A Classical Self-Education

My professional life revolves around tech but everyone who knows me well, knows I also have quite an interest in biblical studies, history, Greek, and related things. Instead of nebulously just trying to study a lot, this year I decided to set a more concrete goal. For the past few years I’ve considered going back to school to get a masters degree in classical studies and I’m still thinking about it. Unfortunately I don’t actually have the prerequisite background to do that, so I decided this year I would put a plan in place to change that. And even if I don’t go back to school, at the very least it gives me a more concrete plan.

This month my focus has been on kickstarting my Latin. I worked my way through about fifteen chapters of Wheelock once, but then I took a job teaching and that completely consumed my life for about a year and a half. You teachers out there know what I’m talking about. Anyway, that’s over. I picked up again with my Latin tutor (Michael, a retired Latin teacher) and meet with him weekly. At first we were going back through Wheelock yet again but I had the same problem that I had before, that I could understand the material but I had a terrible time remembering the vocabulary. After seeing notes from @jtauber and @seumas (and a conversation with the latter), I decided to take a more reading-focused approach to my study, as close to "extensive reading" as possible. It has been hugely helpful with Latin (I just completed unit 1 of the Cambridge Latin Course) and I’m doing the same with Greek (working through Rouse’s Greek Boy at Home). Also for Latin I’ve been working my way through the Fabulae Faciles with Michael’s help. Both of the Latin reading exercises I’ve been doing have been more fun and felt more beneficial than the work in Wheelock.

Also in the language department I’ve been working in Dickey’s Greek Composition book a bit. This has been simultaneously fun, difficult, and frustrating. I’m working through it slowly with others but think I need "professional help" to get the most out of it. Still pondering this.

Most of the progress I’ve made is from the 1-1.25 hours I spend on the train every weekday and from studying during my lunch hour. You can get a lot accomplished with a regular two hours of study a day. This is the main reason I try to avoid driving to work, since I doubt reading Latin and driving mix very well. With this consistency, I feel like I’m making the most steady progress that I’ve made in years.

2008 Q1 Log

I’ve already put it on my calendar to log what I study in the next 3 months. This quarter I’ve done the following.

  • I’ve listened to two lecture courses on Greek literature, one on Herodotus and one more general. I’m currently listening through a course on the Roman emperors.
  • Latin - All of Cambridge Latin Course - Unit 1
  • Latin - Fabulae Faciles 1-16
  • Latin - occasional composition work with feedback from Michael
  • Latin - Wheelock 1-12, with dips into verbs from later (mostly passive forms) to understand the Fabulae Faciles readings.
  • Greek - random NT and LXX readings
  • Greek - Theodoret of Cyrus, Questions on the Octateuch, 1-7
  • Greek - Rouse, Greek Boy at Home, I-VII
  • Reading - Part of Philology by James Turner
  • Reading - Part of Scholars of Byzantium by N.G. Wilson
  • Reading - Herodotus books 1-4

Yes, I’m doing a poor job when it comes to reading.

If I don’t make this much progress in my next report, feel free to say "Eric, stultus et ignavus es" when you see me.

Theoretical Plan

I’m sure this will take me a number of years to complete, but here is the tentative larger plan. It will certainly change and solidify as time goes on. This plan was cobbled together from looking at a few undergrad classics curricula, the requirements for a few distance masters curricula, and a couple of things I’m interested in. I’m open to suggestions from people who have done this in real life. Perhaps this is too much, hopefully it’s not too little, as this is a bit daunting.


  • Introductory Latin - I’ll consider myself done when I finish Wheelock, the four units of the Cambridge Latin Course, and Fabulae Faciles
  • As much extensive easy reading as possible to boost my vocabulary
  • Selections from classical prose - Cicero, Caesar, Lucretius, Salust, Livy, Tacitus
  • Selections from classical poetry - Catullus, Vergil, Ovid, Horace
  • Selections from classical drama - Plautus, Terrence, Seneca
  • Selections from classical satire - Horace, Juvenal, and Persius
  • Selections from ecclesiastical literature - Turtullian, Augustine, Jerome, Leo the Great, Aquinas
  • Latin composition


I have a decent Greek background (e.g. lots of biblical, selections from the LXX, selections from patristic writers, Ps-Lucian’s The Ass, Lucian’s True History) but after trying to read Plato, I’m convinced I could not step into a classics degree comfortably. So, to get ready for that, I’m thinking I’ll do something like the following:

  • Extensive reading - I probably can’t actually do this since there aren’t a lot of easy Greek readings, but I’m going to find what I can
  • Selections from classical epic - Homer
  • Selections from classical prose - Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, Thucydides
  • Selections from classical drama - Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides
  • Selections from classical oratory - Demosthenes
  • Selections from ecclesiastical literature - Apostolic Fathers, Athanasius, the Cappadocians, Cyril of Jerusalem, and John Chrysostom
  • Greek composition

Other Areas of Study

  • Classical mythology and religion
  • Classical rhetoric
  • Classical art
  • Classical archaeology
  • Latin history
  • Greek history (general English history books, Herodotus, Thucydides)
  • Greek philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, probably bits of others)
  • Greek tragedians and comedians

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