Latin and Greek Texts: What Are We Reading in Schools and Universities?


Research post authored and posted by Emily Franzini.

School and university curricula love Homer. This is a fact. You don’t need to be a student of Classics to know who Homer was and what he wrote. Even Hollywood is familiar with his Iliad and Odyssey. What we’re interested in finding out, however, is who else and what else we are reading during our Latin and Ancient Greek lessons, and furthermore, if every country studies the same texts.
To this end, we picked a sample of six countries, each boasting a relatively high number of students taking these subjects at various levels of proficiency. These are the USA, the UK, Germany, Croatia, Italy and Austria. For each we visited their Ministry of Education websites, secondary school examination board websites and many university Classics departmental pages. We emailed and waited. At last, we were able to compile a list of the top most read authors for each of these countries. Though fully aware that the information we gathered is only part of the puzzle, we also chose to make one list of the top three authors of Latin, and top three of Greek across all countries considered.
Here is what we found: in first and second place for Greek, was, of course, the beloved Homer – his epic poems narrating the events of the Trojan War and the return of Odysseus to Ithaca being favourites among readers; in third place we have the Histories by Herodotus – considered by many the founding work of history. For Latin the first place is awarded to Vergil’s Aeneid recounting the adventures of Aeneas following the war of Troy; second place goes to Catullus’ Poems about his hated and beloved Lesbia; in third place we have Ovid and his Metamorphoses. You may not be surprised by these findings, but you might be surprised to learn that, according to our research, the most studied Greek author in the USA is, in fact, not Homer, but Aristophanes and his comedies Frogs and Clouds. However, just as we thought that the Americans were having all the fun, we discovered that the number one Latin text read in colleges is the far more serious Confessions by Augustine. The UK and Germany, on the other hand, stick to tradition with Homer, Vergil and Ovid. Croatia and Austria enjoy Apollonius’ Argonautica for Greek, which tells the myth of the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts. Our most unusual find is the Italian first choice of Greek text. Our study reveals that, above all, Demosthenes is the Italian number one with On the Crown and the First Philippic. As regards Latin, Italy’s choice is Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita, a chronicle of ancient Rome.
If you wish to take a closer look at these results, download the file below and tell us what you think by leaving a comment or by emailing us at efranzini(at)informatik(dot)uni-leipzig(dot)de !

Share postShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone


  1. First a comment on this webpage: Could you make the entire “Download” button a hot link and not just the word “Download”? I clicked on it several times before I looked at the source code and found the flaw.

    • Hi, I understand the problem. I’ve enlarged the writing as a short term solution. If you hover over the button a little hand will show you where to click.

  2. I love the idea of this study, but this preliminary study seems to have a few flaws.
    The sample size for the US is embarrassingly small, and the only document accessible to me is the Brown University Qualifying Translation Examinations Reading List, which is for PhD students. I have some ability to speak to this list, since I did undergraduate Classics at Brown and a PhD at the University of Texas. These lists are more aspirational than reflections of what students (even PhD students) actually read in the original languages.
    I recommend looking at syllabi of actual undergraduate courses to see which authors are actually being read by significant numbers of students. In US secondary schools, the AP Latin Lit. exam is the main metric of which authors are read. Since 2009 it offers only Vergil and Caesar. Those are probably the ONLY authors read in large numbers in secondary schools. Undergraduate schools are far less standardized.
    I strongly recommend reaching out to the American Classical League ( and American Philological Association ( for partners that are versed in Latin & Greek pedagogy here. Similar partners would need to be found in every country in the study.

    • Invaluable advice. Thank you, I will get to work!

  3. Hello Kenneth,
    thank you again for your feedback. I have found 8 more sources for the USA. These are a mix of secondary and higher education Latin and Greek reading lists from:
    * AP Latin Literature Exam
    * Boston University Arts & Sciences
    * Columbia University
    * Duke University
    * The Catholic University of America
    * University of Vermont
    * Georgetown University
    * University of Virginia

    So the top texts for Greek are now:
    * Aristotle, Poetics I-XV
    * Herodotus, Histories I.1-94, III.27-117, V, IX
    * Homer, Odyssey VIII-XII, XVIII, IXX, XX, XXIII-XXIV
    * Theocritus, Idyllia. 1, 2, 4, 7, 11
    * Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War. I. 1-23, II. 35-46, III.35-50, 82-83, V. 84-116, VI. 8-33

    The top Latin texts are now:
    * Catullus, 1-16, 22, 28, 30-36, 44-46, 49-51, 58, 61-68, 70, 72, 73, 75, 76, 82-87, 92, 93, 95, 96, 99, 101, 109
    * Ovid, Metamorphoses. IV, XIII
    * Vergil, Aeneid I, IV, V, VI, VIII, XII

    This could, of course, change if new data were added. But it’s still quite interesting.
    I could also send you the hard copies for Yale and Michigan, if you were interested. I will update the tables soon. Best, Emily


Leave a Reply to Emily Franzini Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *