What ancillaries do you need?


What ancillary materials should this site provide that would help you, as an independent reader, as a student, or as a teacher, make the most of the commentaries on this website?

One reader, for example, suggested links to Quizlet flashcards sets for core vocabulary, and that recommendation has been a very good one. The Quizlet sets for First Catilinarian have proven to be very popular and will be included with future commentaries.

What do you recommend?

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24 thoughts on “What ancillaries do you need?

    • geoffreysteadman says:

      Yes, Orberg’s Lingua Latina includes volumes on Caesar, Cicero, Vergil, Plautus, Ovid, and others, and I have always admired how the series has been able to squeeze such clear and concise explanations into such small margins. This sort of design requires a lot of planning.

      I do not think, however, that I can be helpful in this regard. The series on this website is targeting a different audience. Still, if anyone wishes to adapt one of the commentaries on this website for a non-English target language (Latin explained in Latin, Greek explained in Greek) and publish it, I will happily pass along any files that one may need.

  1. whatisoptimality says:

    I would like to see a set of questions for the texts, questions that are meant to get the students to probe deeply into the subject matter AND language, within a limited compass, of course.

    For example:
    What are the naunces fin Plato’s text X (or whatever) of using different constructions to indicate necessity and how do those nuances get used by this or that author?

    Not the best example, but perhaps clear enough.

    • geoffreysteadman says:

      This is very useful. I am reading Lafleur’s Ovid reader, Love and Transformations, with my Latin students, and every two-page spread contains a section called “Discussion Questions” which asks readers questions regarding both the content of the passage and the contribution of stylistic devices and meter to the meaning. The section is short, but it serves as a healthy reminder that readers should be aiming for an understanding of the author beyond the mechanics of reading itself.

      One of the limitations of the single-page and two-page commentary format on this website is that it does not leave much room for more than vocabulary and grammar explanations. Often, the grammatical notes must be curtailed for the sake of space.

      I suppose that there are two ways to add a set of questions to this sort of commentary: either in an appendix or on pages which are devoted just to questions and interspersed throughout the commentary. The second option seems more appealing of the two since the questions will be closer to the relevant passages and cannot be overlooked by readers. Unfortunately, it is hard to add either of these two options to the existing commentaries without creating entirely new editions.

      Thank you for the much needed suggestion. I’m collaborating on Aristotle soon and will keep your idea in mind.

  2. Michael Shanahan says:

    I have found your addendum dealing with the optative and subjunctive moods in “Medea” and the chart of the various types of conditions very useful. Perhaps something along these lines could be done for the different uses of the participle. And then perhaps identifying the different uses of the participle in the commentary.

    Also, in the commentary, for a particularly difficult phrase or clause that needs translation as well as explanation, an accurate English translation first and then in parentheses the basic decoding that captures the literal meaning of the Greek. That would be especially helpful for novices like myself who are often puzzled with exactly how a particular English translation was arrived at.

    • geoffreysteadman says:

      I am glad that the optative/subjunctive appendix in Medea has been helpful. I wish that I had included it in every volume. It was surprisingly easy to create and involves little more than searching for all the optatives and subjunctives in the pdf and compiling those searches onto a page. I recently added a comparable list in the Cicero volume and will be sure to add the same in future commentaries.

      As for the handling of difficult passages that require both translation and explanation, in the past I tried to give a more colloquial English translation in italics and then follow with a semicolon and the literal meaning in regular type in quotation marks. Obviously, this format is not always effective. I will have to reconsider the formatting in light of your suggestion. Unfortunately, the limited space on each page is also a factor, and sometimes I have to cut short a note that would otherwise demand a more detailed explanation.

      I will also add an explanation of participles in future volumes. It’s a good idea. This is a topic that I simply overlooked in the past and should be addressed either in a grammar box or the appendix.

      Thank you.

