International Byzantine Greek Summer School (IBGSS)
Byzantine Greek is the dominant form of Greek written during the Byzantine Empire (AD 330–1453). The spoken language changed significantly in this period and came close to Modern Greek, but most Byzantine authors use conservative forms of Greek that looked back to Classical Attic, the Hellenistic Koine and Biblical Greek. Therefore much of the vocabulary, morphology and syntax of Byzantine Greek are not significantly different from Classical Greek, which makes this course a suitable preparation also for reading Classical literature and the New Testament.
The International Byzantine Greek Summer School (IBGSS), directed by Dr Anthony Hirst, moved to Dublin in 2016 after many years of success at Queen’s University Belfast (2002-11) and the University of Birmingham (2012-15). The course teaches Byzantine Greek at Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced level and allows early learners to engage with original texts from the start. Each level comprises two weeks of full-time study.
Level 1 Beginners
The Level 1 course is designed for those with no previous knowledge of Greek. It starts with the Greek alphabet and through intensive teaching over a two-week period introduces students to the basic morphology and syntax they need to take the first steps towards reading Byzantine Greek. They read extracts of actual Byzantine Greek texts from the start and will be able to translate simple Greek texts with the aid of a dictionary at the end of the course.
Course Structure and Approach
The course comprises ten teaching days of two teaching sessions each with additional tutorial support. In the morning sessions students concentrate on the grammatical structures, morphology and vocabulary of Greek. We do not presuppose knowledge of another highly inflected language (such as Latin) but introduce students gradually to the differences in how Greek and English ‘work.’ The emphasis is on understanding the principles, structures and categories of the language, and memorisation of tables and lists is kept to a daily minimum. Students become familiar with the declensions of nouns and adjectives, the most important pronouns, and the indicative, infinitive and participial forms of the present and aorist tenses. They also receive a taste of the future and perfect tenses and the subjunctive mood, learning how to recognize their forms.
In the afternoon sessions we read Byzantine texts. Full vocabulary is provided in the early stages, enabling students to concentrate on analysing the morphology of verbs and nouns to establish their syntactical relations. Later, students learn to judiciously use the Liddell and Scott Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon to establish the meaning of words and expand their vocabulary (purchase copies and a limited number of borrowing copies will be available during the Summer School).
Students get constant practice in reading Greek aloud. They are taught the modern Greek pronunciation, which is closer to the pronunciation of Greek in the Byzantine period than the Erasmian pronunciation generally used in teaching Classical Greek (which students may encounter towards the end of the course).
Assessment and Certification
Students complete frequent short written tests and receive formative feedback throughout the course. On sitting a written exam at the end of the course they receive a certificate of completion and (if desired) achievement (Pass or ECTS/US/UK grade). The course workload is equivalent to 5 credits in the European Credit Transfer System.
Level 2/2.5 Intermediate/Higher Intermediate
The Level 2 course assumes that students have successfully completed Level 1 (either last year or in the previous weeks: each year many students take both levels) or they have acquired an equivalent level of competence in Greek by other means (for example, in a university or secondary school course in Ancient Greek). Level 2 consolidates and completes the coverage of basic Greek grammar and introduces students to Bzyantine Greek texts in different genres, such as historiography, liturgy and hagiography.
Course Structure and Approach
The course is normally taught in two groups, Level 2 Intermediate and Level 2.5 Higher Intermediate, who cover largely the same topics and authors but at different speeds. Assignment to Level 2 or Level 2.5 takes place in consultation with the student, taking into account results in Level 1 or a diagnostic test on the first morning of the course.
The course comprises ten teaching days of two teaching sessions each with additional tutorial support. Guided by the members of our teaching team, who alternate between groups, students continue to revise and reinforce the material covered by the Level 1 course and learn the remaining basic morphology and syntax, including the future and perfect tenses, the subjunctive mood and rare optative. They also analyse principles of sentence construction, the uses of conjunctions and particles, and the subtleties and complexities of the participial system.
Most of all, however, students develop their ability to read Byzantine Greek texts through exposure to writing in various genres, and learn to appreciate differences in register and style. At Level 2, students encounter texts whose vocabulary, morphology and syntax are close to Classical Greek, but also literature which exhibits features of Modern Greek. Texts studied usually include selections from a historical chronicle (Theophanes’ Chronographia), the Liturgy of John Chrysostom, and a Saint’s life, as well as examples of Biblical and Classical Greek.
