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Greek Literature
Greek Literature- literature of the Greek-speaking peoples from about the 8th century to 1st century

to the present.

This literature developed as a national expression with little outside influence until the Hellenistic Age (4th and it had a formative effect upon all succeeding European literature.


Writings produced during the early period of Greek literature were almost exclusively in verse.

Versification- art of making verses, or the theory of the phonetic structure of verse. - This theory considers the phonetic characteristics of verse both as absolute elements and as relative to the other, nonphonetic elements of verse. - Theoretically, any phonetic characteristics of a language, such as the number of syllables in an utterance, the degrees of energy or lengths of time taken to utter them, or even their pitch, may be organized into an orderly and symmetrical pattern. The study of versification in the poetry of different languages and periods must take account of these possibilities. Epic Poetry
The early inhabitants of Greece, the people of the Aegean and Mycenaean civilizations, possessed an oral literature largely composed of: 1. songs concerning wars, 2. harvests, 3. funerary rites The Greek epic reached its height in the Iliad and the Odyssey, composed by the poet Homer probably sometime in the 8th century dialect. The Homeric epics were disseminated by the recitations of professional poets who, in succeeding generations, made alterations in the originals, substituting contemporary phrases for recently obsolete ones. Mythical and heroic events that are not celebrated in the Homeric works or that are mentioned without being fully narrated became the subject matter of a number of subsequent epics, some fragments of which are extant. A group of these epics, composed from the 8th century to the 6th century Among the known epic poets, most of them of a later period, are: 1. Peisander of Rhodes, author of the Heracleia, concerning the deeds of the mythological hero Heracles 2. Panyassis of Halicarnassus, author of a work also called the Heracleia, of which only fragments survive 3. Eugammon of Cyrene, author of the Telegonia.

They were written in the dialect of the Greek language later called Ionic, with an admixture of the Aeolic

by a number of unknown

poets called the cyclic poets, concerns the Trojan War and the war of the Seven against Thebes.

Batrachomyomachia (Battle of the Frogs and Mice)- a parody of an epic poem

Hesiod (poet) Works and Days composed like the Homeric epics in the Ionic dialect with some admixture of Aeolic, is the first Greek poem to abandon legendary subject matter in favor of a theme drawn from everyday life: the experiences and thoughts of a Boeotian farmer. The Theogony, usually attributed to Hesiod, although some critics consider it of later authorship, is an account of the establishment of order from chaos and the birth of the gods. ELEGIAC The elegiac couplet, or elegiac distich, became popular throughout Greece during the 7th century and was used for compositions of all kinds, ranging from dirges to love songs.

The first known writer of elegiacs was, perhaps, Callinus of Ephesus, who wrote in the early 7th century

Other celebrated elegiac poets of the 7th century were: 1. Tyrtaeus of Sparta 2. Mimnermus of Colophon 3. Archilochus of Paros 4. the first Athenian poet, Solon 5. The elegiac poet Theognis of Megara lived in the 6th century.

Archilochus is said to have invented iambic verse and he used it extensively in biting satires. Solon and many other poets used this meter also for reflective poems. Because it represents the rhythms of ancient Greek speech more faithfully than does any other meter, iambic verse came to be used also for the dialogue in tragedies, in the form of the iambic trimeter. The fables of Aesop were written originally in iambic trimeter, although the surviving texts are all of a much later date.

Lyric Poetry
The lyric was originally a song to be sung to the accompaniment of the lyre. Two main types of lyrics were composed in ancient Greece: the personal and the choral lyric.

PERSONAL LYRIC The personal lyric was developed on the island of Lesbos (now Lsvos). The poet and musician Terpander, who was born on Lesbos but lived much of his life in Sparta, introduced the seven-string lyre and set the poems of Homer to music. Most of his poems were nomes, or liturgical hymns, written in honor of a god, especially of Apollo, and sung by a single performer to the accompaniment of the lyre. The surviving fragments of his work are of doubtful authenticity. TERPANDER Terpander was followed later in the 7th century

by the great poets of Lesbos.

