Ancient Greek is a language like no other. It records an astonishing array of great works in different genres, stretching across a thousand years of history. Homer, the most influential poet ever, recited in the matchless cadences of the epic literary Greek dialect. The Apostle Paul, the Four Evangelists, and the other authors of the New Testament also left their accounts in Greek, using Koine, the beautifully clear conversational Greek spoken in the eastern Mediterranean of their day. Likewise, Sappho, Euripides, Aristophanes, Herodotus, Plato, Demosthenes, and many other ancient authors wrote in Greek, each with a distinct style that makes their individual voices live across the centuries.
I never met a person who is not interested in language, wrote the bestselling author and psychologist Steven Pinker. There are good reasons that language fascinates us so. It not only defines humans as a species, placing us head and shoulders above even the most proficient animal communicators, but it also beguiles us with its endless mysteries.
Look beyond the abstract dates and figures, kings and queens, and battles and wars that make up so many historical accounts. Over the course of 48 richly detailed lectures, Professor Garland covers the breadth and depth of human history from the perspective of the so-called ordinary people, from its earliest beginnings through the Middle Ages.
We all use language every day of our lives. Language, regardless of the particular dialect spoken, is the tool we use to express our wants, our needs, and our feelings. Recently, many experts who study language have become convinced by an idea about this remarkable human trait that was, only a few decades ago, utterly revolutionary. These experts believe that the capacity for spoken language and the rules for its structure are not cultural but universal-a set of rules shared by humans in every culture and that even may be hardwired into our brains. Moreover, these rules apply regardless of which of the world's 6,000 languages are being spoken.