Students get constant practice in reading Greek aloud. They are taught the modern Greek pronunciation, which is closer to the pronunciation of Greek in the Byzantine period than the Erasmian pronunciation generally used in the teaching of Classical Greek. For students unfamiliar with Modern Greek pronunciation there will be a practice session at the start of the course.
At Level 2, students hone their skill in using a scholarly dictionary, and they are encouraged to bring their own copy of the Liddell and Scott Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (purchase copies and a limited number of borrowing copies will be available during the Summer School). By the end of the course students should be equipped to continue their study of Greek texts independently and to enlarge the necessarily limited vocabulary they acquire in this short but intensive course.
Assessment and Certification
Students complete occasional short written tests and receive formative feedback throughout the course. On sitting a written exam at the end of the course they receive a certificate of completion and (if desired) achievement (Pass or ECTS/US/UK grade). The course workload is equivalent to 5 credits in the European Credit Transfer System.
Level 3 Advanced Reading
The Level 3 course is for learners who successfully completed Level 2/2.5 in a previous year and have followed this up with at least one year’s further study, or those who have acquired substantial familiarity with Greek by other means (for example, in university intermediate or advanced courses in Byzantine, Ancient or New Testament Greek). The course assumes a wide vocabulary and a good knowledge of the morphology and syntax of Greek. Grammar revision and extension are offered as needed, but the emphasis in Level 3 is on reading and discussion of a substantial amount of Greek, in different genres and from different periods, selected in consultation with the students on the course.
Course Structure and Approach
The course comprises ten teaching days of two teaching sessions each with additional tutorial support. Guided by the members of our teaching team, who alternate between groups, students read extracts from a range of Greek texts. For the Level 3 course there is no pre-set programme of instruction. Its purpose is to introduce participants to a wide variety of literature in different styles, registers and genres, as well as to samples of Classical Greek, late Byzantine vernacular and Modern Greek. On request, the course may also include introductory palaeography sessions, in which we transcribe and read facsimiles of manuscripts.
All applicants for Level 3 are invited to specify on their application form at least one text that they would like to study in the course. It may not be possible to honour all requests, but they will provide a guide to your interests and help us to plan the course. Sampled genres may include chronography and narrative history, oratory, liturgy and biblical texts, theology, hagiography, religious and secular poetry, official documents and letters. Those who attended Level 3 in previous years can be assured that a different set of texts will be studied in the current year.
Students at Level 3 will continue to practice reading Greek aloud in the modern Greek pronunciation, which is closer to the pronunciation of Greek in the Byzantine period than the Erasmian pronunciation generally used in the teaching of Classical Greek. For students unfamiliar with Modern Greek pronunciation there will be a practice session at the start of the course. Students are encouraged to bring their own copy of the Liddell and Scott Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (purchase copies and a limited number of borrowing copies will be available during the Summer School).
Those who are uncertain whether to apply for Level 2/2.5 or Level 3 need not worry unduly at the application stage. Applicants to these levels will be given a short diagnostic translation test on the first day and we aim to fit the course to the levels of experience of the participants as much as possible.
Assessment and Certification
At the end of the course students have the option of sitting a written translation exam consisting of unseen excerpts from the works studied in the course. The use of dictionaries and other resources will be permitted. Students receive a certificate of completion and (if desired) achievement (Pass or ECTS/US/UK grade). The course workload is equivalent to 5 credits in the European Credit Transfer System.
Dr Anthony Hirst (Course Director)
Anthony Hirst has directed the Byzantine Greek Summer School since 2006, first in Belfast and then in Birmingham and Dublin. He lectured in Byzantine and Modern Greek at Queen’s University Belfast until retiring in 2009 and was Manager and Academic Director of the Durrell School of Corfu from 2010 to 2013. He currently resides in London and France. Anthony’s monograph God and the Poetic Ego (2004) studies the use and abuse of biblical and liturgical texts in the work of three modern Greek poets. His publications also include translations of Modern Greek poetry and prose, edited volumes, and numerous articles, especially on the Alexandrian Greek poet C. P. Cavafy.
