Early next year, I will have a lot of down time in or near places that were visited by the ancient Romans and Greeks. I am a moderate history and language nerd. If I want to read ancient source material related to some of the places I will be visiting, what language should I learn - Latin or Ancient Greek?
I have always been a voracious reader (roughly a thousand pages a week for the last fifteen years). I use a Kindle app with my phone and various computers, as well as physical books. At any given time I am reading lots of different things - different environments require different inputs. Like a short essay when I'm waiting for a meeting to begin or a big hardbound book for when I'm eating a bowl of pho. I like to skip around on a general topic, expanding my understanding of it from various perspectives. I got burnt out on the news and contemporary fiction years ago, so I tend to read about history-related things. When history gets boring, I focus on a specific foreign language's fiction output. A long time ago that was Japanese, more recently that was Russian.
Five years ago, I combined topics, and learned Russian in order to read Russian fiction and classics. I took 3 months in a structured language 'school' and another two years with a private tutor twice a week. We worked our way through two volumes of a textbook series, translated a lot of short stories and Anna Ahkmatova, kept diaries in Russian, and had a lot of great conversations with our teacher. She came to our house and we would eat chocolates, drink tea, and read The Master and Margarita to each other in Russian - it was great. So now a few items on my reading list are Russian short stories. My language acquisition is such that I am great at reading comprehension and terrible at conversation.
In a few months, I will be doing a lot of business travel to Europe. Several consecutive months, lots of flying and boring corporate housing. Some places will be busy and interesting in their own right (London, Amsterdam), but extensive time will be spent places where it is not immediately so (East Anglia). I'd like to read about a topic that I can follow up or enhance with physical trips relative to what I'm reading about. This could mean something like reading Roman accounts of Britain and northern Europe, or something further afield to take advantages of proximity to more exotic places within a reasonable plane flight, like megalithic and bronze age sites in Malta and Greece.
I won't have time or a structured-enough schedule to do what I did with Russian, though, so I'd be learning the language on my own. I have pretty good study and practice habits from my Russian days in terms of translation and reading comprehension, but none for writing or speaking, which is great, because I'm not really interested in learning a language to speak (my work is conducted entirely in English, I don't anticipate being based anywhere for a long period where that isn't the case). Basically, I just want to gain moderate reading comprehension, enough to read ancient historical accounts of places I am visiting, like the relevant parts of Caesar's Conquest of Gaul while in Switzerland on a project.
I skimmed UC Berkeley's Ancient Greek tutorials
and the alphabet/pronunciation are mostly familiar and non-intimidating. If ancient Greek's difficulty is due to the alphabet acquisition, that probably won't be much of a problem for me. It would give me an excuse to visit the Mediterranean to see things I've been reading about. I'm slightly most interested in learning more about Aegan bronze age stuff and visiting those sites.
Latin, however, would allow me to read Roman accounts of Britain, and the later Anglo-Saxon writings relative to the area of the UK I'll be spending the most in. I could also visit Italy or other Roman sites in Europe. There seem to be a lot more on- and offline resources for learning it solo and more easily-found texts to read. Is there a significant difference between Imperial-period Latin and Medieval Latin? I took two years of Latin in middle school, but I have forgotten all of it.
I have seen this
about Latin resources for solo study, this
about Ancient Greek, and this
about study habits for Latin and Ancient Greek, none which really get at what I'm wondering but are very helpful in their own right. Also, they made both languages sound appealing!
- Should I learn Latin or Ancient Greek?
- Any suggestions for on- or offline resources for either language? Textbook series, online courses, apps, best small and large dictionary? Looks like Wheelock's is the standard Latin textbook and Wilding's Greek for Beginners are the standard text books.
- Cool topics that make knowing one of those languages relevant? Some overarching things I have considered are the migration period/fall of Rome, megalithic and bronze age, and Roman colonies in Europe. Anything that will utilize one of these languages by allowing me to read accounts from the period.
- Cool places to visit relative to that topic within a 4 hour or less flight from London or Amsterdam? (London-Malta appears to be two flights of three-ish hours. This is also fine. I also like overnight trains and ferries.)