ALCAIC STROPHE Alcaeus treated political, religious, and personal themes in his lyrics and invented the Alcaic strophe. SAPPHIC STROPHE- Sappho, the greatest woman poet of ancient Greece, invented the Sapphic strophe and wrote also in other lyric forms. Her poems of love and friendship are among the most finely wrought and passionate in the Western tradition. The Lesbian poets, as well as a number of later lyric poets from other Greek cities, composed their poems in the Aeolic dialect. ANACREONTIC In the 6th century BC

the playful lyrics of the poet Anacreon on wine and love were written in

various lyric meters. Subsequent verse similar in tone and theme was known as anacreontic. Anacreon also wrote elegiac distichs, epigrams, and poems in iambic meters.

CHORAL LYRIC The choral lyric was first developed in the 7th century dialect. -

by poets who wrote in the Dorian

Dominant in the region around Sparta, the Dorian dialect was used even in later times, when poets in many other parts of Greece were writing choral lyrics. T he Spartan poets first wrote choral lyrics for songs and dances in public religious celebrations. Later they wrote choral lyrics also to celebrate private occasions, such as a victory at the ancient Olympic Games.

CHORAL LYRIC POETS 1. Thaletas - The earliest choral lyric poet is said to have been Thaletas, who in the 7th century Apollo. 2. Terpander, who wrote both personal and choral lyrics 3. Alcman- most of whose poems were partheneia, processional choral hymns sung by a chorus of young girls and partly religious in character and lighter in tone than the paean 4. Arion- is said to have invented both the dithyramb, or hymn to Dionysus, and the tragic mode, which was used extensively in Greek drama. 5. Stesichorus- a contemporary of Alcaeus, who introduced the triadic form of choral ode, consisting of a series of groups of three stanzas 6. Ibycus of Rhegium- author of a large extant fragment of a triadic choral ode and of erotic personal lyrics 7. Simonides of Ceos- whose choral lyrics included epinicia, or choral odes in honor of victors at the Olympian Games, encomia, or choral hymns that celebrated particular persons, and dirges, as well as personal lyrics, including epigrams 8. Bacchylides of Ceos - a nephew of Simonides, who wrote both epinicia, of which 13 are extant, and dithyrambs, of which five are extant. 9. Pindar- who wrote many choral lyrics of every type, including paeans, dithyrambs, and epinicia. About one-quarter of his works are extant, chiefly epinicia having the triadic structure invented by Stesichorus.


came from Crete (Krti) to Sparta in order to quell an epidemic with paeans, or choral hymns addressed to

Other Forms
In the 6th and 5th centuries

such Greek philosophers as Empedocles, Xenophanes, and Parmenides


developed a genre of philosophical poem using the epic verse and diction of Homer and Hesiod. Toward the end of the 5th century some of the earliest Greek prose works now surviving were produced, the most notable being those on medicine attributed to the physician Hippocrates.


The drama had been developing meanwhile in Athens during the 6th century Later, an actor who engaged in dialogue with the chorus was added.

In its earliest form, the drama consisted of a chorus of men who sang and danced choral odes.

Tragic drama as we know it today is said to have been originated in the 6th century of the chorus. Athenian poet Aeschylus included the role of a second actor. His tragedies, numbering about 80, treat such lofty themes as the nature of divinity and the relations of human beings to the gods. Only seven of his tragedies are extant, including: 1.

by Attic poet

Thespis, who is credited with introducing spoken passages for an actor to complement the lyric utterances

Prometheus Bound, the story of the punishment of Prometheus, one of the Titans, by the god Zeus;
their son, Orestes, and Orestes subsequent fate.

2. Oresteia, a trilogy portraying the murder of the Greek hero Agamemnon by his wife, her murder by

SOPHOCLES The second great Greek tragedian was Sophocles. The meticulous construction of his plots and the manner in which his themes and characters aroused both pity and fear led Aristotle as well as other Greek critics to consider him the greatest writer of tragedy. These qualities are especially conspicuous in Oedipus Rex.

