronunciation for such a dynamic period because, even if one gets it right, the system is only accurate to the authors and readers of a fairly narrow window of time. During the Koine period, however, pronunciation was mostly rather stable, allowing for diatopical anomalies – at least until about 200 AD. So I decided not to reconstruct Attic itself, but the more stable pronunciation of later Ancient Greek readers of Attic literature. 

The pronunciation of Ancient Greek for the middle and upper classes is stable, at least in Alexandria, from the founding of the city to about 150BC. And while Athens was more innovative during some of that period, it became much more conservative going into the Roman Period, even restoring some old features. So I decided to reconstruct the pronunciation of both: the former, the Alexandrian System, being appropriate to anybody who focuses especially on Archaic, Classical Attic, or Hellenistic Koine, and the latter, the Caesarian System being appropriate for those whose interests vary widely but include the Roman period. The former has the added advantage of being accurate for 350BC Athens; the latter of being the only historically accurate reconstructed system of pronunciation appropriate from people who study both Classical and Biblical Greek.

I also decided to think through and publish my thoughts on Randall Buth’s Koine Pronunciation. I don’t dislike the system – and I even qualifiedly recommend it for those interested exclusively in the Bible and the Church Fathers. I do, however, have some serious reservations about both its historicity and the relative value of attempting to preserve continuity with Modern Greek at the expense of historicity. For Buth’s intended audience, I’d recommend both the majority system of my Caesarian System and Modern Greek pronunciation over Buth Koine, but I would recommend Buth Koine over Erasmian. Those interested in using my Caesarian System for later Church Fathers of the late Roman Period will be using a system more accurate than Buth Koine without any modifications, but they might find it desirable to read the suggestions for adapting the Caesarian System to post-200AD Ancient Greek in the original Caesarian System post. 

Intellectual Development

The vast majority of people who teach Ancient Greek or use it professionally – or at least the ones that I’ve met – aren’t actually that great at Ancient Greek. I’ve therefore prioritized making sure the Quillen School will be an exception, especially during its infancy. This month, I’ve tripled my number of hours spent practicing conversational Greek per week, and I’ve been doing more to build a community for people who want to pursue such practice for themselves. I’ve also been experimenting with extensive reading strategies – commonly used for modern language learning but not so much for Ancient Greek – alongside the intensive reading approaches more commonly employed by readers of ancient languages. I’ve found value in continually re-reading texts, and so I have begun to re-read texts that I’ve already read more frequently. Lastly, I’ve also begun to incorporate the audiobooks of Ioannis Stratakis into my practice more regularly. 

Here’s the portion January’s Greek readings that I remembered to log (* Text that I taught):

Primary Texts, Whole:

  • Archilochus, Frag. 5
  • Aristotle, Poetics
  • Aristotle, Politics, Book I
  • Demosthenes, Third Philippic
  • Gospel of Mark
  • Plato, Euthyphro
  • Plato, Ion
  • Sappho, Frags. 1, 2, 16, 31, 44, 102, 168B (= Fr. Adesp 976)
  • Xenophon, Apology (x5)
  • Xenophon, Constitution of the Athenians (x2)
  • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, Book I
  • Xenophon, Symposium
  • Xenophon of Ephesus, Ephesian Tale, Book I

Primary Texts, Large Selections:

  • Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library*
  • Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Those Well-Known in Philosophy*
  • Gregory of Nyssa, De Opificio Hominis *

Future Projects

I probably have too many projects going on at once right now, but I’m nonetheless making progress on a good portion of them. The website rebuild was a big deal. Publishing the Alexandrian and Caesarian Systems were also important because, their intrinsic coolness aside, I’ve been more or less using the Alexandrian System for all spoken Ancient Greek over the last six months, and I couldn’t reasonably release projects with audio until I first explained my pronunciation. Half of the projects discussed in the last reflection were dependent on this. 

Following the suggestions of my friend Alan Dalke, I’ll probably make a video soon explaining the Alexandrian and Caesarian Systems in a more simplified manner. How highly this project will be prioritized is yet to be determined.

I currently have at least four articles in the pipeline right now: (1) “Why Speak Ancient Greek?”; (2) A review of Luke Ranieri and Raphael Turrigiano’s Lucian Pronunciation; (3) “What Is Attic Greek?”, an exploration of the amazing complexity and variety encompassed by the homogenizing, catch-all classification “Attic Greek;” and (4) “Don’t Diss Koine,” an exploration of the massive diversity encompassed by Koine Greek. I’m not sure when or if I’ll finish them, or even how I’ll prioritize them. One of them is already mostly finished, but only time will tell regarding the release date. of the others.

I’m also working on two top-secret projects: one for Ancient Greek resources and another for composition. I have no intention of sharing anything about the former until the first stage is complete and ready for release, nor anything about the latter until it is completely finished and delivered to its target audience (not you all). Stay tuned.

Thanks again for your support; I’m looking forward to writing another update again soon. 

εἰς αὖθις

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