Dr Martine Cuypers
Martine is Assistant Professor in Classics at Trinity College Dublin, where she teaches Greek language and literature, contributes to Masters courses in Literary Translation and Comparative Literature, and co-ordinates the Summer School. She studied Classics at Leiden University (Netherlands) and has worked as a teacher and scholar in Hamburg, Leiden, Groningen, Chicago and Washington DC. Her research focuses on post-Classical Greek literature and culture, from Hellenistic to Byzantine times. She has particular interests in Byzantine poetry, narrative fiction and literary scholarship.
Alastair completed the Joint Honours BA course in Greek and English, and the MPhil course in Classics at Trinity College Dublin, writing a dissertation about the poet Herodas, oratory and the comic tradition. Funded by the Irish Research Council, he is currently exploring how the Hellenistic poet Apollonius of Rhodes engages with comedy, and engages in humour, in his generally serious epic Argonautica.
Seán McCrum has taught at the Byzantine Greek Summer School since 2013, having attended it (in his native Belfast) from 2009. He is a graduate in Classics of Trinity College Dublin and has worked as an independent curator in many areas of the arts, including sound art. As course administrator, he is responsible for much of the practical running of the Summer School, including admissions.
Sean holds a BA and MA in Classics from the University of Groningen and he has worked as a teacher of Greek and Latin in the Netherlands. He has published articles on Amazons, Hermeticism and pseudo-Oppian’s Cynegetica. Sean is currently engaged in an Irish Research Council funded project on Oppian’s didactic epic on fish, the Halieutica, which focuses on how Oppian represents the relationship between humans and animals, exploring his interaction with the poetic tradition and contemporary philosophical discussions about the nature of animals.
Alexandra received her first taste of Greek in Germany and completed a B.A. in Classics as a Foundation Scholar at Trinity College Dublin. With funding from the Irish Research Council she is currently working on a Ph.D. project that analyses the so-called Orphic Argonautica, a Late Antique epic of uncertain authorship and date that narrates the quest of Jason and the Argonauts in the voice of the mystic singer and wisdom figure Orpheus. Together with Guy Walker, Alexandra has since 2016 been responsible for the teaching of beginners and intermediate Greek to degree students at Trinity College Dublin.
Patrick Sammon has taught at the Byzantine Greek Summer School since 2010. He learned Greek in Joyce’s alma mater, Belvedere College, and was a Foundation Scholar in Classics in Wilde’s Trinity College Dublin. Having served 35 years in the Irish diplomatic service (including two postings in Athens) he is now an independent scholar. His publications include Greenspeak: Ireland in her own Words (2002), The Ionian Islands: Aspects of their History and Culture (co-edited with Anthony Hirst, 2014) and essays such as ‘Oscar Wilde and Greece’ in the volume The Lure of Greece (2007).
Guy holds a B.A. in Classics from the University of Exeter and M.Phil. in Classics from Trinity College Dublin. As an Irish Research Council postgraduate scholar, he is currently writing a Ph.D. thesis about the influence of Neoplatonism on the Dionysiaca by Nonnus of Panopolis, a 48-book epic on the god Dionysus from the late 4th century. Together with Alexandra Madeła, Guy has since 2016 been responsible for the teaching of beginners and intermediate Greek to degree students at Trinity College Dublin.
Course Fees and Application
The course fee for two weeks (Level 1 or Level 2/2.5 or Level 3) is €350.
The course fee for all four weeks (Level 1 + Level 2/2.5) is €700.
A limited number of bursaries are available for students who require financial support to attend this Summer School. Bursaries have in previous years been made possible by the support of Trinity College Dublin, the Classical Association (UK), Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, and the Alison Jayne Dunlop Memorial, Brian Earls Memorial, Institute of Byzantine Studies, Timothy Lutz, and Belfast Byzantine Texts and Translations funds.
- Download the application form and Guide for Applicants and return the completed application form as an email attachment to Mr Seán McCrum. The deadline for 2021 applications is 30 April 2021. Late applications may be considered if places are still available.
If your application is accepted, you will be asked to pay a deposit of €100 through Trinity College’s online booking page (temporarily offline). This deposit is non-refundable.
You will receive a message confirming your deposit payment, your place on the course, and the balance of your tuition fee. The balance should be paid online before the start of the course.
If you require a bursary to attend this Summer School, please contact the Course Director, Dr Anthony Hirst. Bursaries can only provide partial assistance for fees. If you wish to be considered for funding it is essential that you submit your application by the deadline.
If you have any queries, please contact Seán McCrum