Of the more than 120 plays that Sophocles wrote, only seven tragedies, a satyr play (a type of comedy), and more than 1000 fragments are extant. His special contribution to tragedy was the introduction of a third actor on the stage, an innovation that was adopted by his older contemporary Aeschylus. EURIPIDES - Euripides, a younger contemporary of Sophocles, was the third great Greek playwright. He wrote about 92 plays, of which 18 tragedies (one of doubtful authorship) and one complete satyr play,

The Cyclops, are extant.

His works are considered more realistic than those of his predecessors, especially in the psychological insight of his characterizations. Because of this, some critics consider him the most modern of the Greek tragedy writers. His major works include: 1.

Medea, about the revenge taken by the enchantress Medea on her husband, Jason;

2. Hippolytus, about Phaedras love for her stepson, Hippolytus, and his fate after rejecting her.

ARISTOPAHNES - One of the greatest comic poets was Aristophanes, whose first comedy, Daitaleis, now lost, was produced in 427 BC.

Using dramatic satire, he ridiculed Euripides in The Frogs and Socrates in The Clouds. These works represent the genre known as Old Comedy.

Middle Comedy (400-336 -

In Middle Comedy, exemplified by two later works of AristophanesEcclesiazusae and Plutus, both written between 392 and 388

and political satire is replaced by parody, ridicule of myths, and literary

and philosophical criticism. The chief writers of Middle Comedy were: 1. Antiphanes of Athens

2. Alexis of Thurii, who were active in the 4th and early 3rd centuries New Comedy (336-250 BC)

In New Comedy, satire is almost entirely replaced by social comedy involving family types, plot and character development, and the themes of romantic love.

MENANDER The chief writer of New Comedy His comedies had a strong influence upon the Latin dramatists of the 3rd and 2nd centuries Plautus and Terence. One complete play by Menander, The Curmudgeon, is extant, and extensive portions of other plays survive as well.


HERODOTUS - The earliest Greek historian, writing in the Ionic dialect, gave an account of the Persian Wars (490479 BC).

His History is valued for the wealth of information it presents about ancient Greece as well as for its charming style.

THUCYDIDES - was the first great Attic prose writer, and in his History of the Peloponnesian War he emerges as the first critical historian. XENOPHON - In the early 4th century soldier-historian Xenophon wrote: 1.

Anabasis, an account of Greek mercenaries who were marooned in Persia after the defeat and death of
Cyrus the Younger

2. Memorabilia, a refutation of the charges brought against Socrates, together with personal reminiscences, in the form of conversations, of his character and philosophy; 3. Hellenica, in which Xenophon continued Greek history from the point at which Thucydides left off. TIMAEUS- wrote a history of Sicily and reportedly devised the method of reckoning time by the Olympiads.

Attic prose reached its most mature expression in the works of the Athenian orators.

ANTIPHON - Of these, the earliest whose works have survived was Antiphon, a teacher of rhetoric in the 5th century

LYSIAS - The orator Lysias used a simple, forthright style devoid of extravagant rhetorical devices. It is said that he wrote a speech for Socrates to use at his trial in 399

The speeches of

ISOCRATES - are literary works intended to be read rather than spoken. DEMOSTHENES - The full perfection of Greek oratory was achieved in his works Utilizing all the resources of the language, he composed speeches that became models for subsequent orators, including Cicero.

The two major Greek philosophical writers in the Attic period were Plato and Aristotle.

PLATO - developed certain aspects of the philosophy of Socrates and expressed, in the form of written dialogues, the type of philosophy later called idealism. Platos dialogues are not only great philosophical works but also literary masterpieces, having many qualities common to poetry and drama. His prose style is one of the clearest and most beautiful in Greek literature.

ARISTOTLE - a pupil of Plato, wrote a large number of works on logic, metaphysics, ethics, rhetoric, and politics. Some classical scholars believe that the extant texts are actually notes taken by students from Aristotles lectures delivered at the Lyceum, his school in Athens. Of Aristotles literary criticism, only the sections on tragedy, epic poetry, and rhetoric exist.


