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In a previous question on this website: What was Euler's first language?, Alexandre Eremenko wrote the following about Leonard Euler:

There is little doubt that he also learnt French in his childhood (his thesis is written in French), as well as Latin, Greek and Hebrew at school.

Is there any material evidence that he actually knew Ancient Greek?

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    $\begingroup$ Just for perspective: in the U.S., well into the late 19th century, colleges that were not agricultural or teachers' colleges were essentially seminaries (or finishing schools for the children of the wealthy), and ancient Greek, Latin, and Hebrew were obviously necessary, along with "classics". Equally obviously, learning something of those languages at high-school age would be advantageous, etc. Plus, that stuff was the "education of the elite", with people quoting Greek and Roman authors to show their "culture". :) $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 20:11

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From Euler's Autobiography, p. 2:

Nachdem musste ich mich auf Gutbefinden meiner famille beÿ der Theologischen Fakultaet einschreiben lassen, da ich mich denn ausser der Theologie besonders auf die griechische und Hebräische Sprache appliciren sollte; womit es aber nicht recht fort wollte, weil ich meine meiste Zeit auf die mathematische Studia wendete, und zu meinem Glück die Sonnabend Visiten bei dem Herrn Johanni Bernoulli noch immer fortdaureten...

Afterwards following the wish of my family, I had to enroll at the Theological Faculty where I should apply myself, in addition to theology, to the Greek and Hebrew languages in particular; which did, however, not proceed very well because I used most of my time for mathematical studies, and, luckily for me, the Saturday visits at Mr Johann Bernoulli's still continued....

[Thanks to @SebastianKoppehel for the translation of the second half of the quote.]

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  • $\begingroup$ Translation issue: I think the "Gutbefinden meiner Familie" refers to that he should enrol in the Faculty of Theology. I understand the whole thing as "following the wish of my family, I had to enrol in the Theological Faculty, where I should apply myself ..." $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ From this, one can infer that Euler could read texts in classical Greek (even if he learnt the modern Greek, which is unlikely). $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ @MoisheKohan Either Ancient or Koine Greek, I suppose. New Testament being written in Koine, a theology program might teach that. Almost certainly not modern Greek, I agree. Someone with a knowledge of Greek languages and the history of education would know more than me. $\endgroup$
    – Michael E2
    Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ One can in fact not infer anything from this statement about whether Euler learnt Greek and Hebrew at school, as it only says he was supposed to pay special attention to these subjects at university (at the ripe old age of sixteen), after laying the foundations for the humaniores (presumably at least Latin) at the Gymnasium and in private lessons that he took. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ Curiously, the quote in this answer breaks off in the middle of Euler's sentence, which continues: womit es aber nicht recht fort wollte, weil ich meine meiste Zeit auf die mathematische Studia wendete, und zu meinem Glück die Sonnabend Visiten bei dem Herrn Johanni Bernoulli noch immer fortdaureten = "which did, however, not proceed very well because I used most of my time for mathematical studies, and, luckily for me, the Saturday visits at Mr Johann Bernoulli's still continued." $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 21:21
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Since Leonard Euler went to a Gymnasium in Basel, he surely learnt greek, every student had to learn it, he graduated in theologie, which one could not do without greek as a language, "womit es nicht so recht fortwollte" says only, he did not spend too much time with it, but since his father was a theologian he made sure his son knew some greek. At the time in europe most students had to learn greek. the german wikipedia gives the name of his school there exist a history of this school and it says "Die Schule war nur männlichen Jugendlichen zugänglich und legte ihren Schwerpunkt auf Latein, Griechisch und Hebräisch." Translation: The school was only for boys and its main purpose was Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

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  • $\begingroup$ Although I agree with this answer, I'm afraid it will only receive upvotes or even acceptance if one can add references for "every student (of a Gymnasium) had to learn Greek" and "he graduated in theology". $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I edited my answer $\endgroup$
    – trula
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 17:41

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