1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Greek Literature
GREEK LITERATURE.—The literature of the Greek language is broadly divisible into three main sections: (1) Ancient, (2) Byzantine, (3) Modern. These are dealt with below in that order.
I. The Ancient Greek Literature
The ancient literature falls into three periods: (A) The Early Literature, to about 475 B.C.; epic, elegiac, iambic and lyric poetry; the beginnings of literary prose. (B) The Attic Literature 475–300 B.C.; tragic and comic drama; historical, oratorical and philosophical prose. (C) The Literature of the Decadence, 300 B.C. to A.D. 529; which may again be divided into the Alexandrian period, 300–146 B.C., and the Graeco-Roman period, 146 B.C. to A.D. 529.
For details regarding particular works or the lives of their authors reference should be made to the separate articles devoted to the principal Greek writers. The object of the following pages is to sketch the literary development as a whole, to show how its successive periods were related to each other, and to mark the dominant characteristics of each.
(A) The Early Literature.—A process of natural growth may be traced through all the best work of the Greek genius. The Greeks were not literary imitators of foreign models; the forms of poetry and prose in which they attained to such unequalled excellence were first developed by themselves. Their literature had its roots in their political and social life; it is the spontaneous expression of that life in youth, maturity and decay; and the order in which its several fruits are produced is not the result of accident or caprice. Further, the old Greek literature has a striking completeness, due to the fact that each great branch of the Hellenic race bore a characteristic part in its development. Ionians, Aeolians, Dorians, in turn contributed their share. Each dialect corresponded to a certain aspect of Hellenic life and character. Each found its appropriate work.
The Ionians on the coast of Asia Minor—a lively and genial people, delighting in adventure, and keenly sensitive to everything bright and joyous—created artistic epic poetry out of the lays in which Aeolic minstrels sang of the old Achaean wars. And among the Ionians arose elegiac The dialects.poetry, the first variation on the epic type. These found a fitting instrument in the harmonious Ionic dialect, the flexible utterance of a quick and versatile intelligence. The Aeolians of Lesbos next created the lyric of personal passion, in which the traits of their race—its chivalrous pride, its bold but sensuous fancy—found a fitting voice in the fiery strength and tenderness of Aeolic speech. The Dorians of the Peloponnesus, Sicily and Magna Graecia then perfected the choral lyric for festivals and religious worship; and here again an earnest faith, a strong pride in Dorian usage and renown had an apt interpreter in the massive and sonorous Doric. Finally, the Attic branch of the Ionian stock produced the drama, blending elements of all the other kinds, and developed an artistic literary prose in history, oratory and philosophy. It is in the Attic literature that the Greek mind receives its most complete interpretation.
A natural affinity was felt to exist between each dialect and that species of composition for which it had been specially used. Hence the dialect of the Ionian epic poets would be adopted with more or less thoroughness even by epic or elegiac poets who were not Ionians. Thus the Aeolian Hesiod uses it in epos, the Dorian Theognis in elegy, though not without alloy. Similarly, the Dorian Theocritus wrote love-songs in Aeolic. All the faculties and tones of the language were thus gradually brought out by the co-operation of the dialects. Old Greek literature has an essential unity—the unity of a living organism; and this unity comprehends a number of distinct types, each of which is complete in its own kind.
Extant Greek literature begins with the Homeric poems. These are works of art which imply a long period of antecedent poetical cultivation. Of the pre-Homeric poetry we have no remains, and very little knowledge. Such glimpses as we get of it connect it Pre-Homeric poetry.with two different stages in the religion of the prehistoric Hellenes. The first of these stages is that in which the agencies or forms of external nature were personified indeed, yet with the consciousness that the personal names were only symbols. Some very ancient Greek songs of which mention is made may have belonged to this stage—as the songs of Linus, Ialemus and Hylas. Linus, the fair youth killed by dogs, seems to be the spring passing away before Sirius. Such songs have been aptly called “songs of the seasons.” The second stage is that in which the Songs of the seasons.Hellenes have now definitively personified the powers which they worship. Apollo, Demeter, Dionysus, Cybele, have now become to them beings with clearly conceived attributes. To this second stage belong the hymns connected with the names of the legendary bards, such as Orpheus, Musaeus, Eumolpus, who are themselves associated with the worship of the Pierian Muses and the Attic ritual of Demeter. The seats Hymns.of this early sacred poetry are not only “Thracian”—i.e. on the borders of northern Greece—but also “Phrygian” and “Cretan.” It belongs, that is, presumably to an age when the ancestors of the Hellenes had left the Indo-European home in central Asia, but had not yet taken full possession of the lands which were afterwards Hellenic. Some of their tribes were still in Asia; others were settling in the islands of the Aegean; others were passing through the lands on its northern seaboard. If there was a period when the Greeks possessed no poetry but hymns forming part of a religious ritual, it may be conjectured that it was not of long duration. Already in the Iliad a secular character belongs to the marriage hymn and to the dirge for the dead, which in ancient India were chanted by the priest. The bent of the Greeks was to claim poetry and music as public joys; they would not long have suffered them to remain sacerdotal mysteries. And among the earliest themes on which the lay artist in poetry was employed were probably war-ballads, sung by minstrels in the houses of the chiefs whose ancestors they celebrated.
Such war-ballads were the materials from which the earliest epic poetry of Greece was constructed. By an “epic” poem the Greeks meant a narrative of heroic action in hexameter verse. The term ἔπη meant at first simply “verses”; it acquired its special meaning only whenEpos. μέλη, lyric songs set to music, came to be distinguished from ἔπη, verses not set to music, but merely recited. Epic poetry is the only kind of extant Greek poetry which is older than about 700 B.C. The early epos of Greece is represented by the Iliad and the Odyssey, Hesiod and the Homeric hymns; also by some fragments of the “Cyclic” poets.
After the Dorian conquest of the Peloponnesus, the Aeolian emigrants who settled in the north-west of Asia Minor brought with them the warlike legends of their chiefs, the Achaean princes of old. These legends lived in the ballads of the Aeolic minstrels, and from them passed The “Iliad” and
the “Odyssey.”southward into Ionia, where the Ionian poets gradually shaped them into higher artistic forms. Among the seven places which claimed to be the birthplace of Homer, that which has the best title is Smyrna. Homer himself is called “son of Meles”—the stream which flowed through old Smyrna, on the border between Aeolia and Ionia. The tradition is significant in regard to the origin and character of the Iliad, for in the Iliad we have Achaean ballads worked up by Ionian art. A preponderance of evidence is in favour of the view that the Odyssey also, at least in its earliest form, was composed on the Ionian coast of Asia Minor. According to the Spartan account, Lycurgus was the first to bring to Greece a complete copy of the Homeric poems, which he had obtained from the Creophylidae, a clan or gild of poets in Samos. A better authenticated tradition connects Athens with early attempts to preserve the chief poetical treasure of the nation. Peisistratus is said to have charged some learned men with the task of collecting all “the poems of Homer”; but it is difficult to decide how much was comprehended under this last phrase, or whether the province of the commission went beyond the mere task of collecting. Nor can it be determined what exactly it was that Solon and Hipparchus respectively did for the Homeric poems. Solon, it has been thought, enacted that the poems should be recited from an authorized text (ἐξ ὑποβολῆς); Hipparchus, that they should be recited in a regular order (ἐξ ὑπολήψεως). At any rate, we know that in the 6th century B.C. a recitation of the poems of Homer was one of the established competitions at the Panathenaea, held once in four years. The reciter was called a rhapsodist—properly one who weaves a long, smoothly-flowing chant, then an epic poet who chants his own or another’s poem. The rhapsodist did not, like the early minstrel, use the accompaniment of the harp; he gave the verses in a flowing recitative, bearing in his hand a branch of laurel, the symbol of Apollo’s inspiration. In the 5th century B.C. we find that various Greek cities had their own editions (αἱ πολιτικαί, κατὰ πόλεις or ἐκ πόλεων ἐκδόσεις) of the poems, for recitation at their festivals. Among these were the editions of Massilia, of Chios and of Argolis. There were also editions bearing the name of the individual editor (αἱ κατ’ ἄνδρα)—the best known being that which Aristotle prepared for Alexander. The recension of the poems by Aristarchus (156 B.C.) became the standard one, and is probably that on which the existing text is based. The oldest Homeric MS. extant, Venetus A of the Iliad, is of the 10th century; the first printed edition of Homer was that edited by the Byzantine Demetrius Chalcondyles (Florence, 1488).
The ancient Greeks were almost unanimous in believing the Iliad and the Odyssey to be the work of one man, Homer, to whom they also ascribed some extant hymns, and probably much more besides. Aristotle and Aristarchus seem to have put Homer’s date about 1044 B.C., Herodotus The Homeric question.about 850 B.C. It is not till about 170 B.C. that the grammarians Hellanicus and Xenon put forward the view that Homer was the author of the Iliad, but not of the Odyssey. Those who followed them in assigning different authors to the two poems were called the Separators (Chorizontes). Aristarchus combated “the paradox of Xenon,” and it does not seem to have had much acceptance in antiquity. Giovanni Battista Vico, a Neapolitan (1668–1744), seems to have been the first modern to suggest the composite authorship and oral tradition of the Homeric poems; but this was a pure conjecture in support of his theory that the names of ancient lawgivers and poets are often mere symbols. F. A. Wolf, in the Prolegomena to his edition (1795), was the founder of a scientific scepticism. The Iliad, he said (for he recognized the comparative unity and consistency of the Odyssey), was pieced together from many small unwritten poems by various hands, and was first committed to writing in the time of Peisistratus. This view was in harmony with the tone of German criticism at the time; it was welcomed as a new testimony to the superiority of popular poetry, springing from fresh natural sources, to elaborate works of art; and it at once found enthusiastic adherents. For the course of Homeric controversy since Wolf the reader is referred to the article Homer.
The Ionian school of epos produced a number of poems founded on the legends of the Trojan war, and intended as introductions or continuations to the Iliad and the Odyssey. The grammarian Proclus (A.D. 140) has preserved the names and subjects of some of these; Cyclic poems.but the fragments are very scanty. The Nostoi or Homeward Voyages, by Agias (or Hagias) of Troezen, filled up the gap of ten years between the Iliad and the Odyssey; the Lay of Telegonus, by Eugammon of Cyrene, continued the story of the Odyssey to the death of Odysseus by the hand of Telegonus, the son whom Circe bore to him. Similarly the Cyprian Lays by Stasinus of Cyprus, ascribed by others to Hegesias (or Hegesinus) of Salamis or Halicarnassus, was introductory to the Iliad; the Aethiopis and the Sack of Troy, by Arctinus of Miletus, and the Little Iliad, by Lesches of Mytilene, were supplementary to it. These and many other names of lost epics—some taken also from the Theban myths (Thebaïs, Epigoni, Oedipodea)—serve to show how prolific was that epic school of which only two great examples remain. The name of epic cycle was properly applied to a prose compilation of abstracts from these epics, pieced together in the order of the events. The compilers were called “cyclic” writers; and the term has now been transferred to the epic poets whom they used.
The epic poetry of Ionia celebrated the great deeds of heroes in the old wars. But in Greece proper there arose another school of epos, which busied itself with religious lore and ethical precepts, especially in relation to the rural life of Boeotia. This school is represented by the name Hesiodic epos.of Hesiod. The legend spoke of him as vanquishing Homer in a poetical contest of Chalcis in Euboea; and it expresses the fact that, to the old Greek mind, these two names stood for two contrasted epic types. Nothing is certainly known of his date, except that it must have been subsequent to the maturity of Ionian epos. He is conjecturally placed about 850–800 B.C.; but some would refer him to the early part of the 7th century B.C. His home was at Ascra, a village in a valley under Helicon, whither his father had migrated from Cyme in Aeolis on the coast of Asia Minor. In Hesiod’s Works and Days we have the earliest example of a didactic poem. The seasons and the labours of the Boeotian farmer’s year are followed by a list of the days which are lucky or unlucky for work. The Theogony, or “Origin of the Gods,” describes first how the visible order of nature arose out of chaos; next, how the gods were born. Though it never possessed the character of a sacred book, it remained a standard authority on the genealogies of the gods. So far as a corrupt and confused text warrants a judgment, the poet was piecing together—not always intelligently—the fragments of a very old cosmogonic system, using for this purpose both the hymns preserved in the temples and the myths which lived in folklore. The epic lay in 480 lines called the Shield of Heracles—partly imitated from the 18th book of the Iliad—is the work of an author or authors later than Hesiod. In the Hesiodic poetry, as represented by the Works and Days and the Theogony, we see the influence of the temple at Delphi. Hesiod recognizes the existence of δαίμονες—spirits of the departed who haunt the earth as the invisible guardians of justice; and he connects the office of the poet with that of the prophet. The poet is one whom the gods have authorized to impress doctrine and practical duties on men. A religious purpose was essentially characteristic of the Hesiodic school. Its poets treated the old legends as relics of a sacred history, and not merely, in the Ionian manner, as subjects of idealizing art. Such titles as the Maxims of Cheiron and the Lay of Melampus, the seer—lost poems of the Hesiodic school—illustrate its ethical and its mystic tendencies.
The Homeric Hymns are a collection of pieces, some of them very short, in hexameter verse. Their traditional title is—Hymns or Preludes of Homer and the Homeridae. The second of the alternative designations is the true one. The pieces are not “hymns” used in formal worship, The Homeric hymns.but “preludes” or prefatory addresses (προοίμια) with which the rhapsodists ushered in their recitations of epic poetry. The “prelude” might be addressed to the presiding god of the festival, or to any local deity whom the reciter wished to honour. The pieces (of which there are 33) range in date perhaps from 750 to 500 B.C. (though some authorities assign dates as late as the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D.; see ed. by Sikes and Allen, e.g. p. 228), and it is probable that the collection was formed in Attica, for the use of rhapsodists. The style is that of the Ionian or Homeric epos; but there are also several traces of the Hesiodic or Boeotian school. The principal “hymns” are (1) to Apollo (generally treated as two or more hymns combined in one); (2) to Hermes; (3) to Aphrodite; and (4) to Demeter. The hymn to Apollo, quoted by Thucydides (iii. 104) as Homer’s, is of peculiar interest on account of the lines describing the Ionian festival at Delos. Two celebrated pieces of a sportive kind passed under Homer’s name. The Margites—a comic poem on one “who knew many things but knew them all badly”—is regarded by Aristotle as the earliest germ of comedy, and was possibly as old as 700 B.C. Only a few lines remain. The Batracho(myo)machia, or Battle of the Frogs and Mice probably belongs to the decline of Greek literature, perhaps to the 2nd century B.C. About 300 verses of it are extant.
In the Iliad and the Odyssey the personal opinions or sympathies of the poet may sometimes be conjectured, but they are not declared or even hinted. Hesiod, indeed, sometimes gives us a glimpse of his own troubles or views. Yet Hesiod is, on the whole, essentially a prophet. Transition from
epos to elegy.The message which he delivers is not from himself; the truths which he imparts have not been discovered by his own search. He is the mouthpiece of the Delphian Apollo. Personal opinion and feeling may tinge his utterance, but they do not determine its general complexion. The egotism is a single thread; it is not the basis of the texture. Epic poetry was in Greece the foundation of all other poetry; for many centuries no other kind was generally cultivated, no other could speak to the whole people. Politically, the age was monarchical or aristocratic; intellectually, it was too simple for the analysis of thought or emotion. Kings and princes loved to hear of the great deeds of their ancestors; common men loved to hear of them too, for they had no other interest. The mind of Greece found no subject of contemplation so attractive as the warlike past of the race, or so useful as that lore which experience and tradition had bequeathed. But in the course of the 8th century B.C. the rule of hereditary princes began to disappear. Monarchy gave place to oligarchy, and this—often after the intermediate phase of a tyrannis—to democracy. Such a change was necessarily favourable to the growth of reflection. The private citizen is no longer a mere cipher, the Homeric τις, a unit in the dim multitude of the king-ruled folk; he gains more power of independent action, his mental horizon is widened, his life becomes fuller and more interesting. He begins to feel the need of expressing the thoughts and feelings that are stirred in him. But as yet a prose literature does not exist; the new thoughts, like the old heroic stories, must still be told in verse. The forms of verse created by this need were the Elegiac and the Iambic.
The elegiac metre is, in form, a simple variation on the epic metre, obtained by docking the second of two hexameters so as to make it a verse of five feet or measures. But the poetical capabilities of the elegiac couplet are of a wholly different kind from those of heroic verse. ἔλεγος seems Elegy.to be the Greek form of a name given by the Carians and Lydians to a lament for the dead. This was accompanied by the soft music of the Lydian flute, which continued to be associated with Greek elegy. The non-Hellenic origin of elegy is indicated by this very fact. The flute was to the Greeks an Asiatic instrument—string instruments were those which they made their own—and it would hardly have been wedded by them to a species of poetry which had arisen among themselves. The early elegiac poetry of Greece was by no means confined to mourning for the dead. War, love, politics, proverbial philosophy, were in turn its themes; it dealt, in fact, with the chief interest of the poet and his friends, whatever that might be at the time. It is the direct expression of the poet’s own thoughts, addressed to a sympathizing society. This is its first characteristic. The second is that, even when most pathetic or most spirited, it still preserves, on the whole, the tone of conversation or of narrative. Greek elegy stops short of lyric passion. English elegy, whether funereal as in Dryden and Pope, or reflective as in Gray, is usually true to the same normal type. Roman elegy is not equally true to it, but sometimes tends to trench on the lyric province. For Roman elegy is mainly amatory or sentimental; and its masters imitated, as a rule, not the early Greek elegists, not Tyrtaeus or Theognis, but the later Alexandrian elegists, such as Callimachus or Philetas. Catullus introduced the metre to Latin literature, and used it with more fidelity than his followers to its genuine Greek inspiration.
Elegy, as we have seen, was the first slight deviation from epos. But almost at the same time another species arose which had nothing in common with epos, either in form or in spirit. This was the iambic. The word ἴαμβος, iambus (ἰάπτειν, to dart or shoot) was used in reference Iambic verse.to the licensed raillery at the festivals of Demeter; it was the maiden Iambe, the myth said, who drew the first smile from the mourning goddess. The iambic metre was at first used for satire; and it was in this strain that it was chiefly employed by its earliest master of note, Archilochus of Paros (670 B.C.). But it was adapted to the expression generally of any pointed thought. Thus it was suitable to fables. Elegiac and iambic poetry both belong to the borderland between epic and lyric. While, however, elegy stands nearer to epos, iambic stands nearer to the lyric. Iambic poetry can express the personal feeling of the poet with greater intensity than elegy does; on the other hand, it has not the lyric flexibility, self-abandonment or glow. As we see in the case of Solon, iambic verse could serve for the expression of that deeper thought, that more inward self-communing, for which the elegiac form would have been inappropriate.
