Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Denniston's Greek Prose Style

Excerpts from J.D. Denniston's posthumous Greek Prose Style (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952; rpt. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1979):

P. 5:
It is easy to regard Herodotus as an entertaining old fellow gifted with unlimited credulity and a knack for telling amusing, sometimes improper, stories in an Ionic brogue. But he was more than this. There is, at certain moments, a hushed intensity in his style which recalls Homer, Malory, or the English Bible: the story of Croesus and Solon, for example, or the story of Harpagus, who unwittingly ate the flesh of his murdered son at Astyages' table.
P. 6:
One is too apt to take for granted the reserve and restraint of the classics.
P. 8:
One of the reasons why writing Greek prose is such a fascinating occupation is that it offers a release from the comparatively strict bondage of English structure.
P. 16:
Exalted language wedded to pedestrian thought brings forth burlesque.
P. 61:
We must now consider the principles governing the architecture of the Greek sentence. To begin with, the units are normally small. The edifice, lofty though it may be, is built of bricks, not of huge blocks of Cyclopean masonry. To adopt another metaphor, a Greek period, though capable of sustaining itself, if need be, for twenty lines or so, demands frequent halts—like men who can walk all day if they are allowed to rest every now and then.
P. 72:
Sometimes, however, the orators employ antithesis as an end in itself, and language becomes the master, instead of the servant, of thought.
P. 124:
We do not know with any accuracy what ancient Greek sounded like; but even after allowing for this uncertainty, it is clear, I think, that the Greek ear differed from our own.
P. 132:
...the Laws, a work in which a certain πρεσβυτικὴ παιδιά not infrequently appears.
P. 136:
'Punning' is, it is true, an unfortunate description, because it connotes for us a humorous intention, while by the Greeks it was frequently regarded as a means of attaining truth, or as aesthetically valuable in itself.

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