Greek literature

Greek literature


      body of writings in the Greek language, with a continuous history extending from the 1st millennium BC to the present day. From the beginning its writers were Greeks living not only in Greece proper but also in Asia Minor, the Aegean Islands, and Magna Graecia (Sicily and southern Italy). Later, after the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek became the common language of the eastern Mediterranean lands and then of the Byzantine Empire. Literature in Greek was produced not only over a much wider area but also by those whose mother tongue was not Greek. Even before the Turkish conquest (1453) the area had begun to shrink again, and now it is chiefly confined to Greece and Cyprus.

Ancient Greek literature
      Of the literature of ancient Greece only a relatively small proportion survives. Yet it remains important, not only because much of it is of supreme quality but also because until the mid-19th century the greater part of the literature of the Western world was produced by writers who were familiar with the Greek tradition, either directly or through the medium of Latin, who were conscious that the forms they used were mostly of Greek invention, and who took for granted in their readers some familiarity with Classical literature.

The periods
      The history of ancient Greek literature may be divided into three periods: Archaic (to the end of the 6th century BC); Classical (5th and 4th centuries BC); and Hellenistic and Greco-Roman (3rd century BC onward).

Archaic period, to the end of the 6th century BC
      The Greeks created poetry before they made use of writing for literary purposes, and from the beginning their poetry was intended to be sung or recited. (The art of writing was little known before the 7th century BC. The script used in Crete and Mycenae during the 2nd millennium BC [Linear B (Linear A and Linear B)] is not known to have been employed for other than administrative purposes, and after the destruction of the Mycenaean cities it was forgotten.)

      Its subject was myth—part legend, based sometimes on the dim memory of historical events; part folktale; and part religious speculation. But since the myths were not associated with any religious dogma, even though they often treated of gods and heroic mortals, they were not authoritative and could be varied by a poet to express new concepts.

      Thus, at an early stage Greek thought was advanced as poets refashioned their materials; and to this stage of Archaic poetry belonged the epics ascribed to Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, retelling intermingled history and myth of the Mycenaean Age. These two great poems, standing at the beginning of Greek literature, established most of the literary conventions of the epic poem. The didactic poetry of Hesiod (c. 700 BC) was probably later in composition than Homer's epics and, though different in theme and treatment, continued the epic tradition.

      The several types of Greek lyric poetry originated in the Archaic period among the poets of the Aegean Islands and of Ionia on the coast of Asia Minor. Archilochus of Paros, of the 7th century BC, was the earliest Greek poet to employ the forms of elegy (in which the epic verse line alternated with a shorter line) and of personal lyric poetry. His work was very highly rated by the ancient Greeks but survives only in fragments; its forms and metrical patterns—the elegiac couplet and a variety of lyric metres—were taken up by a succession of Ionian poets. At the beginning of the 6th century Alcaeus and Sappho, composing in the Aeolic dialect of Lesbos, produced lyric poetry mostly in the metres named after them (the alcaic and the sapphic), which Horace was later to adapt to Latin poetry. No other poets of ancient Greece entered into so close a personal relationship with the reader as Alcaeus, Sappho, and Archilochus do. They were succeeded by Anacreon of Teos, in Ionia, who, like Archilochus, composed his lyrics in the Ionic dialect. Choral lyric, with musical accompaniment, belonged to the Dorian (Doric dialect) tradition and its dialect, and its representative poets in the period were Alcman in Sparta and Stesichorus in Sicily.

      Both tragedy and comedy had their origins in Greece. “Tragic” choruses are said to have existed in Dorian Greece around 600 BC, and in a rudimentary dramatic form tragedy became part of the most famous of the Dionysian festivals, the Great, or City, Dionysia (Great Dionysia) at Athens, about 534. comedy, too, originated partly in Dorian Greece and developed in Attica, where it was officially recognized rather later than tragedy. Both were connected with the worship of Dionysus, god of fruitfulness and of wine and ecstasy.

      Written codes of law were the earliest form of prose and were appearing by the end of the 7th century, when knowledge of reading and writing was becoming more widespread. No prose writer is known earlier than Pherecydes of Syros (c. 550 BC), who wrote about the beginnings of the world; but the earliest considerable author was Hecataeus of Miletus, who wrote about both the mythical past and the geography of the Mediterranean and surrounding lands. To Aesop, a semi-historical, semi-mythological character of the mid-6th century, have been attributed the moralizing beast fables inherited by later writers.

Classical period, 5th and 4th centuries BC
      True tragedy (dramatic literature) was created by Aeschylus and continued with Sophocles and Euripides in the second half of the 5th century. Aristophanes, the greatest of the comedic poets, lived on into the 4th century, but the Old Comedy did not survive the fall of Athens in 404.

      The sublime themes of Aeschylean tragedy (theatre, Western), in which human beings stand answerable to the gods and receive awe-inspiring insight into divine purposes, are exemplified in the three plays of the Oresteia. The tragedy of Sophocles made progress toward both dramatic complexity and naturalness while remaining orthodox in its treatment of religious and moral issues. Euripides handled his themes on the plane of skeptical enlightenment and doubted the traditional picture of the gods. Corresponding development of dramatic realization accompanied the shift of vision: the number of individual actors was raised to three, each capable of taking several parts.

      The Old Comedy of Aristophanes was established later than tragedy but preserved more obvious traces of its origin in ritual; for the vigour, wit, and indecency with which it keenly satirized public issues and prominent persons clearly derived from the ribaldry of the Dionysian (Bacchanalia) festival. Aristophanes' last comedies show a transition, indicated by the dwindling importance of the chorus, toward the Middle Comedy, of which no plays are extant. This phase was followed toward the beginning of the 3rd century by the New Comedy, introduced by Menander, which turned for its subjects to the private fictional world of ordinary people. Later adaptations of New Comedy in Latin by Plautus and Terence carried the influence of his work on to medieval and modern times.

      In the 5th century, Pindar, the greatest of the Greek choral lyrists, stood outside the main Ionic-Attic stream and embodied in his splendid odes a vision of the world seen in terms of aristocratic values that were already growing obsolete. Greek prose came to maturity in this period. Earlier writers such as Anaxagoras the philosopher and Protagoras the Sophist used the traditional Ionic dialect, as did Herodotus the historian. His successors in history, Thucydides and Xenophon, wrote in Attic.

      The works of Plato and Aristotle, of the 4th century, are the most important of all the products of Greek culture in the intellectual history of the West. They were preoccupied with ethics, metaphysics, and politics as humankind's highest study and, in the case of Aristotle, extended the range to include physics, natural history, psychology, and literary criticism. They have formed the basis of Western philosophy and, indeed, they determined, for centuries to come, the development of European thought.

      This was also a golden age for rhetoric and oratory, first taught by Corax of Syracuse (Corax) in the 5th century. The study of rhetoric and oratory raised questions of truth and morality in argument, and thus it was of concern to the philosopher as well as to the advocate and the politician and was expounded by teachers, among whom Isocrates was outstanding. The orations of Demosthenes, a statesman of 4th-century Athens and the most famous of Greek orators, are preeminent for force and power.

Hellenistic (Hellenistic Age) and Greco-Roman periods
      In the huge empire of Alexander the Great, Macedonians and Greeks composed the new governing class; and Greek became the language of administration and culture, a new composite dialect based to some extent on Attic and called the Koine, or common language. Everywhere the traditional city-state was in decline, and individuals were becoming aware of their isolation and were seeking consolidation and satisfaction outside corporate society. Artistic creation now came under private patronage, and, except for Athenian comedy, compositions were intended for a small, select audience that admired polish, erudition, and subtlety.

      An event of great importance for the development of new tendencies was the founding of the Museum (Alexandrian Museum), the shrine of the Muses with its enormous library, at Alexandria (Alexandria, Library of). The chief librarian was sometimes a poet as well as tutor of the heir apparent. The task of accumulating and preserving knowledge begun by the Sophists (Sophist) and continued by Aristotle and his adherents was for the first time properly endowed. Through the researches of the Alexandrian scholars, texts of ancient authors were preserved.

      The Hellenistic period lasted from the end of the 4th to the end of the 1st century BC. For the next three centuries, until Constantinople became the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Greek writers were conscious of belonging to a world of which Rome was the centre.

The genres
Epic narrative (epic)
      At the beginning of Greek literature stand the two great epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Some features of the poems reach far into the Mycenaean age, perhaps to 1500 BC, but the written works are traditionally ascribed to Homer; in something like their present form they probably date to the 8th century.

      The Iliad and the Odyssey are primary examples of the epic narrative, which in antiquity was a long narrative poem, in an elevated style, celebrating heroic achievement. The Iliad is the tragic story of the wrath of Achilles, son of a goddess and richly endowed with all the qualities that make men admirable. With his readiness to sacrifice all to honour, Achilles embodies the Greek heroic ideal; and the contrast between his superb qualities and his short and troubled life reflects the sense of tragedy always prevalent in Greek thought. Whereas the Iliad is tragedy, the Odyssey is tragicomedy. It is an enriched version of the old folktale of the wanderer's return and of his triumph over those who were usurping his rights and importuning his wife at home. Odysseus too represents a Greek ideal. Though by no means inadequate in battle, he works mainly by craft and guile; and it is by mental superiority that he survives and prevails.

      Both poems were based on plots that grip the reader, and the story is told in language that is simple and direct, yet eloquent. The Iliad and the Odyssey, though they are the oldest European poetry, are by no means primitive. They marked the fulfillment rather than the beginning of the poetic form to which they belong. They were essentially oral poems, handed down, developed, and added to over a vast period of time, a theme upon which successive nameless poets freely improvised. The world they reflect is full of inconsistencies; weapons belong to both the Bronze and Iron Ages, and objects of the Mycenaean period jostle others from a time five centuries later. Certain mysteries remain: the date of the great poet or poets who gave structure and shape to the two epics; the social function of poems that take several days to recite; and the manner in which these poems came to be recorded in writing probably in the course of the 6th century BC.

      In the ancient world the Iliad and the Odyssey stood in a class apart among Archaic epic poems. Of these, there were a large number known later as the epic cycle. They covered the whole story of the wars of Thebes and Troy as well as other famous myths. A number of shorter poems in epic style, the Homeric Hymns, are of considerable beauty.

      A subgenre was represented by epics that recounted not ancient mythical events but recent historical episodes, especially colonization and the foundation of cities. Examples include Archaeology of the Samians by Semonides of Amorgos (7th century BC; in elegiac couplets), Smyrneis by Mimnermus of Colophon (7th century BC; in elegiac couplets), Foundation of Colophon and Migration to Elea in Italy by Xenophanes of Colophon (6th century BC; metre unknown), none of which are extant.

      Epic narrative continued and developed in new forms during the Classical, Hellenistic, and Greco-Roman periods; works represented both subgenres. Notable mythical epics included the lost Thebais of Antimachus (Antimachus of Colophon) of Colophon (4th century BC), the surviving Argonautica in 4 books by Apollonius (Apollonius of Rhodes) of Rhodes (3rd century BC), and the surviving Dionysiaca in 48 books by Nonnus of Panopolis (5th century AD). The historical epics do not survive, but among them were Persica, on the Persian Wars, by Choerilus of Samos (5th century BC); an epic on the deeds of Alexander the Great by Choerilus of Iasus (4th century BC); an epic on the deeds of Antiochus Soter (3rd century BC) by Simonides of Magnesia; and Thessalic History, Achaean History, and Messenian History by Rhianus of Crete (3rd century BC). As the greatest epic poet, however, Homer continued to be performed in rhapsodic contexts and was read in schools through the Classical, Hellenistic, and Greco-Roman periods.

      Didactic poetry was not regarded by the Greeks as a form distinct from epic. Yet the poet Hesiod belonged to an altogether different world from Homer. He lived in Boeotia in central Greece about 700 BC. In his Works and Days he described the ways of peasant life and incidentally described the dreary Boeotian plain afflicted by heat, cold, and the oppression of a “gift-devouring” aristocracy. He believed passionately in a Zeus who cared about right and wrong and in Justice as Zeus's daughter. Hesiod's other surviving poem, the Theogony, attempts a systematic genealogy of the gods and recounts many myths associated with their part in the creation of the universe.

lyric poetry
      Hesiod, unlike Homer, told something of himself, and the same is true of the lyric poets. Except for Pindar and Bacchylides at the end of the Classical period, only fragments of the works of these poets survive. There had always been lyric poetry in Greece. All the great events of life as well as many occupations had their proper songs, and here too the way was open to advance from the anonymous to the individual poet.

      The word lyric covers many sorts of poems. On the one hand, poems sung by individuals or chorus to the lyre, or sometimes to the aulos (double-reed pipe), were called melic; elegiacs (elegy), in which the epic hexameter, or verse line of six metrical feet, alternated with a shorter line, were traditionally associated with lamentation and an aulos accompaniment; but they were also used for personal poetry, spoken as well as sung at the table. Iambics (iamb) (verse of iambs, or metrical units, basically of four alternately short and long syllables) were the verse form of the lampoon. Usually of an abusive or satirical—burlesque and parodying—character, they were not normally sung.

      If Archilochus of Paros in fact was writing as early as 700 BC, he was the first of the post-epic poets. The fragments reflect the turbulent life of an embittered adventurer. Scorn both of men and of convention is the emotion that seems uppermost, and Archilochus was possessed of tremendous powers of invective. Of lesser stature than Archilochus were his successors, Semonides (often mistakenly identified with Simonides) of Amorgos and Hipponax of Ephesus.

      Like the iambic writers, the elegiac poets came mostly from the islands and the Ionian regions of Asia Minor. Chief among them were Callinus of Ephesus and Mimnermus of Colophon. On the mainland of Greece, Tyrtaeus roused the spirit of the Spartans in their desperate struggle with the Messenian rebels in the years after 650. His martial poems are perhaps of more historical than literary interest. The same is to some extent true of the poems in elegiac, iambic, and trochaic (the latter a metre basically of four alternately long and short syllables) metres by Solon, an Athenian statesman, who used his poetry as a vehicle for propaganda. Xenophanes (born about 560 BC) rather in the same way used his poems to propagate his revolutionary religious and ethical ideas. The elegiacs attributed to Theognis seem to be poems of various dates suitable for use at drinking parties. Many of them were actually by Theognis himself (about 540 BC). Some give uninhibited expression to his hatred of the lower class rulers who had ousted the aristocracy of Megara; others are love poems to the boy Cyrnus; still others are gnomic commonplaces of Greek wisdom and morality.

      About the beginning of the 6th century a new kind of poetry made its appearance in the island of Lesbos. It was composed in the local Aeolic dialect by members of the turbulent and factious aristocracy. Alcaeus (born about 620 BC), absorbed in political feuds and in civil war, expressed with striking directness searing hate and blind exultation. With the same directness and stunning grace, Sappho, a contemporary who seems to have enjoyed a freedom unknown to the women of mainland Greece, told of her love for girls named in her poems. The surviving works by their successor in personal lyric, Anacreon of Teos, suggest a more convivial amorousness.

      Choral lyric was associated with the Dorian parts of the Greek mainland and the settlements in Sicily and south Italy, whereas poetry for solo performance was a product of the Ionian coast and the Aegean Islands. Thus choral song came to be conventionally written in a Doric dialect.

      Choral lyric, which had lyre and aulos accompaniments, was highly complicated in structure. It did not use traditional lines or stanzas; but the metre was formed afresh for each poem and never used again in exactly the same form, though the metrical units from which the stanzas, or strophes, were built up were drawn from a common stock and the form of the strophe was usually related to the accompanying dance. This elaborate art form was connected mainly with the cult of the gods or, as in the case of Pindar, the celebration of the victors in the great Hellenic games.

      The earliest poet of choral lyrics of whose work anything has survived was Alcman of Sparta (about 620 BC). Somewhat later Stesichorus worked in Sicily, and his lyric versions of the great myths marked an important stage in the development of these stories. Simonides of Ceos, in Ionia, was among the most versatile of Greek poets. He was famed for his pathos, but today he is best known for his elegiac epitaphs, especially those on the Greek soldiers who fell in the struggle against Persia.

      The supreme poet of choral lyric was Pindar from Thebes in Boeotia (born 518 or possibly 522–died after 446 BC), who is known mainly by his odes in honour of the victors at the great games held at Olympia, Delphi, the Isthmus of Corinth, and Nemea. The last of the lyric poets was Bacchylides (flourished 5th century BC), whose works too were largely victory odes, characterized by an exquisite taste for mythical digression.

      Tragedy may have developed from the dithyramb, the choral cult song of the god Dionysus. Arion of Lesbos, who is said to have worked at Corinth in about 600, is credited with being the first to write narrative poetry in this medium. Thespis (6th century BC), possibly combining with dithyrambs something of the Attic ritual of Dionysus of Eleutherae, is credited with having invented tragedy by introducing an actor who conversed with the chorus. These performances became a regular feature of the great festival of Dionysus (Great Dionysia) at Athens about 534 BC. Aeschylus introduced a second actor, though his drama was still centred in the chorus, to whom, rather than to each other, his actors directed themselves.

      At the tragic contests at the Dionysia each of three competing poets produced three tragedies and a satyr play, or burlesque, in which there was a chorus of satyrs. Aeschylus, unlike later poets, often made of his three tragedies a dramatic whole, treating a single story, as in the Oresteia, the only complete trilogy that has survived. His main concern was not dramatic excitement and the portrayal of character but rather the presentation of human action in relation to the overriding purpose of the gods.

      His successor was Sophocles, who abandoned for the most part the practice of writing in unified trilogies, reduced the importance of the chorus, and introduced a third actor. His work too was based on myth, but whereas Aeschylus tried to make more intelligible the working of the divine purpose in its effects on human life, Sophocles was readier to accept the gods as given and to reveal the values of life as it can be lived within the traditional framework of moral standards. Sophocles' skill in control of dramatic movement and his mastery of speech were devoted to the presentation of the decisive, usually tragic, hours in the lives of men and women at once “heroic” and human, such as Oedipus.

       Euripides, last of the three great tragic poets, belonged to a different world. When he came to manhood, traditional beliefs were scrutinized in the light of what was claimed by Sophist philosophers, not always unjustifiably, to be reason; and this was a test to which much of Greek religion was highly vulnerable. The whole structure of society and its values was called into question. This movement of largely destructive criticism was clearly not uncongenial to Euripides. But as a dramatic poet he was bound to draw his material from myths, which, for him, had to a great extent lost their meaning. He adapted them to make room for contemporary problems, which were his real interest. Many of his plays suffer from a certain internal disharmony, yet his sensibilities and his moments of psychological insight bring him far closer than most Greek writers to modern taste. There are studies, wonderfully sympathetic, of wholly unsympathetic actions in the Medea and Hippolytus; a vivid presentation of the beauty and horror of religious ecstasy in the Bacchants; in the Electra, a reduction to absurdity of the values of a myth that justifies matricide; in Helen and Iphigenia Among the Taurians, melodrama with a faint flavour of romance.

      Like tragedy, comedy arose from a ritual in honour of Dionysus, in this case full of abuse and obscenity connected with averting evil and encouraging fertility. The parabasis, the part of the play in which the chorus broke off the action and commented on topical events and characters, was probably a direct descendant of such revels. The dramatic element may have been derived from the secular Dorian comedy without chorus, said to have arisen at Megara, which was developed at Syracuse by Epicharmus (c. 530–c. 440). Akin to this kind of comedy seems to have been the mime, a short realistic sketch of scenes from everyday life. These were written rather later by Sophron Of Syracuse; only fragments have survived but they were important for their influence on Plato's dialogue form and on Hellenistic mime. At Athens, comedy became an official part of the celebrations of Dionysus in 486 BC. The first great comic poet was Cratinus. About 50 years later Aristophanes and Eupolis refined somewhat the wild robustness of the older poet. But even so, for boldness of fantasy, for merciless invective, for unabashed indecency, and for freedom of political criticism, there is nothing like the Old Comedy of Aristophanes, whose work alone has survived. Cleon the politician, Socrates the philosopher, Euripides the poet were alike the victims of his masterly unfairness, the first in Knights; the second in Clouds; and the third in Women at the Thesmophoria and Frogs; whereas in Birds the Athenian democracy itself was held up to a kindlier ridicule. Aristophanes survived the fall of Athens in 404, but the Old Comedy had no place in the revived democracy.

      The gradual change from Old to Middle Comedy took place in the early years of the 4th century. Of Middle Comedy, no fully developed specimen has survived. It seems to have been distinguished by the disappearance of the chorus and of outspoken political criticism and by the growth of social satire and of parody; Antiphanes and Alexis were the two most distinguished writers. The complicated plots in some of their plays led to the development of the New Comedy at the end of the century, which is best represented by Menander. One complete play, the Dyscolus, and appreciable fragments of others are extant on papyrus. New Comedy was derived in part from Euripidean tragedy; its characteristic plot was a translation into terms of city life of the story of the maiden—wronged by a god—who bears her child in secret, exposes it, and recognizes it years after by means of the trinkets she had put into its cradle.

      The first great writer of history was Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who was also a geographer and anthropologist. The theme of his history, written in large part for Athenian readers, is the clash between Europe and Asia culminating in the Persian War. The account of the war itself, which occupies roughly the second half of the work, must have been composed by means of laborious inquiry from those whose memories were long enough to recall events that happened when Herodotus was a child or earlier. The whole history, though in places badly put together, is magnificent in its compass and unified by the consciousness of an overriding power keeping the universe and humankind in check.

       Thucydides (c. 460–c. 400) was perhaps the first person to apply a first-class mind to a prolonged examination of the nature of political power and the factors by which policies of states are determined. As a member of the board of generals he acquired inside knowledge of the way policy is shaped. After his failure to save Amphipolis in 424, he spent 20 years in exile, which he used as an opportunity for getting at the truth from both sides. The result was a history of the war narrowly military and political but of the most penetrating quality. Thucydides investigated the effect on individuals and nations both of psychological characteristics and of chance. His findings were interpreted through the many speeches given to his characters.

      Just as Thucydides had linked his work to the point at which Herodotus had stopped, so Xenophon (c. 430–died before 350) began his Hellenica where Thucydides' unfinished history breaks off in 411. He carried his history down to 362. His work was superficial by comparison with that of Thucydides, but he wrote with authority of military affairs and appears at his best in the Anabasis, an account of his participation in the enterprise of the Greek mercenary army, with which the Persian prince Cyrus tried to expel his brother from the throne, and of the adventurous march of the Greeks, after the murder of their leaders by the Persians, from near Babylon to the Black Sea coast. Xenophon also wrote works in praise of Socrates, of whom his understanding was superficial. No other historical writing of the 4th century has survived except for a substantial papyrus fragment containing a record of events of the years 396–395.

      In few societies has the power of fluent and persuasive speech been more highly valued than it was in Greece, and even in Homer there are speeches that are pieces of finished rhetoric. But it was the rise of democratic forms of government that provided a great incentive to study and instruction in the arts of persuasion, which were equally necessary for political debate in the assembly and for attack and defense in the law courts.

      The formal study of rhetoric seems to have originated in Syracuse c. 460 BC with Corax and his pupils Tisias and Gorgias (died c. 376); Gorgias was influential also in Athens. Corax is reputed to have been the first to write a handbook on the art of rhetoric, dealing with such topics as arguments from probability and the parts into which speeches should be divided. Most of the Sophists (Sophist) had pretensions as teachers of the art of speaking, especially Protagoras, who postulated that the weaker of two arguments could by skill be made to prevail over the stronger, and Prodicus of Ceos.

       Antiphon (c. 480–411), the first professional speech writer, was an influential opponent of democracy. Three speeches of his, all dealing with homicide cases, have been preserved, as have three “tetralogies,” sets of two pairs of speeches containing the arguments to be used on both sides in imaginary cases of homicide. In them ideas are expressed concerning bloodguilt and the duty of vengeance. Antiphon's style is bare and rather crudely antithetical. Gorgias from Sicily, who visited Athens in 427, introduced an elaborate balance and symmetry emphasized by rhyme and assonance. Thrasymachus of Chalcedon made a more solid contribution to the evolution of a periodic and rhythmical style.

       Andocides (c. 440–died after 391), an orator who spent much of his life in exile from Athens, wrote three speeches containing vivid narrative; but as an orator he was admittedly amateurish. Lysias (c. 455–died after 380) lived at Athens for many years as a resident alien and supported himself by writing speeches when he lost his wealth. His speeches, some of them written for litigants of humble station, show dexterous adaptation to the character of the speaker, though the most interesting of all is his own attack on Eratosthenes, one of the Thirty Tyrants imposed on Athens by the Spartans in 404 BC.

      The 12 extant speeches of Isaeus, who was active in the first half of the 4th century BC, throw light on aspects of Athenian law. Isocrates, who was influential in Athens for half a century before his death in 338, perfected a periodic prose style that, through the medium of Latin, was widely accepted as a pattern; and he helped give rhetoric its predominance in the educational system of the ancient world. In his writings, which took the form of speeches but were more like pamphlets, Isocrates shows some insight into the political troubles besetting Greece, with its endless bickering between cities incapable of cooperation.

      The greatest of the orators was Demosthenes (384–322), supreme in vehemence and power, though lacking in some of the more delicate shadings of rhetorical skill. His speeches were mainly political, and he is best remembered for his energetic opposition to the rise of Macedonia under its king Philip II, embodied in the three “Philippics.” After Demosthenes, oratory faded, together with the political setting to which it owed its preeminence. Three more 4th-century-BC writers need only be mentioned: Aeschines (390–c. 314; the main political opponent of Demosthenes), Hyperides (c. 390–322), and Lycurgus (c. 390–324).

Philosophical prose
      Prose as a medium of philosophy (philosophy, Western) was written as early as the 6th century. Practitioners include Anaximander, Anaximenes (Anaximenes Of Miletus), Heracleitus, Anaxagoras, and Democritus. Philosophical prose was the greatest literary achievement of the 4th century. It was influenced by Socrates (who himself wrote nothing) and his characteristic method of teaching by question and answer, which led naturally to the dialogue. Alexamenus of Teos and Antisthenes, both disciples of Socrates, were the first to use it; but the greatest exponent of Socratic dialogue was the Athenian Plato (428/427–348/347). Shortly after Socrates' death in 399 Plato wrote some dialogues, mostly short; to this group of work belong the Apology, Protagoras, and Gorgias. In the decade after 385 he wrote a series of brilliant works, Phaedo, Phaedrus, Symposium, and the Republic. His Socrates is the most carefully drawn character in Greek literature. Subsequent dialogues became more austerely philosophical; Socrates tended increasingly to be a mere spokesman for Plato's thought; and in the last of his works, the Laws, he was replaced by a colourless “Athenian.” Plato's style is a thing of matchless beauty, though ancient critics, who were likely to entangle themselves in the rules they had invented, found it too poetical.

      Plato's pupil Aristotle (384–322) was admired in antiquity for his style; but his surviving works are all of the “esoteric” sort, intended for use in connection with his philosophical and scientific school, the Lyceum. They are without literary grace, and at times they approximate lecture notes. His works on literary subjects, the Rhetoric, and above all, the Poetics, had an immense effect on literary theory after the Renaissance. In the ancient world, Aristotelian doctrine was known mainly through the works of his successor Theophrastus (c. 372–288/287), now lost except for two books on plants and a famous collection of 30 Characters, sketches of human types much imitated by English writers of the 17th century.

Late forms of poetry
      The creative period of the Hellenistic Age was practically contained within the span of the 3rd century BC. To this period belonged three outstanding poets: Theocritus, Callimachus, and Apollonius of Rhodes. Theocritus (c. 310–250), born at Syracuse, is best known as the inventor of bucolic mime, or pastoral poetry (pastoral literature), in which he presented scenes from the lives of shepherds and goatherds in Sicily and southern Italy. He also dramatized scenes from middle-class life; and in his second idyll the character Simaetha, who tries by incantations to recover the love of the man who has deserted her, touches the fringe of tragedy. He also used another Hellenistic form, the epyllion, a short scene of heroic narrative poetry in which heroic stature is often reduced by playful realism and delicate psychology. In his hands the hexameter attained a lyric purity and sweetness unrivaled elsewhere. He was the first of the nature poets, succeeded by Moschus and Bion.

       Callimachus (flourished about 260) was a scholar as well as a poet. His most famous work, of which substantial fragments survive, was the Aitia, an elegiac poem describing the origins of various rites and customs. It was heavy with learning but diversified by passages of entertaining narrative. His six hymns show immense poetic expertise but no religious feeling, for the gods of Olympus had long since become obsolete. Callimachus also wrote epigrams, and fragments survive of iambi (“iambs”). The form was widely used throughout the 3rd century to denounce the vanities of the world. Sometimes, in a mixture of prose and verse, these pieces had links with satire; and their chief exponents were Bion the Borysthenite, Menippus of Gadara, Cercidas of Megalopolis, and Phoenix of Colophon.

      Callimachus avoided epic in favour of the greater intensity possible in shorter works. The last surviving Classical Greek epic was written by his successor at Alexandria, Apollonius of Rhodes (born about 295). Apollonius' account of the voyage of the Argonauts is so full of local legend that the coherence of the poem is lost; but the story of Medea's wild passion for Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, is marked by a new sort of romantic awareness that is fully realized in the episode of Dido's passion for Aeneas in Virgil's Aeneid.

      The desire to combine learning with poetry led to the revival of didactic verse. The Phaenomena of Aratus of Soli (c. 315–c. 245) is a versification of a treatise on the stars by Eudoxus of Cnidus (c. 390–c. 340). Chance has preserved the poems of Nicander (probably 2nd century) on the unlikely subjects of cures for bites and antidotes to poisons.

      The mimes of Herodas (3rd century), short realistic sketches of low life in iambic verse (iamb), have affinities with the non-pastoral mimes of Theocritus. They perhaps give a hint as to the character of the literature of popular entertainment, now largely lost. Mime, especially pantomime, was the main entertainment throughout the early Roman Empire.

      After the middle of the 3rd century, poetic activity largely died away, though the great period of scholarship at Alexandria and at Pergamum was still to come. The names of a few poets are known: Euphorion (born about 275) of Chalcis and Parthenius (Parthenius of Nicaea) (flourished 1st century BC), the teacher of Virgil. Thereafter Greek poetry practically ceased, apart from a sporadic revival in the 4th century AD. An exception exists in the case of epigrammatic poetry in elegiac couplets, surviving mainly in two compilations, the Planudean and Palatine anthologies.

Late forms of prose
      Almost all of the great mass of Hellenistic prose—and later prose, historical, scholarly, and scientific—has perished. Among historians Polybius (c. 200–c. 118 BC), the most outstanding, has survived in a fragmentary condition. Present at Rome when it was succumbing to the first influences of Greek literature, he wrote mainly of events of which he had direct experience, often with great insight; his work covered the period from 264 to 146. Diodorus Siculus' universal history (1st century BC) is important for the sources quoted there. The most considerable of lost historians was Timaeus (c. 356–c. 260), whose history of the Greeks in the west down to 264 provided Polybius with his starting point. Later historians were Dionysius of Halicarnassus (flourished about 20 BC); Appian of Alexandria (2nd century AD), who wrote on Rome and its conquests; and Arrian (c. AD 96–c. 180) from Bithynia, who is the most valuable source on Alexander the Great.

      The most important works of criticism (literary criticism), of which little has survived, were by Dionysius of Halicarnassus and the obscure Longinus. Longinus' treatise On the Sublime (c. AD 40) is exceptional in its penetrating analysis of creative literature. The Bibliotheca attributed to Apollodorus (Apollodorus of Athens) (c. 180 BC) is a handy compendium of mythology.

      Scientific (science, history of) work such as the astronomy and geography of Eratosthenes (c. 276–c. 194) of Alexandria is known mainly from later summaries; but much that was written by the mathematicians, especially Euclid (flourished c. 300 BC) and Archimedes (c. 287–212), has been preserved.

      Much survives of the writings of the physician Galen (Galen Of Pergamum) (AD 129–199). His contemporary Sextus Empiricus is an important source for the history of Greek philosophy. The survey of the Mediterranean by Strabo in the time of Augustus preserved much valuable information; and so, in a more limited field, did the description of Greece by Pausanias (2nd century AD). Greek achievement in astronomy and geography was summed up in the work of Ptolemy of Alexandria in the 2nd century AD.

      Greek became the language of the large settlement of Jews at Alexandria, and the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, was completed by about the end of the 2nd century BC. Much of the Apocrypha was composed in Greek, and the New Testament was written in popular Greek (Koine). Of the early Christian writers in Greek the most notable were Clement of Alexandria (Clement of Alexandria, Saint) (c. AD 150–c. 215) and Origen (c. AD 185–c. 254), together with Clement I (Clement I Saint) and Ignatius of Antioch (Ignatius of Antioch, Saint).

      The Parallel Lives of famous Greeks and Romans by Plutarch (c. AD 46–c. 119) of Chaeronea in Boeotia was for centuries one of the formative books for educated Europeans. Great figures from an idealized past are presented for the edification of the lesser people of his own day; and the anecdotes with which the Lives abound are of various degrees of credibility. They belong to biography rather than to history, though they are an important source for historians. A number of shorter works on a wide variety of subjects have come down under the Latin title Moralia (Greek Ethica), which show the intellectual tide of Greece on the ebb.

      There was much concern over a question that had been argued ever since the days when Athens had ceased to be a free city: to what extent was Attic prose a norm that writers and especially orators were bound to follow? Many had shunned it in favour of a more ornamental Asiatic style. But at the end of the 1st century AD there was a revival of the Attic dialect. Speeches and essays were written for wide circulation. This revival is known as the Second Sophistic movement, and chief among its writers were Dion Chrysostom (1st century AD), Aelius Aristides (2nd century), and Philostratus (early 3rd century). The only writer of consequence, however, was Lucian (c. 120–c. 190). His works are mainly slight and satirical; but his gift of humour, even though repetitive, cannot be denied. Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers was a valuable work of the 3rd century by Diogenes Laërtius, a writer otherwise unknown.

      Philosophical activity in the early empire was mainly confined to moralizings based on Stoicism, a philosophy advocating a life in harmony with nature and indifference to pleasure and pain. Epictetus (born about AD 55) influenced especially the philosophic Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (121–180), whose Meditations have taken their place beside works of Christian devotion. Many of Plutarch's Moralia were Platonic, with vaguely mystical tendencies; but Plotinus (c. 205–260/270) was the last major thinker in the Classical world, giving new direction to Platonic and Pythagorean mysticism.

      The latest creation of the Greek genius was the novel, or erotic romance (Hellenistic romance). It may have originated as early as the 1st century BC; but its roots reach back to such plays of triumphant love as the lost Andromeda of Euripides, to the New Comedy, to Xenophon's daydreams about the education of Cyrus, and to the largely fictitious narratives that were one extreme of what passed for history from the 3rd century BC onward. Of these last, the best known examples are the Alexander romances (Alexander romance), a wildly distorted and embroidered version of the exploits of Alexander the Great, which supplied some of the favourite reading of the Middle Ages. Erotic elegy and epigram may have contributed something and so may the lost Milesian Tales of Aristides of Miletus (Aristides) (c. 100 BC), though these last appear to have depended on a pornographic interest that is almost completely absent from the Greek romances. Only fragments survive of the Ninus romance (dealing with the love of Ninus, legendary founder of Nineveh), which was probably of the 1st century BC; but full-length works survive by Chariton (2nd century AD), Achilles Tatius (2nd century AD), Xenophon of Ephesus (2nd or 3rd century AD), and Heliodorus (Heliodorus of Emesa) (3rd century AD or later). All deal with true lovers separated by innumerable obstacles of human wickedness and natural catastrophe and then finally united. Daphnis and Chloe by Longus (between 2nd and 3rd century AD) stands apart from the others because of its pastoral, rather than quasi-historical, setting. The works of Dictys Cretensis and Dares Phrygius belong to the same period. They claim to give a pre-Homeric account of the Trojan War. The Greek originals are almost wholly lost, but the Latin version was for the Middle Ages the main source for the story of Troy. (See also Hellenistic romance.)

Donald William Lucas Ed.

Byzantine literature

General characteristics
      Byzantine literature may be broadly defined as the Greek literature of the Middle Ages, whether written in the territory of the Byzantine Empire or outside its borders. By late antiquity many of the classical Greek genres, such as drama and choral lyric poetry, had long been obsolete, and all Greek literature affected to some degree an archaizing language and style, perpetuated by a long-established system of education in which rhetoric was a leading subject. The Greek Church Fathers were the products of this education and shared the literary values of their pagan contemporaries. Consequently the vast and imposing Christian literature of the 3rd to 6th centuries, which established a synthesis of Hellenic and Christian thought, was largely written in a language already far removed from that spoken by all classes in everyday life, and indeed from that of the New Testament. This diglossy—the use of two very different forms of the same language for different purposes—marked Byzantine culture for 1,000 years; but the relations between the high and low forms changed with the centuries. The prestige of the classicizing literary language remained undiminished until the end of the 6th century; only some popular saints' lives and world chronicles escaped its influence. In the ensuing two and a half centuries, when the very existence of the Byzantine Empire was threatened, city life and education declined, and with them the use of classicizing language and style. With the political recovery of the 9th and 10th centuries began a literary revival, in which a conscious attempt was made to recreate the Hellenic-Christian culture of late antiquity. Simple or popular language was despised; many of the early saints' lives were rewritten in inflated and archaizing language and style. By the 12th century the cultural self-assurance of the Byzantines enabled them to develop new literary genres, including romantic fiction, in which adventure and love are the main motifs, and satire, which occasionally made use of imitations of spoken Greek. The period from the Fourth Crusade (1204) to the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks (1453) saw both a vigorous revival of narrowly imitative, classicizing literature, as the Byzantines sought to assert their cultural superiority over the militarily and economically more powerful West, and at the same time the beginning of a flourishing literature in an approximation to vernacular Greek. But this vernacular literature was limited to poetic romances, popular devotional writing, and the like. All serious writing continued to make use of the prestigious archaizing language of learned tradition.

      Byzantine literature's two sources, classical and Christian, each provided a series of models and references for the Byzantine writer and reader. Often both were referred to side by side: for example, the emperor Alexius Comnenus defended his seizure of church property to pay his soldiers by referring to the precedents of Pericles and the biblical king David. Much of Byzantine literature was didactic in tone, and often in content too. And much of it was written for a limited group of educated readers, who could be counted upon to understand every classical or biblical allusion and to appreciate every figure of rhetoric. Some Byzantine genres would not be considered of literary interest today, but instead seem to belong to the domain of technical writing. This is true in particular of the voluminous writings of the Church Fathers, such as Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, and Maximus the Confessor.

Principal forms of writing
Nonliturgical poetry
      Poetry continued to be written in classical metres and style. But the sense of appropriateness of form to content was lost. An example is the transitional work of Nonnus, a 5th-century Egyptian-born Greek who eventually converted to Christianity. His long poem Dionysiaca was composed in Homeric language and metre, but it reads as an extended panegyric on Dionysus rather than as an epic. Nonnus is plausibly credited with a paraphrase, in similar metre and style, of the Gospel According to St. John, thereby fusing classical and Christian traditions. Several short narrative poems in Homeric verse, of mythological content, were composed by contemporaries of Nonnus. Paul the Silentiary in the mid-6th century used the same Homeric form for a long descriptive poem on the Church of the Divine Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) in Constantinople. Many brief occasional poems were written in hexameters or elegiac couplets until the late 6th century. But changes in the phonology of Greek, and perhaps declining educational standards, made these metres difficult to handle. A cleric, George the Pisidian, wrote long narrative poems on the wars of the emperor Heraclius (610–641), as well as a poem on the six days of the creation, in iambic trimeters (12-syllable lines, consisting in principle of three pairs of iambic feet, each of a short syllable followed by a long). His example was followed by Theodosius the Deacon in his epic on the recapture of Crete from the Arabs in the 10th century. This 12-syllable line became the all-purpose metre in the middle and later Byzantine periods and was the vehicle for narrative, epigram, romance, satire, and moral and religious edification. From the 11th century it found a rival in a 15-syllable stressed line, which was used by the monk Symeon the New Theologian (Symeon the New Theologian, Saint) in many of his mystical hymns and which became a vehicle for court poetry in the 12th century. It was also used by the metropolitan Constantine Manasses (Manasses, Constantine) for his world chronicle and by the anonymous redactor of the epic romance of Digenis Akritas. It was in this metre, which followed no classical models, that the early vernacular poems were written, such as the romances of Callimachus and Chrysorrhoe, Belthandros and Chrysantza, the Byzantine Achilleid (the hero of which has nothing in common with Homer's Achilles but his name), and the Romance of Belisarius. These are the most significant works of genuine fiction in Byzantine literature. Many of these poems were adaptations or imitations of medieval Western models: examples are Phlorios and Platziaphlora (the Old French Floire et Blancheflor), Imberios and Margarona, and Apollonius of Tyre, each a romantic narrative. The epic genre is represented by a long unpublished poem on the Trojan War, adapted from the Roman de Troie of the 12th-century French poet Benoît de Sainte-Maure. This openness to the Latin West was new. But even when they were based on Western models, Byzantine poems differed in tone and expression from their exemplars. Most of this vernacular poetry cannot be dated more precisely than to the 13th or 14th century.