  3. Fauvel says:

    Prof. Steadman,

    I would like to have more audio materials. Based mostly on the work of Bernd Sebastian Kamps, /The Word Brain/ (http://www.thewordbrain.com/), and its offspring, the not-quite-finished /GigaFrench/ (http://gigafrench.com/), I have begun listening and reading to certain Latin and Ancient Greek texts. The listening is done in bite-sized pieces, roughly 2-3 minutes in length, and done until the text is thoroughly learned. Memorization of the text is not the goal, but that can be one of the results. Even in a brief time of about two weeks my understanding of the meanings of the words and texts has improved a lot.

    My Greek text has been /The Iliad/ 1.1-21, the audio being a recording made by Stanley Lombardo (I downloaded the audio a few years ago, and I have lamentably lost the url for the audio).

    My Latin text is C. Sallusti Crispi /Bellum Iugurthinum/, Chapter 1, the audio being a Youtube recording made some years ago (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTdBvacAf1o).

    No doubt purists may complain about Lombardo’s pronunciation and about the Sallust’s being read in Ecclesiastical Latin, but I found both recordings excellent due to the phrasing’s sounding natural and thereby helping me get meaning out of non-English word order.

    As for other audio, there are a handful of readings of poetry and prose in both Latin and Ancient Greek on Youtube, not to mention a number of Ancient Greek plays. Libravox.org has a few dialogues of Plato (https://librivox.org/dialogues-by-plato/).

    My next Greek listening/reading is going to be Electra’s first monologue, for which I’ve used Audacity to chop out of a Youtube version. Access to more audio would be /very /helpful. As far as I am concerned, the accents don’t have to be spot on nor the pronunciation “classical” (though Ancient Greek read in a Modern Greek accent would lose the melody and assonance of the old vowels, at the very least). What counts are intonation and phrasing.


    Don Hamilton

    Dallas, Texas

    • geoffreysteadman says:


      Here, I can do little more than add links to audio recordings that others have created–but I agree that such recordings would be a great complement to the Latin and Greek texts themselves. As I clean up the website, I will add those links where I find them.

      In addition to the websites that you mentioned above, I recommend Justin Slocum Bailey’s website and in particular his blog post on the various techniques–including audio recordings–that he used to read Latin extensively (Indwellinglanguage.com). It’s an inspiring story and echoes a number of points that you made in your post. The website itself includes files to Latin recordings as well as links to many more. Thank you.

  4. Don Stilwell says:

    I very much appreciate the jpg flashcards. I don’t see myself using the quiz let site, even if that was all that was available.

    That said, I must that you for such a great learning tool. The texts with their annotations are the best around.

    • geoffreysteadman says:

      Wow. I did not know whether anyone found the jpg flashcards useful. I started adding the ppt and jpg flashcards to the website in 2009 when websites like Quizlet were not available and am only now reassessing their value to readers. I will make more of an effort to add jpg cards to current and future commentaries. Thank you.

  5. Sean says:

    I don’t think that the format of your commentaries could be improved. They are excellent and give all the help anyone could reasonably ask for. My only request would be for more Greek texts. Perhaps instead of entire books you might consider selections or choice excerpts from authors. This would facilitate exposure to a greater variety of Greek and non-standard authors (for example the Lyric poets, Theocritus, Plutarch, Polybius, Josephus and others). Just a suggestion. I am really grateful for all the commentaries you have produced to date. Keep up the good work.

    • geoffreysteadman says:


      I am grateful for the suggestions. More Greek commentaries are coming. Originally, the plan was to have at least two works from each author so that readers could effortlessly move from one text to the next. This is why some authors are heavily represented, while others are not available at all.

      I will give your suggestion about selections from different authors some thought. A quick Google Book search reveals that these sort of compilations were not uncommon in the past. I suppose part of the challenge is to choose authors and selections that are thematically connected in some meaningful way. I’ll keep this idea in mind. Thanks.

      • MS says:

        I very much disagree with the suggestion of an anthology. Anthologies are readily available. I have more than one of them. What’s not widely available are texts geared towards the intermediate reader that make an entire work – one of the works we get into Greek in the first place in order to read – accessible to the not-yet-fluent reader.

