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8 Reading Passages

Reading Passages



Read the handout on Greek word order, available for download as a pdf here: Greek Word Order. Having done so, complete the following for each Greek sentence below: 1). Read it aloud; 2). Parse each verb and noun (gender, number, and case); and 3). Translate each sentence into English.

To download this assignment as a pdf, click here: AGE Readings 1.

Classical Readings

The first eleven sentences come from Classical Athenian Greek writings from the fifth and fourth centuries BC. They are unchanged, except where “…” indicates a short omission.

There are brief introductions the first time that an author is quoted and information that provides context for the quotation. Vocabulary for any words that have not yet appeared in previous lessons are provided for each sentence.

1. The Greeks are justifiably famous for inventing theater, the direct ancestor of much cinema and video to this day. Greek tragedy is perhaps better known, but the earliest comedies in the world also come from Greece. From the Classical Period, the comedies of only one playwright survive, those of Aristophanes (but there are eleven of them).

Much of the comedy in these plays is very topical and political. One of Aristophanes’ comedies, Horsemen, consists primarily of a contest between the leading politician of the day, Cleon (thinly disguised as the Παφλαγών, which translates roughly “Poofistani”) and a Hot Dog Man. They compete to determine who can be the most powerful and corrupt leader of the Athenian democracy. The Hot Dog Man wins. Then the Hot Dog Man reveals that he will in fact restore democracy to the people, who are on stage in the character of Demos, the personification of the will of the Athenian people (δῆμος):

τὸν Παφλαγόνα παραδίδωμι….

Παφλαγών –όνος ὁ Paphlagonian

Aristophanes Horsemen 1260


2. In another comedy, Birds, an Athenian named Peisetairos (whose name means something like “persuasive”) goes to the birds, literally, and convinces them to take over the universe.

At one point, a messenger races on stage to report on the building of a defensive wall in the sky. As his manner of speech indicates, the messenger is himself a bird:

ποῦ ποῦ ’στι,

ποῦ ποῦ ποῦ ’στι,

ποῦ ποῦ ποῦ ’στι,

ποῦ ποῦ Πεισέταιρός ἐστιν ἅρχων;

ἅρχων = ὁ ἄρχων

’στι = ἐστιν

Πεισέταιρος (nom sg) ὁ Peisetairos

ποῦ where?

Aristophanes Birds 1122-23


3. Athens was the world’s first democracy, but not everyone in Athens liked the democracy. There were elites who despised it and on two occasions seized control of the government (neither time for more than a year). A brief political tract survives from the fifth century BC by one of these elites, who complains about the Athenian democracy. No one knows now who wrote it, but one scholar sardonically called him the “Old Oligarch,” and the nickname has stuck. At one point, the “Old Oligarch” refers to Athens as the city…:

ὅπου ὁ δῆμός ἐστιν ὁ ἄρχων

δῆμος (nom sg) ὁ Demos (the democratic citizen body of the city)

ὅπου where

Old Oligarch (ps-Xenophon) Constitution of Athens 3.13


4. The Athenian historian Thucydides lived at the same time as the “Old Oligarch.” His monumental history primarily details the conflicts between the city of Athens and the city of Sparta over a period of about twenty years (431-411 BC). Spartan warriors were already famous. Thucydides comments at one point that nearly the entire Spartan army…:

ἄρχοντες ἀρχόντων εἰσί

Thucydides 5.66.4


5. Thucydides’ history ends abruptly in the middle of critical events in 411 BC. Another Athenian, Xenophon, later wrote a history that covered the next fifty years. Xenophon wrote not only history, but also biography, philosophy, technical treatises (on hunting, horsemanship, economics and more) and fiction, in each case among the earliest writers ever in these genres. Xenophon was also famous for a group of “Ten Thousand” Greek mercenary soldiers who got trapped behind enemy lines in Persia in 401 BC. Xenophon led them safely back to Greece. He published his memoirs about the expedition as the Anabasis (Ἀνάβασις “The March Back”).

At this point, the Ten Thousand are at the city of Gymnias (getting close to the Black Sea), where:

ὁ ἄρχων τοῖς Ἕλλησιν ἡγεμόνα πέμπει

Ἕλλην, -ηνος ὁ Greek

ἡγεμών –όνος ὁ guide, leader

πέμπει (3rd sg) sends

Xenophon Anabasis 4.7.19


6. At another point, the Greeks capture a village. Xenophon explains what he did with the chief of the village. Chirisophus was a Spartan mercenary commander, also part of the Ten Thousand:

τὸν…ἡγεμόνα παραδίδωσι Χειρισόφῳ

ἡγεμών –όνος ὁ guide, leader

Χειρισόφῳ (dat sg) ὁ Chirisophus

Xenophon Anabasis 4.7.19


7. Lysias was a son of a Sicilian immigrant (Cephalus, who got rich running a shield factory and is a prominent character at the beginning of Plato’s Republic). Lysias himself became a successful orator and legal advisor in Athens. Lysias also lived through one of the most horrifying periods in Athenian history. In 403 BC, after surrendering in a war to Sparta, a group known as the Thirty Tyrants instigated a reign of terror for months before the democracy was restored. Lysias’ brother Polemarchus (also a character in Plato’s Republic) was assassinated by the Thirty. Lysias’ most famous speech is his prosecution of one of the men responsible for his brother’s death.

Lysias is narrating the events of the night when one of the Thirty, Piso, and his forces come to Lysias’ house. They throw out Lysias’ dinner guests first and then:

Πείσωνί με παραδιδόασιν

με (acc sg) me

Πείσων –ωνος ὁ Piso

Lysias 12.8


8. In another legal case, a man named Sositheus is claiming that his son has a right to inherit a share of a disputed estate.  Near the end of his speech, he appeals to the jury:

παραδίδωμι οὖν ὑμῖν τὸν παῖδα τουτονί, ὦ ἄνδρες δικασταί, ἐπιμεληθῆναι

ὦ ἄνδρες δικασταί “jurymen” (the standard way of addressing the jury)

ἐπιμεληθῆναι take care of

τουτονί (acc sg) ὁ this here

οὖν therefore

ὑμῖν (dat pl) y’all

Demosthenes 43.81


9. Greeks enjoyed the performance of legal speeches. Such performances could include speeches delivered as if they were part of famous episodes from mythology. In this one, the hero Odysseus is prosecuting a man named Palamedes for treason and theft during the Trojan War. Here he says Palamedes embezzled money for himself and…:

Ἀγαμέμνονι… ἀποδίδωσι χαλκοῦν θώρακα

Ἀγαμέμνων –ονος ὁ Agamemnon (leader of the Greek troops in the Trojan War)

θῶραξ –ακος ὁ breast, breastplate

χαλκοῦν (acc sg) ὁ bronze

Alcidamas 2.21.107


10. Euripides wrote many turbulent tragedies and is reported to have lived a comparably turbulent life. During his career, he seems to have generated controversy with his plays, an artist both captivating and disturbing. Reportedly, Euripides left his native Athens in his last years and took up residence with the king of Macedon, Archelaus. Whether this is true or not is impossible to determine now, but he did write a tragedy about Archelaus’ mythological ancestors which seems to favor the monarch’s genealogy. This play was about the heroic exploits of a grandson of Hercules, also named Archelaus.

In the beginning of the play, Archelaus narrates his family history. Hercules had a son Hyllus, who had a son Temenus. Temenus had no children, so he consulted the priestess of Zeus, who told him:

Ζεύς σοι δίδωσι παῖδ’, …

(This child will turn out to be Archelaus himself).

Ζεύς, Διός ὁ Zeus

παῖδ’ = παῖδα

σοι (dat sg) you

Archelaus fr. 228a.24


11. Along with Aeschylus and Euripides, Sophocles is the third of the three great writers of Greek tragedy. Here a character declares his allegiance to the king of the gods.

Ζεὺς ἐμὸς ἄρχων [ἐστίν]

ἐμός (nom sg) my

fr. 755


Biblical Readings

The remaining sentences here come from ancient Greek writings related to the Bible, Jewish history, and early Christianity. The passages are unchanged, except where “…” indicates a short omission.

Hebrew scripture was translated into koine Greek in the second century B.C., a collection called the Septuagint. The Septuagint derives its name from the Latin versio septuaginta interpretum, “translation of the seventy interpreters,” (Greek: ἡ μετάφρασις τῶν ἑβδομήκοντα, “translation of the seventy.” The Roman numeral LXX (seventy) is commonly used as an abbreviation.

The following readings are quoted from the Septuagint.


1. God calls out to Adam in the Garden of Eden:

ποῦ εἶ;

Adam responds in part:

γυμνός εἰμι

ποῦ where?

γυμνός (nom sg) ὁ naked

LXX Gen. 3:9


2. King David, after putting down a rebellion by his son Absalom, who died in the fighting, is in mourning. Joab, nephew to David, chastises him, saying that such grief disrespects those who serve in David’s loyal army. It sends the message, Joab says, that…:

οὔκ εἰσιν οἱ ἄρχοντές σου οὐδὲ παῖδες

οὐδέ and not, nor

σου your

LXX 2 Kings 19:7


3. After suffering much at Satan’s hands, Job is visited by friends who seek to reassure him of God’s justice. At one point, Job throws one of his friends’ own questions back at him:

Ποῦ ἐστιν οἶκος ἄρχοντος;

οἶκος (nom sg) ὁ home

ποῦ where?

LXX Job 21:28


4. The prophet Isaiah imagines an appeal in the face of God’s wrath:

Σὺ μόνος εἶ ἄρχων

μόνος (nom sg) ὁ only

σύ (nom sg) you

LXX Is. 10:8


5. In the Maccabean revolt, Jews rebelled against persecution by King Antiochus IV. At one point, royal forces attack a group of rebels and challenge them to repent and surrender. The rebels refuse, saying in part:

ἀκρίτως ἀπόλλυτε ἡμᾶς.

ἀκρίτως illegally, unjustly

ἡμᾶς (acc pl) us

LXX 1 Maccabees 2:37


The following readings are from the New Testament.

6. As Jesus teaches in Jerusalem, some wonder about his claims and how it is that he is allowed to preach openly at the temple:

ἀληθῶς ἔγνωσαν οἱ ἄρχοντες ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ Χριστός;

ἀληθῶς truly

ἔγνωσαν (3d pl) knew

ὅτι that

οὗτος (nom sg) ὁ this (man)

κατὰ Ἰωάννην 7:26


7. In addition to scripture, a wide range of related writings were popular with early Christians and these circulated in a range of languages, especially Greek. Among these writings were romantic stories about an early Christian named Clement. While there were multiple historically important men named Clement in the early Christian church, these stories focus on a Clement who travelled with the apostle Peter. The Clementine Homilies is a collection of such stories.

The Clementine Homilies includes an extended version of the conflict between the apostle Peter and Simon Magus (cf. Acts 8:9-24). Peter wins over one of Simon’s disciples, Zacchaeus, and makes him bishop of Caeserea. As part of the process of installing Zacchaeus, Peter prays to God:

σὺ γὰρ ἄρχων ἀρχόντων [εἶ]

γάρ because

σύ (nom sg) you

Homily 3 72.3


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Reading Passages by Wilfred E. Major and Michael Laughy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.