Greek 301, Fall 2020: Lysias


This fall, in addition to covering the remaining material in Shelmerdine’s textbook, we will be reading two closely related texts for our first second-year Greek course:

  • Lysias, On the Murder of Eratosthenes (aka Lysias I). This is a speech written by Lysias in 403 BCE for an Athenian man defending himself against a murder charge. Lysias writes in a measured, familiar style that conceals (rather than flaunts) a pleasing level of sophistication; and he endows his speeches with subtle characterization that amuses as it persuades. Lysias is just easy enough for a second year course, but provides plenty of challenge in terms of idiom and structure.
  • Dionysius of Halicarnassus, On Lysias. Dionysius was an historian and rhetorician writing in the late 1st century BCE: he considered the plain Attic style of Lysias to be one of the best models for persuasive Greek prose, and in this essay he tells us why. Not surprisingly, his style has a similar lucidity to that of Lysias, but the nature of his subject matter (literary criticism) ensures that you will have plenty of thinking to do.

Course Materials:

  • Our basic edition for Lysias will be Geoffrey Steadman’s reader, which includes vocab and short explanatory notes. You can download this for free from his web site, or order a paper copy from Amazon.
  • Though Steadman’s editions are aimed at the lower intermediate reader, I always find that there are many important things left unexplained, and so I will be supplementing this edition with a set of notes of my own which I’ll post on Canvas. If you do grab the edition and find yourself perplexed by the first sentence, by the way, don’t be put off – that’s exactly what I’m talking about!
  • For Dionysius I’ll share with you my own student commentary with notes and vocab.
  • We will read at a pace of just under 500 words per week. We’ll get through all of Lysias I, and the more interesting bits of Dionysius.
  • We’ll read the two works in parallel. There will be two learning units each week: Lysias first, then Dionysius.
  • For both texts you can prep with the help of my interpretive web pages (audio readings included). These are designed to make prep. relatively straightforward for you, but the other side of that coin is that I expect you to show up for class having made thorough use of all the supporting materials, and not needing help with vocab or basic things explained in notes.
  • Other materials of use:
    • I will generate vocab flash cards for each week’s work and upload them to Quizlet. 
    • You can, at the moment, access Carey’s Cambridge commentary on Lysias for free via the UO library (you need to use the UO VPN to do so). This is special Covid-19 access, so it’s not clear how long this will be possible. Note that a simple “Save Page as HTML” will, in fact, save the commentary on most browsers (but I did not tell you that).
    • You can also access a free copy, via the UO Library, of S.C. Todd’s Lysias commentary.
    • Jo Wilmott’s list of constructions may be helpful to you.
    • If you read French, you can access Desrousseaux and Egger’s 1890 Commentary/Translation of Dionysius’ essay at the Hathi Trust
    • There exist student commentaries on Lysias 1 by Scodel (Bryn Mawr) and also Rydberg-Cox (Focus). Each of these has its virtues, and they are not expensive, but both leave out even more than Steadman in terms of what a student is likely to need help with. Only get these if you just like to have all the books.

Course Format:

As things stand, we plan to offer this course in person. It will be a small class held in the Classics conference room, most likely with the windows open! A few observations on this:

  • nobody really knows what Fall term will be like. I am hopeful that meeting in person will be safe and effective, but I will not endanger your safety or mine.
  • I taught Greek 303 (Homer) by Zoom this term. I found it to be quite effective, and I certainly enjoyed it. I realize now that some students needed me to be on their cases much more than I was, so if we do end up on Zoom again I will be the annoying professor, and will most likely expect to have a short check-in with each of you individually each week.
  • I do wonder if teaching in a mask (as it seems we will be doing) is any better than teaching by Zoom. At least on Zoom I get to see your pets.
  • If we do end up in the classroom, but you do not wish to come to campus, I will make that possible. The conference room has good conferencing facilities (clue is in the name, I guess), so if necessary we can have remote attendees.