        I love your editions and have profited from many of them, as well as the Hayes/Nimis “competition”. I would like more of them. Far from wishing for an anthology of snippets, I would instead entreat you to add more works by authors you’ve already covered, but if not, at any rate certainly to continue to do complete works. The fact that you do complete works or at least books is one of the best things about your approach, and having multiple complete works from a standard author is the best thing I could ask for. Just as Hayes and Nimis have focussed on lots of Lucian texts, while providing a sampling of other post-classical authors, I would love it if you did more Plato and Homer in your format. Certainly I would buy and read an indefinite number of such works, which are far more useful than anything out there. If you did the whole Iliad or Republic, for instance, I would be overjoyed beyond words. Of course that’s a lot of work. But I would infinitely prefer to see, say, Plato’s Protagoras complete than an anthology.

        Last year I read all your Homer volumes and was able to move to the Iliad using the simple text and Cunliffe or Autenreith; in between I read Benner’s selections and found his notes useless. I appreciate the boost your books gave me immensely, but the vocabulary gap is still large and I would eagerly accept more intermediate readers, even a whole epic’s worth.

        Similarly last year I read all your Plato volumes with great profit; this year I read Bailly’s commentary on Euthyphro and Clitophon with the texts and found it so little what I wanted in assistance as to be sorry I bought the book at all; and I read an edition of Meno in my old college textbook and found it similar to your approach, but not as helpful. I wish I had more Plato texts exactly like yours.

        To make a long story short, I’ve been using your books for a long time and think they’re the best thing going for us rare birds who are trying to improve our Greek outside an academic setting. In my opinion and for my needs your approach is perfect the way it is (my only regret is that I haven’t marked down errors in proofreading as I come across them to help make future editions better), and the only thing wanting is more of the same.

      • geoffreysteadman says:

        Point taken. Still, there is a lot of merit to Matt’s suggestion. Aristotle, for example, is not often read in undergraduate programs in the U.S., and so an anthology that includes the Poetics and a single book from both the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics would likely be more appealing than one volume devoted just to the Politics. Just a thought.

        I will return Homer and Plato soon. I have committed to other project through the summer, but I will return to Plato soon after. Thank you for the suggestion.

  6. Matt says:

    It would be incredibly helpful if the formatting of the vocab lists or flashcards was in Word or Excel format. So far, some work and some don’t. It saves so much time when I can copy and paste into a flashcard app than when having to enter by hand.

    • geoffreysteadman says:

      Yes, this issue should have been addressed long ago. I am surprised, however, that copy and paste does not work for some commentaries. The Greek in the Symposium is non-unicode (SPIonic font)–much to my embarrassment–so copy and paste will not work unless one has the font SPIonic, but the Greek and Latin in the other books are unicode.

      Still, a Word or Excel document would make be useful not only for readers who want to use Anki, Quizlet, etc. but also for instructors who wish to review and test the vocabulary with students.

      As I revise the website, I’ll eventually add this resource to every page. Thanks.

      • Matt says:

        Ok, I see now. I had only attempted it with Lysias, which worked, and the Symposium, which didn’t. I tried just now with Medea, and that worked. Good to know.

        In that case, my other suggestion would be that it would be nice if eventually there were a similar amount of Latin readers as well. Regardless, I’m very grateful for your work.

      • geoffreysteadman says:

        Thank you once again for bringing the need for vocabulary .doc files to my attention. I will take care of that issue soon.

        As for Latin works, I’m a Latin teacher by day so Latin authors are never far from my mind. I’ll post a sample from Ovid soon (just Daphne and Apollo), but there will not be anything new until Sallust is revised. Petronius is an excellent author for this sort of commentary–the grammar is easy but the vocabulary is a bit unusual–but I have yet to find a good copy of the text with macrons. Thanks.

