Greek Studies

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The Greek or Ancient Greek Philology is the science of the language and literature of Ancient Greek . The term Graecistics in the sense of a science of the language and literature of Greek is rarely used as a generic term for the sub- sciences of Ancient Greek Philology, Byzantine Studies and Neo- Greek Studies . In Greece itself the course is simply called Φιλολογία (Philología) .

Greek Studies can be studied at many German universities (degrees: Magister , State Exam , Bachelor / Master ) and, together with Latin Studies, forms the so-called Classical Philology , which belongs to the classical studies of antiquity . The aim of the study of Greek studies is to this day the most secure command of the ancient Greek language, at least in its written form. This is practiced by translating the Greek texts into German, but also by translating German texts into Greek . Since Greek studies, like Latin studies, deal with language and literature (the distinction between linguistics and literary studies is far less sharp in the classical philologies than in the new philologies ), in addition to the command of the language, a comprehensive knowledge of Greek literature and the ability for their analysis and interpretation of the study objectives. Knowledge of ancient Greek or a Graecum are required to study Latin studies, ancient history and classical archeology .

Graecistics as literary studies

The Graecistics deals with all authors from the beginning of the Greek literacy (Homer or Hesiod) to the Byzantine studies , whereby the end of the Greek and the beginning of the Byzantine literature merge smoothly or cannot be clearly defined; the transition took place at the latest around 600 AD with the end of ancient Greek historiography and Neoplatonism . Sometimes there are separate chairs for Byzantine Studies (for example FU Berlin ), and sometimes courses on Byzantine Studies are offered within Graecistics (for example FSU Jena ). It should be noted, however, that many Byzantinists are more historians than philologists. Overall, the works of imperial and late antique literature have so far played a much smaller role in German Graecistics than for ancient historians and Latinists. At least in Germany, the focus within Greek Studies is still the study of so-called “classical” authors, which are for

All of these works were created before 300 BC. There are also some Hellenistic authors as well as the New Testament , which is written in the common ancient Greek language ( Koine ) (whereby the NT is dealt with more in the theological courses than in Greek studies). As I said, Greek literature from the imperial period and late antiquity is seldom dealt with at present; the only exceptions are a few works of the Second Sophistic and Neo-Platonism, which have received increasing attention from research in recent years.

Position of the subject

In Germany (to a lesser extent in Switzerland and Austria), Greek studies is part of the canon of subjects at German universities. Since the Greek language was taught together with the Latin for a long time in most grammar schools, the Greek language has always made its contribution to the German teacher training also at the universities. Since nowadays only very few students learn Greek in schools , the number of students studying Greek is also rather low. In some cases, Graecistics is even referred to as an orchid subject , as there are no particularly good chances of finding work in the private sector outside of the teaching profession (which of course also applies to other humanities subjects). On the other hand, according to its defenders, the importance of Greek studies is still characterized by the fact that the Greek texts form the foundation of modern European society and mark the beginning of European writing.

Neighboring and specialty disciplines

For training in literature and language, knowledge of the neighboring and special disciplines should be taught. Knowledge of Greek history , Greek culture and Greek philosophy is particularly important , without whose knowledge an understanding of many Greek texts is not possible. Comprehensive knowledge of these areas is particularly important for student teachers, as teaching them within Greek lessons in schools is part of the curriculum. The main disciplines that should be mentioned are epigraphy , papyrology and textual criticism . Papyrology in particular has been able to recover quite a few texts ( see: Oxyrhynchus ) that were lost during the Middle Ages.

History of the subject

Greek philology was already practiced in antiquity : At the time of Hellenism , Greek philologists dealt very carefully with the existing Homer texts, which were probably already very different at that time. With the rise of the Roman Empire, the Greek language also came to Rome , every Roman citizen of the upper class could speak Greek as well as Latin (from around 150 BC). It is therefore not surprising that some Romans wrote their works in the Greek language (for example, Emperor Marc Aurel ). With the beginning of late antiquity (around 300), knowledge of Greek declined in the West, which also led to a decline in Greek philology in Western Europe. After this period, Greek studies have been preserved mainly by Eastern Roman-Byzantine scholars; in Arabia , too, Greek literature, mainly Aristotle, has been studied (though mostly in translation).

After the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in the 15th century, many Greek scholars fled to the West and above all to Italy, ushering in the Renaissance and humanism - and so the Greek returned to Western Europe. Since 18./19. In the 19th century, important personalities such as Winckelmann , Goethe and Nietzsche dealt with Greek, and Johann Heinrich Voss presented his famous translation of the Homeric epics. The civilization of Ancient Greece has been exemplary for almost 200 years and only lost that status after the Second World War. In the 19th century, the height of Greek studies was reached in Germany, and Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff is considered the most important international philologist of this time . In the later 20th century, the importance of Greek philology decreased more and more (parallel to the decrease in the importance of Greek in German grammar schools), nevertheless important Graecists were always at work in both West and East Germany (e.g. Bruno Snell , Friedrich Sugar ). Today you can study Greek at most universities where Latin can also be studied, as the two subjects together form Classical Philology and are often combined by students.

Active use of the ancient Greek language

There is a group of around 15 to 20 people in Western Europe who are concerned with actively using the ancient Greek language and speaking it like a living language. This initiative came from the Heidelberg professor of Greek studies Herwig Görgemanns . In addition, Greek speaking courses regularly take place in Greece, which are led by the Husum high school teacher Helmut Quack.


See also

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