Intrigue. War. Spies. Set against the backdrop of the impending Peloponnesian War, Jacob Gerber’s O Kataskopos (The Spy) is a fun Greek reader. It is an original composition and is aimed at fairly low-level students, probably most appropriate for a reader with about 1 year of formal study under their belt, depending on the depth and rigor of their study. It bills itself as an “intermediate reader,” but I think that is probably too high of a reading level. It could profitably be introduce before that. It is fun to read, rather than a chore, which is always a welcome change, especially for people still getting the hang of the language and not yet ready for free reading of authentic texts.
Here is the description from the author’s website:
To the people of Athens Gregorius seems to be a perfectly loyal messenger, but he has a secret. As a Spartan spy, he faces a daily struggle to balance his spying activities with avoiding suspicion, a task which becomes more important and perilous than ever when war breaks out in Greece. Will Gregorius be able to aid his polis or will he be captured and executed?
This book was written with 4300 total words and only 218 unique words, most of which are on the Dickinson College Commentary Greek Core Vocabulary. It is intended as a supplementary reader for intermediate students of Ancient Greek.
The big strengths of this reader are that it is short, easy and repetitive, and engaging. The highly repetitive nature of the text, along with its limited vocabulary, are good for learners and make it possible to read longer chunks of Greek in a way that most authentic texts do not, because they have too many complexities mixed in.
This story is written in Attic Greek (that is, Classical), but there is nothing in it that should seriously trip up someone who only has experience reading Koine Greek. There are some vocab and grammar helps sprinkled throughout the book in the margins which can help a reader move their way through the text without recourse to a grammar or lexicon, assuming you basically know your stuff.
It is self-published, so it is unsurprising that there are some errors. I only noticed accenting errors. Really, they are mainly accenting inconsistencies (like whether a final syllable before punctuation receives an accute or grave accent), but nothing that needs to trip anyone up. I doubt many readers will even notice them at all. I was keeping a tally to give to the author, but other duties have a greater call on my time at this point. Next time I pick it up, perhaps I will finish that and send them in.
One could quibble that the font size is unusually large, but that is a forgivable quirk. It is a short story, at 4,300 words. For perspective, that is about the same length as 2 Corinthians in Greek (4,480 words). So, it’s not very long, but it is also a lot more Greek than most Greek learners in the NT sphere have probably ever read at one time, and that is a big plus.