Greece Ancient Literature – Alexandrian and Roman Periods
Alexandrian period (323-31 BC)
In the Alexandrian age, the spread of Greek culture among non-Greek peoples forced the language to normalize (the koinè Alexandrian), while the literary study is now understood as the conquest of a past world. Thus philology arose, which had its main center in Alexandria in Egypt (at the famous Library) and in other Hellenistic cities (Pergamum, Rhodes); with maturity of method it provides editions of ancient works, grammatical and scholarly comments; he is largely responsible for the conservation of those works in later ages. This retreat on the past, and at the same time the decline of religious values already connected with myth, also act on poetry which is aimed at formal preciousness, conceptual wit, inspired by everyday life, by the picture of genre: it is age of the new comedy we have already talked about, of the epyll, of the mime.
The poetic production, especially at the beginning of this age, is still flourishing. The elegy is treated with new spirits: Filita di Coo, Ermesianatte di Colofone, Alessandro Etolo, Fanocles and above all Callimaco (310-240), the most characteristic figure of this period. The epigram is widely cultivated as a lyrical expression, now detached from any external occasion: Nosside, Asclepiade di Samo, Posidippo, Niceneto and others whose work is known to us through the vast collection of the Anthology. Apollonius Rhodium (About 300-230) is the only one to attempt the wide-ranging poem (the Argonautics, in four books). Theocritus of Syracuse (310-250) is the author of epic-mythological poems, of urban and pastoral mimes (the bucolic poetry, of which he considers himself the inventor). The best poetic flowering dates back to the 3rd century, in the following centuries the poetry decays considerably. There are still numerous writers of epigrams, including Meleager of Gadara (2nd -1st century BC), a very original figure of a love poet.
Scientific progress flourished throughout the period: mathematics (Euclid, Archimedes); astronomy (Aristarchus of Samos, Hipparchus of Nicea); natural sciences and medicine (Erofilo di Chalcedon and Erasistrato di Ceo).
In the rhetoric it is possible to distinguish two opposing currents: the Asian style (Egesia, 3rd century BC) and the Rhodian style (Posidonius, Molon of Rhodes, 1st century BC) on the one hand, and the Atticist school on the other, current of purism that preaches a return to Attic models.
The only great historian is in the 2nd century. BC Polybius of Megalopolis whose universal history turns to investigate the reasons for the enlargement of Rome and its substitution of Greece in the guide of civilization.
Roman period (31 BC – 529 AD)
Under the rule of Rome, Greek literature declined in the scarcely original imitation of the past; in fact the puristic current of atticism prevails with Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Cecilio of Calatte. Only towards the middle of the 1st century. the living voice of the anonymous author of the Sublime rises, who in the study of past literature exalts the values of originality.
Alongside rhetoric, historical-philosophical and antiquarian scholarship flourished with Strabo (63 BC – 19 AD), Diodorus Siculus (70-20 BC), Dionysus of Halicarnassus (60 – m. After 7 BC).
More lively and more concrete interests are found in the Judeo-Hellenizing culture which, which began in the Alexandrian age with the first Greek translation of the Old Testament and with apologetic works, established itself in Rome with the philosopher Philo of Alexandria and with the historian Flavius Joseph. A rebirth of Hellenism occurs between the 1st and 2nd century. AD with Plutarch of Cheronea (46-120 AD), whose parallel Lives, celebrating Hellenism and Roman times as expressions of virtue, have within themselves a humanistic content that explains the enormous influence they exerted on all European literatures. And the Stoic doctrine contributed to the elevation of Hellenism, with the work of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.
Under Hadrian, the ‘second sophistry’ had a more external character, which moved from Atticism and proposed a wider diffusion of culture. Luciano di Samosata (120-185) belongs to this current, while distinguishing himself from it for the originality of his dissolving spirit . In the 2nd and 3rd century, always under the influence of the second sophistry, the novel developed widely, in which Longo Sofista stands out with Daphni and Chloe.
The most vivid voices of this period are in Christianity: the writings of the New Testament in the 1st century; in the 2nd and 3rd century. the Apostolic Fathers and apologists (Aristide, Justin, Athenagoras, Tatian, Irenaeus etc.); then the great doctors and theologians led by Clement of Alexandria (150-215) and Origen (185-254), who attempt to reconcile the Christian faith with Hellenic knowledge; Eusebius (265-340), Athanasius (295-373), and again in the 4th century. Basilio, Gregorio di Nissa, Gregorio di Nazianzo, Giovanni Crisostomo, the greatest Christian orator and, finally, Synesius, also author of hymns. Overall, with the exception of the writers and thinkers of the first century (above all St. Paul), Christian literature in the Greek language does not break free from the classical tradition with that independence which is typical of literature in the Latin language. A last attempt at pagan revenge against Christianity is Neo-Platonism, represented by the founder Ammonius Sacca and then by Plotinus of Licopoli (204-270), Porphyry (232-304), Iamblichus etc.; a last flowering of rhetoricians is connected to the Neoplatonic school: Imerius, Themistus, Libanius of Antioch (324-393), teacher of the emperor Julian the Apostate (321-363), who tried to translate the restoration into action by force pagan. Paganism, however, ended with the last leader of Neoplatonism, Proclus of Athens (410-485); in 529 the emperor Justinian prohibited teaching to pagan professors and confiscated the assets of the school of Athens, ordering its closure.