Following the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century vast empire. Because Greek culture was so widespread in the Mediterranean world during this period, it is commonly known as the Hellenistic Age (from Hellas, Greece).

Greek culture spread throughout his

The most outstanding of the many literary schools that came into being and the greatest library of antiquity were located in the city of Alexandria, Egypt

CALLIMACHUS - the master of a school in Alexandria and member of the staff of the Alexandrian library. Callimachus is credited with writing more than 800 volumes, including a catalog of the contents of the entire Alexandrian library and specialized monographs on such topics as foreign customs, the names of the months, and local nomenclature. Of his many works, only six hymns, 64 epigrams, and a few elegies and other poems are extant. He and his followers improved the use of meter and invented the epyllion, a type of miniature epic. They also developed the purely literary didactic poem and pastoral poetry, and they perfected the epigram, which was later adopted by their Roman disciples. THEOCRITUS - Third-century Sicilian poet Theocritus, who did most of his work in Alexandria and is considered by many critics to be the greatest of the Alexandrian poets, wrote the Idylls, a series of pastoral poems. 2nd-century successors: 1. Bion of Smyrna, among whose 18 extant poems is the famous Lament for Adonis 2. Sicilian poet Moschus, who wrote an epic poem, Europa, and pastoral verse.

Possibly the most influential work of the Hellenistic Age was done by scientific and scholarly writers, particularly: 1. the physician Herophilus 2. the anatomist Erasistratus 3. the astronomers Hipparchus and Aristarchus of Smos (the first to maintain that the earth revolves around the sun); 4. the mathematician, astronomer, and geographer Eratosthenes, who measured the circumference of the earth.


POLYBIUS - After the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 conquest STRABO - a century later the geographer Strabo compiled his Geographica, a systematic study of places, animals, and objects of interest. PLUTARCH - In the late 1st and early 2nd centuries

the Greek historian Polybius wrote an account of that

Plutarch produced his famous Parallel Lives, in which

biographies of celebrated Greeks are paired with those of notable Romans. GALEN - Later in the 2nd century

Galen, the greatest of the ancient anatomists,

PTOLEMY - the Alexandrian astronomer, wrote works that determined the course of Western medical practice for 1400 years. KOINE - The early Christian writers who transcribed and compiled the New Testament made use of a variety of the

Koine (Greek for common), the court and literary language of Hellenistic Greece.

The Koine dialect is distinct from the one used by the classical Greek writers and their imitators, the socalled Atticists, the best of whom was the satirist Lucian, author of Dialogues of the Dead, Dialogues of the

Gods, and True History, the latter a comic narrative work.

NINOS ROMANCE - According to modern scholars, the prototype of the novel probably was developed in Greece sometime before the 2nd century AD.

The most important extant fragments of an early Greek novel, those of the so-called Ninos Romance, dealing with the love of Ninos, legendary founder of Nineveh, are thought to be of the 1st century Five extant complete Greek novels were written after

100 and before



1. Chaereas and Callirhoe, by Chariton, considered the earliest of the five works 2. Aethiopica, or Theagenes and Charicleia, by the skillful writer Heliodorus of Emesa 3. Daphnis and Chloe, by Longus, the most famous and probably the best of these novelists 4. Ephesiaca, or Anthia and Habrocomes, by Xenophon, possibly of Ephesus, the least skillful of the novelists 5. Leucippe and Clitophon, by Achilles Tatius, thought to be the latest of the five extant novels. All of the works are romantic stories of love and adventure in which virtuous lovers or spouses are separated and made to endure many perils, but are reunited in the end. STOICISM - Stoic philosophy was represented in the writings of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. NEOPLATONISM - The Neoplatonists found their chief exponent in Plotinus. GREEK MYTHOLOGY - Some of the finest verse of the period consists of anonymous epigrams in the Greek

Anthology, a collection of Greek poetry and prose covering almost 2000 years.
It is composed of two books conjoined in the 10th and 14th centuries

known, respectively, as the

Palatine Anthology and the Planudean Anthology.


