I had written earlier this year about J.J. Scaliger’s extreme experience as a Greek autodidact. I submitted this passage to @QuidAgitur‘s Lecta Delecta, The Best Ancient Literature of 2013. (Ok, Scaliger isn’t exactly “ancient”—but this passage is completely invested in Homer and the other Greek classics.) I didn’t include an English translation in the original post, so I add one here in case it is useful to anyone stumbling on the post from Lecta Delecta.
At the age of nineteen, following the death of my father, I went to Paris out of a love of Greek literature. I believed that those whose do not know Greek, do not know anything. I worked hard in Adrien Turnèbe’s class for two months but wasted all this effort in these very advanced lectures. So, unable to find other resources, I locked myself in my study. Now, trapped in grinding labor, I managed to learn—with only myself as my teacher—what I had been unable to learn from anybody else. With just a small taste of the Greek forms, I learned Homer in their entirety using a translation in 21 days. I made for myself a grammar following hints in the poetic language and learned nothing except for what I observed from comparisons with the Homeric vocabulary. Then I devoured the rest of the Greek poets in the next four months, but did not touch any of the orators or historians until I had a grasp of all the poets.
Anno aetatis meae decimonono Lutetiam post obitum patris petii literarum Graecarum amore, quas qui nescirent, omnia nescire putabam. Postquam menses duos operam Adriano Turnebo dedissem, quia destitutus aliis praesidiis operam omnem in eius doctissimo auditorio ludebam, in museum me abdidi, & in illo pistrino inclusus, quod ex aliis non potueram, me magistro discere experiebar. Igitur vix delibatis coniugationibus Graecis, Homerum cum interpretatione arreptum uno & viginti diebus totum didici: poeticae vero dialecti vestigiis insistens Grammaticam mihi ipse formavi: neque ullam aliam didici, quam quae mihi ex analogia verborum Homericorum observata fuit. Reliquos vero poetas Graecos omnes intra quatuor menses devoravi. Neque ullum oratorem, aut historicum prius attigi, quam poetas omnes tenerem.
From Poemata Omnia (1615) http://bit.ly/151O8Ci