But these two forms of poetry, both Ionian, the elegiac and the iambic, belong essentially to the same stage of the literature. They stand between the Ionian epos and the lyric poetry of the Aeolians and Dorians. The earliest of the Greek elegists, Callinus and Tyrtaeus, use elegy to rouse a warlike spirit in sinking hearts. Archilochus too wrote warlike elegy, but used it also in other strains, as in lament for the dead. The elegy of Mimnermus of Smyrna or Colophon is the plaintive farewell of an ease-loving Ionian to the days of Ionian freedom. In Solon elegy takes a higher range; it becomes political and ethical. Theognis represents the maturer union of politics with a proverbial philosophy. Another gnomic poet was Phocylides of Miletus; an admonitory poem extant under his name is probably the work of an Alexandrine Jewish Christian. Xenophanes gives a philosophic strain to elegy. With Simonides of Ceos it reverts, in an exquisite form, to its earliest destination, and becomes the vehicle of epitaph on those who fell in the Persian Wars. Iambic verse was used by Simonides (or Semonides) of Amorgus, as by Archilochus, for satire—but satire directed against classes rather than persons. Solon’s iambics so far preserve the old associations of the metre that they represent the polemical or controversial side of his political poetry. Hipponax of Ephesus was another iambic satirist—using the σκάζων (“limping”) or choliambic verse, produced by substituting a spondee for an iambus in the last place. But it was not until the rise of the Attic drama that the full capabilities of iambic verse were seen.
The lyric poetry of early Greece may be regarded as the final form of that effort at self-expression which in the elegiac and iambic is still incomplete. The lyric expression is deeper and more impassioned. Its intimate union with music and with the rhythmical movement of Lyric poetry.the dance gives to it more of an ideal character. At the same time the continuity of the music permits pauses to the voice—pauses necessary as reliefs after a climax. Before lyric poetry could be effective, it was necessary that some progress should have been made in the art of music. The instrument used by the Greeks to accompany the voice was the four-stringed lyre, and the first great epoch in Greek music was when Terpander of Lesbos (660 B.C.), by adding three strings, gave the lyre the compass of the octave. Further improvements are ascribed to Olympus and Thaletas. By 500 B.C. Greek music had probably acquired all the powers of expression which the lyric poet could demand. The period of Greek lyric poetry may be roughly defined as from 670 to 440 B.C. Two different parts in its development were taken by the Aeolians and the Dorians.
The lyric poetry of the Aeolians—especially of Lesbos—was essentially the utterance of personal feeling, and was usually intended for a single voice, not for a chorus. Lesbos, in the 7th century B.C., had attained some naval and commercial importance. But the strife of oligarchy Aeolian school.and democracy was active; the Lesbian nobles were often driven by revolution to exchange their luxurious home-life for the hardships of exile. It is such a life of contrasts and excitements, working on a sensuous and fiery temperament, that is reflected in the fragments of Alcaeus. In these glimpses of war and love, of anxiety for the storm-tossed state and of careless festivity, there is much of the cavalier spirit; if Archilochus is in certain aspects a Greek Byron, Alcaeus might be compared to Lovelace. The other great representative of the Aeolian lyric is Sappho, the only woman of Greek race who is known to have possessed poetical genius of the first order. Intensity and melody are the characteristics of the fragments that remain to us. Probably no poet ever surpassed Sappho as an interpreter of passion in exquisitely subtle harmonies of form and sound. Anacreon of Teos, in Ionia, may be classed with the Aeolian lyrists in so far as the matter and form of his work resembled theirs, though the dialect in which he wrote was mainly the Ionian. A few fragments remain from his hymns to the gods, from love-poems and festive songs. The collection of sixty short pieces which passes current under his name date only from the 10th century. The short poems which it comprises are of various age and authorship, probably ranging in date from c. 200 B.C. to A.D. 400 or 500. They have not the pure style, the flexible grace, or the sweetness of the classical fragments; but the verses, though somewhat mechanical, are often pretty.
The Dorian lyric poetry, in contrast with the Aeolian, had more of a public than of a personal character, and was for the most part choral. Hymns or choruses for the public worship of the gods, and odes to be sung at festivals on Dorian school.occasions of public interest, were its characteristic forms. Its central inspiration was the pride of the Dorians in the Dorian past, in their traditions of worship, government and social usage. The history of the Dorian lyric poetry does not present us with vivid expressions of personal character, like those of Alcaeus and Sappho, but rather with a series of artists whose names are associated with improvements of form. Thus Alcman (the Doric form of Alcmaeon; 660 B.C.) is said to have introduced the balanced movement of strophe and antistrophe. Stesichorus, of Himera in Sicily, added the epode, sung by the chorus while stationary after these movements; Arion of Methymna in Lesbos gave a finished form to the choral hymn (“dithyramb”) in honour of Dionysus, and organized the “cyclic” or circular chorus which sang it at the altar. Ibycus of Rhegium (c. 540) wrote choral lyrics after Stesichorus and glowing love-songs in the Aeolic style.
The culmination of the lyric poetry is marked by two great names, Simonides and Pindar. Simonides (556–468) was an Ionian of the island of Ceos, but his lyrics belonged by form to the choral Dorian school. Many of his subjects were taken from the events of the Persian wars: his Simonides
and Pindar.epitaphs on those who fell at Thermopylae and Salamis were celebrated. In him the lyric art of the Dorians is interpreted by Ionian genius, and Athens—where part of his life was passed—is the point at which they meet. Simonides is the first Greek lyrist whose significance is not merely Aeolian or Dorian but Panhellenic. The same character belongs even more completely to his younger contemporary. Pindar (518–c. 443) was born in Boeotia of a Dorian stock; thus, as Ionian and Dorian elements meet in Simonides, so Dorian and Aeolian elements meet in Pindar. Simonides was perhaps the most tender and most exquisite of the lyric poets. Pindar was the boldest, the most fervid and the most sublime. His extant fragments represent almost every branch of the lyric art. But he is known to us mainly by forty-four Epinicia, or odes of victory, for the Olympian, Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian festivals. The general characteristic of the treatment is that the particular victory is made the occasion of introducing heroic legends connected with the family or city of the victor, and of inculcating the moral lessons which they teach. No Greek lyric poetry can be completely appreciated apart from the music, now lost, to which it was set. Pindar’s odes were, further, essentially occasional poems; they abound in allusions of which the effect is partly or wholly lost on us; and the glories which they celebrate belong to a life which we can but imperfectly realize. Of all the great Greek poets, Pindar is perhaps the one to whom it is hardest for us to do justice; yet we can at least recognize his splendour of imagination, his strong rapidity and his soaring flight.
Bacchylides of Ceos (c. 504–430), the youngest of the three great lyric poets and nephew of Simonides, was known only by scanty fragments until the discovery of nineteen poems on an Egyptian papyrus in 1896. They consist of thirteen (or fourteen) epinicia, two of which celebrate the same victories as two odes of Pindar. The papyrus also contains six odes for the festivals of gods or heroes. The poems contain valuable information on the court life of the time and legendary history. Bacchylides, the little “Cean nightingale,” is inferior to his great rival Pindar, “the Swan of Dirce,” in originality and splendour of language, but he writes simply and elegantly, while his excellent γνῶμαι attracted readers of a philosophical turn of mind, amongst them the emperor Julian.
Similarly, the scanty fragments of Timotheus of Miletus (d. 357), musical composer and poet, and inventor of the eleven-stringed lyre, were increased by the discovery in 1902 of some 250 lines of his “nome” the Persae, written after the manner of Terpander. The beginning is lost; the middle describes the battle of Salamis; the end is of a personal nature. The papyrus is the oldest Greek MS. and belongs to the age of Alexander the Great. The language is frequently very obscure, and the whole is a specimen of lyric poetry in its decline.
(B) The Attic Literature.—The Ionians of Asia Minor, the Aeolians and the Dorians had now performed their special parts in the development of Greek literature. Epic poetry had interpreted the heroic legends of warlike deeds done by Zeus-nourished kings and chiefs. Then, as the individual life became more and more elegiac and iambic poetry had become the social expression of that life in all its varied interests and feelings. Lastly, lyric poetry had arisen to satisfy a twofold need—to be the more intense utterance of personal emotion, or to give choral voice, at stirring moments, to the faith or fame, the triumph or the sorrow, of a city or a race. A new form of poetry was now to be created, with elements borrowed from all the rest. And this was to be achieved by the people of Attica, in whose character and language the distinctive traits of an Ionian descent were tempered with some of the best qualities of the Dorian stock.
The drama (q.v.) arose from the festivals of Dionysus, the god of wine, which were held at intervals from the beginning of winter to the beginning of spring. A troop of rustic worshippers would gather around the altar of the god, and sing a hymn in his honour, telling of his victories Origin of drama.
Tragedy.or sufferings in his progress over the earth. “Tragedy” meant “the goat-song,” a goat (τράγος) being sacrificed to Dionysus before the hymn was sung. “Comedy,” “the village-song,” is the same hymn regarded as an occasion for rustic jest. Then the leader of the chorus would assume the part of a messenger from Dionysus, or even that of the god himself, and recite an adventure to the worshippers, who made choral response. The next step was to arrange a dialogue between the leader (κορυφαῖος, coryphaeus) and one chosen member of the chorus, hence called “the answerer” (ὑποκριτής, hypocritēs, afterwards the ordinary word for “actor”). This last improvement is ascribed to the Attic Thespis (about 536 B.C.). The elements of drama were now ready. The choral hymn to Dionysus (the “dithyramb”) had received an artistic form from the Dorians; dialogue, though only between the leader of the chorus and a single actor, had been introduced in Attica. Phrynichus, an Athenian, celebrated in this manner some events of the Persian Wars; but in his “drama” there was still only one actor. Choerilus of Athens and Pratinas of Phlius, who belonged to the same period, developed the satyric drama; Pratinas also wrote tragedies, dithyrambs, and hyporchemata (lively choral odes chiefly in honour of Apollo).
Aeschylus (born 525 B.C.) became the real founder of tragedy by introducing a second actor, and thus rendering the dialogue independent of the chorus. At the same time the choral song—hitherto the principal part of the performance—became subordinate to the dialogue; and drama Aeschylus.was mature. Aeschylus is also said to have made various improvements of detail in costume and the like; and it was early in his career that the theatre of Dionysus under the acropolis was commenced—the first permanent home of Greek drama, in place of the temporary wooden platforms which had hitherto been used. The system of the “trilogy” and the “tetralogy” is further ascribed to Aeschylus,—the “trilogy” being properly a series of three tragedies connected in subject, such as the Agamemnon, Choëphori, Eumenides, which together form the Oresteia, or Story of Orestes. The “tetralogy” is such a triad with a “satyric drama” added—that is, a drama in which “satyrs,” the grotesque woodland beings who attended on Dionysus, formed the chorus, as in the earlier dithyramb from which drama sprang. The Cyclops of Euripides is the only extant specimen of a satyric drama. In the seven tragedies which alone remain of the seventy which Aeschylus is said to have composed, the forms of kings and heroes have a grandeur which is truly Homeric; there is a spirit of Panhellenic patriotism such as the Persian Wars in which he fought might well quicken in a soldier-poet; and, pervading all, there is a strain of speculative thought which seeks to reconcile the apparent conflicts between the gods of heaven and of the underworld by the doctrine that both alike, constrained by necessity, are working out the law of righteousness. Sophocles, who was Sophocles.born thirty years after Aeschylus (495 B.C.), is the most perfect artist of the ancient drama. No one before or after him gave to Greek tragedy so high a degree of ideal beauty, or appreciated so finely the possibilities and the limitations of its sphere. He excels especially in drawing character; his Antigone, his Ajax, his Oedipus—indeed, all the chief persons of his dramas—are typical studies in the great primary emotions of human nature. He gave a freer scope to tragic dialogue by adding a third actor; and in one of his later plays, the Oedipus at Colonus, a fourth actor is required. From the time when he won the tragic prize against Aeschylus in 468 to his death in 405 B.C. he was the favourite dramatist of Athens; and for us he is not only a great dramatist, but also the most spiritual representative of the age of Pericles. The distinctive interest of Euripides is ofEuripides. another kind. He was only fifteen years younger than Sophocles; but when he entered on his poetical career, the old inspirations of tragedy were already failing. Euripides marks a period of transition in the tragic art, and is, in fact, the mediator between the classical and the romantic drama. The myths and traditions with which the elder dramatists had dealt no longer commanded an unquestioning faith. Euripides himself was imbued with the new intellectual scepticism of the day; and the speculative views which were conflicting in his own mind are reflected in his plays. He had much picturesque and pathetic power; he was a master of expression; and he shows ingenuity in devising fresh resources for tragedy—especially in his management of the choral songs. Aeschylus is Panhellenic, Sophocles is Athenian, Euripides is cosmopolitan. He stands nearer to the modern world than either of his predecessors; and though with him Attic tragedy loses its highest beauty, it acquires new elements of familiar human interest.
In Attica, as in England, a period of rather less than fifty years sufficed for the complete development of the tragic art. The two distinctive characteristics of Athenian drama are its originality and its abundance. The Greeks of Attica were not the only inventors of drama, but they were the first people who made drama a complete work of art. And the great tragic poets of Attica were remarkably prolific. Aeschylus was the reputed author of 70 tragedies, Sophocles of 113, Euripides of 92; and there were others whose productiveness was equally great.
Comedy represented the lighter side, as tragedy the graver side, of the Dionysiac worship; it was the joy of spring following the gloom of winter. The process of growth was nearly the same as in tragedy; but the Dorians, not the Ionians of Attica, were the first who added dialogue to the Comedy.comic chorus. Susarion, a Dorian of Megara, exhibited, about 580 B.C., pieces of the kind known as “Megarian farces.” Epicharmus of Cos (who settled at Syracuse) gave literary form to the Doric farce, and treated in burlesque style the stories of gods and heroes, and subjects taken from everyday life. His Syracusan contemporary Sophron (c. 450) was a famous writer of mimes, chiefly scenes from low-class life. The most artistic form of comedy seems, however, to have been developed in Attica. The greatest names before Aristophanes are those of Cratinus and Eupolis; but from about 470 B.C. there seems to have been a continuous succession of comic dramatists, amongst them Plato Comicus, the author of 28 comedies, political satires Aristophanes.and parodies after the style of the Middle Comedy. Aristophanes came forward as a comic poet in 427 B.C., and retained his popularity for about forty years. He presents a perhaps unique union of bold fancy, exquisite humour, critical acumen and lyrical power. His eleven extant comedies may be divided into three groups, according as the licence of political satire becomes more and more restricted. In the Acharnians, Knights, Clouds, Wasps and Peace (425–421) the poet uses unrestrained freedom. In the Birds, Lysistrata, Thesmophoriazusae and Frogs (414–405) a greater reserve may be perceived. Lastly, in the Ecclesiazusae and the Plutus (392–388) personal satire is almost wholly avoided. The same general tendency continued. The so-called “Middle Comedy” (390–320) represents the transition from the Old Comedy, or political satire, to satire of a literary or social nature; its chief writers were Antiphanes of Athens and Alexis of Thurii. The “New Comedy” (320–250) resembled the modern “comedy of manners.”
Its chief representative was Menander (342–291), the author of 105 comedies. Fragments have been discovered of seven of these, of sufficient length to give an idea of their dramatic action. His plays were produced on the stage as late as the time of Plutarch, and his γνῶμαι, distinguished by worldly wisdom, were issued in the form of anthologies, which enjoyed great popularity. Other prominent writers of this class were Diphilus, Philemon, Posidippus and Apollodorus of Carystus. About 330 B.C. Rhinthon of Tarentum revived the old Doric farce in his Hilarotragoediae or travesties of tragic stories. These successive periods cannot be sharply or precisely marked off. The change which gradually passed over the comic drama was simply the reflection of the change which passed over the political and social life of Athens. The Old Comedy, as we see it in the earlier plays of Aristophanes, was probably the most powerful engine of public criticism that has ever existed in any community. Unsparing personality was its essence. The comic poet used this recognized right on an occasion at once festive and sacred, in a society where every man of any note was known by name and sight to the rest. The same thousands who heard a policy or a character denounced or lauded in the theatre might be required to pass sentence on it in the popular assembly or in the courts of law.
The development of Greek poetry had been completed before a prose literature had begun to exist. The earliest name in extant Greek prose literature is that of Herodotus; and, when he wrote, the Attic drama had already passed its prime. There had been, indeed, writers of Literary prose.prose before Herodotus; but there had not been, in the proper sense of the term, a prose literature. The causes of this comparatively late origin of Greek literary prose are independent of the question as to the time at which the art of writing began to be generally used for literary purposes. Epic poetry exercised for a very long period a sovereign spell over the Greek mind. In it was deposited all that the race possessed of history, theology, philosophy, oratory. Even after an age of reflection had begun, elegiac poetry, the first offshoot of epic, was, with iambic verse, the vehicle of much which among other races would have been committed to prose. The basis of Greek culture was essentially poetical. A political cause worked in the same direction. In the Eastern monarchies the king was the centre of all, and the royal records afforded the elements of history from a remote date. The Greek nation was broken up into small states, each busied with its own affairs and its own men. It was the collision between the Greek and the barbarian world which first provided a national subject for a Greek historian. The work of Herodotus, in its relation to Greek prose, is so far analogous to the Iliad in its relation to Greek poetry, that it is the earliest work of art, and that it bears a Panhellenic stamp.
The sense and the degree in which Herodotus was original may be inferred from what is known of earlier prose-writers. For about a century before Herodotus there had been a series of writers in philosophy, mythology, geography and history. The earliest, or among the earliest, of Early prose writers.the philosophical writers were Pherecydes of Syros (550 B.C.) and the Ionian Anaximenes and Anaximander. It is doubtful whether Cadmus of Miletus, supposed to have been the first prose writer, was an historical personage. The Ionian writers, especially called λογογράφοι, “narrators in prose” (as distinguished from ἐποποιοί, makers of verse), were those who compiled the myths, especially in genealogies, or who described foreign countries, their physical features, usages and traditions. Hecataeus of Miletus (500 B.C.) is the best-known representative of the logographi in both these branches. Hellanicus of Mytilene (450 B.C.), among whose works was a history of Attica, appears to have made a nearer approach to the character of a systematic historian. Other logographi were Charon of Lampsacus; Pherecydes of Leros, who wrote on the myths of early Attica; Hippys of Rhegium, the oldest writer on Italy and Sicily; and Acusilaus of Argos in Boeotia, author of genealogies (see Logographi, and Greece: Ancient History, “Authorities”).