      Much Byzantine poetry is rather unimaginative, long-winded, and tedious. But some poets show a genuine vein of inspiration, for instance, John Geometres (10th century) or John Mauropous (11th century), or remarkable technical brilliance, such as Theodore Prodromus (12th century), or Manuel Philes (14th century). The ability to write passable verse was widespread in literate Byzantine society, and poetry—or versification—was greatly appreciated.

Liturgical poetry
      From the earliest times song—and short rhythmic stanzas (troparia) in particular—had formed part of the liturgy of the church. Poems in classical metre and style were composed by Christian writers from Clement of Alexandria and Gregory of Nazianzus to Sophronius of Jerusalem. But the pagan associations of the genre, as well as the difficulties of the metre, made them unacceptable for general liturgical use. In the 6th century elaborate rhythmical poems (kontakia) replaced the simpler troparia. They owed much to Syriac liturgical poetry. In form the kontakion was a series of up to 22 rhythmical stanzas, all constructed on the same accentual pattern and ending with the same short refrain. In content it was a narrative homily on an event of biblical history or an episode in the life of a saint. There was often a marked dramatic element. Rich in imagery, complex in structure, and infinitely variable in rhythm, the new liturgical poetry can be compared with the choral lyric of ancient Greece. The greatest composer of kontakia was Romanos Melodos (Romanos the Melode; early 6th century), a Syrian probably of Jewish origin. In the late 7th century the kontakion was replaced by a longer liturgical poem, the kanōn, consisting of eight or nine odes, each of many stanzas and each having a different rhythmic and melodic form. The kanōn was a hymn of praise rather than a homily. Its great length encouraged repetition and inflation, and a more ornamental style of singing enhanced the importance of the music at the expense of the words. The most noteworthy composers of kanones were Andrew of Crete, John of Damascus, Theodore Studites, Joseph the Hymnographer, and John Mauropous. No new hymns were added to the liturgy after the 11th century, but kanones continued to be composed as a literary exercise. The original music of kontakia and kanones alike is lost.

Historical works
      Conscious as they were of their classical and biblical past, the Byzantines wrote much history. Until the early 7th century a series of historians recounted the events of their own time in classicizing style, with fictitious speeches and set descriptive pieces, in a genre that owed much to the classical Greek historians Thucydides and Polybius. Procopius, Agathias, Peter the Patrician, Menander Protector, and Theophylactus Simocattes each took up where a predecessor left off. Thereafter this vein virtually ran dry for 250 years. The revival of cultural confidence and political power in the late 9th century saw a revival of classicizing history, with an interest in human character—Plutarch was often the model—and the causes of events. Joseph Genesius in the 10th century and the group of historical writers known collectively as the Continuators of Theophanes recorded, not without partiality, the origin and early days of the Macedonian dynasty. From then until the later 14th century there was never a generation without its historian. The most noteworthy historians were Symeon the Logothete and Leo the Deacon in the 10th century; Michael Psellus, Michael Attaleiates, and John Scylitzes in the 11th century; Anna Comnena, John Cinnamus, and Nicetas Choniates in the 12th century; George Acropolites and George Pachymeres in the 13th century; and Nicephorus Gregoras and the emperor John Cantacuzenus in the 14th century. The last days of the Byzantine Empire were recounted from very different points of view by George Sphrantzes, the writer known simply as Ducas (who was a member of the former Byzantine imperial house of that name), Laonicus Chalcocondyles, and Michael Critobulus in the second half of the 15th century.

      Another kind of interest in the past was satisfied by world chronicles, beginning with the creation or some early biblical event. Often naively theological in their explanation of causes, black-and-white in their depiction of character, and popular in language, they helped the ordinary Byzantine to locate himself in a scheme of world history that was also a history of salvation. The Chronographia of John Malalas in the 6th century and the Paschal Chronicle (Chronicon Paschale) in the 7th century were succeeded by those of Patriarch Nicephorus at the end of the 8th century, Theophanes the Confessor in the early 9th century, and George the Monk in the late 9th century. Such chronicles continued to be written in later centuries, sometimes with critical and literary pretensions, as in the case of John Zonaras, or in vaguely romanticized form in verse, as in the case of Constantine Manasses.

      The importance that Byzantine rulers attached to history is attested by the vast historical encyclopaedia compiled on the orders of Constantine VII (913–959) in 53 volumes, of which only meagre fragments remain.

      Though there was no opportunity for political or forensic oratory in the Byzantine world, the taste for rhetoric and the appreciation of well-structured language, choice figures of speech and thought, and skillful delivery remained undiminished in Byzantine society. From the 10th century onward survives a vast body of encomiums, funeral orations, memorial speeches, inaugural lectures, addresses of welcome, celebrations of victory, and miscellaneous panegyrics. This outpouring of polished rhetoric played an important role in the formation and control of public opinion in the limited circles where opinions mattered and occasionally served as a vehicle of genuine political controversy. To this same domain belong the myriad Byzantine letters, often collected and edited by their author or a friend. These letters were not intended to be either private or informative—real information was conveyed orally by the bearer—but they were important in maintaining networks of contact among the elite as well as in providing refined aesthetic pleasure.

Modern Greek literature (after 1453)

Post-Byzantine period
      After the Turkish capture of Constantinople in 1453, Greek literary activity continued almost exclusively in those areas of the Greek world under Venetian rule. Thus Cyprus, until its capture by the Turks in 1571, produced a body of literature in the local dialect, including the 15th-century prose chronicle Recital Concerning the Sweet Land of Cyprus by Leóntios Machairás and a collection of translations and imitations in elaborate verse forms of Italian poems by Petrarch and others. Crete, which remained in Venetian hands until 1669, became the centre of the greatest flowering of Greek literature between the fall of Constantinople and the foundation of the modern Greek state. There a number of authors developed the Cretan dialect into a rich and subtle medium of expression. In it were written a number of tragedies and comedies, a single pastoral tragicomedy, and a single, anonymous religious drama, The Sacrifice of Abraham, mostly based on Italian models. The leading playwright was Geórgios Chortátsis. About 1600 Vitséntsos Kornáros composed his romance, Erotókritos. These Cretan authors composed their works almost entirely in the 15-syllable iambic verse of the Greek folk song, whose modes of expression influenced them deeply.

      In the Ottoman-ruled areas of Greece the folk song, which concisely and unsentimentally conveyed the aspirations of the Greek people of the time, became practically the sole form of literary expression.

      Toward the end of the 18th century, however, a number of intellectuals emerged who, under the influence of European ideas, set about raising the level of Greek education and culture and laying the foundations of an independence movement. The participants in this “Greek Enlightenment” also brought to the fore the language problem, each promoting a different form of the Greek language for use in education. The leading Greek intellectual of the early 19th century was the classical scholar Adamántios Koraïs (Koraïs, Adamántios), who in voluminous writings on Greek language and education, argued for a form of Modern Greek “corrected” according to the ancient rules.

