Notes on Lucian's True Story and on Learning Greek

In this post I want to do a couple of things. First, I needed a place to put notes or corrections for the Greek reader version of Lucian’s True Story by Hayes and Nimis. Second, I wanted to mention what I’ve been doing recently in learning Greek just in case anyone would find them useful.

Lucian’s True Story

Evan Hayes and Stephen Nimis have made readers editions of several Greek texts, including Lucian's A True Story, Lucian's Dialogues of the Sea Gods, Lucian's On the Syrian Goddess, Pseudo-Lucian's The Ass, three treatises by Galen, Plutarch's Dialogue on Love, and two works by Hippocrates. They are useful and you should all go buy a copies. Last year I read through Pseudo-Lucian’s The Ass (and will put up notes at some point) and now I’ve moved on to my second book from their selection, Lucian’s True Story. These books are print-on-demand, which allows them to update the book more often than traditionally possible so some might already be corrected. These corrections are mentioned just to be helpful and don’t mean that I dislike what they are doing. On the contrary, I’m benefiting from their work immensely. In that spirit, I offer the corrections below. Perhaps others will find them useful as well, another reason to list them here. The page numbers are from the edition I have (Aug 2014 revision) though I have included the section numbers (I am not to book II yet, so we can assume book I for now) just in case my edition differs from yours. Their notes are also broken up into two sections, vocabulary notes and translational/idiom/parsing helps.

  1. (pg 10/sect #6) vocab - δασύς, -εῖα, -ύ - I would list “bushy” along with the hair-related glosses since it is the meaning here (and sometimes later as well).
  2. (10/#6) vocab - χειμάζομαι - The gloss should be “to be driven by a storm” and not “to be drive by a storm”.
  3. (11/#7) vocab - πέτρη, ἡ - I wonder if it would be better to list it as πέτρα instead.
  4. (14/#7) - I would add γεῦσιν to the vocab.
  5. (15/#8) - vocab - ἄκρον has the wrong genitive ending in its listing (lists the nominative in its place).
  6. (16/#8) - vocab - I think you should list a gloss or two related to the drunk-semantics that παράφορος, -ον sometimes has (I think that’s the meaning here), such as “reeling” or “staggering”.
  7. (24/#12) - vocab - ἔξοδος should be listed as a noun rather than an adjective.
  8. (25/#13) - vocab and notes - ὠκύπτερος - The gloss in the vocab doesn’t line up with the suggested translation in the notes. That’s a bit confusing.
  9. (26/#13) - vocab - ἐλέφας, -αντος is listed without the article.
  10. (28/#15) - vocab - εὐώνυμος is an adjective, not a noun so its format should be updated.
  11. (30/#16) - vocab - Ἀεροκώνωπες is listed as an air-gnat and κώνωψ is listed as a mosquito. Should make those more consistent either way (I’m not sure whether gnat or mosquito is best though).
  12. (30/#16) - vocab - ὑπερμεγέθης is an adjective but is missing its full adjective endings (ὑπερμεγέθης, -ες).
  13. (30/#16) - vocab - ψιλός is an adjective but is missing its full adjective endings (ψιλός, -ή, -όν).
  14. (32/#17) - vocab - ἑκάτερος is an adjective but is missing its full adjective endings (ἑκάτερος, -α, -ον).
  15. (37/#19) - vocab - σύμμαχος is listed twice.
  16. (43/#23) - vocab - ἰγνύς doesn’t have all its info, which should be ἰγνύς, -ύος, ἡ.
  17. (43/#23) - vocab and notes - the translation note for ἐπεδήμουν suggests a meaning quite different from the meaning listed in the vocab. Are they at home or traveling?
  18. (45/#24) - vocab - I would, once again, list “bushy” as a gloss for δασύς, -εῖα, -ύ.
  19. (45/#24) - vocab - For ὑδροφόρος, -ον, I assume you mean “water-producing” instead of “carrying-producing” as that’s what is in the notes and makes more sense anyway.
  20. (57/#33) - vocab - πάσχω is listed twice and has different glosses.
  21. (65/#36) - vocab - Παγουρίδαι does not have a listing in the vocab though you would generally do so.

As I make more progress through the book, I’ll add more.

Changes to How I Am Learning

Last year I started making some changes to how I get better at Greek and have been tweaking things since. Perhaps you’ll find these ideas useful.