Herodotus was born in 484 B.C.; and his history was probably not completed before the beginning of the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C.). His subject is the struggle between Greece and Asia, which he deduces from the legendary rape of the Argive Io by Phoenicians, and traces down to the Herodotus.final victory of the Greeks over the invading host of Xerxes. His literary kinship with the historical or geographical writers who had preceded him is seen mainly in two things. First, though he draws a line between the mythological and the historical age, he still holds that myths, as such, are worthy to be reported, and that in certain cases it is part of his duty to report them. Secondly, he follows the example of such writers as Hecataeus in describing the natural and social features of countries. He seeks to combine the part of the geographer or intelligent traveller with his proper part as historian. But when we turn from these minor traits to the larger aspects of his work, Herodotus stands forth as an artist whose conception and whose method were his own. His history has an epic unity. Various as are the subordinate parts, the action narrated is one, great and complete; and the unity is due to this, that Herodotus refers all events of human history to the principle of divine Nemesis. If Sophocles had told the story of Oedipus in the Oedipus Tyrannus alone, and had not added to it the Oedipus at Colonus, it would have been comparable to the story of Xerxes as told by Herodotus. Great as an artist, great too in the largeness of his historical conception, Herodotus fails chiefly by lack of insight into political cause and effect, and by a general silence in regard to the history of political institutions. Both his strength and his weakness are seen most clearly when he is contrasted with that other historian who was strictly his contemporary and who yet seems divided from him by centuries.
Thucydides was only thirteen years younger than Herodotus; but the intellectual space between the men is so great that they seem to belong to different ages. Herodotus is the first artist in historical writing; Thucydides is the first thinker. Herodotus interweaves two threads of Thucydides.causation—human agency, represented by the good or bad qualities of men, and divine agency, represented by the vigilance of the gods on behalf of justice. Thucydides concentrates his attention on the human agency (without, however, denying the other), and strives to trace its exact course. The subject of Thucydides is the Peloponnesian War. In resolving to write its history, he was moved, he says, by these considerations. It was probably the greatest movement which had ever affected Hellas collectively. It was possible for him as a contemporary to record it with approximate accuracy. And this record was likely to have a general value, over and above its particular interest as a record, seeing that the political future was likely to resemble the political past. This is what Thucydides means when he calls his work “a possession for ever.” The speeches which he ascribes to the persons of the history are, as regards form, his own essays in rhetoric of the school to which Antiphon belongs. As regards matter, they are always so far dramatic that the thoughts and sentiments are such as he conceived possible for the supposed speaker. Thucydides abstains, as a rule, from moral comment; but he tells his story as no one could have told it who did not profoundly feel its tragic force; and his general claim to the merit of impartiality is not invalidated by the possible exceptions—difficult to estimate—in the cases of Cleon and Hyperbolus.
Strong as is the contrast between Herodotus and Thucydides, their works have yet a character which distinguish both alike from the historical work of Xenophon in the Anabasis and the Hellenica. Herodotus gives us a vivid drama with the unity of an epic. Thucydides takes a great Xenophon.chapter of contemporary history and traces the causes which are at work throughout it, so as to give the whole a scientific unity. Xenophon has not the grasp either of the dramatist or of the philosopher. His work does not possess the higher unity either of art or of science. The true distinction of Xenophon consists in his thorough combination of the practical with the literary character. He was an accomplished soldier, who had done and seen much. He was also a good writer, who could make a story both clear and lively. But the several parts of the story are not grouped around any central idea, such as a divine Nemesis is for Herodotus, or such as Thucydides finds in the nature of political man. The seven books of the Hellenica form a supplement to the history of Thucydides, beginning in 411 and going down to 362 B.C. The chief blot on the Hellenica is the author’s partiality to Sparta, and in particular to Agesilaus. Some of the greatest achievements of Epaminondas and Pelopidas are passed over in silence. On the whole, Xenophon is perhaps seen at his best in his narrative of the Retreat of the Ten Thousand—a subject which exactly suits him. The Cyropaedeia is a romance of little historical worth, but with many good passages. The Recollections of Socrates, on the other hand, derive their principal value from being uniformly matter-of-fact. In his minor pieces on various subjects Xenophon appears as the earliest essayist. It may be noted that one of the essays erroneously ascribed to him—that On the Athenian Polity—is probably the oldest specimen in existence of literary Attic prose.
His contemporaries Ctesias of Cnidus and Philistus of Syracuse wrote histories of Persia and Sicily. In the second half of the 4th century a number of histories were compiled by literary men of little practical knowledge, who had been trained in the rhetorical schools. Such were Ephorus of Cyme and Theopompus of Chios, both pupils of Isocrates; and the writers of Atthides (chronicles of Attic history), the chief of whom were Androtion and Philochorus. Timaeus of Tauromenium was the author of a great work on Sicily, and introduced the system of reckoning by Olympiads.
The steps by which an Attic prose style was developed, and the principal forms which it assumed, can be traced most clearly in the Attic orators. Every Athenian citizen who aspired to take part in the affairs of the city, or even to be qualified for self-defence before a law-court, required Oratory.to have some degree of skill in public speaking; and an Athenian audience looked upon public debate, whether political or forensic, as a competitive trial of proficiency in a fine art. Hence the speaker, no less than the writer, was necessarily a student of finished expression; and oratory had a more direct influence on the general structure of literary prose than has ever perhaps been the case elsewhere. A systematic rhetoric took its rise in Sicily, where Corax of Syracuse (466 B.C.) devised his Art of Words to assist those who were pleading before the law-courts; and it was brought to Athens by his disciple Tisias. The teaching of the Sophists, again, directed attention, though in a superficial and imperfect way, to the elements of grammar and logic; and Gorgias of Leontini—whose declamation, however turgid, must have been striking—gave an impulse at Athens to the taste for elaborate rhetorical brilliancy.
Antiphon represents the earliest, and what has been called the grand, style of Attic prose; its chief characteristics are a grave, dignified movement, a frequent emphasis on verbal contrasts, and a certain austere elevation. The interest of Andocides is mainly historical; but The Attic orators.he has graphic power. Lysias, the representative of the “plain style,” breaks through the rigid mannerism of the elder school, and uses the language of daily life with an ease and grace which, though the result of study, do not betray their art. He is, in his own way, the canon of an Attic style; and his speeches, written for others, exhibit also a high degree of dramatic skill. Isocrates, whose manner may be regarded as intermediate between that of Antiphon and that of Lysias, wrote for readers rather than for hearers. The type of literary prose which he founded is distinguished by ample periods, by studied smoothness and by the temperate use of rhetorical ornament. From the middle of the 4th century B.C. the Isocratic style of prose became general in Greek literature. From the school of Rhodes, in which it became more florid, it passed to Cicero, and through him it has helped to shape the literary prose of the modern world. The speeches of Isaeus in will-cases are interesting,—apart from their bearing on Attic life,—because in them we see, as Dionysius says, “the seeds and the beginnings” of that technical mastery in rhetorical argument which Demosthenes carries to perfection. Demosthenes.Isaeus has also, in a degree, some of the qualities of Lysias. Demosthenes excels all other masters of Greek prose not only in power but in variety; his political speeches, his orations in public or private causes, show his consummate and versatile command over all the resources of the language. In him the development of Attic prose is completed, and the best elements in each of its earlier phases are united. The modern world can more easily appreciate Demosthenes as a great natural orator than as an elaborate artist. But, in order to apprehend his place in the history of Attic prose, we must remember that the ancients felt him to be both; and that he was even reproached by detractors with excessive study of effect. Aeschines is the most theatrical of the Greek orators; he is vehement, and often brilliant, but seldom persuasive. Hypereides was, after Demosthenes, probably the most effective; he had much of the grace of Lysias, but also a wit, a fire and a pathos which were his own. Portions of six of his speeches, found in Egypt between 1847 and 1890, are extant. The one oration of Lycurgus which remains to us is earnest and stately, reminding us both of Antiphon and of Isocrates. Dinarchus was merely a bad imitator of Demosthenes. There seems more reason to regret that Demades is not represented by larger fragments. The decline of Attic oratory may be dated from Demetrius of Phalerum (318 B.C.), the pupil of Aristotle, and the first to introduce the custom of making speeches on imaginary subjects as practised in the rhetorical schools. Cicero names him as the first who impaired the vigour of the earlier eloquence, “preferring his own sweetness to the weight and dignity of his predecessors.” He forms a connecting link between Athens and Alexandria, where he found refuge after his downfall and promoted the foundation of the famous library.
In later times oratory chiefly flourished in the coast and island settlements of Asia Minor, especially Rhodes. Here a new, florid style of oration arose, called the “Asiatic,” which owed its origin to Hegesias of Magnesia (c. 250 B.C.).
The place of Plato in the history of Greek literature is as unique as his place in the history of Greek thought. The literary genius shown in the dialogues is many-sided: it includes dramatic power, remarkable skill in parody, a subtle faculty of satire, and, generally, a command Philosophical prose—Plato and Aristotle.over the finer tones of language. In passages of continuous exposition, where the argument rises into the higher regions of discussion, Plato’s prose takes a more decidedly poetical colouring—never florid or sentimental, however, but lofty and austere. In Plato’s later works—such, for instance, as the Laws, Timaeus, Critias—we can perceive that his style did not remain unaffected by the smooth literary prose which contemporary writers had developed. Aristotle’s influence on the form of Attic prose literature would probably have been considerable if his Rhetoric had been published while Attic oratory had still a vigorous life before it. But in this, as in other departments of mental effort, it was Aristotle’s lot to set in order what the Greek intellect had done in that creative period which had now come to an end. His own chief contribution to the original achievements of the race was the most fitting one that could have been made by him in whose lifetime they were closed. He bequeathed an instrument by which analysis could be carried further, he founded a science of reasoning, and left those who followed him to apply it in all those provinces of knowledge which he had mapped out. Theophrastus, his pupil and his successor in the Lyceum, opens the new age of research and scientific classification with his extant works on botany, but is better known to modern readers by his lively Characters, the prototypes of such sketches in English literature as those of Hall, Overbury and Earle.
(C) The Literature of the Decadence.—The period of decadence in Greek literature begins with the extinction of free political life in the Greek cities. So long as the Greek commonwealths were independent and vigorous, Greek life rested on the identity of the man with the citizen. Character of the creative age.The city state was the highest unit of social organization; the whole training and character of the man were viewed relatively to his membership of the city. The market-place, the assembly, the theatre were places of frequent meeting, where the sense of citizenship was quickened, where common standards of opinion or feeling were formed. Poetry, music, sculpture, literature, art, in all their forms, were matters of public interest. Every citizen had some degree of acquaintance with them, and was in some measure capable of judging them. The poet and the musician, the historian and the sculptor, did not live a life of studious seclusion or engrossing professional work. They were, as a rule, in full sympathy with the practical interests of their time. Their art, whatever its form might be, was the concentrated and ennobled expression of their political existence. Aeschylus breathed into tragedy the inspiration of one who had himself fought the great fight of national liberation. Sophocles was the colleague of Pericles in a high military command. Thucydides describes the operations of the Peloponnesian War with the practical knowledge of one who had been in charge of a fleet. Ictinus and Pheidias gave shape in stone, not to mere visions of the studio, but to the more glorious, because more real and vivid, perceptions which had been quickened in them by a living communion with the Athenian spirit, by a daily contemplation of Athenian greatness, in the theatre where tragic poets idealized the legends of the past, in the ecclesia where every citizen had his vote on the policy of the state, or in that free and gracious society, full of beauty, yet exempt from vexatious constraint, which belonged to the age of Pericles. The tribunal which judged these works of literature or art was such as was best fitted to preserve the favourable conditions under which they arose. Criticism was not in the hands of a literary clique or of a social caste. The influence of jealousy or malevolence, and the more fatal influence of affectation, had little power to affect the verdict. The verdict was pronounced by the whole body of the citizens. The success or failure of a tragedy was decided, not by the minor circumstance that it gained the first or second prize, but by the collective opinion of the citizens assembled in the theatre of Dionysus. A work of architecture or sculpture was approved or condemned, not by the sentence of a few whom the multitude blindly followed, but by the general judgment of some twenty thousand persons, each of whom was in some degree qualified by education and by habit to form an independent estimate. The artist worked for all his fellow-citizens, and knew that he would be judged by all. The soul of his work was the fresh and living inspiration of nature; it was the ennobled expression of his own life; and the public opinion before which it came was free, intelligent and sincere.
Philip of Macedon did not take away the municipal independence of the Greek cities, but he dealt a death-blow to the old political life. The Athenian poet, historian, artist might still do good work, but he could never again have that which used to be the very mainspring of all such The transition
to Hellenism.activity—the daily experience and consciousness of participation in the affairs of an independent state. He could no longer breathe the invigorating air of constitutional freedom, or of the social intercourse to which that freedom lent dignity as well as grace. Then came Alexander’s conquests; Greek civilization was diffused over Asia and the East by means of Greek colonies in which Asiatic and Greek elements were mingled. The life of such settlements, under the monarchies into which Alexander’s empire broke up, could not be animated by the spirit of the Greek commonwealths in the old days of political freedom. But the externals of Greek life were there—the temples, the statues, the theatres, the porticos. Ceremonies and festivals were conducted in the Greek manner. In private life Greek usages prevailed. Greek was the language most used; Greek books were in demand. The mixture of races would always in some measure distinguish even the outward life of such a community from that of a pure Greek state; and the facility with which Greek civilization was adopted would vary in different places. Syria, for example, was rapidly and completely Hellenized. Judaea resisted the process to the last. In Egypt a Greek aristocracy of office, birth and intellect existed side by side with a distinct native life. But, viewed in its broadest aspect, this new civilization may be called Hellenism. Hellenism (q.v.) means the adoption of Hellenic ways; and it is properly applied to a civilization, generally Hellenic in external things, pervading people not necessarily or exclusively Hellenic by race. What the Hellenic literature was to Hellas, that the Hellenistic literature was to Hellenism. The literature of Hellenism has the Hellenic form without the Hellenic soul. The literature of Hellas was creative; the literature of Hellenism is derivative.
Alexandria was the centre of Greek intellectual activity from Alexander to Augustus. Its “Museum,” or college, and its library, both founded by the first Ptolemy (Soter), gave it such attractions for learned men as no other city could rival. The labours of research or arrangement The Alexandrian period.
Poetry.are those which characterize the Alexandrian period. Even in its poetry spontaneous motive was replaced by erudite skill, as in the hymns, epigrams and elegies of Callimachus, in the enigmatic verses of Lycophron, in the highly finished epic of Apollonius Rhodius, and in the versified lore, astronomical or medical, of Aratus and Nicander. The mimes of Herodas (or Herondas) of Cos (c. 200 B.C.), written in the Ionic dialect and choliambic verse, represent scenes from everyday life. The papyrus (published in 1891) contains seven complete poems and fragments of an eighth. They are remarkably witty and full of shrewd observations, but at times coarse. The pastoral poetry of the age—Dorian by origin—was the most pleasing; for this, if it is to please at all, must have its spring in the contemplation of nature. Theocritus is not exempt from the artificialism of the Hellenizing literature; but his true sense of natural beauty entitles him to a place in the first rank of pastoral poets. Bion of Ionia and Moschus of Syracuse also charm by the music and often by the pathos of their bucolic verse. Excavations on the site of the temple of Asclepius at Epidaurus have brought to light two hexameter poems and a paean (in Ionic metre) on Apollo and Asclepius by a local poet named Isyllus, who flourished about 280. Tragedy was represented by the poets known as the Alexandrian Pleiad. But it is not for its poetry of any kind that this period of Greek Erudition and science.literature is memorable. Its true work was in erudition and science. Aristarchus (156 B.C.), the greatest in a long line of Alexandrian critics, set the example of a more thorough method in revising and interpreting the ancient texts, and may in this sense be said to have become the founder of scientific scholarship. The critical studies of Alexandria, carried on by the followers of Aristarchus, gradually formed the basis for a science of grammar. The earliest Greek grammar is that of Dionysius Thrax (born c. 166), a pupil of Aristarchus. Translation was another province of work which employed the learned of Alexandria—where the Septuagint version of the Old Testament was begun, probably about 300–250 B.C. Chronology was treated scientifically by Eratosthenes, and was combined with history by Manetho in his chronicles of Egypt, and by Berossus in his chronicles of Chaldaea. Euclid was at Alexandria in the reign of Ptolemy Soter. Herophilus and Erasistratus were distinguished physicians and anatomists, and the authors of several medical works. The general results Summary.of the Alexandrian period might perhaps be stated thus. Alexandria produced a few eminent men of science, some learned poets (in a few cases, of great literary merit) and many able scholars. The preservation of the best Greek literature was due chiefly to the unremitting care of the Alexandrian critics, whose appreciation of it partly compensated for the decay of the old Greek perceptions in literature and art, and who did their utmost to hand it down in a form as free as possible from the errors of copyists. On the whole, the patronage of letters by the Ptolemies had probably as large a measure of success as was possible under the existing conditions; and it was afforded at a time when there was special danger that a true literary tradition might die out of the world.
The Graeco-Roman period in the literature of Hellenism may be dated from the Roman subjugation of Greece. “Greece made a captive of the rough conqueror,” but it did not follow from this intellectual conquest that Athens became once more the intellectual centre of the world. The Graeco-Roman period.Under the empire, indeed, the university of Athens long enjoyed a pre-eminent reputation. But Rome gradually became the point to which the greatest workers in every kind were drawn. Greek literature had already made a home there before the close of the 2nd century B.C. Sulla brought a Greek library from Athens to Rome. Such men as Cicero and Atticus were indefatigable collectors and readers of Greek books. The power of speaking and writing the Greek language became an indispensable accomplishment for highly educated Romans. The library planned by Julius Caesar and founded by Augustus had two principal departments, one for Latin, the other for Greek works. Tiberius, Vespasian, Domitian and Trajan contributed to enlarge the collection. Rome became more and more the rival of Alexandria, not only as possessing great libraries, but also as a seat of learning at which Greek men of letters found appreciation and encouragement. Greek poetry, especially in its higher forms, rhetoric and literary criticism, history and philosophy, were all cultivated by Greek writers at Rome.