Independence and after
Old Athenian School
      The Greek state established as a result of the Greek War of Independence (1821–29) consisted only of a small section of the present-day Greek mainland and a few islands. Athens, which became the capital of Greece in 1834, soon came to be the chief cultural centre, gathering together writers from various areas, particularly Constantinople. The Soútsos brothers, Aléxandros (Soútsos, Aléxandros) and Panayótis, introduced the novel into Greece, but they are best known for their Romantic poetry, which as time went by moved gradually away from the Demotic (Demotic Greek language) (“popular”), or commonly spoken, language toward the Katharevusa (Katharevusa Greek language) (“purist”) form institutionalized by Koraïs. The work of these writers, which relied greatly on French models, looks back to the War of Independence and the glorious ancient past. Their melancholy sentimentality was not shared by Aléxandros Rízos Rangavís, a verbose but versatile and not inconsiderable craftsman of Katharevusa in lyric and narrative poetry, drama, and the novel. By the 1860s and '70s, however, Athenian poetry was generally of poor quality and was dominated by a sense of despair and longing for death. In the period 1830–80, prose was dominated by two opposing trends: the historical novel attempted to present a glorious picture of the Greek past while novels set in the present tended to be satirical or picaresque in nature. Emmanuel Roídis' novel I Pápissa Ioánna (1866; Pope Joan) is a hilarious satire on medieval and modern religious practices as well as a pastiche of the historical novel. Pávlos Kalligás, in Thános Vlékas (1855), treated contemporary problems such as brigandage. In Loukís Láras (1879; Eng. trans., Loukis Laras) Dimítrios Vikélas presented a less heroic view of the War of Independence.

Heptanesian School
      Meanwhile more interesting developments had been taking place in the Ionian Islands (Heptanesos). During the 1820s two poets from the island of Zacynthus made their name with patriotic poems celebrating the War of Independence. One of these, Andréas Kálvos (Kálvos, Andréas Ioannídis), who composed his odes in neoclassical form and archaic language, never wrote poetry afterward, while the other, Dhionísios Solomós (Solomós, Dhionísios, Count), went on to become one of the greatest of modern Greek poets. Dealing with the themes of liberty, love, and death, Solomós embodied a profoundly Romantic sensibility in extraordinary fragments of lyrical intensity, which gave a new prestige to the Demotic language. Solomós' followers continued to cultivate the Demotic, particularly Antónios Mátesis, whose historical social drama, O vasilikós (1859; “The Basil Plant”), was the first prose work of any length to be written in the Demotic. Aristotélis Valaorítis (Valaorítis, Aristotélis) continued the Heptanesian tradition with long patriotic poems inspired by the Greek national struggles.

Demoticism and folklorism, 1880–1922
      From the 1880s onward the New Athenian School, inspired by the revived interest in folklore as a survival of ancient Greek culture, began to react against the sterile bombast of the Katharevusa versifiers, producing instead a more intimate poetry based on the language, customs, and beliefs of the Greek peasantry, and in particular on Greek folk songs.

      The leading ideologist of this “demoticist” movement, which aimed to promote traditional popular culture at the expense of the pseudo-archaic pedantry fashionable in Athens, was Yánnis Psicháris (Jean Psichari), whose book My Journey (1888) was partly a fictionalized account of a journey around the Greek world and partly a belligerent manifesto arguing that the Demotic language should be officially adopted as a matter of national urgency. The demoticist movement inspired poets to enrich the Greek popular tradition with influences from abroad. Chief among these was Kostís Palamás (Palamás, Kostís), who dominated the literary scene for several decades with a large output of essays and articles and whose best poetry appeared between 1900 and 1910. In his lyric and epic poems he attempted to synthesize ancient Greek history and mythology with the Byzantine Christian tradition and modern Greek folklore in order to demonstrate the essential unity of Greek culture. Angelos Sikelianós (Sikelianós, Angelos) continued this enterprise in effusive and powerful lyric poetry of a profoundly mystical nature.

      In prose, the folklore cult fostered development of the short story, written initially in Katharevusa, with Demotic gradually taking over in the 1890s. These stories, and the novels that accompanied them, depicted scenes of traditional rural life, sometimes idealized and sometimes viewed critically by their authors. The pioneer of the Greek short story, Geórgios Vizyenós, combined autobiography with an effective use of psychological analysis and suspense. The most famous and prolific short-story writer, Aléxandros Papadiamándis, produced a wealth of evocations of his native island of Skiáthos imbued with a profound sense of Christian tradition and a compassion for country folk; his novel I fónissa (1903; The Murderess) is a fine study in psychological abnormality. The novel O zitiános (1896; The Beggar), by Andréas Karkavítsas (Karkavítsas, Andréas), satirically depicts the economic and cultural deprivation of the rural population. From about 1910 this critical attitude is further reflected in the prose writing of Konstantínos Chatzópoulos and Konstantínos Theotókis. Meanwhile Grigórios Xenópoulos wrote novels with an urban setting and devoted considerable effort to drama, a medium that received a substantial boost from the demoticist movement.

      One major figure defies categorization for it was outside Greece, in Alexandria, that Constantine Cavafy (Cavafy, Constantine) lived and wrote. His finely wrought, epigrammatic poems, with their tragically ironic views of Hellenistic and Byzantine history, contain daring, sensuous glimpses of homosexual love.

Literature after 1922
      The Asia Minor Disaster of 1922, in which Greece's expansionist designs on the Ottoman Empire were finally thwarted, brought about a radical change in the orientation of Greek literature. Before committing suicide in 1928, Kóstas Kariotákis wrote some bitterly sarcastic poetry conveying the gap between the old ideals and the new reality.

      The reaction against the defeatism of 1922 came with the Generation of 1930, a group of writers who began publishing around that date. They reinvigorated Greek literature by discarding the old verse forms in poetry and by producing ambitious novels that were intended to embody the spirit of the times. Both poets and novelists sought to combine European influences with the best of what was Greek. The restrained poetry of George Seféris (Seferis, George) skillfully married references to ancient mythology with pensive meditation on man's modern situation, while his finely written essays recast the Greek tradition according to his own priorities. Odysseus Elýtis (Elytis, Odysseus) celebrated the Aegean scenery as an ideal world of sensual enjoyment and moral purity. Each of these poets won the Nobel Prize for Literature, Seféris in 1963 and Elýtis in 1979. Yánnis Rítsos (Ritsos, Yannis) adopted various new modes of writing in his celebration of the Greek partisans in World War II, in long dramatic monologues spoken by characters from Greek mythology, and in laconic poems depicting everyday, but often ironically presented, scenes.

      The Generation of 1930 produced some remarkable novels, among them Strátis Myrivílis' I zoí en tafo (1930; Life in the Tomb), a journal of life in the trenches in World War I; Argo (2 vol., 1933 and 1936) by Yórgos Theotokás (Theotokás, Yórgos), about a group of students attempting to find their way through life in the turbulent 1920s; and Eroica (1937) by Kosmás Polítis, about the first encounter of a group of well-to-do schoolboys with love and death.

      After World War II prose writing was dominated by novels reflecting the experiences of the Greeks during eight years of war (1941–49). Yánnis Berátis recounted his experiences of 1941 in an unemotional manner in To Platy Potami (1946; “The Broad River”). In a trilogy of novels entitled Akyvérnites politíes (1960–65; Drifting Cities), Stratís Tsírkas masterfully recreated the atmosphere of the Middle East in World War II. In the short story, Dimítris Chatzís painted ironic portraits of real and fictional characters in his native Ioánnina in the period before and during World War II, exposing their self-interested machinations.

      Nevertheless, the most famous novelist of the period, the Cretan Níkos Kazantzákis (Kazantzákis, Níkos), was a survivor from an earlier generation. In a series of novels, beginning with Víos ke politía tou Aléxi Zorbá (1946; Zorba the Greek) and continuing with his masterpiece O Christos xanastavronete (1954; Christ Recrucified), he embodied a synthesis of ideas from various philosophies and religions in larger-than-life characters who wrestle with great problems, such as the existence of God and the purpose of human life. Kazantzákis had earlier published his 33,333-line Odísia (1938; Odyssey), an epic poem taking up the story of Odysseus where Homer had left off. Pandelís Prevelákis published a number of philosophical novels set in his native Crete, the most successful being O ílios tou thanátou (1959; The Sun of Death), which shows a boy learning to come to terms with death.

      During the 1960s Greek prose writers attempted to explore the historical factors underlying the contemporary social and political situation. In the novel To tríto stefáni (1962; The Third Wedding) by Kóstas Tachtsís, the female narrator tells the story of her life with venomous verve, unwittingly exposing the oppressive nature of the Greek family. Yórgos Ioánnou's part-fictional, part-autobiographical short prose pieces present a vivid picture of life in Thessaloníki (Salonika) and Athens from the 1930s to the 1980s.