First, I hired a reading partner named Michael, whom I found on Wyzant. Michael is a retired Latin teacher who lives here in the Dallas vicinity like myself. We generally meet weekly for one hour. We’ve only met in-person once at a Starbucks between our houses and since then have used video chat. I sit in my recliner, set my laptop beside me and we Greek-out for a while. At first I wasn’t sure if the remote thing would work well but it really has. Each week we prepare ourselves by pre-reading everything. When we meet, we alternate someone reading a paragraph and the other translating. At first I did all the translating. But even though I’m the student in this situation, because I’ve pre-read the text (usually many times), I can still correct my mistakes as he translates through. I’m finding the alternating useful.

My arrangement with Michael as my reading partner has helped me in a number of ways. Even though he’s a retired Latin teacher, his Greek is still better than mine and can usually help me out when I can’t figure out something. Also having a weekly meeting keeps me on a schedule and having a human that I’ll meet with instead of just a schedule that I can ignore helps me maintain a somewhat consistent level of effort. Finally, since he has a classical education instead of my own biblical-studies-focused education, there is a wealth of things he can throw in culturally/historically that I haven’t had the chance to pick up myself in my own self-education. So it has been great and plan on keeping him for quite a while, assuming that he’ll keep me :) So thanks Michael. You are a great help!

Second, at this point in my learning I think one of the best things I could do is read as much unfamiliar Greek text as I can and increase my vocabulary. I started with The Ass based on a recommendation that Carl Conrad made to me (and others) years ago. So thanks for the suggestion. Both The Ass and True Story are new to me. Actually, I don’t have an English translation of either so my only exposure to both is through the Greek text only. If I was working through these texts by myself I would want an English transation around to help me correct obvious mistakes but Michael makes that unnecessary. Depending on what day it is, I want our next text to either be Xenophon’s Anabasis, Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War or something from Plato. The latter is very interesting in general, probably a really good challenge and gets me out of the narratival-style Greek that I’m spending most of my time in. The first two keep me in that same narrative mode but would probably be a bit easier (maybe you know better) and there is a lot of warfare so far in True Story, so I’m very curious how similar Lucian’s language would be to theirs. Michael and I have wondered if Lucian is parodying some of the real historians (that seems like something he would do) and the best way for me to find that out may be reading them.

Both The Ass and True Story are fairly easy Greek to read. The main difference in reading them is that True Story’s vocabulary is incredibly diverse. The protagonist in The Ass goes through a number of experiences so you still get a good range of vocabulary but True Story is just simply bizarre and is a total hoot to read. Overall I think I enjoy True Story a bit more because of the entertainment factor but perhaps it has something to do with the next point.

Which brings me to my third note, which is around vocabulary memorization. While reading through The Ass I didn’t do anything in particular to memorize vocabulary other than just read and re-read. Since the beginning of True Story though I’ve memorized every word that I didn’t know except for those that Lucian probably invented. For example, when I first saw Ἱππόγυποι, I was pretty sure that this was a new one. But who knows, perhaps there’s a writer out there as strange as Lucian. Anyway, I’ve memorized hundreds of new vocabulary since just before the turn of the year. This is a great deal of work (which takes away some fun) but it makes reading the text much more pleasurable. Jumping from text to notes beats jumping from text to LSJ for sure but being able to generally sit and read is a great feeling, even if it’s a lot of work to get there. And of course I am hoping that this will pay dividends in the future. I don’t have a great system in place to systematically review the words I haven’t seen in a while but since I am a programmer, I’m obviously working on something to do that.

Just in case you find it useful, here is a little more detail in how I am doing this study. At the end of every session we take a guess at what we would be able to cover in our next (I would say tends to be about five to ten pages, depending on the difficulty of the text). As the week progresses, I go section-by-section to reach the goal. Generally I will read the section through once slowly to get a good understanding of the text. Then I make flashcards for all the words that I don’t know and use those to help me memorize the vocabulary. Once I have a good grasp of the vocab and have read the section through another time or two, I go to the next and repeat. Either the day before the next session or the morning of I’ll stop my forward progress, read through all the sections that I had worked through during the week and keep reviewing the vocabulary. I think that repeated reading with the flashcards help me better than either alone. The flashcards help me with a general meaning of a the word and prepare me to see it out of context. But on the other hand seeing it in a text helps me memorize the meaning and keeps the meaning of the word from being a gloss disconnected from any actual text. And after the next weekly session I start over again.

It’s really hard to tell how much I am actually progressing. The vocabulary acquisition is fairly measureable but it’s hard to say how much I’m getting otherwise. However I have no doubt that I’m improving, so I intend to continue on as-is for quite a while. I’m still toying around with the idea of going back to school at some point, either to get some degree in classical studies or perhaps just to take classes. But in the meantime what I have is great because I essentially have a one-on-one class with a teacher every week.

I hope that encourages someone to get back to their Greek studies. So whoever you are, get to reading!

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