The first part of the Graeco-Roman period may be defined as extending from 146 B.C. to the close of the Roman republic. At its commencement stands the name of one who had more real affinity than any of his contemporaries with the great writers of old Athens, and who, at the First part:
146–30 B.C.same time, saw most clearly how the empire of the world was passing to Rome. The subject of Polybius (c. 205–120) was the history of Roman conquest from 264 to 146 B.C. His style, plain and straightforward, is free from the florid rhetoric of the time. But the distinction of Polybius is that he is the last Greek writer who in some measure retains the spirit of the old citizen-life. He chose his subject, not because it gave scope to learning or literary skill, but with a motive akin to that which prompted the history of Thucydides—namely, because, as a Greek citizen, he felt intensely the political importance of those wars which had given Rome the mastery of the world. The chief historical work which the following century produced—the Universal History of Diodorus Siculus (fl. c. 50 B.C.)—resembled that of Polybius in recognizing Rome as the political centre of the earth, as the point on which all earlier series of events converged. In all else Diodorus represents the new age in which the Greek historian had no longer the practical knowledge and insight of a traveller, a soldier or a statesman, but only the diligence, and usually the dulness, of a laborious compiler.
The Greek literature of the Roman empire, from Augustus to Justinian, was enormously prolific. The area over which the Greek language was diffused—either as a medium of intercourse or as an established branch of the higher education—was co-extensive with the empire itself. Second part:
30 B.C.–A.D. 529.An immense store of materials had now been accumulated, on which critics, commentators, compilers, imitators, were employed with incessant industry. In very many of its forms, the work of composition or adaptation had been reduced to a mechanical knack. If there is any one characteristic which broadly distinguishes the Greek literature of these five centuries, it is the absence of originality either in form or in matter. Lucian is, in his way, a rare exception; and his great popularity—he is the only Greek writer of this period, except Plutarch, who has been widely popular—illustrates the flatness of the arid level above which he stands out. The sustained abundance of literary production under the empire was partly due to the fact that there was no open political career. Never, probably, was literature so important as a resource for educated men; and the habit of reciting before friendly or obsequious audiences swelled the number of writers whose taste had been cultivated to a point just short of perceiving that they ought not to write.
In the manifold prose work of this period, four principal departments may be distinguished. (1) History, with Biography, and Geography. History is represented by Dionysius of Halicarnassus—also memorable for his criticisms on the orators and his effort to revive a true standard Departments of prose literature. of Attic prose—by Cassius Dio, Josephus, Arrian, Appian, Herodian, Eusebius and Zosimus. In biography, the foremost names are Plutarch, Diogenes Laërtius and Philostratus; in geography, Hipparchus of Nicaea, Strabo, Ptolemy and Pausanias. (2) Erudition and Science. The learned labours of the Alexandrian schools were continued in all their various fields. Under this head may be mentioned such works as the lexicons of Julius Pollux, Harpocration and Hesychius, Hephaestion’s treatise on metre, and Herodian’s system of accentuation; the commentaries of Galen on Plato and on Hippocrates; the learned miscellanies of Athenaeus, Aelian and Stobaeus; and the Stratagems of Polyaenus. (3) Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres. The most popular writers on the theory of rhetoric were Hermagoras, Hermogenes, Aphthonius and Cassius Longinus—the last the reputed author of the essay On Sublimity. Among the most renowned teachers of rhetoric—now distinctively called “Sophists,” or rhetoricians—were Dio Chrysostom, Aelius Aristides, Themistius, Himerius, Libanius and Herodes Atticus. Akin to the rhetorical exercises were various forms of ornamental or imaginative prose—dialogues, letters, essays or novels. Lucian, in his dialogues, exhibits more of the classical style and of the classical spirit than any writer of the later age; he has also a remarkable affinity with the tone of modern satire, as in Swift or Voltaire. His Attic prose, though necessarily artificial, was at least the best that had been written for four centuries. The emperor Julian was the author both of orations and of satirical pieces. The chief of the Greek novelists (the forerunner of whom was Aristides of Miletus, c. 100 B.C., in his Milesian Tales) are Xenophon of Ephesus and Longus, representing a purely Greek type of romance, and Heliodorus—with his imitators Achilles Tatius and Chariton—representing a school influenced by Oriental fiction. There were also many Christian romances in Greek, usually of a religious tendency. Alciphron’s fictitious Letters—founded largely on the New Comedy of Athens—represent the same kind of industry which produced the letters of Phalaris, Aristaenetus and similar collections. (4) Philosophy is represented chiefly by Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, in both of whom the Stoic element is the prevailing one; by the Neoplatonists, such as Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus; and by Proclus, of that eclectic school which arose at Athens in the 5th century A.D.
The Greek poetry of this period presents no work of high merit. Babrius versified the Aesopic Fables; Oppian (or two poets of this name) wrote didactic poems on fishing and hunting; Nonnus and Quintus Smyrnaeus made elaborate essays in epic verse; and the Orphic lore inspired Verse.
The Anthology.some poems and hymns of a mystic character. The so-called Sibylline Oracles, in hexameter verse, range in date from about 170 B.C. to A.D. 700, and are partly the expression of the Jewish longings for the restoration of Israel, partly predictions of the triumph of Christianity. By far the most pleasing compositions in verse which have come to us from this age are some of the short poems in the Greek Anthology, which includes some pieces as early as the beginning of the 5th century B.C. and some as late as the 6th century of the Christian era.
The 4th century may be said to mark the beginning of the last stage in the decay of literary Hellenism. From that point the decline was rapid and nearly continuous. The attitude of the church towards it was no longer that which had been held by Clement of Alexandria, by Justin Martyr or by Origen. There was now a Christian Greek literature, and a Christian Greek eloquence of extraordinary power. The laity became more and more estranged from the Greek literature—however intrinsically pure and noble—of the pagan past. At the same time the Greek language—which had maintained its purity in Italian seats—was becoming corrupted in the new Greek Rome of the East. In A.D. 529 Justinian put forth an edict by which the schools of heathen philosophy were formally closed. The act had at least a symbolical meaning. It is necessary to guard against the supposition that such assumed landmarks in political or literary history always mark a definite transition from one order of things to another. But it is practically convenient, or necessary, to use such landmarks.
Bibliography.—The first attempt at a connected history of Greek literature was the monumental and still indispensable work of J. A. Fabricius (14 vols., 1705–1728; new ed. in 12 vols. by G. C. Harless, 1790–1809); this was followed by F. Schöll’s Hist. de la littérature grecque (1813). Both these works begin with the earliest times and go down to the latest period of the Byzantine empire. Of more modern and recent works the following may be mentioned: G. Bernhardy, Grundriss der griechischen Literatur (1836–1845; 4th ed., 1876–1880; 5th ed. of vol. i., by R. Volkmann, 1892), chiefly confined to the poets; C. O. Müller, History of Greek Literature (unfinished), written for the London Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, and published in English in 1840, the translation being by G. Cornewall Lewis and J. W. Donaldson (the latter completed the work to the end of the Byzantine period for the edition of 1858; the German text was published by E. Müller in 1841; 4th ed. by E. Heitz, 1882–1884); W. Mure, Critical History of the Language and Literature of Ancient Greece (1850–1857); T. Bergk, Griechische Literaturgeschichte (1872–1894, vols. 2, 3, ed. G. Hinrichs, vol. 4 by R. Peppmüller) containing epos, lyric, drama down to Euripides, and the beginnings of prose; R. Nicolai, Griechische Literaturgeschichte (2nd ed., 1873–1878), useful for bibliography, but in other respects unsatisfactory; J. P. Mahaffy, Hist. of Classical Greek Literature (4th ed., 1903); A. and M. Croiset, Hist. de la littérature grecque (1887–1899, 2nd ed. 1896); W. Christ, Geschichte der griechischen Literatur bis auf die Zeit Justinians (4th ed., 1905; 5th ed., pt. i., by O. Stählin and W. Schmid, 1908), by far the most serviceable handbook for the student. F. Susemihl’s Geschichte der griechischen Literatur in der Alexandrinerzeit (1891–1892) is especially valuable for its notes. Of smaller manuals the following will be found most useful: G. G. Murray, History of Ancient Greek Literature (1897); F. B. Jevons, History of Greek Literature (3rd ed., 1900) down to the time of Demosthenes; A. and M. Croiset, Manuel d’hist. de la littérature grecque (1900; Eng. trans., by G. F. Heffelbower, N.Y., 1904); also the general sketches by U. von Wilamowitz-Möllendorff in Die Kultur der Gegenwart, i. 8 (1905), by A. Gercke in the Sammlung Göschen (Leipzig, 2nd ed., 1905), and by R. C. Jebb in Companion to Greek Studies (Cambridge, 1905). Other works generally connected with the subject are: E. Hübner, Bibliographie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft (2nd ed., 1889), pp. 161-171; W. Engelmann, Bibliotheca scriptorum classicorum (8th ed., by E. Preuss, 1880); J. B. Mayor, Guide to the Choice of Classical Books (1896), p. 86; W. Kroll, Die Altertumswissenschaft im letzten Vierteljahrhundert 1875–1900 (1905), p. 465 foll.; J. E. Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship (1906–1908); “Bibliotheca philologica classica,” in C. Bursian’s Jahresbericht über die Fortschritte der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft; articles in Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyclopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft (1894—). (R. C. J.; X.)
II. Byzantine Literature
By “Byzantine literature” is generally meant the literature, written in Greek, of the so-called Byzantine period. There is no justification whatever for the inclusion of Latin works of the time of the East Roman empire. The close of the Byzantine period is clearly marked by the year Definition.1453, at which date, with the fall of the Eastern empire, the peculiar culture and literary life of the Byzantines came to an end. It is only as regards the beginning of the Byzantine period that any doubts exist. There are no sufficient grounds for dating it from Justinian, as was formerly often done. In surveying the whole development of the political, ecclesiastical and literary life and of the general culture of the Roman empire, and particularly of its eastern portion, we arrive, on the contrary, at the conclusion that the actual date of the beginning of this new era—i.e. the Christian-Byzantine, in contradistinction to the Pagan-Greek and Pagan-Roman—falls within the reign of Constantine the Great. By the foundation of the new capital city of Constantinople (which lay amid Greek surroundings) and by the establishment of the Christian faith as the state religion, Constantine finally broke with the Roman-Pagan tradition, and laid the foundation of the Christian-Byzantine period of development. Moreover, in the department of language, so closely allied with that of literature, the 4th century marks a new epoch. About this time occurred the final disappearance of a characteristic of the ancient Greek language, important alike in poetry and in rhythmic prose, the difference of “quantity.” Its place was henceforth taken by the accent, which became a determining principle in poetry, as well as for the rhythmic conclusion of the prose sentence. Thus the transition from the old musical language to a modern conversational idiom was complete.
The reign of Constantine the Great undoubtedly marks the beginning of a new period in the most important spheres of national life, but it is equally certain that in most of them ancient tradition long continued to exercise an influence. Sudden breaches of continuity are less Transitional period.common in the general culture and literary life of the world than in its political or ecclesiastical development. This is true of the transition from pagan antiquity to the Christian middle ages. Many centuries passed before the final victory of the new religious ideas and the new spirit in public and private intellectual and moral life. The last noteworthy remnants of paganism disappeared as late as the 6th and 7th centuries. The last great educational establishment which rested upon pagan foundations—the university of Athens—was not abolished till A.D. 529. The Hellenizing of the seat of empire and of the state, which was essential to the independent development of Byzantine literature, proceeds yet more slowly. The first purely Greek emperor was Tiberius II. (578–582); but the complete Hellenizing of the character of the state had not been accomplished until the 7th century. We shall, therefore, regard the period from the 4th to the 7th century as that of the transition between ancient times and the middle ages. This period coincides with the rise of a new power in the world’s history—Islam. But though, in this transitional period, the old and the new elements are both to a large extent present and are often inextricably interwoven, yet it is certain that the new elements are, both as regards their essential force and their influence upon the succeeding period, of infinitely greater moment than the decrepit and mostly artificial survivals of the antique.
In order to estimate rightly the character of Byzantine literature and its distinctive peculiarities, in contradistinction to ancient Greek, it is imperative to examine the great difference between the civilizations that produced them. The Byzantine did not possess the homogeneous, Mixed character of Byzantine culture.organically constructed system of the ancient civilization, but was the outcome of an amalgamation of which Hellenism formed the basis. For, although the Latin character of the empire was at first completely retained, even after its final division in 395, yet the dominant position of Greek in the Eastern empire gradually led to the Hellenizing of the state. The last great act of the Latin tradition was the codification, in the Latin language, of the law by Justinian (527–565). But it is significant that the Novels of Justinian were composed partly in Greek, as were all the laws of the succeeding period. Of the emperors in the centuries following Justinian, many of course were foreigners, Isaurians, Armenians and others; but in language and education they were all Greeks. In the last five centuries of the empire, under the Comneni and the Palaeologi, court and state are purely Greek.
In spite of the dominant position of Greek in the Eastern empire, a linguistic and national uniformity such as formed the foundation of the old Latin Imperium Romanum never existed there. In the West, with the expansion of Rome’s political supremacy, the Latin language and Latin culture were everywhere introduced—first into the non-Latin provinces of Italy, later into Spain, Gaul and North Africa, and at last even into certain parts of the Eastern empire. This Latinizing was so thorough that it weathered all storms, and, in the countries affected by it, was the parent of new and vigorous nationalities, the French, the Spaniards, the Portuguese and the Rumanians. Only in Africa did “Latinism” fail to take root permanently. From the 6th century that province relapsed into the hands of the native barbarians and of the immigrant Arabs, and both the Latin and the Greek influences (which had grown in strength during the period of the Eastern empire) were, together with Christianity, swept away without leaving a trace behind. It might have been expected that the Hellenizing of the political system of the Eastern empire would have likewise entailed the Hellenizing of the non-Greek portions of the empire. Such, however, was not the case; for all the conditions precedent to such a development were wanting. The non-Greek portions of the Eastern empire were not, from the outset, gradually incorporated into the state from a Greek centre, as were the provinces in the West from a Latin centre. They had been acquired in the old period of the homogeneous Latin Imperium. In the centuries immediately following the division of the empire, the idea of Hellenizing the Eastern provinces could not take root, owing to the fact that Latin was retained, at least in principle, as the state language. During the later centuries, in the non-Greek parts, centrifugal tendencies and the destructive inroads of barbarians began on all sides; and the government was too much occupied with the all but impossible task of preserving the political unity of the empire to entertain seriously the wider aim of an assimilation of language and culture. Moreover, the Greeks did not possess that enormous political energy and force which enabled the Romans to assimilate foreign races; and, finally, they were confronted by sturdy Oriental, mostly Semitic, peoples, who were by no means so easy to subjugate as were the racially related inhabitants of Gaul and Spain. Their impotence against the peoples of the East will be still less hardly judged if we remember the fact already mentioned, that even the Romans were within a short period driven back and overwhelmed by the North African Semites who for centuries had been subjected to an apparently thorough process of Latinization.
The influence of Greek culture then, was very slight; how little indeed it penetrated into the oriental mind is shown by the fact that, after the violent Arab invasion in the south-east corner of the Mediterranean, the Copts and Syrians were able to retain their language and their national characteristics, while Greek culture almost completely disappeared. The one great instance of assimilation of foreign nationalities by the Greeks is the Hellenizing of the Slavs, who from the 6th century had migrated into central Greece and the Peloponnese. All other non-Greek tribes of any importance which came, whether for longer or for shorter periods, within the sphere of the Eastern empire and its civilization—such as the Copts, Syrians, Armenians, Georgians, Rumanians, Serbs, Bulgarians, Albanians—one and all retained their nationality and language. The complete Latinizing of the West has, accordingly, no counterpart in a similar Hellenizing of the East. This is clearly shown during the Byzantine period in the progress of Christianity. Everywhere in the West, even among the non-Romanized Anglo-Saxons, Irish and Germans, Latin maintained its position in the church services and in the other branches of the ecclesiastical system; down to the Reformation the church remained a complete organic unity. In the East, at the earliest period of its conversion to Christianity, several foreign tongues competed with Greek, i.e. Syrian, Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, Gothic, Old-Bulgarian and others. The sacred books were translated into these languages and the church services were held in them and not in Greek. One noticeable effect of this linguistic division in the church was the formation of various sects and national churches (cf. the Coptic Nestorians, the Syrian Monophysites, the Armenian and, in more recent times, the Slavonic national churches). The Church of the West was characterized by uniformity in language and in constitution. In the Eastern Church parallel to the multiplicity of languages developed also a corresponding variety of doctrine and constitution.
Though the character of Byzantine culture is mainly Greek, and Byzantine literature is attached by countless threads to ancient Greek literature, yet the Roman element forms a very essential part of it. The whole political character of the Byzantine empire is, despite its Roman influence.Greek form and colouring, genuinely Roman. Legislation and administration, the military and naval traditions, are old Roman work, and as such, apart from immaterial alterations, they continued to exist and operate, even when the state in head and limbs had become Greek. It is strange, indeed, how strong was the political conception of the Roman state (Staatsgedanke), and with what tenacity it held its own, even under the most adverse conditions, down to the latter days of the empire. The Greeks even adopted the name “Romans,” which gradually became so closely identified with them as to supersede the name “Hellenes”; and thus a political was gradually converted into an ethnographical and linguistic designation. Rhomaioi was the most common popular term for Greeks during the Turkish period, and remains so still. The old glorious name “Hellene” was used under the empire and even during the middle ages in a contemptuous sense—“Heathen”—and has only in quite modern times, on the formation of the kingdom of “Hellas,” been artificially revived. The vast organization of the Roman political system could not but exercise in various ways a profound influence upon Byzantine civilization; and it often seemed as if Roman political principles had educated and nerved the unpolitical Greek people to great political enterprise. The Roman influence has left distinct traces in the Greek language, Greek of the Byzantine and modern period is rich in Latin terms for conceptions connected with the departments of justice, administration and the imperial court. In literature such “barbarisms” were avoided as far as possible, and were replaced by Greek periphrases.
