There are four basic reasons to use LaTeX for polytonic Greek:
LaTeX is a user-friendly tool for producing TeX typesetting files. Many publishers use TeX. You can get the look of their finished product by using LaTeX. More importantly, you can anticipate and control how your layout, and especially your Greek passages, will look in the published version. This drastically reduces the time spent on copyediting and hand mark-up of typescripts. It can spare authors the shocks we have all suffered on seeing bizarre typesetting errors in proof sheets. Currently indispensable in mathematics and many areas of science, it will be more and more important throughout the humanities as publishing costs rise. You could say publishers are shifting the costs onto authors by asking us to do our own typesetting. But that also gives us more control over the product.
To use LaTeX you learn basic typesetting. While LaTeX itself is free you need some reference books for this. Many people recommend GUIDE TO LATEX by Kopka and Daly. Some editions of that include a CD to install LaTeX on your computer. I learned from George Grï¿½tzer MATH INTO LATEX. They discuss how to get started, as do many web sites.
The Babel language package for LaTeX supports many languages including polytonic Greek. It is included in most LaTeX installations and is also available from CTAN. The documentation covers installation, but the section on using Greek is largely for monotonic. An explanation from the polytonic user's viewpoint is with the font sample linked above. This is a very nice way to produce Greek. Some people will prefer another font, though, and they may want the psgreek package, which adds nine fonts to Babel. It is not included in standard LaTeX installations though. Details on installing psgreek are on the FAQ under the question about getting psgreek in LaTeX.
LaTeX and Babel give a unified framework for many modern, ancient, and archaic languages. Much of what you learn for Greek will apply in the same way to packages for Cypriot or hieroglyphics or Etruscan. Some will apply to LaTeX packages for typesetting chess games or critical editions of poems...
The worst problem for classicists using LaTeX now is that some classics journals still ask for submissions in Word. This will change. Some of these journals are already typeset in TeX, so the use of Word is just a habit of the editors. Many academic publishers have their own LaTeX format and request submissions in that format. As a prospective author you download their file, paste your LaTeX article into it, and e-mail it back. The publisher has made all basic formatting decisions and indeed the printout looks like pages from one of their journals. I have lately done this for Kluwer and OUP. It greatly speeds refereeing, editing, and publishing. If through some tragic refereeing error you must re-submit to another journal, then your article will transfer more or less entire into that publisher's format.
Christopher Culver has a good web site on LaTeX for classics at
So does David Krebs at
Beautiful examples of LeTeXed Greek, along with the LaTeX files that produced it using Babel and psgreek, are at
For another way to use LaTeX on classical Greek, see XeTeX.