    • John Arthur says:

      Regarding vocabulary, I would much prefer a columnar format — whether in the standalone .doc files or in the vocabulary lists included at the end of each book (and even on each page but I get demanding!) — I mean where the first column is the vocabulary word, the second is the English meaning. The advantage of this is it then becomes trivial to block out the “answer” portion of the page by moving a paper or card down. This can be done without exposing the next definition because all definitions are the same distance from the vocabulary term. The result is that the list can function much like flashcards for self-testing.

      • geoffreysteadman says:

        Yes, I see how this is very useful. I will keep your suggestion in mind.

        It is actually very easy to create this format in MS Word with the list of dictionary entries currently available. First, highlight the dictionary entries and set a tab where you want the second column to begin. Then, go to “Find and Replace” and put “:” in the Find window and “:^t” in the Replace window. When you click replace all, the English definition for each entry will shift right to where you placed the tab.

        Another solution in MS Word is to convert the dictionary entries to a simply table. Click Table > Convert text to table. In the window that pops up, simply click “Separate text at…other___” and add a colon in the box beside “other.” The result will be a two-column table with Latin/Greek in the first column and English meanings in the second.

        That said, I will try to offer a solution so that readers will not have to repeat this process on their own. Thank you.

  7. Tarja says:

    Dear Prof. Steadman,
    It would have been really helpful if you provided Homer’s Iliad 1 and Sallust’s Bellum Iugurthinum. Although I’m perfectly aware that you rather make things according to needs of American school syllabus and/or your own students, however, be aware that your editions are being used internationally more and more each day (for example in EU, where in most schools English and German are being taught from early age) as well, myself included, and we’ll need more of works like yours. I am pleased with your editions so far and I’ve recommended them to my teachers. Whatever may come out of this, I still want to thank you – your commentaries have saved my exams multiple times.
    Sincere regards and many thanks from Eastern Europe.

    • geoffreysteadman says:

      Thank you for the encouragement. Truly. I’m glad that a commentary proved to be helpful in some way.

      Pamela Draper offers an excellent commentary for Iliad Book 1, that I recommend that you consider. She does not include all of the vocabulary on the same page as the text, but she does offer extensive vocabulary and grammatical help on the same page as the Greek text, and the vocabulary in the glossary is complete. If I return to the Iliad, I will likely pick up books that complement rather than replace Draper’s commentary.

      I will certainly consider Bellum Iugurthinum. I just finished a draft on Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae, and it proved to be more challenging than I expected. Sallust’s extensive use of ellipsis and general style makes it difficult to fit all the grammatical notes that are necessary on each page. I will have to revise Bellum Catilinae before I turn to Bellum Iugurthinum, but it is always a good idea to have two works from the same author so that readers can more effortlessly from one book to the next. Thanks.

      Good luck with your studies.

  8. Chris Miller says:

    My one suggestion would be to establish a blog in which readers might ask questions about the grammar encountered in the texts. The commentaries are excellent, and provide clarification on the large majority of grammatical questions I’ve had. Nonetheless, there have times when I’ve had questions, but haven’t been able to find the answers in Smyth or Goodwin. I realize there are already other blogs out there (e.g., Textkit), but they’ve been rather “all over the map” in my experience, and not particularly helpful with grammar. What I’m suggesting is something focused on grammar and specific to the Steadman series of books. Of course, Dr. Steadman shouldn’t be expected to answer all the questions himself; rather, I would hope that readers would willing to help each other. That said, I wish to thank Dr. Steadman for all his work in creating these commentaries. As an independent reader, I’ve found them absolutely invaluable.

    • geoffreysteadman says:

      The timing of your suggestion is uncanny. I am at this moment preparing a simple forum section for the commentaries for the very reasons that you mentioned. I am a bit skeptical about the success of this new section, however. There simply are not enough visitors for me to be confident that the questions that readers pose will be promptly answered. Still, everything is worth doing once, and I hope to learn a lot from the experience. When the forum goes live, there will be a link on each commentary page. Thank you for the suggestion.

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