In which countries is ancient Greek taught?

Ancient Greek


The Sankt Ansgar School (SAS) is one of the 7 classical high schools in Hamburg. Within the Catholic School Association, the SAS is the only grammar school to offer an old-language branch from grade 5 onwards. The subjects Latin and Ancient Greek are not only taught at the SAS in the classical humanistic tradition, as in state schools. Education and upbringing at the Catholic school are also determined by the Christian image of man in the Ignatian-Jesuit tradition.


As one of the last old-language grammar schools in Hamburg and the only one within the Association of Catholic Schools in Hamburg, the Sankt-Ansgar-Schule (SAS) offers its pupils (SuS) the opportunity to choose ancient Greek as their third foreign language. Ancient Greek can be chosen in grade 8 as an alternative to French or natural sciences. So that the students can gain their first impressions and experiences with the subject of Ancient Greek before their choice, trial lessons in Ancient Greek, the so-called “trial lesson”, are held at the SAS as part of normal school life in all 7th grades. At the same time, there are information evenings at which parents can get an idea of ​​the choices that are offered to middle school students in class 8 at the SAS. Greek courses at the SAS are guaranteed to take place, even if experience has shown that only a small number of pupils choose the subject. For organizational reasons relating to the timetable, pupils in grades 7 B-D who choose Greek must all be assigned to the same class (e.g. 8 C) when they set up the 8th grade. Pupils in class 7 A who choose Greek remain in the old-language A branch and thus also in class 8 in their old class group.

The pupils learn the language and grammar of ancient Greek in a 3-year basic course from grades 8-10. As in all federal states, the teaching book KAIROS, which is written according to the most modern didactic aspects and is divided into 2 volumes of 50 short or quick lessons each, is used as a teaching work. The language course can, however, be completed in KAIROS 2 around lesson 75. This results in the 3-year language and grammar course being divided into around 25 KAIROS lessons per school year.

In contrast to the subject of Latin, in ancient Greek the emphasis of school lessons is not on formal training in grammar and translation technology right from the start. The Greek language course can be completed comparatively quickly, as numerous linguistic phenomena and structures of Greek are already known to the pupils from Latin. The large number of ancient Greek foreign words in German is helpful for learning and remembering Greek vocabulary, the meaning and meaning of which can be made even deeper through Greek lessons. Experience has shown that the Greek alphabet does not prove to be an obstacle to learning for most pupils.

After the 3-year language acquisition phase, the pupils begin their reading lessons when they enter the upper level, in which original works of ancient Greek literature are translated and interpreted. Reading experience with ancient Greek poetry and prose texts is a condition for acquiring the GRAECUM degree. For this reason, among other things, the pupils of the SAS must continue to study Ancient Greek for at least 1 year (= 2 semesters) in the upper level if they want to acquire the GRAECUM. Greek lessons take place at the SAS in the upper level in the form of a 2-hour period
Elective course. In order to enable the GRAECUM degree, the completion of this Greek elective course is guaranteed for the interested pupils regardless of the number of participants.


In detail, the following provisions apply to the acquisition of the GRAECUM:

  • continuous participation in 4 years of teaching in ancient Greek
  • Experience with ancient Greek original reading
  • the minimum grade 4 (or better) in the certificate of the year at the end of which the GRAECUM is awarded (i.e. at the SAS currently at the end of the 2nd semester of the upper level).

If individual pupils do not meet the requirements for the GRAECUM, e.g. because they spent a year abroad or had a lower grade than 4 in the decisive certificate, there is the possibility of the missed qualification by taking part in a centrally carried out by the Hamburg school authorities Catch up on the grade test. Another option is to take Ancient Greek at the SAS for a longer period of time and then finish with a grade 4 (or better) at the next possible appointment.

The pupils do not receive their own certificate for the GRAECUM. The acquisition of the qualification is noted on the leaving certificate at the end of the school career.

The possession of the GRAECUM is basically a big plus when applying for apprenticeship and study places, even if the GRAECUM is only a necessary prerequisite for admission to a specialist degree for a few, special subjects (e.g. theology, archeology, ancient history, at some universities philosophy) represents.


At the SAS, ancient Greek can generally be continued until the end of the upper level (4th semester) with the 2-hour elective course. If individual pupils want to take Ancient Greek as a written or oral examination subject in the Abitur, they have to work with the relevant subject teacher at the beginning of the upper level, i.e. in the 1st semester
the Upper School Coordination to discuss how this concern can be implemented organisationally within the framework of the currently applicable regulations. Because in addition to the 2-hour Greek elective course, a further 2-hour supplementary course must then be set up for high school graduation candidates.


In Greek lessons, at the end of the 8th grade before the summer holidays, a special project week takes place parallel to the subject of Spanish, in which the focus is on topics from ancient history, mythology or archeology.