But by far the most momentous and radical change wrought on the old Hellenism was effected by Christianity; and yet the transition was, in fact, by no means so abrupt as one might be led to believe by comparing the Pagan-Hellenic culture of Plato’s day with the Christian-Byzantine Christianity.of the time of Justinian. For the path had been most effectually prepared for the new religion by the crumbling away of the ancient belief in the gods, by the humane doctrine of the Stoics, and, finally, by the mystic intellectual tendencies of Neoplatonism. Moreover, in many respects Christianity met paganism halfway by adapting itself to popular usages and ideas and by adopting important parts of the pagan literature. The whole educational system especially, even in Christian times, was in a very remarkable manner based almost entirely on the methods and material inherited from paganism. Next to the influences of Rome and of Christianity, that of the East was of importance in developing the Byzantine civilization, and in lending Byzantine literature its distinctive character.The Orient. Much that was oriental in the Eastern empire dates back to ancient times, notably to the period of Alexander the Great and his successors. Since the Greeks had at that period Hellenized the East to the widest extent, and had already founded everywhere flourishing cities, they themselves fell under the manifold influences of the soil they occupied. In Egypt, Palestine and Syria, in Asia Minor as far inland as Mesopotamia, Greek and oriental characteristics were often blended. In respect of the wealth and the long duration of its Greek intellectual life, Egypt stands supreme. It covers a period of nearly a thousand years from the foundation of Alexandria down to the conquest of Egypt by the Arabs (A.D. 643). The real significance of Egyptian Hellenism during this long period can be properly estimated only if a practical attempt be made to eliminate from the history of Greek literature and science in pagan and in Christian times all that owed its origin to the land of the Nile. The soil of Egypt proved itself especially productive of Greek literature under the Cross (Origen, Athanasius, Arius, Synesius), in the same way as the soil of North Africa was productive of Latin literature (Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius, Augustine). Monastic life, which is one of the chief characteristic elements of Christian-Byzantine civilization, had its birth in Egypt.
Syria and Palestine came under the influence of Greek civilization at a later date than Egypt. In these, Greek literature and culture attained their highest development between the 3rd and the 8th centuries of the Christian era. Antioch rose to great influence, owing at first to its pagan school of rhetoric and later to its Christian school of exegesis. Gaza was renowned for its school of rhetoric; Berytus for its academy of law. It is no mere accident that sacred poetry, aesthetically the most valuable class of Byzantine literature, was born in Syria and Palestine.
In Asia Minor, the cities of Tarsus, Caesarea, Nicaea, Smyrna, Ephesus, Nicopolis, &c., were all influential centres of Greek culture and literature. For instance, the three great fathers of Cappadocia, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus all belonged to Asia Minor.
If all the greater Greek authors of the first eight centuries of the Christian era, i.e. the period of the complete development of Byzantine culture, be classified according to the countries of their birth, the significant fact becomes evident that nine-tenths come from the African and Asiatic districts, which were for the most part opened up only after Alexander the Great, and only one-tenth from European Greece. In other words, the old original European Greece was, under the emperors, completely outstripped in intellectual productive force by the newly founded African and Asiatic Greece. This huge tide of conquest which surged from Greece over African and Syrian territories occupied largely by foreign races and ancient civilizations, could not fail to be fraught with serious consequences for the Greeks themselves. The experience of the Romans in their conquest of Greece (Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit) repeated itself in the conquest of the East by Greece, though to a minor extent and in a different way. The whole literature of Egypt, Syria and Asia Minor cannot, despite its international and cosmopolitan character, disavow the influence of the Oriental soil on which it was nourished. Yet the growth of too strong a local colouring in its literature was repressed, partly by the checks imposed by ancient Greek tradition, partly by the spirit of Christianity which reconciled all national distinctions. Even more clearly and unmistakably is Oriental influence shown in the province of Byzantine art, as Joseph Strzygowski has conclusively proved.
The greater portion of Greek literature from the close of ancient times down to the threshold of modern history was written in a language identical in its principal features with the common literary language, the so-called Koinē, which had its origin in the Alexandrian age. This is the Language.literary form of Greek as a universal language, though a form that scintillates with many facets, from an almost Attic diction down to one that approaches the language of everyday life such as we have, for instance, in the New Testament. From what has been already said, it follows that this stable literary language cannot always have remained a language of ordinary life. For, like every living tongue, the vernacular Greek continually changed in pronunciation and form, as well as in vocabulary and grammar, and thus the living language surely and gradually separated itself from the rigid written language. This gulf was, moreover, considerably widened owing to the fact that there took place in the written language a retrograde movement, the so-called “Atticism.” Introduced by Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the 1st century before Christ, this linguistic-literary fashion attained its greatest height in the 2nd century A.D., but still continued to flourish in succeeding centuries, and, indirectly, throughout the whole Byzantine period. It is true that it often seemed as though the living language would be gradually introduced into literature; for several writers, such as the chronicler Malalas in the 6th century, Leontius of Neapolis (the author of Lives of Saints) in the 7th century, the chronicler Theophanes at the beginning of the 9th century, and the emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the 10th century, made in their writings numerous concessions to the living language. This progressive tendency might well have led, in the 11th and 12th centuries, to the founding in the Greek vernacular of a new literary language similar to the promising national languages and literature which, at that period, in the Romance countries, developed out of the despised popular idiom. In the case of the Byzantines, unfortunately, such a radical change never took place. All attempts in the direction of a popular reform of the literary language, which were occasionally made in the period from the 6th to the 10th centuries, were in turn extinguished by the resuscitation of classical studies, a movement which, begun in the 9th century by Photius and continued in the 11th by Psellus, attained its full development under the Comneni and the Palaeologi. This classical renaissance turned back the literary language into the old ossified forms, as had previously happened in the case of the Atticism of the early centuries of the empire. In the West, humanism (so closely connected with the Byzantine renaissance under the Comneni and the Palaeologi) also artificially reintroduced the “Ciceronian” Latin, but was unable seriously to endanger the development of the national languages, which had already attained to full vitality. In Byzantium, the humanistic movement came prematurely, and crushed the new language before it had fairly established itself. Thus the language of the Byzantine writers of the 11th–15th centuries is almost Old Greek in colour; artificially learnt by grammar, lexicon and assiduous reading, it followed Attic models more and more slavishly; to such an extent that, in determining the date of works, the paradoxical principle holds good that the more ancient the language, the more recent the author.
Owing to this artificial return to ancient Greek, the contrast that had long existed with the vernacular was now for the first time fully revealed. The gulf between the two forms of language could no longer be bridged; and this fact found its expression in literature also. While the vulgarizing authors of the 6th–10th centuries, like the Latin-writing Franks (such as Gregory of Tours), still attempted a compromise between the language of the schools and that of conversation, we meet after the 12th century with authors who freely and naturally employed the vernacular in their literary works. They accordingly form the Greek counterpart of the oldest writers in Italian, French and other Romance languages. That they could not succeed like their Roman colleagues, and always remained the pariahs of Greek literature, is due to the all-powerful philological-antiquarian tendency which existed under the Comneni and the Palaeologi. Yet once more did the vernacular attempt to assert its literary rights, i.e. in Crete and some other islands in the 16th and 17th centuries. But this attempt also was foiled by the classical reaction of the 19th century. Hence it comes about that Greek literature even in the 20th century employs grammatical forms which were obsolete long before the 10th century. Thus the Greeks, as regards their literary language, came into a cul de sac similar to that in which certain rigidly conservative Oriental nations find themselves, e.g. the Arabs and Chinese, who, not possessing a literary language suited to modern requirements, have to content themselves with the dead Old-Arabic or the ossified Mandarin language. The divorce of the written and spoken languages is the most prominent and also the most fatal heritage that the modern Greeks have received from their Byzantine forefathers.
The whole Byzantine intellectual life, like that of the Western medieval period, is dominated by theological interests. Theology accordingly, in literature too, occupies the chief place, in regard to both quantity and quality. Next to it comes the writing of history, which the Byzantines General character of Byzantine literature.cultivated with great conscientiousness until after the fall of the empire. All other kinds of prose writing, e.g. in geography, philosophy, rhetoric and the technical sciences, were comparatively neglected, and such works are of value for the most part only in so far as they preserve and interpret old material. In poetry, again, theology takes the lead. The poetry of the Church produced works of high aesthetic merit and enduring value. In secular poetry, the writing of epigrams especially was cultivated with assiduity and often with ability. In popular literature poetry predominates, and many productions worthy of notice, new both in matter and in form, are here met with.
The great classical period of Greek theological literature is that of the 4th century. Various factors contributed to this result—some of them positive, particularly the establishment of Christianity as the official religion and the protection accorded to it by the state, others negative, Theology.i.e. the heretical movements, especially Arianism, which at this period arose in the east of the empire and threatened the unity of the doctrine and organization of the church. It was chiefly against these that the subtle Athanasius of Alexandria directed his attacks. The learned Eusebius founded a new department of literature, church history. In Egypt, Antonius (St Anthony) founded the Greek monastic system; Synesius of Cyrene, like his greater contemporary Augustine in the West, represents both in his life and in his writings the difficult transition from Plato to Christ. At the centre, in the forefront of the great intellectual movement of this century, stand the three great Cappadocians, Basil the Great, the subtle dogmatist, his brother Gregory of Nyssa, the philosophically trained defender of the Christian faith, and Gregory of Nazianzus, the distinguished orator and poet. Closely allied to them was St Chrysostom, the courageous champion of ecclesiastical liberty and of moral purity. To modern readers the greater part of this literature appears strange and foreign; but, in order to be appreciated rightly, it must be regarded as the outcome of the period in which it was produced, a period stirred to its depths by religious emotions. For the times in which they lived and for their readers, the Greek fathers reached the highest attainable; though, of course, they produced nothing of such general human interest, nothing so deep and true, as the Confessions of St Augustine, with which the poetical autobiography of Gregory of Nazianzus cannot for a moment be compared.
The glorious bloom of the 4th century was followed by a perceptible decay in theological intellectual activity. Independent production was in succeeding centuries almost solely prompted by divergent dogmatical views and heresies, for the refutation of which orthodox authors were impelled to take up the pen. In the 5th and 6th centuries a more copious literature was called into existence by the Monophysites, who maintained that there was but one nature in Christ; in the 7th century by the Monothelites, who acknowledged but one will in Christ; in the 8th century by the Iconoclasts and by the new teaching of Mahomet. One very eminent theologian, whose importance it has been reserved for modern times to estimate aright—Leontius of Byzantium (6th century)—was the first to introduce Aristotelian definitions into theology, and may thus be called the first scholastic. In his works he attacked the heretics of his age, particularly the Monophysites, who were also assailed by his contemporary Anastasius of Antioch. The chief adversaries of the Monothelites were Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem (whose main importance, however, is due to his work in other fields, in hagiography and homiletics), Maximus the Confessor, and Anastasius Sinaïtes, who also composed an interpretation of the Hexaëmeron in twelve books. Among writers in the departments of critical interpretation and asceticism in this period must be enumerated Procopius of Gaza, who devoted himself principally to the exegesis of the Old Testament; Johannes Climax (6th century), named after his much-read ascetic work Klimax (Jacob’s ladder); and Johannes Moschus (d. 619), whose chief work Leimon (“spiritual pasture”) describes monastic life in the form of statements and narratives of their experiences by monks themselves. The last great heresy, which shook the Greek Church to its very foundations, the Iconoclast movement, summoned to the fray the last great Greek theologian, John of Damascus (Johannes Damascenus). Yet his chief merit lies not so much in his polemical speeches against the Iconoclasts, and in his much admired but over-refined poetry, as in his great dogmatic work, The Fountain of Knowledge, which contains the first comprehensive exposition of Christian dogma. It has remained the standard work on Greek theology down to the present day. Just as the internal development of the Greek Church in all essentials reached its limit with the Iconoclasts, so also its productive intellectual activity ceased with John of Damascus. Such theological works as were subsequently produced, consisted mostly in the interpretation and revision of old materials. An extremely copious, but unfruitful, literature was produced by the disputes about the reunion of the Greek and Roman Churches. Of a more independent character is the literature which in the 14th century centred round the dissensions of the Hesychasts.
Among theologians after John of Damascus must be mentioned: the emperor Leo VI., the Wise (886–911), who wrote numerous homilies and church hymns, and Theodorus of Studium (759–826), who in his numerous writings affords us instructive glimpses of monastic life. Pre-eminent stands the figure of the patriarch Photius. Yet his importance consists less in his writings, which often, to a remarkable extent, lack independence of thought and judgment, than in his activity as a prince of the church. For he it was who carried the differences which had already repeatedly arisen between Rome and Constantinople to a point at which reconciliation was impossible, and was mainly instrumental in preparing the way for the separation of the Greek and Latin Churches accomplished in 1054 under the patriarch Michael Cerularius. In the 11th century the polyhistor Michael Psellus also wrote polemics against the Euchites, among whom the Syrian Gnosis was reviving. All literature, including theology, experienced a considerable revival under the Comneni. In the reign of Alexius I. Comnenus (1081–1118), Euthymius Zigabenus wrote his great dogmatic work, the Dogmatic Panoply, which, like The Fountain of Knowledge of John of Damascus in earlier times, was partly positive, furnishing an armoury of theology, partly negative and directed against the sects. In addition to attacking the dead and buried doctrines of the Monothelites, Iconoclasts, &c., to fight which was at this time a mere tilting at windmills, Zigabenus also carried on a polemic against the heretics of his own day, the Armenians, Bogomils and Saracens. Zigabenus’s Panoply was continued and enlarged a century later by the historian Nicetas Acominatus, who published it under the title Treasure of Orthodoxy. To the writings against ancient heresies were next added a flood of tracts, of all shapes and sizes, “against the Latins,” i.e. against the Roman Church, and among their authors must also be enumerated an emperor, the gifted Theodore II. Lascaris (1254–1258). The chief champion of the union with the Roman Church was the learned Johannes Beccus (patriarch of Constantinople 1275–1282). Of his opponents by far the most eminent was Gregory of Cyprus, who succeeded him on the patriarchal throne. The fluctuations in the fortunes of the two ecclesiastical parties are reflected in the occupation of the patriarchal throne. The battles round the question of the union, which were waged with southern passion, were for a while checked by the dissensions aroused by the mystic tendency of the Hesychasts. The impetus to this great literary movement was given by the monk Barlaam, a native of Calabria, who came forward in Constantinople as an opponent of the Latins and was in 1339 entrusted by Andronicus III. with a mission to Pope Benedict XII. at Avignon. He condemned the doctrine of the Hesychasts, and attacked them both orally and in writing. Among those who shared his views are conspicuous the historian Nicephorus Gregoras and Gregorius Acindynus, the latter of whom closely followed Thomas Aquinas in his writings. In fact the struggle against the Hesychasts was essentially a struggle between sober western scholasticism and dreamy Graeco-Oriental mysticism. On the side of the Hesychasts fought Gregorius Palamas, who tried to give a dogmatic foundation to the mysticism of the Hesychasts, Cabasilas, and the emperor John VI. Cantacuzenus who, after his deposition, sought, in the peaceful retreat of a monastery, consolation in theological studies, and in his literary works refuted the Jews and the Mahommedans. For the greatest Byzantine “apologia” against Islamism we are indebted to an emperor, Manuel II. Palaeologus (1391–1425), who by learned discussions tried to make up for the deficiency in martial prowess shown by the Byzantines in their struggle with the Turks. On the whole, theological literature was in the last century of the empire almost completely occupied with the struggles for and against the union with Rome. The reason lay in the political conditions. The emperors saw more and more clearly that without the aid of the West they would no longer be able to stand their ground against the Turks, the vanguard of the armies of the Crescent; while the majority of Byzantine theologians feared that the assistance of the West would force the Greeks to unite with Rome, and thereby to forfeit their ecclesiastical independence. Considering the supremacy of the theological party in Byzantium, it was but natural that religious considerations should gain the day over political; and this was the view almost universally held by the Byzantines in the later centuries of the empire; in the words of the chronicler Ducas: “it is better to fall into the hands of the Turks than into those of the Franks.” The chief opponent of the union was Marcus Eugenicus, metropolitan of Ephesus, who, at the Council of Florence in 1439, denounced the union with Rome accomplished by John VIII. Palaeologus. Conspicuous there among the partisans of the union, by reason of his erudition and general literary merit, was Bessarion, afterwards cardinal, whose chief activity already falls under the head of Graeco-Italian humanism.
Hagiography, i.e. the literature of the acts of the martyrs and the lives of the saints, forms an independent group and one comparatively unaffected by dogmatic struggles. The main interest centres here round the objects described, the personalities of the martyrs and saints Hagiography.themselves. The authors, on the other hand—the Acts of the Martyrs are mostly anonymous—keep more in the background than in other branches of literature. The man whose name is mainly identified with Greek hagiography, Symeon Metaphrastes, is important not as an original author, but only as an editor. Symeon revised in the 10th century, according to the rhetorical and linguistic principles of his day, numerous old Acts of the Martyrs, and incorporated them in a collection consisting of several volumes, which was circulated in innumerable copies, and thus to a great extent superseded the older original texts. These Acts of the Martyrs, in point of time, are anterior to our period; but of the Lives of Saints the greater portion belong to Byzantine literature. They began with biographies of monks distinguished for their saintly living, such as were used by Palladius about 420 in his Historia Lausiaca. The most famous work of this description is that by Athanasius of Alexandria, viz. the biography of St Anthony, the founder of monachism. In the 6th century Cyril of Scythopolis wrote several lives of saints, distinguished by a simple and straightforward style. More expert than any one else in reproducing the naïve popular style was Leontius of Neapolis in Cyprus who, in the 7th century, wrote, among other works, a life of St John the Merciful, archbishop of Alexandria, which is very remarkable as illustrating the social and intellectual conditions of the time. From the popular Lives of Saints, which for the reading public of the middle ages formed the chief substitute for modern “belles lettres,” it is easy to trace the transition to the religious novel. The most famous work of this class is the history of Barlaam and Josaphat (q.v.).
The religious poetry of the Greeks primarily suffered from the influence of the ancient Greek form, which was fatal to original development. The oldest work of this class is the hymn, composed in anapaestic monometers and dimeters, which was handed down in the manuscripts Religious poetry.with the Paedagogus of Clement of Alexandria (d. about 215), but was probably not his work. The next piece of this class is the famous “Maidens’ Song” in the Banquet of St Methodius (d. about 311), in which many striking violations of the old rules of quantity are already apparent. More faithful to the tradition of the schools was Gregory of Nazianzus. But, owing to the fact that he generally employed antiquated versification and very erudite language, his poems failed to reach the people or to find a place in the services of the church. Just as little could the artificial paraphrase of the Psalms composed by the younger Apollinaris, or the subtle poems of Synesius, become popular. It became more and more patent that, with the archaic metre which was out of keeping with the character of the living language, no genuine poetry suited to the age could possibly be produced. Fortunately, an entirely new form of poetical art was discovered, which conferred upon the Greek people the blessings of an intelligible religious poetry—the rhythmic poem. This no longer depended on difference of quantity in the syllables, which had disappeared from the living language, but on the accent. Yet the transition was not effected by the substitution of accent for the old long syllables; the ancient verse form was entirely abandoned, and in its stead new and variously constructed lines and strophes were formed. In the history of the rhythmic sacred poetry three periods are clearly marked—the preparatory period; that of the hymns; and that of the Canones. About the first period we know, unfortunately, comparatively little. It appears that in it church music was in the main confined to the insertion of short songs between the Psalms or other portions of Holy Writ and the acclamations of the congregation. The oldest rhythmic songs date from Gregory of Nazianzus—his “Maidens’ Song” and his “Evening Hymn.” Church poetry reached its highest expression in the second period, in the grand development of the hymns, i.e. lengthy songs comprising from twenty to thirty similarly constructed strophes, each connected with the next in acrostic fashion. Hymnology, again, attained its highest perfection in the first half of the 6th century with Romanos, who in the great number and excellence of his hymns dominated this species of poetry, as Homer did the Greek epic. From this period dates, moreover, the most famous song of the Greek Church, the so-called Acathistus, an anonymous hymn of praise to the Virgin Mary, which has sometimes, but erroneously, been attributed to the patriarch Sergius.
