Latin and Ancient Greek: Difficulty


Senior Member
UK- English/Spanish
Hi all,

I was researching into different university courses and I was wondering which of the classical languages (Ancient Greek and Latin) is the easiest or hardest and why. Can anyone give me any advice? I have quite extensive knowledge of Modern Greek and most Romance languages, but I haven't really studied either of the classics in any detail. Initially it would appear to me that Ancient Greek is the hardest of the two, but I'm not entirely sure.

Thanks in advance
  • Etcetera

    Senior Member
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    We all at my Faculty of Philology have done a course of Latin, and this language didn't seem to me so hard - in fact, it was too interesting for me.:) I was just enchanted by the language's ability to express thoughts and ideas in such short sentences! But Latin grammar is rather complex...
    But a friend of my also did a course in Ancient Greek, and she says it was much harder than Latin. And the Greek alphabet must make the process of learning more complicated.

    Anyway, good luck to you!:)


    Senior Member
    English - Canada

    This is kind of a non-answer, but I'd say that Ancient Greek is harder to get started while (Classical) Latin is harder in the long run.

    For Greek, it has a lot more verb morphology: 4 moods versus 3 (indicative, subjunctive, imperative, and optative) plus things like the imperative existing in present, aorist, and perfect forms; 3 voices versus 2 (active, passive, and middle); 3 numbers instead of 2 (singular, plural, and dual), and this of course exists for nouns as well; and participles are more extensive compared to Latin, and there's more verbs with idiosyncrasies. So basically you need to learn a lot more forms before you can begin reading Greek.

    Latin has fewer forms over all (although it has more cases), so it's easier in that sense that it's not hard to understand the sort of short sentences/paragraphs you come across in textbooks, but I found real Latin to be very complicated, especially in its syntax, with things that go together being miles apart, etc. After a course in Latin, I found it very hard to read extensive Latin (Tacitus above all), while Greek seemed easier once I was able to recognize forms quickly. (And I said Classical Latin above because I hear later Latin, as in the Vulgate, is much easier and is much closer to the Romance languages.)

    Knowing the modern versions of the languages will help with either (although there's always words whose meanings have changed, etc.), and Modern Greek should help you with cases in both languages and for the aspect differences in Ancient Greek, so neither language is impossible. My suggestion is (if you need to pick one) just to pick the language which offers more material of what interests you, e.g. if you're into ancient philosophy, definitely learn Ancient Greek.