Review: Iliad, Book I, by P. A. Draper.

Yesterday I went to my Greek professor’s office, frustrated at how slow and tedious translation homework can be.  (I admit, senioritis might play a role in my lack of motivation!)  He told me that doing Greek and Latin translation is like going to the gym.  Yes, it is tedious to look up every unfamiliar word and parse verbs and nouns.  But the more we do it, the better we get, even if the results are slow.  I left feeling reassured, ready to tackle more Greek.

51KHKSIg9UL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_But sometimes we do not feeling like going to the gym.  Sometimes we need to build up to a full workout.  Sometimes it’s okay to use readers with running glossaries. I’ve been practicing my Greek the past two summers using Nimis and Hayes’ Lucian’s The Ass: An Intermediate Greek Reader and Steadman’s Odyssey editions.  These readers go beyond most student commentaries’ grammar helps and give line-by-line vocabulary at the bottom of each page.  While they don’t facilitate much understanding of the nuances of each word, they do enable the reader to read fast and fluidly.

Earlier this quarter, I used Draper’s text to read parts of Book I of the Iliad.  Her book begins with an introduction on the current state of Homeric scholarship: who was Homer?  Was there a Homer?  When did he live?  How historically accurate is the Iliad?  She also spells out the intricacies of Homeric meter.  She has a huge bibliography of books on the Iliad, the Trojan War, and even modern fiction set in Troy.  And she has a lot of commentary.  A lot.  An example:

CCI02062015The art is a nice touch.

Although these glossed readers get a bad rap from Greek purists, I enjoy using them to read fluidly.  When I was straight out of first-year Greek, it gave me great confidence to be able to actually read something.  I would recommend Draper’s commentary on Homer to the student who wants to build that confidence.


2 thoughts on “Review: Iliad, Book I, by P. A. Draper.

  1. Chip Camden

    I often feel torn between reading fluidly or exploring deeply. I find that a daily practice of reading fluidly helps to make the language come more naturally, and then a regular (perhaps weekly) deep dive into words informs that understanding.

    Even a side-by-side or interlinear translation may be a good tool for those unfamiliar with a language. But it’s like training wheels — sooner or later you’ll want to take them off. Every tool for its purpose.

    1. Post author

      I agree, Chip. When I left first year Greek I was thrown immediately into full-lexicon Homer. I wish I had had the “training wheels” a bit longer! Personally, it all depends on how well I want to know a text or an author. I’d like to continue with Homer, but I don’t plan to be a Homer scholar, so I hope to use more of these glossed readers. But for the Psalms — yeah, I want/need the full workout. 🙂


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