Church poetry entered upon a new stage, characterized by an increase in artistic finish and a falling off in poetical vigour, with the composition of the Canones, songs artfully built up out of eight or nine lyrics, all differently constructed. Andreas, archbishop of Crete (c. 650–720), is Canones.regarded as the inventor of this new class of song. His chief work, “the great Canon,” comprises no less than 250 strophes. The most celebrated writers of Canones are John of Damascus and Cosmas of Jerusalem, both of whom flourished in the first half of the 8th century. The “vulgar” simplicity of Romanos was regarded by them as an obsolete method; they again resorted to the classical style of Gregory of Nazianzus, and John of Damascus even took a special delight in the most elaborate tricks of expression. In spite of this, or perhaps on that very account, both he and Cosmas were much admired in later times, were much read, and—as was very necessary—much commentated. Later, sacred poetry was more particularly cultivated in the monastery of the Studium at Constantinople by the abbot Theodorus and others. Again, in the 9th century, Joseph, “the hymn-writer,” excelled as a writer of songs, and, finally, John Mauropus (11th century), bishop of Euchaita, John Zonaras (12th century), and Nicephorus Blemmydes (13th century), were also distinguished as authors of sacred poems, i.e. Canones. The Basilian Abbey of Grotta Ferrata near Rome, founded in 1004, and still existing, was also a nursery of religious poetry. As regards the rhythmic church poetry, it may now be regarded as certain that its origin was in the East. Old Hebrew and Syrian models mainly stimulated it, and Romanos (q.v.) was especially influenced by the metrical homilies of the great Syrian father Ephraem (d. about 373).
In profane literature the writing of history takes the first place, as regards both form and substance. The Greeks have always been deeply interested in history, and they have never omitted, amid all the vicissitudes of their existence, to hand down a record to posterity. Thus, Profane literature; historical accounts.they have produced a literature extending from the Ionian logographers and Herodotus down to the times of Sultan Mahommed II. In the Byzantine period all historical accounts fall under one of two groups, entirely different, both in form and in matter, (1) historical works, the authors of which described, as did most historians of ancient times, a period of history in which they themselves had lived and moved, or one which only immediately preceded their own times; and (2) chronicles, shortly recapitulating the history of the world. This latter class has no exact counterpart in ancient literature. The most clearly marked stage in the development of a Christian-Byzantine universal history was the chronicle (unfortunately lost) written by the Hellenized Jew, Justus of Tiberias, at the beginning of the 2nd century of the Christian era; this work began with the story of Moses.
Byzantine histories of contemporary events do not differ substantially from ancient historical works, except in their Christian colouring. Yet even this is often very faint and blurred owing to close adherence to ancient methods. Apart from this, neither a new style nor a new critical method nor any radically new views appreciably altered the main character of Byzantine historiography. In their style most Byzantine compilers of contemporary history followed the beaten track of older historians, e.g. Herodotus, Thucydides, and, in some details, also Polybius. But, in spite of their often excessive tendency to imitation, they displayed considerable power in the delineation of character and were not wanting in independent judgment. As regards the selection of their matter, they adhered to the old custom of beginning their narrative where their predecessors left off.
The outstripping of the Latin West by the Greek East, which after the close of the 4th century was a self-evident fact, is reflected in historiography also. After Constantine the Great, the history of the empire, although its Latin character was maintained until the 6th century, was mostly written by Greeks; e.g. Eunapius (c. 400), Olympiodorus (c. 450), Priscus (c. 450), Malchus (c. 490), and Zosimus, the last pagan historian (c. 500), all of whom, with the exception of Zosimus, are unfortunately preserved to us only in fragments. Historiography received a great impulse in the 6th century. The powerful Procopius and Agathias (q.v.), tinged with poetical rhetoric, described the stirring and eventful times of Justinian, while Theophanes of Byzantium, Menander Protector, Johannes of Epiphaneia and Theophylactus of Simocatta described the second half of the 6th century. Towards the close of the 6th century also flourished the last independent ecclesiastical historian, Evagrius, who wrote the history of the church from 431 to 593. There now followed, however, a lamentable falling off in production. From the 7th to the 10th century the historical side is represented by a few chronicles, and it was not until the 10th century that, owing to the revival of ancient classical studies, the art of writing history showed some signs of life. Several historical works are associated with the name of the emperor Constantine VII. Porphyrogenitus. To his learned circle belonged also Joseph Genesius, who at the emperor’s instance compiled the history of the period from 813 to 886. A little work, interesting from the point of view of historical and ethnographical science, is the account of the taking of Thessalonica by the Cretan Corsairs (A.D. 904), which a priest, Johannes Cameniata, an eyewitness of the event, has bequeathed to posterity. There is also contained in the excellent work of Leo Diaconus (on the period from 959 to 975) a graphic account of the bloody wars of the Byzantines with the Arabs in Crete and with the Bulgarians. A continuation was undertaken by the philosopher Michael Psellus in a work covering the period from 976 to 1077. A valuable supplement to the latter (describing the period from 1034 to 1079) was supplied by the jurist Michael Attaliata. The history of the Eastern empire during the Crusades was written in four considerable works, by Nicephorus Bryennius, his learned consort Anna Comnena, the “honest Aetolian,” Johannes Cinnamus, and finally by Nicetas Acominatus in an exhaustive work which is authoritative for the history of the 4th Crusade. The melancholy conditions and the ever increasing decay of the empire under the Palaeologi (13th–15th centuries) are described in the same lofty style, though with a still closer following of classical models. The events which took place between the taking of Constantinople by the Latins and the restoration of Byzantine rule (1203–1261) are recounted by Georgius Acropolita, who emphasizes his own share in them. The succeeding period was written by the versatile Georgius Pachymeres, the erudite and high-principled Nicephorus Gregoras, and the emperor John VI. Cantacuzenus. Lastly, the death-struggle between the East Roman empire and the mighty rising power of the Ottomans was narrated by three historians, all differing in culture and in style, Laonicus Chalcocondyles, Ducas and Georgius Phrantzes. With them may be classed a fourth (though he lived outside the Byzantine period), Critobulus, a high-born Greek of Imbros, who wrote, in the style of the age of Pericles, the history of the times of the sultan Mahommed II. (down to 1467).
The essential importance of the Byzantine chronicles (mostly chronicles of the history of the world from the Creation) consists in the fact that they in part replace older lost works, and thus fill up many gaps in our historical survey (e.g. for the period from about 600 to 800 of which Chronicles.very few records remain). They lay no claim to literary merit, but are often serviceable for the history of language. Many such chronicles were furnished with illustrations. The remains of one such illustrated chronicle on papyrus, dating from the beginning of the 5th century, has been preserved for us by the soil of Egypt. The authors of the chronicles were mostly monks, who wished to compile handbooks of universal history for their brethren and for pious laymen; and this explains the strong clerical and popular tendency of these works. And it is due to these two qualities that the chronicles obtained a circulation abroad, both in the West and also among the peoples Christianized from Byzantium, e.g. the Slavs, and in all of them sowed the seeds of an indigenous historical literature. Thus the chronicles, despite the jejuneness of their style and their uncritical treatment of material were for the general culture of the middle ages of far greater importance than the erudite contemporary histories designed only for the highly educated circles in Byzantium. The oldest Byzantine chronicle of universal history preserved to us is that of Malalas (6th century), which is also the purest type of this class of literature. In the 7th century was completed the famous Easter or Paschal Chronicle (Chronicon Paschale). About the end of the 8th or the beginning of the 9th century Georgius Syncellus compiled a concise chronicle, which began with the Creation and was continued down to the year 284. At the request of the author, when on his death-bed, the continuation of this work was undertaken by Theophanes Confessor, who brought down the account from A.D. 284 to his own times (A.D. 813). This exceedingly valuable work of Theophanes was again continued (from 813–961) by several anonymous chroniclers. A contemporary of Theophanes, the patriarch Nicephorus, wrote, in addition to a Short History of the period from 602 to 769, a chronological sketch from Adam down to the year of his own death in 829. Of great influence on the age that followed was Georgius Monachus, only second in importance as chronicler of the early Byzantine period, who compiled a chronicle of the world’s history (from Adam until the year 843, the end of the Iconoclast movement), far more theological and monkish in character than the work of Theophanes. Among later chroniclers Johannes Scylitza stands out conspicuously. His work (covering the period from 811 to 1057), as regards the range of its subject-matter, is something between a universal and a contemporary history. Georgius Cedrenus (c. 1100) embodied the whole of Scylitza’s work, almost unaltered, in his Universal Chronicle. In the 12th century the general increase in literary production was evident also in the department of chronicles of the world. From this period dates, for instance, the most distinguished and learned work of this class, the great universal chronicle of John Zonaras. In the same century Michael Glycas compiled his chronicle of the world’s history, a work written in the old popular style and designed for the widest circles of readers. Lastly, in the 12th century, Constantine Manasses wrote a universal chronicle in the so-called “political” verse. With this verse-chronicle must be classed the imperial chronicle of Ephraem, written in Byzantine trimeters at the beginning of the 14th century.
Geography and topography, subjects so closely connected with history, were as much neglected by the Byzantines as by their political forerunners, the Romans. Of purely practical importance are a few handbooks of navigation, itineraries, guides for pilgrims, and catalogues of Geography.provinces and cities, metropolitan sees and bishoprics. The geographical work of Stephanus of Byzantium, which dates from Justinian’s time, has been lost. To the same period belongs the only large geographical work which has been preserved to us, the Christian Topography of Cosmas Indicopleustes. For the topography of Constantinople a work entitled Ancient History (Patria) of Constantinople, which may be compared to the medieval Mirabilia urbis Romae, and in late manuscripts has been wrongly attributed to a certain Codinus, is of great importance.
Ancient Greek philosophy under the empire sent forth two new shoots—Neopythagoreanism and Neoplatonism. It was the latter with which moribund paganism essayed to stem the advancing tide of Christianity. The last great exponent of this philosophy was Proclus in Athens Philosophy.(d. 485). The dissolution, by order of Justinian, of the school of philosophy at Athens in 529 was a fatal blow to this nebulous system, which had long since outlived the conditions that made it a living force. In the succeeding period philosophical activity was of two main kinds; on the one hand, the old philosophy, e.g. that of Aristotle, was employed to systematize Christian doctrine, while, on the other, the old works were furnished with copious commentaries and paraphrases. Leontius of Byzantium had already introduced Aristotelian definitions into Christology; but the real founder of medieval ecclesiastical philosophy was John of Damascus. Owing, however, to his having early attained to canonical authority, the independent progress of ecclesiastical philosophy was arrested; and to this it is due that in this respect the later Byzantine period is far poorer than is the West. Byzantium cannot boast a scholastic like Thomas Aquinas. In the 11th century philosophical studies experienced a satisfactory revival, mainly owing to Michael Psellus, who brought Plato as well as Aristotle again into fashion.
Ancient rhetoric was cultivated in the Byzantine period with greater ardour than scientific philosophy, being regarded as an indispensable aid to instruction. It would be difficult to imagine anything more tedious than the numerous theoretical writings on the subject and the examples of their Rhetoric.practical application: mechanical school essays, which here count as “literature,” and innumerable letters, the contents of which are wholly insignificant. The evil effects of this were felt beyond the proper sphere of rhetoric. The anxious attention paid to the laws of rhetoric and the unrestricted use of its withered flowers were detrimental to a great part of the rest of Byzantine literature, and greatly hampered the development of any individuality and simplicity of style. None the less, among the rhetorical productions of the time are to be found a few interesting pieces, such as the Philopatris, in the style of Lucian, which gives us a remarkable picture of the times of Nicephorus Phocas (10th century). In two other smaller works a journey to the dwellings of the dead is described, after the pattern of Lucian’s Nekyomanteia, viz. in Timarion (12th century) and in Mazaris’ Journey to the Underworld (c. 1414). A very charming representative of Byzantine rhetoric is Michael Acominatus, who, in addition to theological works, wrote numerous occasional speeches, letters and poems.
In the field of scientific production, which can be accounted literature in the modern acceptation of the term only in a limited sense, Byzantium was dominated to an extravagant and even grotesque extent by the rules of what in modern times is termed “classical scholarship.” The sciences.The numerous works which belong to this category, such as grammars, dictionaries, commentaries on ancient authors, extracts from ancient literature, and metrical and musical treatises, are of little general interest, although of great value for special branches of philological study, e.g. for tracing the influences through which the ancient works handed down to us have passed, as well as for their interpretation and emendation; for information about ancient authors now lost; for the history of education; and for the underlying principles of intellectual life in Byzantium. The most important monument of Byzantine philology is, perhaps, the Library of the patriarch Photius. The period from about 650 to 850 is marked by a general decay of culture. Photius, who in the year 850 was about thirty years of age, now set himself with admirable energy to the task of making ancient literature, now for the most part dead and forgotten, known once more to his contemporaries, thus contributing to its preservation. He gave an account of all that he read, and in this way composed 280 essays, which were collected in what is commonly known as the Library or Myriobiblon. The character of the individual sketches is somewhat mechanical and formal; a more or less complete account of the contents is followed by critical discussion, which is nearly always confined to the linguistic form. With this work may be compared in importance the great Lexikon of Suidas, which appeared about a century later, a sort of encyclopaedia, of which the main feature was its articles on the history of literature. A truly sympathetic figure is Eustathius, the famous archbishop of Thessalonica (12th century). His voluminous commentaries on Homer, however, rivet the attention less than his enthusiastic devotion to science, his energetic action on behalf of the preservation of the literary works of antiquity, and last, not least, his frank and heroic character, which had nothing in it of the Byzantine. If, on the other hand, acquaintance with a caricature of Byzantine philology be desired, it is afforded by Johannes Tzetzes, a contemporary of Eustathius, a Greek in neither name nor spirit, narrow-minded, angular, superficial, and withal immeasurably conceited and ridiculously coarse in his polemics. The transition to Western humanism was effected by the philologists of the period of the Palaeologi, such as Maximus Planudes, whose translations of numerous works renewed the long-broken ties between Byzantium and the West; Manuel Moschopulus, whose grammatical works and commentaries were, down to the 16th century, used as school text-books; Demetrius Triclinius, distinguished as a textual critic; the versatile Theodorus Metochites, and others.
Originally, as is well known, Latin was the exclusive language of Roman law. But with Justinian, who codified the laws in his Corpus juris, the Hellenizing of the legal language also began. The Institutes and the Digest were translated into Greek, and the Novels also were issued in Jurisprudence.a Greek form. Under the Macedonian dynasty there began, after a long stagnation, the resuscitation of the code of Justinian. The emperor Basilius I. (867–886) had extracts made from the existing law, and made preparations for the codifying of all laws. But the whole work was not completed till the time of Leo VI. the Wise (886–912), and Constantine VII. Porphyrogenitus (912–959), when it took the form of a grand compilation from the Digests, the Codex, and the Novels, and is commonly known as the Basilica (Τὰ βασιλικά). In the East it completely superseded the old Latin Corpus juris of Justinian. More that was new was produced, during the Byzantine period, in canon law than in secular legislation. The purely ecclesiastical rules of law, the Canones, were blended with those of civil law, and thus arose the so-called Nomocanon, the most important edition of which is that of Theodorus Bestes in 1090. The alphabetical handbook of canon law written by Matthaeus Blastares about the year 1335 also exercised a great influence.
In the province of mathematics and astronomy the remarkable fact must be recorded that the revival among the Greeks of these long-forgotten studies was primarily due to Perso-Arabian influence. The Great Syntaxis of Ptolemy operated in the oriental guise of the Almagest. Mathematics and astronomy.The most important direct source of this intellectual loan was not Arabia, however, but Persia. Towards the close of the 13th century the Greeks became acquainted with Persian astronomy. At the beginning of the 14th century Georgius Chrysococca and Isaac Argyrus wrote astronomical treatises based on Persian works. Then the Byzantines themselves, notably Theodorus Metochites and Nicephorus Gregoras, at last had recourse to the original Greek sources.
The Byzantines did much independent work in the field of military science. The most valuable work of the period on this subject is one on tactics, which has come down to posterity associated with the name of Leo VI., the Wise.Military science.
Of profane poetry—in complete contrast to sacred poetry—the general characteristic was its close imitation of the antique in point of form. All works belonging to this category reproduce the ancient style and are framed after ancient models. The metre is, for the most part, Profane poetry.either the Byzantine regular twelve-syllable trimeter, or the “political” verse; more rarely the heroic and Anacreontic measures.
Epic popular poetry, in the ancient sense, begins only with the vernacular Greek literature (see below); but among the literary works of the period there are several which can be compared with the epics of the Alexandrine age. Nonnus (c. 400) wrote, while yet a pagan, a fantastic epic on the Epic.triumphal progress of the god Dionysus to India, and, as a Christian, a voluminous commentary on the gospel of St John. In the 7th century, Georgius Pisides sang in several lengthy iambic poems the martial deeds of the emperor Heraclius, while the deacon Theodosius (10th century) immortalized in extravagant language the victories of the brave Nicephorus Phocas.
From the 11th century onwards, religious, grammatical, astrological, medical, historical and allegorical poems, framed partly in duodecasyllables and partly in “political” verse, made their appearance in large quantities. Didactic religious poems were composed, for example, Didactic poems.by Philippus (ὁ Μονότροπος, Solitarius, c. 1100), grammatico-philological poems by Johannes Tzetzes, astrological by Johannes Camaterus (12th century), others on natural science by Manuel Philes (14th century) and a great moral, allegorical, didactic epic by Georgius Lapithes (14th century).
To these may be added some voluminous poems, which in style and matter must be regarded as imitations of the ancient Greek romances. They all date from the 12th century, a fact evidently connected with the general revival of culture which characterizes the period of the Comneni. Two Romances.of these romances are written in the duodecasyllable metre, viz. the story of Rodanthe and Dosicles by Theodorus Prodromus, and an imitation of this work, the story of Drusilla and Charicles by Nicetas Eugenianus; one in “political” verse, the love story of Aristander and Callithea by Constantine Manasses, which has only been preserved in fragments, and lastly one in prose, the story of Hysmine and Hysminias, by Eustathius (or Eumathius) Macrembolita, which is the most insipid of all.
