Vinci helps professor author Ancient Greek textbook

Emily Vinci knows from experience that Ancient Greek is a difficult language to learn.  But thanks to her efforts, fellow students may soon enjoy a new textbook that allows them to journey alongside a travel writer from 1800 years ago, with complementary lessons and information as a guide.

Ancient travel writings come to life

Emiy Vinci in Pompeii
Emily Vinci assisted professor John Gruber-Miller with the creation of a textbook for intermediate Greek. She also completed an independent study project on Medea with his guidance and joined him for the 2009 off-campus course City of Rome.

Vinci and classics professor John Gruber-Miller spent the summer of 2009 reading the travelogues of Pausanius from the second century.  Their goal was to merge Pausanius’ first-hand accounts with a range of other materials to give students a richer understanding of Ancient Greece and an enjoyable way to build their language skills.

“I created a new list of the most common words in Pausanias, paying special attention to those words that were also the most common in Greek in general,” Vinci explained. “These various vocabulary lists then became useful for creating grammar reviews. Since this will be a textbook for students of intermediate Greek, the issue is not introducing new grammatical concepts, but rather reinforcing those already learned in a clear and concise manner.”

Vinci also compiled various materials to further elucidate Pausanius’ travel writing. In particular, she researched archaeological discoveries, cultural histories, and ancient myths associated with Corinth and Olympia.

“This involved looking through excavation reports of places like Isthmia to compare archaeologists’ discoveries of the Temple of Poseidon with Pausanias’ description of it,” she said. “I also had a lot of fun delving deeper into the ancient Olympic games, learning about the various events, winners, and even the schedule of the five-day festival. ”

Investigating Medea

Vinci’s work with Gruber-Miller continued during the school year on an independent studies project involving reading Euripides’ Medea in the original Greek. Though the project wasn’t intentionally related to her summer work, Vinci found interesting connections.

“One of the myths related to Corinth/Isthmia is that of Ino and Melicertes, which Euripides mentions in the play. I ended up writing my paper on the function of this myth in Medea, and I referred back to the research I had done this summer and Pausanias’ take on the myth, as well.”

Classical studies highlights

Vinci, who is majoring in classical studies and minoring in English, said that working with Gruber-Miller and a month-long course in Rome are two of the highlights of her studies at Cornell.

“It’s amazing to work with someone who just knows so much and is really passionate about the discipline — and passionate about sharing it with others. One can’t help but share in the excitement!

“And getting to spend 20 days in Italy seeing firsthand things I’d only studied in books and ancient texts is without comparison. If I had any doubts before the trip as to what the importance of studying classics is, I certainly did not have any after the trip.”

After Cornell, Vinci plans to pursue graduate studies in library and information science, while seeking ways to stay involved with classical studies.