From the beginning of the reign of Constantine the Great in influenced by both Latin and Eastern elements. The greater part of the writings of this period are theological and attack the various heresies that arose during the first millennium of the Christian era. SAINT ATHANASIUS - in the 4th century assailed Arianism in the 6th century Anastasius of Antioch and Leontius of Byzantine attacked Monophysitism.

324, until the fall of the Byzantine Empire

in 1453, Greek literature lacked the homogeneous character of the earlier periods and was strongly

CAPPADOCIAN FATHERS - Saint Basil of Caesarea, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus were of importance both as writers and as influences on subsequent theology.

SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS - In the 8th century the last of the great Greek theologians, wrote polemics against the Iconoclasts, as well as one of the earliest books on Christian dogma, The Foundation of Knowledge. SYMEON METAPHRASTES - In the 10th century, compiled the Acts of the Martyrs, which revised and compared older accounts of saints lives. ROMANUS MELODUS - Numerous hymns were composed by him in the 6th century, and by the early Fathers of the Church, particularly by Saint Gregory of Nazianzus and by Cosmas of Jerusalem in the 8th century.

Because of ecclesiastical influence, the writing of secular verse declined. An important legendary and historical poem, however, was the remarkable popular epic Digenis Akritas, a work that originated among the common people in the 10th or 11th century and was spread orally by folk singers before being written down.

Also of importance from the literary point of view were the Byzantine historians, critics, and philosophers. Noteworthy among the historians were: 1. Procopius, Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus 2. Michael Psellus 3. Anna Comnena 4. Georgius Pachymeres 5. John VI Cantacuzene.

PHOTIUS - The greatest of the Byzantine critics, whose summaries and extracts of 280 classical works still extant in the 9th century preserved much that might otherwise have been lost. EUSTATHIUS of THESSALONICA - In the 12th century, he wrote a commentary on the works of classical authors, including Hesiod, Pindar, and the Greek tragedians. GEORGIUS PLETHO - Of importance among Byzantine philosophers was the highly original thinker Georgius Gemistus Pletho, who introduced Platonic philosophy to the Italian Renaissance.


The Fourth Crusade, launched in 1204, carried with it a horde of Frankish invaders who established themselves in central and southern Greece with such titles as duke of Athens or baron of Thebes. A major literary work that resulted from this occupation was The Chronicle of the Morea (14th century), a long epic poem in swinging Greek verse, probably written by a Greek-speaking Frenchman of the third generation. The epic is remarkable for the beauty of the poetry, its dramatic force, and the easy flow of a vividly descriptive colloquial idiom. In the mid-15th century the Byzantine Empire and the remnant of the Franks in Greece were swept away by the Ottoman Empire, and Greek literature suffered an eclipse. Until the end of the 18th century it continued to flourish only on the periphery of the Greek world, outside the Ottoman Empire.

Cretan Writings
Crete, under the control of the Venetians, was the literary center of Greece during the 16th and 17th centuries. Dramas written during this period, such as the Erophile of Georgios Hortatzis, were largely patterned after Italian models. The period also saw the production of two of the greatest Cretan works in demotic, or colloquial, Greek: 1. the romantic poem Erotkritos by Vitzntzos Kornros, now ranked by some as a national epic 2. The Sacrifice of Abraham (1635), a psychological drama of family relationships by an anonymous author, perhaps Kornros The flourishing Cretan school was all but terminated by the Ottoman capture of the island in the 17th century. The ballads of the klephts, however, survive from the 18th century. These are the songs of the Greek mountain fighters who carried on guerrilla warfare against the Ottomans.

