There once was a time when it was hard to come by Greek texts for reading. In the not too distant past, access to Greek texts generally required access to a solid research library—or a significant financial outlay by the individual. Well, suffice to say that day is no more. If anything, we suffer from the opposite problem. We are positively drowning in ways to access Greek texts. Unless you are seeking access to the entire coveted Thesaurus Lingua Graecae (TLG), which still requires a good financial outlay (assuming you don’t happen to have access to a good research library that bites the bullet for you), there are multitudinous ways to access the Greek texts which have long formed the core of the Greek reading endeavors of most Greek readers.
I want to profile one particular tool which has come to be a favorite of sorts for me: Διογένης (Diogenes).
What it is and does
Diogenes is a software application which can be hosted on your own computer or used online. Diogenes, like probably just about all solid Greek reading software that looks beyond just the NT, is based on the data files from the TLG project. Many of these files are freely available. They do, though, have many issues which hinder accessibility: they are in Beta Code, they have all sorts of obnoxious mark-ups in the text that are annoying to read (if the Beta Code isn’t enough to through you off), there are thousands of files with non-descriptive names, and the logic of how they are organized defies imagination (or, at least, is not worth the time trying to figure out for casual usage of the texts rather than for programming applications to use them).
What is Beta Code, you may ask? Well, setting technical details aside, Beta Code is a way of entering Ancient Greek text (letters, accents, and formatting data included) into a computer using only characters found on an English keyboard. Beta code is not without its advantages, but a offering an aesthetically pleasing reading experience is not one of those.
So, the basic problem with these freely available TLG files is that they are unsightly and a pain to deal with. Diogenes takes care of all that, and more.
Basic functionality of Diogenes
The core functionality of Diogenes is to enable reading Greek texts. Since its source for the texts comes from TLG, the text tends to appear as if laid out on a page (the page layout info is all coded into the source files). This varies depending on whether reading on the desktop software or online.
There is an online version of Diogenes which is especially helpful for mobile devices, as they can’t easily run the core software. The online version does not have all the bells and whistles of the desktop program, but it enables easy reading and navigation among available texts. The online version is powerful enough, I think, for a lot of readers.
The true workhorse is the desktop version. The desktop version requires downloading the software found on the website, as well as the files to use (available here on my site). To get the desktop version up and running, make sure to save the TLG file somewhere where 1) you know where it is so that you can link the program to it, and 2) where the file, as well as its parent folder is not named with Greek characters . For reasons beyond my knowledge, it just doesn’t work if the folder name (or its parent folder, for that matter), are in Greek.
The basic advantage of the desktop version is its search capacity. Its searching features are surprisingly robust for a free program. While it is not as fine-tuned as commercial software, such as Accordance or Logos, it is quite powerful. Diogenes facilitates searching directly for word forms, searching by entering partial word forms, searching for phrases, as well as using the TLG word list to find different forms of a word. The word list is like an index to the entire collection, allowing tracking down words that way. Or you can use the Inflected Forms search feature to choose all the forms of ἔχω, for example, that you want to find. These search features are all powered by the ability to define your own corpus of text to search. Want to just search the NT? You can do that. Want to mix and match a variety of early Christian writings to search? You can do that to. It is also possible to use the data tagged into the TLG files to define groups of texts to search based on time, genres, names of authors, gender of authors, and geographical location. You could easily find the number of times a word is used in a certain author, or texts from a certain date range, or in a certain genre, or more! Once you get the hang of searching via Greek text, the sky is the limit.
Another nice feature is the ability to look up possible parsing for a word. Can’t figure out what a word form is? You can look up its possible parsing using the Inflexion Lookup feature (only possible forms actually in this database of texts will be found, so its not exhaustive, but can still be exhausting).
Speaking from the perspective of the world of NT studies, Diogenes, used with a little bit of practice and creativity, can actually carry out essentially all the search functionality you find in the basic NT Greek modules for Accordance or Logos, all for free.[i]
My personal favorite part of the program is that it has integrated LSJ and a parsing tool into the reading experience. Simply click on a word in the text and a sidebar appears with possible parsing for that form and the entry for the word (or words, depending on the form). This is hugely helpful. I, probably like most, don’t know as many Greek words as I wish I did. Lack of vocab recognition is always a hindrance in freely reading texts. Easy access to a lexicon has huge advantages in opening a world of texts which are otherwise too time intensive to read.
What to do with it?
So, what should you do with Diogenes? I primarily use it for reading texts for fun that are outside of my area of expertise to expand my base in the language. Do you want to read Xenophon, or try out a homily of John Chrysostom, or maybe the Catenae commentaries on the New Testament, or one of the Apocryphal Acts volumes? They’re all here. Just pull them up and start reading!
Besides reading for fun and enlightenment, Diogenes is a great laboratory for ferreting out usage information on words and constructions in a wider corpus of texts than just the NT and LXX (both of which are included for free in Diogenes!!!).
Do you teach? This program is free and gives free access to core Greek texts—for NT or for Classics—with bonus tools added in. While commercial Bible software is great, for many users it is overkill, at least initially. Try out Diogenes for free. Everyone in the classroom can be on the same page without substantively lightening their pockets.
My single largest disappointment with the program is really not with this program, but with the approach TLG has long taken in its texts. Everything is listed under Latin titles and the Latin names of authors! Blah! That Greek works are supposed to be accessed via Latin titles says a lot about the history of Classics studies in the West, but it seems a needless inconvenience at this stage of the game (I’m sure many important people would be of the opinion that if I were truly enlightened, I would just learn Latin now and get over it, to which I reply, “maybe someday, but not right now”). Before searching for a work, it may require a quick web search to figure out said (usually Greek) author’s bloody Latin name. Often a quick web search will suffice to clear up what title or author name you need. This is, in my point of view, a fairly mild criticism.
Go out and get Diogenes if you don’t have it yet! It is a nice piece of software that is quite helpful, worth a try, and you can’t beat the price.
[i] As an Accordance user (I also have Logos and use that, too, though find Accordance superior for original language work), I am not implying these are not valuable. They have a wealth of features and upgrades available that take them far beyond what can be done with Diogenes. However, I would suggest that, unless you are doing some serious and regular work with the languages, or really want other features of the programs, they are overkill for most users. If you just want an intelligent and helpful way to interact with the Greek text and do some solid searching, a program like Diogenes is just what the doctor ordered.