The ancient language that Alexander the Great used to command his vast empire is to be taught on an Oxford estate.

Koine Greek — the language of philosophy, mathematics and mythology — will be taught in a six week course in Blackbird Leys.

From tonight members of the public will be taught how to read, write and pronounce the ancient tongue.

The language was the equivalent of English in the time of Epicurus, Pyrrho and Euclid and was spoken across Alexander's empire from Greece to India.

Lecturer Jim Barlow, who is running the It's All Greek To Me course, said the language helped shape the way we talk today — with hundreds of words, such as graph, acoustic and prophet, handed down to us.

Mr Barlow, who will teach the course at the Leys Linx Centre on Wednesday nights and Friday mornings, said Koine Greek was spoken between 320BC and 500AD.

He said: "In those days it was like English — it was the language everybody spoke. But if you wanted to speak it in Athens now it would be like Chaucerian English."

The free course has been funded by Oxford University's continuing education department and will particularly focus on the Greek of the New Testament.

Students will have to learn the Koine alphabet and the pronunciation of words during the introduction to the language.

The course is the first part of a three pronged Leys Theology Programme which will also include the study of the Gospel of Mark, and Jewish and Christian Wisdom.

Mr Barlow said: "The course is open to anybody. We want to offer higher learning on the estates. Just because people live in Blackbird Leys or Rose Hill or Barton it does not mean they are not interested in higher learning.

"It is not as difficult as you might think and it is very good mental exercise.

"If you learn a classical language it helps you learn the structure of all languages. It will take practice and perseverance but it is a very beautiful language."

Students may visit the British Museum to view original Koine Greek manuscripts.

To find out how to enrol, call 07920 211 405.