      The 1980s saw the novel take over from poetry as the most prestigious genre in Greek literature. At the turn of the 21st century, many of the most successful new novelists were women, and some of the best novels presented an ironic challenge to traditional notions of historical truth. The novel also attracted poets and playwrights who saw in it the means of gaining popular success.

      No individual poets of the postwar generations tower above the rest; among the first postwar generation, Tákis Sinópoulos, Míltos Sachtoúris, and Manólis Anagnostákis, all marked by their wartime experiences of the 1940s, are among those with the greatest reputations. The Generation of 1970, in which female and male poets played an equal part, came of age during the military dictatorship of 1967–74. Their poetry is characterized by the challenge it makes to social conformity, but it also shows the influence of the modernization and globalization of Greek culture. This poetry, which is typically ironic, avoids traditional lyricism and (with some exceptions) rural imagery.

Peter A. Mackridge

Additional Reading

Ancient Greek literature
Among many surveys of Greek literature, the best are P.E. Easterling and B.M.W. Knox, The Cambridge History of Classical Literature, vol. 1, Greek Literature (1985); Jacqueline De Romilly, A Short History of Greek Literature (1985; originally published in French, 1980), with an excellent bibliography; K.J. Dover (ed.), Ancient Greek Literature (1980); Albin Lesky, A History of Greek Literature (1966; originally published in German, 2nd ed., 1963); Oliver Taplin (ed.), Literature in the Greek World (2001); and Gregory Nagy (ed.), Greek Literature, 9 vol. (2001), an exhaustive reference.Topical studies include Irene J.F. de Jong and Rene Nunlist (eds.), Time in Ancient Greek Literature (2007); John Gould, Myth, Ritual, Memory, and Exchange: Essays in Greek Literature and Culture (2001); J.W.H. Atkins, Literary Criticism in Antiquity: A Sketch of Its Development, 2 vol. (1934, reissued 1961); E. Anne Mackay (ed.), Signs of Orality: The Oral Tradition and Its Influence in the Greek and Roman World (1999).Aspects of poetry are treated in C.M. Bowra, Greek Lyric Poetry from Alcman to Simonides (1961, reprinted 1967); J.C.B. Petropoulos, Eroticism in Ancient and Medieval Greek Poetry (2003); and Ellen Greene (ed.), Women Poets in Ancient Greece and Rome (2005). C.A. Trypanis, Greek Poetry: From Homer to Seferis (1981), covers the entire Greek poetic tradition.General works on theatre include Margarete Bieber, The History of the Greek and Roman Theater, 2nd rev. ed. (1961); Brian Vickers, Comparative Tragedy, vol. 1, Towards Greek Tragedy: Drama, Myth, Society (1973, reprinted 1979); and N.J. Sewell-Rutter, Guilt by Descent: Moral Inheritance and Decision Making in Greek Tragedy (2007).Other aspects of ancient Greek literature or Greek literature in general are addressed in Bruno Gentili and Giovanni Cerri, History and Biography in Ancient Thought (1988; originally published in Italian, 1983); Tomas Hägg, Philip Rousseau, and Christian Høgel (eds.), Greek Biography and Panegyric in Late Antiquity (2000); William Hansen (ed.), Anthology of Ancient Greek Popular Literature (1998); Margalit Finkelberg, The Birth of Literary Fiction in Ancient Greece (1998); and Suzanne MacAlister, Dreams and Suicides: The Greek Novel from Antiquity to the Byzantine Empire (1996). The diffusion of Greek thought is the subject of Gilbert Highet, The Classical Tradition: Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature (1949, reissued 1985).Donald William Lucas Ed.

Byzantine literature
Alexander Kazhdan, Studies on Byzantine Literature of the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (1984), and A History of Byzantine Literature, 650–850 (1999), bring methods of Western medievalists to the study of Byzantine literature; also valuable as general references are Athanasios Markopoulos, History and Literature of Byzantium in the 9th–10th Centuries (2004); Ihor Ševčenko, Ideology, Letters, and Culture in the Byzantine World (1982); and John W. Nesbitt (ed.), Byzantine Authors: Literary Activities and Preoccupations (2003).The standard work on Byzantine liturgical poetry is Egon Wellesz, A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography, 2nd ed. rev. and enlarged (1961, reissued 1998). George A. Kennedy, Greek Rhetoric Under Christian Emperors (1983), is concerned with social aspects, particularly with the rhetorical method in education. A collection of studies on the vernacular poetry of the period is E.M. Jeffreys and M.J. Jeffreys, Popular Literature in Late Byzantium (1983). Specific aspects of the literature are discussed in Margaret Alexiou, After Antiquity: Greek Language, Myth, and Metaphor (2001); and Roderick Beaton, The Medieval Greek Romance, 2nd ed., rev. and expanded (1996).Robert Browning

Modern Greek literature
C.Th. Dimaras (K.Th. Deemaras), A History of Modern Greek Literature (1972; originally published in Greek, 2 vol., 1948–49), is a comprehensive study that is especially useful on the history of ideas. Roderick Beaton, An Introduction to Modern Greek Literature, 2nd ed., rev. and expanded (1999), is the best general survey. Other valuable studies include Peter Bien, Three Generations of Greek Writers: Introductions to Cavafy, Kazantzakis, Ritsos (1982, reissued 1993); and Gregory Nagy, Anna Stavrakopoulou, and Jennifer Reilly (eds.), Modern Greek Literature: Critical Essays (2003).Poetry is the focus of Kimon Friar (trans. and compiler), Modern Greek Poetry (1973, reissued 1999); Roderick Beaton, Folk Poetry of Modern Greece (1980); Philip Sherrard, The Marble Threshing Floor: Studies in Modern Greek Poetry (1956, reissued 1981); Edmund Keeley, Modern Greek Poetry: Voice and Myth (1983); David Ricks, The Shade of Homer: A Study in Modern Greek Poetry (1989); and Karen Van Dyck, Kassandra and the Censors: Greek Poetry Since 1967 (1998).Peter A. Mackridge Ed.

* * *

Universalium. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем решить контрольную работу

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Greek literature — refers to those writings autochthonic to the areas of Greek influence, typically though not necessarily in one of the Greek dialects, throughout the whole period in which the Greek speaking peoples have existed.Ancient Greek literature (Before AD …   Wikipedia

  • GREEK LITERATURE, MODERN — The literary image of the Jew was molded in Greece by the Jews themselves, by Greek non Jews and, indirectly, by the Turks. In ancient Greece, Jews were referred to as a community of philosophers. In the Hellenistic period there was some anti… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • GREEK LITERATURE, ANCIENT — Greeks came into contact with the Land of Israel long before the Hellenistic period, but there is no information as to the impression made by Jews or Judaism upon them in the classical period. The only classical writings extant referring to the… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Modern Greek literature — Greek literature Ancient Greek literature (until 4th century AD) Byzantine literature (4th – 15th century) Modern Greek literature (post 11th century) Modern Greek literature refers to literature written in the Greek language from the 11th… …   Wikipedia

  • Ancient Greek literature — refers to literature written in the Greek language until the 4th century AD. Classical and Pre Classical Antiquity This period of Greek literature stretches from Homer until the 4th century BC and the rise of Alexander the Great. Alfred North… …   Wikipedia

  • Address to Young Men on Greek Literature — (alternatively, Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek Literature ) is a text by Basil of Caesarea. Although Basil is best known for his religious writing by most people, in this work Basil encouraged the study of Greek texts, and… …   Wikipedia

  • Greek language — Greek Ελληνικά Ellīniká Pronunciation [eliniˈka] Spoken in Greece, Cyprus …   Wikipedia

  • Greek Anthology — ▪ Greek literature Greek  Anthologia Hellēnikē,  also called  Palatine Anthology,         collection of Greek epigrams, songs, epitaphs, and rhetorical exercises that includes about 3,700 short poems, mostly written in elegiac couplets. Some of… …   Universalium

  • Greek astronomy — is the astronomy of those who wrote in the Greek language in classical antiquity. It is understood to include the ancient Greek, Hellenistic, Greco Roman, and Late Antiquity eras. It is not limited geographically to Greece or to ethnic Greeks, as …   Wikipedia

  • Greek mythology — Bust of Zeus, Otricoli (Sala Rotonda, Museo Pio Clementino, Vatican) Topics in Greek mythology Gods …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”