The objective point of view which dominated the whole Byzantine period was fatal to the development of a profane lyrical poetry. At most a few poems by Johannes Geometres and Christophorus of Mytilene and others, in which personal experiences are recorded with some show of Lyrics.taste, may be placed in this category. The dominant form for all subjective poetry was the epigram, which was employed in all its variations from playful trifles to long elegiac and narrative poems. Georgius Pisides (7th century) treated the most diverse themes. In the 9th century Theodorus of Studium had lighted upon the happy idea of immortalizing monastic life in a series of epigrams. The same century produced the only poetess of the Byzantine The epigram.period, Casia, from whom we have several epigrammatic productions and church hymns, all characterized by originality. Epigrammatic poetry reached its highest development in the 10th and 11th centuries, in the productions of Johannes Geometres, Christophorus of Mytilene and John Mauropus. Less happy are Theodorus Prodromus (12th century) and Manuel Philes (14th century). From the beginning of the 10th century also dates the most valuable collection of ancient and of Byzantine epigrammatic poems, the Anthologia Palatina (see Anthology).
Dramatic poetry, in the strict sense of the term, was as completely lacking among the Byzantine Greeks as was the condition precedent to its existence, namely, public performance. Apart from some moralizing allegorical dialogues (by Theodorus Prodromus, Manuel Philes and others), Drama.we possess only a single work of the Byzantine period that, at least in external form, resembles a drama: the Sufferings of Christ (Χριστὸς Πάσχων). This work, written probably in the 12th century, or at all events not earlier, is a cento, i.e. is in great measure composed of verses culled from ancient writers, e.g. Aeschylus, Euripides and Lycophron; but it was certainly not written with a view to the dramatic production.
The vernacular literature stands alone, both in form and in contents. We have here remarkable originality of conception and probably also entirely new and genuinely medieval matter. While in the artificial literature prose is pre-eminent, in the vernacular literature, poetry, Vernacular Greek literature.both in quantity and quality, takes the first place, as was also the case among the Latin nations, where the vulgar tongue first invaded the field of poetry and only later that of prose. Though a few preliminary attempts were made (proverbs, acclamations addressed by the people to the emperor, &c.), the Greek vernacular was employed for larger works only from the 12th century onwards; at first in poems, of which the major portion were cast in “political” verse, but some in the trochaic eight-syllabled line. Towards the close of the 15th century rhyme came into use. The subjects treated in this vernacular poetry are exceedingly diverse. In the capital city a mixture of the learned and the popular language was first used in poems of admonition, praise and supplication. In this oldest class of “vulgar” works must be reckoned the Spaneas, an admonitory poem in imitation of the letter of Pseudo-Isocrates addressed to Demonicus; a supplicatory poem composed in prison by the chronicler Michael Glycas, and several begging poems of Theodorus Prodromus (Ptochoprodromos). In the succeeding period erotic poems are met with, such as the Rhodian love songs preserved in a MS. in the British Museum (ed. W. Wagner, Leipzig, 1879), fairy-tale like romances such as the Story of Ptocholeon, oracles, prayers, extracts from Holy Writ, lives of saints, &c. Great epic poems, in which antique subjects are treated, such as the legends of Troy and of Alexander, form a separate group. To these may be added romances in verse after the manner of the works written in the artificial classical language, e.g. Callimachus and Chrysorrhoë, Belthandrus and Chrysantza, Lybistrus and Rhodamne, also romances in verse after the Western pattern, such as Phlorius and Platziaphlora (the old French story of Flore et Blanchefleur). Curious are also sundry legends connected with animals and plants, such as an adaptation of the famous medieval animal fables of the Physiologus, a history of quadrupeds, and a book of birds, both written with a satirical intention, and, lastly, a rendering of the story of Reynard the Fox. Of quite peculiar originality also are several legendary and historical poems, in which famous heroes and historical events are celebrated. There are, for instance, poems on the fall of Constantinople, the taking of Athens and Trebizond, the devastating campaign of Timur, the plague in Rhodes in 1498, &c. In respect of importance and antiquity the great heroic epic of Digenis Akritas stands pre-eminent.
Among prose works written in the vulgar tongue, or at least in a compromise with it, may be mentioned the Greek rendering of two works from an Indian source, the Book of the Seven Wise Masters (as Syntipas the Philosopher by Michael Andreopulus), and the Hitopadera or Mirror “Vulgar” prose works.of Princes (through the Arabic Kalilah and Dimnah by Simeon Sethus as Στεφανίτης καὶ Ἰκνηλάτης), a fish book, a fruit book (both skits on the Byzantine court and official circles). To these must be added the Greek laws of Jerusalem and of Cyprus of the 12th and 13th centuries, chronicles, &c. In spite of many individual successes, the literature written in the vulgar tongue succumbed, in the race for existence, to its elder sister, the literature written in classical and polished Greek. This was mainly due to the continuous employment of the ancient language in the state, the schools and the church.
The importance of Byzantine culture and literature in the history of the world is beyond dispute. The Christians of the East Roman empire guarded for more than a thousand years the intellectual heritage of antiquity against the violent onslaught of the barbarians. They also called General significance of Byzantine literature.into life a peculiar medieval culture and literature. They communicated the treasures of the old pagan as well as of their own Christian literature to neighbouring nations; first to the Syrians, then to the Copts, the Armenians, the Georgians; later, to the Arabians, the Bulgarians, the Serbs and the Russians. Through their teaching they created a new East European culture, embodied above all in the Russian empire, which, on its religious side, is included in the Orthodox Eastern Church, and from the point of view of nationality touches the two extremes of Greek and Slav. Finally the learned men of the dying Byzantine empire, fleeing from the barbarism of the Turks, transplanted the treasures of old Hellenic wisdom to the West, and thereby fertilized the Western peoples with rich germs of culture.
Bibliography.—1. General sources: K. Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Literatur (2nd ed., 1897), supplemented in Die byzantinische Zeitschrift (1892 seq.), and the Byzantinisches Archiv (1898 seq.), which is intended for the publication of more exhaustive matter. The Russian works in this department are comprised in the Vizantiisky Vremennik (1894 seq.).
2. Language: Grammar: A. N. Jannaris (Giannaris), An Historical Greek Grammar (1897); A. Dieterich, “Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der griechischen Sprache von der hellenistischen Zeit bis zum 10ten Jahrhundert,” in Byzant. Archiv, i. (1898). Glossary: Ducange, Glossarium ad scriptores mediae et infimae Graecitatis (1688), in which particular attention is paid to the “vulgar” language; E. A. Sophocles, Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (3rd ed., 1888).
3. Theology: Chief work, A. Ehrhard in Krumbacher’s Geschichte der byz. Lit. pp. 1-218. For the ancient period, cf. the works on Greek patrology (under article Fathers of the Church). Collective edition of the Fathers (down to the 15th century); Patrologia, series Graeca (ed. by Migne, 161 vols., 1857–1866). Church poetry: A collection of Greek Church hymns was published by W. Christ and M. Paranikas, entitled Anthologia Graeca carminum Christianorum (1871). Many unedited texts, particularly the songs of Romanos, were published by Cardinal J. B. Pitra, under the title Analecta sacra spicilegio Solesmensi parata (1876). A complete edition of the hymns is edited by K. Krumbacher.
4. Historical literature: A collective edition of the Byzantine historians and chroniclers was begun under Louis XIV., and continued later (1648–1819), called the Paris Corpus. This whole collection was on B. G. Niebuhr’s advice republished with some additions (Bonn, 1828–1878), under the title Corpus scriptorum historiae Byzantinae. The most important authors have also appeared in the Bibliotheca Teubneriana. A few Byzantine and oriental historical works are also contained in the collection edited by J. B. Bury (1898 seq.).
5. Vernacular Greek literature: The most important collective editions are: W. Wagner, Medieval Greek Texts (1870), Carmina Graeca Medii Aevi (1874), Trois Poèmes grecs du moyen âge (1881); E. Legrand, Collection de monuments pour servir à l’étude de la langue néo-hellénique (in 26 parts, 1869–1875), Bibliothèque grecque vulgaire (in 8 vols., 1880–1896). (K. Kr.)
III. Modern Greek Literature (1453–1908)
After the capture of Constantinople, the destruction of Greek national life and the almost total effacement of Greek civilization naturally involved a more or less complete cessation of Greek literary production in the regions subjected to the rule of a barbarous conqueror. Learned Greeks found a refuge away from their native land; they spoke the languages of foreign people, and when they wrote books they often used those languages, but in most cases they also wrote in Greek. The fall of Constantinople must not therefore be taken as indicating a break in the continuity of Greek literary history. Nor had that event so decisive an influence as has been supposed on the revival of learning in western Europe. The crusades had already brought the Greeks and Westerns together, and the rule of the Franks at Constantinople and in the Levant had rendered the contact closer. Greeks and Latins had keenly discussed the dogmas which divided the Eastern and Western Churches; some Greeks had adopted the Latin faith or had endeavoured to reconcile the two communions, some had attained preferment in the Roman Church. Many had become connected by marriage or other ties with the Italian nobles who ruled in the Aegean or the Heptanesos, and circumstances led them to settle in Italy. Of the writers who thus found their way to the West before the taking of Constantinople the most prominent were Leon or Leontios Pilatos, Georgius Gemistus, or Pletho, Manuel and John Chrysoloras, Theodore Gazes, George of Trebizond and Cardinal Bessarion.
The Ottoman conquest had reduced the Christian races in the plains to a condition of serfdom, but the spirit of liberty continued to breathe in the mountains, where groups of desperate men, the Klephts and the Haiduks, maintained the struggle against alien tyranny. The The Klephtic poetry.adventurous and romantic life of these champions of freedom, spent amid the noblest solitudes of nature and often tinged with the deepest tragedy, naturally produced a poetry of its own, fresh, spontaneous and entirely indigenous. The Klephtic ballads, all anonymous and composed in the language of the people, are unquestionably the best and most genuine Greek poetry of this epoch. They breathe the aroma of the forests and mountains; like the early rhapsodies of antiquity, which peopled nature with a thousand forms, they lend a voice to the trees, the rocks, the rivers and to the mountains themselves, which sing the prowess of the Klepht, bewail his death and comfort his disconsolate wife or mother. Olympia boasts to Ossa that the footstep of the Turk has never desecrated its valleys; the standard of freedom floats over its springs; there is a Klepht beneath every tree of its forests; an eagle sits on its summit with the head of a warrior in its talons. The dying Klepht bids his companions make him a large and lofty tomb that he may stand therein and load his musket: “Make a window in the side that the swallows may tell me that spring has come, that the nightingales may sing me the approach of flowery May.” The wounded Vervos is addressed by his horse: “Rise, my master, let us go and find our comrades.” “My bay horse, I cannot rise; I am dying: dig me a tomb with thy silver-shod hoof; take me in thy teeth and lay me therein. Bear my arms to my companions and this handkerchief to my beloved, that she may see it and lament me.” Another type of the popular poetry is presented by the folk-songs of the Aegean islanders and the maritime population of the Asiatic coast. In many of the former the influence of the Frankish conquest is apparent. Traces of the ancient mythology are often to be found in the popular songs. Death is commonly personified by Charon, who struggles with his victim; Charon is sometimes worsted, but as a rule he triumphs in the conflict.
In Crete, which for nearly two centuries after the fall of Constantinople remained under Venetian rule, a school of Greek poetry arose strongly impressed with Italian influences. The language employed is the dialect of the Candiotes, with its large admixture of Venetian words. The Cretan poets. first product of this somewhat hybrid literature was Erotocritos, an epic poem in five cantos, which relates the love story of Aretē, daughter of Hercules, king of Athens, and Erotocritos, the son of his minister. The poem presents an interesting picture of Greece under the feudal Frankish princes, though professing to describe an episode of the classical epoch; notwithstanding some tedious passages, it possesses considerable merit and contains some charming scenes. The metre is the rhymed alexandrine. Of the author, Vicence Cornaro, who lived in the middle or end of the 16th century, little is known; he probably belonged to the ducal family of that name, from which Tasso was descended. The second poem is the Erophile of George Chortakis, a Cretan, also written in the Candiote dialect. It is a tragic drama, the scene of which is laid in Egypt. The dialogue is poor, but there are some fine choral interludes, which perhaps are by a different hand. Chortakis, who was brought up at Retimo, lived at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries. The third Cretan poem worthy of notice is the Shepherdess, a charming and graceful idyll written by Nicolas Drimyticos, a native of Apokorona, early in the 17th century. Other Cretan poets were J. Gregoropoulos and G. Melissinos (1500), who wrote epigrams, and Maroulos (1493), who endeavoured to write Pindaric odes.
Among the Greeks who were prominent in spreading a knowledge of Greek in Europe after the fall of Constantinople were John Argyropulos, Demetrius Chalcondyles, Constantine and John Lascaris and Marcus Musurus, a Cretan. These men wrote in the accepted literary Literary activity after the fall of Constantinople.language; in general, however, they were rather employed about literature than engaged in producing it. They taught Greek; several of them wrote Greek grammars; they transcribed and edited Greek classical writers, and they collected manuscripts. Their stores enriched the newly founded libraries of St Mark at Venice, of the Escorial, of the Vatican and of the National Library in Paris. But none of them accomplished much in literature strictly so called. The question which most deeply interested them was that of the rival merits of the Platonic and Aristotelian philosophies, over which a controversy of extraordinary bitterness broke out towards the close of the 15th century. The dispute was in reality theological rather than philosophical; the cause of Plato was championed by the advocates of a union between the Eastern and Western Churches, that of Aristotle was upheld by the opposing party, and all the fury of the old Byzantine dogmatic controversies was revived. The patriarch, George Kurtesios or Gennadius, whom Mahommed II. had appointed after the capture of Constantinople, wrote a treatise in favour of Aristotle and excommunicated Gemistus Pletho, the principal writer among the Platonists. On the other hand, George of Trebizond, who attacked Pletho with unmeasured virulence, was compelled to resign his post of secretary to Pope Nicholas V. and was imprisoned by Pope Paul I. Scholarship was not wholly extinct in Greece or among the Greeks for a considerable time after the Turkish conquest. Arsenius, who succeeded Musurus as bishop of Monemvasia (1510), wrote commentaries on Aristophanes and Euripides; his father, Apostoles, made a collection of Greek proverbs. Aemilius Portos, a Cretan, and Leo Allatios (1600–1650) of Chios edited a number of works of the classical and later periods with commentaries and translations; Allatios also wrote Greek verses showing skill and cleverness. Constantine Rhodokanakes, physician to Charles II. of England, wrote verses on the return of that monarch to England. About the time of the fall of Constantinople we meet with some versifiers who wrote poems in the spoken dialect on historical subjects; among these were Papaspondylos Zotikos (1444), Georgilas Limenitis (1450–1500) and Jacobos Trivoles (beginning of the 16th century); their poems have little merit, but are interesting as specimens of the popular language of the day and as illustrating the manners and ideas of contemporary Greeks.
Among the prose writers of the 16th century were a number of chroniclers. At the end of the 15th, Kritobulos of Imbros, who had been private secretary of Mahommed II., wrote the history of his master, Emmanuel Melaxos a history of the patriarchate, and Phranzes a history Historical works.of the Palaeologi. Theodosius Zygomalas (1580) wrote a history of Constantinople from 1391 to 1578. In the 17th century Demetrius Cantemir, a Moldavian by birth, wrote a history of the Ottoman empire, and G. Kontares tales of ancient Athens. Others composed chronicles of Cyprus and Crete, narratives of travels and biographies of saints. Most of these works are written in the literary language, the study of which was kept alive by the patriarchate and the schools which it maintained at Constantinople and elsewhere. Various theological and philosophical works, grammars and dictionaries were written during this period, but elegant literature practically disappears.
A literary revival followed in the 18th century, the precursor of the national uprising which resulted in the independence of Greece. The efforts of the great Phanariote families at Constantinople, the educational zeal of the higher Greek clergy and the munificence of wealthy Greeks The literary revival.in the provinces, chiefly merchants who had acquired fortunes by commerce, combined to promote the spread of education among a people always eager for instruction. The Turks, indifferent to educational matters, failed to discern the significance of the movement. Schools were established in every important Greek town, and school-books and translations from Western languages issued from the presses of Venice, Triest, Vienna and other cities where the Greeks possessed colonies. Young men completed their studies in the Western universities and returned to the East as the missionaries of modern civilization. For the greater part of the 18th century the literature was mainly theological. Notable theological writers of this epoch were Elias Miniates, an elegant preacher, whose sermons are written in the popular language, and Meletios of Iannina, metropolitan of Athens, whose principal works were an ecclesiastical history, written in ancient Greek, and a descriptive geography of Greece in the modern language, composed, like the work of Pausanias, after a series of tours. The works of two distinguished prelates, both natives of Corfu and both ardent partisans of Russia, Nikephoros Theotokes (1731?–1800) and Eugenios Bulgares (1715–1806), mark the beginning of the national and literary renaissance. They wrote much in defence of Greek orthodoxy against Latin heresy. Theotokes, famous as a preacher, wrote, besides theological and controversial works, treatises on mathematics, geography and physics. Bulgares was a most prolific author; he wrote numerous translations and works on theology, archaeology, philosophy, mathematics, physics and astronomy; he translated the Aeneid and Georgics of Virgil into Homeric verse at the request of Catherine II. His writings exercised a considerable influence over his contemporaries.
The poets of the earlier period of the Greek revival were Constantinos Rhigas (q.v.), the Alcman of the revolutionary movement, whose songs fired the spirit of his fellow-countrymen; Christopoulos (1772–1847), a Phanariote, who wrote some charming Anacreontics, and Jacobos Poets of the
Greek revival.Rizos Neroulos (1778–1850), also a Phanariote, author of tragedies, comedies and lyrics, and of a work in French on modern Greek literature. They are followed in the epoch of Greek independence by the brothers Panagiotes and Alexander Soutzos (1800–1868 and 1803–1863) and Alexander Rhizos Rhangabēs (Rhankaves, 1810–1892), all three Phanariotes. Both Soutzos had a rich command of musical language, were highly ideal in their conceptions, strongly patriotic and possessed an ardent love of liberty. Both imitated to some extent Byron, Lamartine and Béranger; they tried various forms of poetry, but the genius of Panagiotes was essentially lyrical, that of Alexander satirical. The other great poet of the Greek revival, Alexander Rizos Rhangabē, was a writer with a fine poetic feeling, exquisite diction and singular beauty and purity of thought and sentiment. Besides numerous odes, hymns, ballads, narrative poems, tragedies and comedies, he wrote several prose works, including a history of ancient Greece, a history of modern Greek literature, several novels and works on ancient art and archaeology. Among the numerous dramatic works of this time may be mentioned the Μαρία Δοξιπατρῆ of Demetrios Bernardakes, a Cretan, the scene of which is laid in the Morea at the time of the crusades.