Greek lessons include visiting the antiquity department in the Hamburg Museum of Art and Industry in the middle level, visiting theater productions of ancient dramas on Hamburg stages in the upper level, and possibly also visiting art exhibitions in Hamburg or in the surrounding area, some of them Relate to ancient Greek art.

The participants of the Greek courses at the SAS can

  • Go on the excursion of the Latin courses to Trier in grade 10 (if you don't already have Latin as a subject)
  • Guaranteed to go on the project trip to Rome in the upper school.


Table overview:


On the function and importance of Greek in the context of humanities education

The works of Greek literature are actually those from antiquity that have remained fundamentally important for European intellectual history up to the present day and are repeatedly taken up anew and processed critically and productively.

Latin literature, on the other hand, appears largely as an imitation of Greek models and, historically speaking, as the first stage in the subsequent appropriation of Greek culture by another, later one.

Many examples of the inclusion of Greek thought in current scientific and artistic contexts can be found in the present:

The world of Greek myth, still tangible in archaic poetry, especially in the famous epics "Iliad" and "Odyssey" by Homer, in Hesiod's "Theogony", in Solon's political poetry or in Pindar's Olympic victorious hymns, is today in culturally critical discussions about the partly negative consequences of modern civilization as an alternative system of thought and experience and as a possible counter-model to the scientific-technical approach to nature and the environment, which has been predominantly used since the beginning of modern times.

Ancient theater plays, especially the classical tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, in which basic problems and conflicts of human coexistence are dealt with on a mythical background, experience some spectacular new performances every year around the globe on well-known and important stages.

In mathematics, Greek thinkers such as Thales and Pythagoras did fundamentals that have remained valid to this day and now appear to be integrated into the framework of newer, more comprehensive models. Euclid's "elements", for example, were still used as a school textbook for geometry in some European countries in the 20th century.

In philosophy there is still an incessant critical examination of the theoretical and practical drafts of ancient thinkers around the world. Pre-Socratics like Heraclitus, Parmenides and the atomists, the legendary figure of Socrates, classics like Plato and Aristotle, the Hellenistic systems of the Stoics, Skeptics and Epicurus and late antique syntheses like the neoplatonism of Plotinus are by no means representatives of a discarded, outdated, only historically interesting form of thinking. They are still interlocutors today who are taken seriously by contemporary philosophers and included in current issues and problems. In the immediate present, especially in the disciplines of practical philosophy, ethics and state theory, there has been an unexpected connection to ancient models. Texts by ancient philosophers on topics such as the art of living, love, happiness, old age and death are popular and present in every bookstore. But it should also be mentioned, for example, that in the case of UNESCO's plan to establish across cultures which material and political minimum requirements every person can make for a good, carefree life, the ancient theories of happiness have shown as the only theoretical basis available in advance.

The fact that, from a historical perspective, Greek culture appears as the beginning and in many areas still as a kind of foundation of European civilization, is not to be understood only in such a way that certain approaches and designs of Greek thought have remained valid to this day and form a foundation on which we can continue to build. From the history of the natural sciences, for example, the ancient theories of the Greeks are only present in that they represent the refuted models against which the superior modern and modern theories are first and foremost directed. Knowing the ancient models can therefore only be useful insofar as, for example, the modern theory of evolution in biology can be better understood when one sees that its founder Darwin primarily opposes Aristotle's view of an eternal constancy of the natural Species has evolved. Another, similar example in the field of physics and astronomy is the modern model of the heliocentric planetary system, which was devised by men like Copernicus and Galileo as a concrete answer to certain weaknesses of the ancient geocentric system discovered at their time.

In addition to such forms of referring back to ancient preliminary work, there has been another type of critically reflective analysis of the Greek heritage since the 20th century at the latest. Myth, science and philosophy of the Greeks continue to have an effect in many areas in such a way that they determine the deep structure of the consciousness of modern people in the form of traditional, collectively practiced thought patterns.

The critical reflection on ancient traditions of thought can therefore increasingly serve the analytical penetration of the world attitude and state of consciousness of modern man, provided that this is still in an opaque relationship of dependence on the ancient conditions of its origin. Since the increased insight into one's own intellectual historical depth can thus fulfill the function of further enlightenment, liberation and flexibilization of modern thinking, it is a momentous and certainly also a missed tendency when in educational and cultural policy the discussion of the beginnings and foundations of European rationalization process is given less and less space.

To illustrate this, it can be pointed out in this context that quite a few revolutionary developments that took place in the 19th and 20th centuries in scientific disciplines such as logic, mathematics, physics, linguistic analysis and philosophy were first covered up in the manner indicated by critical revision Greek basic concepts have become possible.

A modern Greek lesson, which is based on the knowledge of one's social responsibility, must therefore have the ultimate goal of enabling interested pupils, as representatives of the next generation, to participate in intellectual processes of this kind, in spite of all opposing social and political tendencies are quite exciting to enable to some extent.

Niels Christian Dührsen | Head of Ancient Languages