“If you really want to get all the jokes, you should read Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War …”

Visiting relations in Limerick, I picked up a book from the coffee table: a Penguin edition of some plays by Aristophanes, including the Wasps. My cousin found me chuckling away a few minutes later. I expressed surprise at something so old seeming so fresh, and he spoke the fateful words quoted above.

I became fascinated with the ancient Greeks - so like and unlike us - and began learning their language at the Royal Irish Academy’s summer school in 2003. We motored through half of the JACT’s Reading Greek course. Since then, I’ve tapped away with varying levels of intensity and success.

After a detour via Latin, I’ve returned to Greek in earnest, practising on my commute and with a small group at work. Over the years I’ve read extracts of the New Testament, Herodotus, Plato and others, but reading Homer in Greek has long been a special ambition. To this end, I picked up a revision of Pharr’s Homeric Greek for beginners and began working through it.

So it’s wonderful that as I approach a decade with Greek, I’m finally getting around to reading the Iliad in its original language. I’m putting a lot of effort into being able to read fluently, with good meter and accent. I’ve recently learned the preface - the first seven lines, which introduce the theme and central conflict of the poem:

My recital of the Iliad’s preface.

“Rage, goddess, sing the destructive rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, which caused myriad pains to the Achaeans, and flung many mighty souls of heroes to Hades, but made their bodies prey for the dogs and a feast for the birds, and Zeus’ plan was being accomplished, since first the two stood apart, quarreling: Atreus’ son, lord of men, and godlike Achilles.”

It’s hard to describe the pleasure of being able to speak this and understand what I am saying, or how enriching my involvement with the ancient world has been. If anyone is curious about where to start, please tap my shoulder virtually or in person.

Here’s to the next decade!

Not quite technology-related, but I assure you that learning inflected dead languages is plenty technical. ;o)