In prose composition, as in poetry, the national revival was marked by an abundant output. Among the historians the greatest is Spiridon Trikoupis, whose History of the Revolution is a monumental work. It is distinguished by beauty of style, clearness of exposition and an Prose writers
of the revival.impartiality which is all the more remarkable as the author played a leading part in the events which he narrates. Almost all the chiefs of the revolutionary movement left their memoirs; even Kolokotrones, who was illiterate, dictated his recollections. John Philemon, of Constantinople, wrote a history of the revolution in six volumes. He was an ardent partisan of Russia, and as such was opposed to Trikoupis, who was attached to the English party. K. Paparrhegopoulos’s History of the Greek Nation is especially valuable in regard to the later periods; in regard to the earlier he largely follows Gibbon and Grote. With him may be mentioned Moustoxides of Corfu, who wrote on Greek history and literature; Sakellarios, who dealt with the topography and history of Cyprus; N. Dragoumes, whose historical memoirs treat of the period which followed the revolution; K. Assopios, who wrote on Greek literature and history. In theology Oeconomos fills the place occupied by Miniates in the 17th century as a great preacher. Kontogones is well known by his History of Patristic Literature of the First Three Centuries and his Ecclesiastical History, and Philotheos Bryennios, bishop of Serres, by his elaborate edition of Clemens Romanus. Kastorches wrote well on Latin literature. Great literary activity in the domains of law, political economy, mathematics, the physical sciences and archaeology displayed itself in the generation after the establishment of the Greek kingdom.
But the writer who at the time of the national revival not only exercised the greatest influence over his contemporaries but even to a large extent shaped the future course of Greek literature was Adamantios Coraës (Korais) of Chios. This remarkable man, who devoted his life to Coraës.philological studies, was at the same time an ardent patriot, and in the prolegomena to his numerous editions of the classical writers, written in Greek or French, he strove to awake the interest of his countrymen in the past glories of their race or administered to them sage counsels, at the same time addressing ardent appeals to civilized Europe on their behalf. The great importance of Coraës, however, lies in the fact that he was practically the founder of the modern literary language.
In contemporary Greek literature two distinct forms of the modern language present themselves—the vernacular (ἡ καθομιλουμένη) and the purified (ἡ καθαρεύουσα). The former is the oral language, spoken by the whole Greek world, with local dialectic variations; the The modern literary language.latter is based on the Greek of the Hellenistic writers, modified, but not essentially altered, in successive ages by the popular speech. At the time of the War of Independence the enthusiasm of the Greeks and the Philhellenes was fired by the memory of an illustrious past, and at its close a classical reaction followed: the ancient nomenclature was introduced in every department of the new state, towns and districts received their former names, and children were christened after Greek heroes and philosophers instead of the Christian saints. In the literary revival which attended the national movement, two schools of writers made their appearance—the purists, who, rejecting the spoken idiom as degenerate and corrupt, aimed at the restoration of the classical language, and the vulgarists, who regarded the vernacular or “Romaic” as the genuine and legitimate representative of the ancient tongue. A controversy which had existed in former times was thus revived, with the result that a state of confusion still prevails in the national literature. The classical scholar who is as yet unacquainted with modern Greek will find, in the pages of an ordinary periodical or newspaper, specimens of the conventional literary language, which he can read with ease side by side with poems or even prose in the vernacular which he will be altogether unable to interpret.
The vernacular or oral language is never taught, but is universally spoken. It has been evolved from the ancient language by a natural and regular process, similar to that which has produced the Romance languages from the Latin, or the Russian, Bulgarian and Servian from the Reforms of Coraës.old Slavonic. It has developed on parallel lines with the modern European languages, and in obedience to the same laws; like them, it might have grown into a literary language had any great writers arisen in the middle ages to do for it what Dante and his successors of the trecento did for Italian. But the effort to adapt it to the requirements of modern literature could hardly prove successful. In the first place, the national sentiment of the Greeks prompts them to imitate the classical writers, and so far as possible to appropriate their diction. The beauty and dignity of the ancient tongue possesses such an attraction for cultivated writers that they are led insensibly to adopt its forms and borrow from its wealth of phrase and idiom. In the next place, a certain literary tradition and usage has already been formed which cannot easily be broken down. For more than half a century the generally accepted written language, half modern half ancient, has been in use in the schools, the university, the parliament, the state departments and the pulpit, and its influence upon the speech of the more educated classes is already noticeable. It largely owes its present form—though a fixed standard is still lacking—to the influence and teaching of Coraës. As in the time of the decadence a κοινὴ διάλεκτος stood midway between the classical language and the popular speech, so at the beginning of the 19th century there existed a common literary dialect, largely influenced by the vernacular, but retaining the characteristics of the old Hellenistic, from which it was derived by an unbroken literary tradition. This written language Coraës took as the basis of his reforms, purging it of foreign elements, preserving its classical remnants and enlarging its vocabulary with words borrowed from the ancient lexicon or, in case of need, invented in accordance with a fixed principle. He thus adopted a middle course, discountenancing alike the pedantry of the purists and the over-confident optimism of the vulgarists, who found in the uncouth popular speech all the material for a langue savante. The language which he thus endeavoured to shape and reconstruct is, of course, conventional and artificial. In course of time it will probably tend to approach the vernacular, while the latter will gradually be modified by the spread of education. The spoken and written languages, however, will always be separated by a wide interval.
Many of the best poets of modern Greece have written in the vernacular, which is best adapted for the natural and spontaneous expression of the feelings. Dionysios Solomos (1798–1857), the greatest of them all, employed the dialect of the Ionian Islands. Of his lyrics, which are full of Poetical writers
in the vernacular.poetic fire and inspiration, the most celebrated is his “Ode to Liberty.” Other poets, of what may be described as the Ionic school, such as Andreas Kalvos (1796–1869), Julius Typaldos (1814–1883), John Zampelios (1787–1856), and Gerasimos Markoras (b. 1826), followed his example in using the Heptanesian dialect. On the other hand, Georgios Terzetes (1806–1874), Aristotle Valaorites (1824–1879) and Gerasimos Mavrogiannes, though natives of the Ionian Islands, adopted in their lyrics the language of the Klephtic ballads—in other words, the vernacular of the Pindus range and the mountainous district of Epirus. This dialect had at least the advantage of being generally current throughout the mainland, while it derived distinction from the heroic exploits of the champions of Greek liberty. The poems of Valaorites, which are characterized by vivid imagination and grace of style, have made a deep impression on the nation. Other poets who largely employed the Epirotic dialect and drew their inspiration from the Klephtic songs were John Vilaras (1771–1823), George Zalokostas (1805–1857) in his lyric pieces, and Theodore Aphentoules, a Cretan (d. 1893). With the poems of this group may be classed those of Demetrius Bikelas (b. 1835). The popular language has been generally adopted by the younger generation of poets, among whom may be mentioned Aristomenes Probelegios (b. 1850), George Bizyenos (1853–1896), George Drosines, Kostes Palamas (b. 1859), John Polémes, Argyres Ephthaliotes, and Jacob Polylas (d. 1896).
Contemporary with the first-mentioned or Ionic group, there existed at Constantinople a school of poets who wrote in the accepted literary language, and whose writings serve as models for the later group which gathered at Athens after the emancipation of Greece. The literary Poetical writers in the conventional language.traditions founded by Alexander Rizos Rhangabēs (1810–1892) and the brothers Alexander and Panagiotis Soutzos (1803–1863 and 1800–1868), who belonged to Phanariot families, were maintained in Athens by Spiridion Basiliades (1843–1874) Angelos Vlachos (b. 1838), John Karasoutzas (1824–1873), Demetrios Paparrhegopoulos (1843–1873), and Achilles Paraschos (b. 1838). The last, a poet of fine feeling, has also employed the popular language. In general the practice of versification in the conventional literary language has declined, though sedulously encouraged by the university of Athens, and fostered by annual poetic competitions with prizes provided by patriotic citizens. Greek lyric poetry during the first half of the century was mainly inspired by the patriotic sentiment aroused by the struggle for independence, but in the present generation it often shows a tendency towards the philosophic and contemplative mood under the influence of Western models.
There has been an abundant production of dramatic literature in recent years. In succession to Alexander Rhangabēs, John Zampelios and the two Soutzos, who belong to the past generation, Kleon Rhangabēs, Angelos Vlachos, Demetrios Koromelas, Basiliades and Bernadakes Dramatists, translators
and satirists.are the most prominent among modern dramatic writers. Numerous translations of foreign masterpieces have appeared, among which the metrical versions of Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice, by Demetrios Bikelas, deserve mention as examples of artistic excellence. Goethe’s Faust has been rendered into verse by Probelegios, and Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus and Julius Caesar, into prose by Damiroles. Among recent satirists, George Soures (b. 1853) occupies a unique position. He reviews social and political events in the Ῥωμῇος, a witty little newspaper written entirely in verse, which is read with delight by all classes of the population.
Almost all the prose writers have employed the literary language. In historical research the Greeks continue to display much activity and erudition, but no great work comparable to Spiridion Trikoupis’s History of the RevolutionRecent prose writers. has appeared in the present generation. A history of the Greek nation from the earliest times to the present day, by Spiridion Lampros, and a general history of the 19th century by Karolides, have recently been published. The valuable Μνημεῖα of Sathas, the μελέται Βυζαντινῆς ἱστορίας of Spiridion Zampelios and Mavrogiannes’s History of the Ionian Islands deserve special mention, as well as the essays of Bikelas, which treat of the Byzantine and modern epochs of Greek history. Some of the last-named were translated into English by the late marquis of Bute. Among the writers on jurisprudence are Peter Paparrhegopoulos, Kalligas, Basileios Oekonomedes and Nikolaos Saripolos. Brailas-Armenes and John Skaltzounes, the latter an opponent of Darwin, have written philosophical works. The Ecclesiastical History of Diomedes Kyriakos and the Theological Treatises of Archbishop Latas should be noted. The best-known writers of philological works are Constantine Kontos, a strong advocate of literary purism, George Hatzidakes, Theodore Papademetrakopoulos and John Psichari; in archaeology, Stephen Koumanoudes, Panagiotes Kavvadias and Christos Tsountas have won a recognized position among scholars. John Svoronos is a high authority on numismatics. The works of John Hatzidakes on mathematics, Anast. Christomanos on chemistry, and Demetrios Aeginetes on astronomy are well known.
The earlier works of fiction, written in the period succeeding the emancipation of Greece, were much affected by foreign influence. Modern Greece has not produced any great novelist. The Κρητικοὶ γάμοι of Spiridion Zampelios, the scene of which is laid in Crete, and the Thanos Blechas Fiction.of Kalligas are interesting, the former for accuracy of historical detail, the latter as a picture of peasant life in the mountains of Greece. Original novel writing has not been much cultivated, but translations of foreign romances abound. In later times the short story has come into vogue through the example of D. Bikelas, whose tales have acquired great popularity; one of them, Loukis Laras, has been translated into many languages. The example of Bikelas has been followed by Drosines Karkavitzas, Ephthaliotis, Xenopoulos and many others.
The most distinguished of the writers who adhere to the vernacular in prose is John Psichari, professor of the École des Hautes Études in Paris. He is the recognized leader of the vulgarists. Among the best known of his works are Τὸ ταξεῖδι μου, a narrative of a journey in Greek lands, Prose writers in
the vernacular.Τὄνειρο τοῦ Γιαννίρη, Ἡ Ζούλεα, and ὁ Μάγος. The tales of Karkavitzas and Ephthaliotis are also in the vernacular. Among the younger of M. Psichari’s followers is M. Palli, who has recently published a translation of the Iliad. Owing to the limited resources of the popular language, the writers of this school are sometimes compelled to employ strange and little-known words borrowed from the various dialects. The vernacular has never been adopted by writers on scientific subjects, owing to its inherent unsuitability and the incongruity arising from the introduction of technical terms derived from the ancient language. Notwithstanding the zeal of its adherents, it seems unlikely to maintain its place in literature outside the domain of poetry; nor can any other result be expected, unless its advocates succeed in reforming the system of public instruction in Greece.
Many periodicals are published at Athens, among which may be mentioned the Athena, edited by Constantine Kontos, the Ethniké Agoge, a continuation of the old Hestia, the Harmonia and the Διάπλασις τῶν παίδων, an educational Periodicals
and Journals.review. The Parnassos, the Archaeological Society and other learned bodies issue annual or quarterly reports. The Greek journals are both numerous and widely read. They contain much clever writing, which is often marred by inaccuracy and a deficient sense of responsibility. Their tendency to exaggerated patriotic sentiment sometimes borders on the ludicrous. For many years the Nea Heméra of Trieste exerted a considerable influence over the Greek world, owing to the able political reviews of its editor, Anastasios Byzantios (d. 1898), a publicist of remarkable insight and judgment.
Authorities.—Constantine Sathas, Νεοελληνικὴ φιλολογία (Athens, 1868); D. Bikelas, Περὶ νεοελληνικῆς φιλολογίας δοκίμιον (London, 1871), reprinted in Διαλέξεις καὶ ἀναμνήσεις (Athens, 1893); J. S. Blackie, Horae Hellenicae (London, 1874); R. Nicolai, Geschichte der neugriechischen Literatur (Leipzig, 1876); A. R. Rhangabé, Histoire littéraire de la Grèce moderne (Paris, 1877); C. Gidel, Études sur la littérature grecque moderne (Paris, 1878); E. Legrand, Bibliothèque grecque vulgaire (vol. i., Paris, 1880); J. Lamber, Poètes grecs contemporains (Paris, 1881); Kontos, Γλωσσικαὶ παρατηρήσεις (Athens, 1882); Rhangabé and Sanders, Geschichte der neugriechischen Literatur von ihren Anfängen bis auf die neueste Zeit (Leipzig, 1885); J. Psichari, Essais de grammaire historique néo-grecque (2 vols., Paris, 1886 and 1889); Études de philologie néo-grecque (Paris, 1892); F. Blass, Die Aussprache des Griechischen (3rd ed., Berlin, 1888); Papademetrakopoulos, Βάσανος ἑλληνικῆς προφορᾶς (Athens, 1889); M. Konstantinides, Neo-hellenica (Dialogues in Modern Greek, with Appendix on the Cypriot Dialect) (London, 1892); Rhoïdes, Τὰ Εἴδωλα. Γλωσσικὴ μελέτη (Athens, 1893); Polites, Μελεταὶ περὶ τοῦ βίου καὶ τῆς γλώσσης Ἑλληνικοῦ λάου (2 vols., Athens, 1899).
For the Klephtic ballads and folk-songs: C. Fauriel, Chants populaires de la Grèce moderne (Paris, 1824, 1826); Passow, Popularia carmina Graeciae recentioris (Leipzig, 1860); von Hahn, Griechische und albanesische Märchen (Leipzig, 1864); Τεφαρίκης, Λιανοτράγουδα (2nd ed., Athens, 1868); E. Legrand, Recueil de chansons populaires grecques (Paris, 1874); Recueil de contes populaires grecs (Paris, 1881); Paul de Lagarde, Neugriechisches aus Kleinasien (Göttingen, 1886); A. Jannaris, Ἄσματα Κρητικά (Kreta’s Volkslieder) (Leipzig, 1876); A. Sakellariou, Τὰ Κυπριακά (Athens, 1891); Ζωγραφεῖος Ἁγών, published by the Ἑλληνικὸς φιλολογικὸς σύλλογος (Constantinople, 1891). Translations: L. Garnett, Greek Folksongs from the Turkish Provinces of Greece (London, 1885); E. M. Geldart, Folklore of Modern Greece (London, 1884). Lexicons: A. N. Jannaris, A Concise Dictionary of the English and Modern Greek Languages (English-Greek) (London, 1895); Byzantios (Skarlatos D.), Λεξικὸν τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς γλώσσης (Athens, 1895); A. Sakellario, Λεξικὸν τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς γλώσσης (5th ed., Athens, 1898); S. Koumanoudes, Συναγωγὴ νέων λέξεων (Athens, 1900). Grammars: Mitsotakes, Praktische Grammatik der neugriechischen Schrift- und Umgangssprache (Stuttgart, 1891); M. Gardner, A Practical Modern Greek Grammar (London, 1892); G. N. Hatzidakes, Einleitung in die neugriechische Grammatik (Leipzig, 1892); E. Vincent and T. G. Dickson, Handbook to Modern Greek (London, 1893); A. Thumb, Handbuch der neugriechischen Volkssprache (Strassburg, 1895); C. Wied, Die Kunst der neugriechischen Volkssprache durch Selbstunterricht schnell und leicht zu lernen (2nd ed., undated, Vienna); A. N. Jannaris, Historical Greek Grammar (London, 1897). (J. D. B.)
- For authorities and criticisms see T. W. Allen in Classical Quarterly (Jan. and April 1908).
- Others attribute it, as well as the Margites, to Pigres of Halicarnassus, the supposed brother of the Carian queen Artemisia, who fought on the side of Xerxes at the battle of Salamis.
- The extant fragments of Solon have been augmented by lengthy quotations in the Constitution of Athens.
- Since the above was written, four considerable fragments generally assigned to Sappho have been discovered: a prayer to the Nereids for the safe return of her brother Charaxus; the leave-taking of a favourite pupil; a greeting to Atthis, one of her friends, in Lydia; the fourth, much mutilated, addressed to another pupil, Gongyla. They are of great beauty and throw considerable light on the personality of Sappho and the language and metre of her poems.
- Recently increased by specimens of the Partheneia (choral songs for maidens) and paeans.
- His Constitution of Athens (q.v.), of which a papyrus MS. was found in Egypt and published in 1891, forms part of a larger work on the constitution of 158 Greek and foreign cities.
- See Ad. Bauer and J. Strzygowski, “Eine alexandrinische Weltchronik” (1905) (Denkschrift der kaiserlich. Akademie der Wissenschaften, li.).
- The patriarch Cyrillos Lucares (1572–1638), who had studied for a time in England and whose sympathies with Protestantism made him many enemies, established a Greek printing-press at Constantinople, from which he had the temerity to issue a work condemning the faith of Mahomet; he was denounced to the Turks by the Jesuits, and his printing-press was suppressed.