Classical Versus Demotic Greek

Toward the end of the 18th century, dreams of liberation began to inspire the Greeks. While patriots and poets wrote copiously, a language problem developed that was to afflict Greek literature for many decades. Under Ottoman domination, the education of all Greeks was undertaken by the church. Instruction was conservative, and the language that was used preserved the antique forms of Byzantine Greek. Furthermore, many of the Greek patriots writing abroad, assuming that ancient Hellas was about to arise from its ashes, imposed an archaic vocabulary and grammar on the modern idiom. Adamantios Korais, a learned classicist living in Paris, urged the use of a combined language, one that was neither ancient nor modern. The language dichotomy can easily be traced in the area of poetry. Since the Byzantine period (4th century to 15th century) a rich, orally transmitted, self-perpetuating folk poetry had flourished in Greece. It was written in demotic Greek, a natural medium for narrative and lyrical verse. In the 18th century some poets turned to the classical tradition instead. Among these were Konstantinos Rhigas and Iakovos Rhizos Neroulos. A number carried on the classical tradition in the 19th century, among them Alexandre Rizos Rangab, poet, historian, and novelist. In the 19th century, however, poets tended increasingly to use the more expressive demotic Greek, and for decades, fierce controversy raged around the issue of language. Today, demotic is used for literature, and a more classical form of Greek for professional and scientific writing. Microsoft Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Latin Literature
Latin Literature- literature of ancient Rome, and of much of western Europe through the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century) and into the Renaissance (14th century to 17th century), written in the Latin language.


Latin literature first appeared in the 3rd century the present. The disintegration of the Roman Empire between the 2nd and 5th century and the gradual development of the Romance languages out of Vulgar Latin (the nonliterary language of the general populace) did not for centuries affect the position of Latin as the preeminent literary language of western Europe. Latin literature, in a Christianized form, continued to develop during the Middle Ages, when Latin served as the official language of the Roman Catholic church. With the rise of Renaissance humanism in the 14th century and its emphasis on reviving the classical forms of the ancient world came a new burst of creativity in Latin, which lasted into the 17th century. Until recent times, in Western culture, an acquaintance with classical Latin (as well as Greek) literature was basic to a liberal education.

and its tradition has continued, in various forms, to


The literature of Rome was itself modeled on Greek literature and served in turn as the basic model, especially in the Renaissance during the 14th and 15th centuries, for the development of later European literatures. Perhaps because of their close formal dependence on Greek models, many Roman writers were concerned with emphasizing the specifically Roman quality of their experience. Perhaps most important, almost all Roman writers had to come to terms with Romes civilizing mission in the world. The greatest accomplishments of Roman literature are found in epic and lyric poetry, rhetoric, history, comic drama, and satirethe last genre being the only literary form the Romans invented.

LUCIUS LIVIUS ADRONICUS - Latin literature began with Lucius Livius Andronicus, who came to Rome as a Greekspeaking slave in the late 3rd century BC. He translated Homers epic the Odyssey into Latin verse and wrote the first dramas in Latin as well as translations of Greek plays. GNAEUS NAEVIUS - The first native Roman writer who followed the example of Livius Andronicus. His comedies, produced during the last three decades of the 3rd century, were especially successful, and he also composed the Bellum Poenicum, an epic poem on the First Punic War (264-241 Rome and its rival, Carthage. QUINTUS ENNIUS - The first really important Roman writer, famous for his Annales, a vigorous and energetic poem telling the story of Rome and its conquests in hexameter verse, which Ennius successfully adapted from Greek into Latin. Enniuss pioneering work served as the prototype for Roman epic and was affectionately imitated by later poets, who refined his rugged style. PLAUTUS - 21 plays of the first true genius in Roman literature are extant. Comedy represents Romes most productive contribution to the development of drama. The lively and robust plays of Plautus served as a model for much subsequent European comedy and have been performed and imitated into modern times. Plautuss world of benighted masters, wily slaves, innocent maidens, and young men hopelessly and absurdly in love was taken over by the second Roman comic genius, Terence. TERENCE - Terences plays are smoother and more graceful than those of his predecessor, less boisterously funny but perhaps more touching. CATO the ELDER - a political conservative and the implacable enemy of Carthage, was the earliest master of Roman prose. A powerful orator, he provided the first models for Roman rhetoric. His treatise on farming, De Agri Cultura (160? BC), still survives.

fought between

GAIUS LUCILIUS - The great master of satire, a genre apparently invented by Ennius, was Gaius Lucilius, who gave it its standard form in which a sharply defined voice pokes ruthless fun at a wide range of human folly. Only fragments of Luciliuss work have surviveda serious loss for the understanding of the Roman literary tradition.



LUCRETIUS - The forerunner of the greatest age of Roman poetry whose didactic poem De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) argues in eloquent hexameter verse that the gods do not intervene in human affairs. CATULLUS - the first great lyric poet in Latin, was inspired by Greek models. His longer poems are complex and learned, but more characteristic of him are the shorter lyrics, some of them pure and simple utterances of his love for a woman called Lesbia and for his dead brother, others characterized by the sharp and mordant wit of his invective directed against his personal enemies. His intense, earnest voice has been a moving force in the history of the European lyric since the rediscovery of his work in the early Renaissance. VIRGIL - Acknowledged the greatest of all Latin poets, in his own as well as in later times Early in his career he wrote the Eclogues, ten elegant and moving pastoral poems that became lasting models of their kind. These were followed by his graceful poem on farm life, the Georgics. Virgils masterpiece, however, was the Aeneid, an epic poem telling how the Trojan hero Aeneas came to Italy to found the settlement out of which Rome arose. In this complex work, in which the heroic world of Homer is recast as the backdrop for the founding of Rome, the sufferings of Aeneas mute the patriotic grandeur of the theme. Each succeeding age has found in the Aeneid a message applicable to its own concerns. HORACE - Virgils friend Horace made himself the master of the ode, skillfully adapting Greek meters into Latin in the service of his own graceful voice. His best poetry is informed with a spirit of detached amusement.

ALBIUS TIBULLUS - The tradition of the love elegy, begun by Catullus, was continued in a gentle and wistful manner by Albius Tibullus. The last of the three books of poems attributed to him includes direct and affecting poems on love. These poems were actually written by his contemporary Sulpicia, however, and are the only poems extant by a Roman woman. SEXTUS PROPERTIUS - wrote more dynamic and complex love elegies, turbulent and restless records of his difficult affair with Cynthia. OVID - The elegiac tradition was concluded by the work of Ovid, who treated the form in a playful manner. A voluminous poet, Ovid is best known for his Ars Amatoria, an ironic handbook on love, and his greatest work, the Metamorphoses, a long, loosely woven epic retelling ancient myths in graceful and melancholy tones.


Corresponding to the Golden Age of Roman poetry was an age of equal achievement in prose

CICERO - The leading figure in prose a statesman and orator whose resonant and sonorous rhetoric became the model for later European oratory. The best known of Ciceros speeches are the vehement orations against the political conspirator Catiline, but many others are equally effective in the consummate care with which the rhythms and cadences of the Latin language are orchestrated to achieve spectacular rhetorical effects.

Cicero excelled as well in prose works of a more relaxed style, including treatises on rhetoric and philosophical works such as the famous pieces on friendship and on old age. Much of his extensive and revealing correspondence also exists. GAIUS JULIUS CAUSAR - Equally well known as a prose writer was Ciceros contemporary Gaius Julius Caesar. His clear and forceful commentaries on the Gallic and civil wars of the 50s and 40s (De Bello Gallico and

De Bello Civili) have also become models of their kind, known to generations of beginning Latin students.
LIVY - The outstanding Roman historian wrote a lengthy history of Rome, Ab Urbe Condita Libri (From the Founding of the City), only about a fourth of which survives. It still serves as a basic source for the period.


The Golden Age was followed by what is often called the Silver Age of Latin literature, in the 1st century

Although it was overshadowed by the brilliance of the preceding century, a substantial body of accomplished work was produced during this time.

VIRGIL - exploited the epic genre so fully that subsequent epic poets were more hampered than helped by his example. LUCAN - Effective use of the epic tradition, whose Pharsalia treats the conflict between Caesar and Pompey the Great in the Roman civil war (49-45 BC), PUBLIUS PAPINIUS STATIUS - a writer much admired in the Middle Ages. The Thebais (91?), Statiuss major work, is an energetic and loosely organized epic that pushes each feature of Virgilian style to its extreme. SENECA - A dominant figure of the silver age the tutor of the notorious emperor Nero. Seneca expounded the doctrines of the Stoic philosophy in letters and treatises that had great influence, and he wrote nine grisly tragedies that over the centuries have thrilled and horrified European dramatic sensibilities. PHAEDRUS - The slave Phaedrus, who became a freeman under the emperor Augustus, produced Latin verse versions of the popular fables of the Greek writer Aesop. PETRONIUS ARBITER - Perhaps the most original writer of his time was the urbane Petronius Arbiter, whose astonishing Satyricon (60?), a vast work in verse and prose of which only a part is extant, is a powerfully entertaining narrative vividly depicting a wide range of human excess. PERSIUS - Vivid writing is a feature also of the great writers of verse satire the harsh and difficult

JUVENAL vivid writing-- the bitter and cynicalbut entertaining MARTIAL - That shortest of poetic forms, the epigram, was perfected by him, whose witty and frequently obscene verses are models for their genre.


The prose of the 1st century


includes the works of a number of noteworthy didactic writers:

PLINY the ELDER - was a prolific writer whose Historia Naturalis remained a standard encyclopedic natural history textbook for generations. QUINTILIAN wrote The Institutio oratoria (95?), is an equally authoritative study; devoted to the theory and practice of oratory, it includes some of the most judicious Roman literary criticism. CORNELIUS TACITUS - dramatically narrated the events of his own generation and the one preceding it in his

Historiae (104-109) and Annales (115?-117?).

He also wrote a famous description of Germany and its inhabitants, Germania (98?).

SUETONIUS wrote De Vita Caesarum (121?), is famous for its animated biographies of the Caesars and its often lurid depiction of what is for modern readers the most sensational period of Roman history.

During the subsequent centuries of the Roman Empire, literature declined along with the political fortunes of the empire, but a few important figures emerged. LUCIUS APULEIUS wrote The Metamorphoses (often called in translation The Golden Ass), is an entertaining prose narrative that includes the elegantly recounted story of Cupid and Psyche. AMBROSIUS THEODOSIUS MACROBIUS - A final burst of pagan literary energy occurred in the 4th century, with the learned and discerning Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius producing a sort of summary of ancient culture in his Saturnalia near the end of the century.


The first period of Christian literature in Latin overlaps that of later pagan writing.

TERTULLIAN - The first important Christian writer, a master of prose. SAINT AMBROSE - One of the most influential Christian writers of his time was the church father whose correspondence is still read with interest, and who is also important for his hymns. AURELIUS CLEMENS PRUDENTIUS - A new tradition of Christian poetry, using pagan literary devices for Christian purposes, was inaugurated in the 4th century by him, whose Psychomachia (Battle of the Soul) pioneered the use of allegory in Christian poetry. Two church fathers dominate early Christian prose: Saint Jerome and Saint Augustine. SAINT JEROME - The major accomplishment of Saint Jerome was his translation of the Bible. Known as the Vulgate, it has been the standard Latin version ever since, and its influence on subsequent Latinand Europeanprose was enormous. SAINT AUGUSTINE - was one of the most influential of all European thinkers. His major works, De Civitate Dei (The City of God, 413-426) and the highly personal Confessions (400?), use the classic style of Ciceronian rhetoric in an individual and moving way to express a sense of Christian conviction.


Other products of this age, not specifically Christian in their orientation, had an immense influence on subsequent Christian thought: 1. De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii (The Marriage of Philology and Mercury, 400?) is the title popularly given to a curious allegorical work by Martianus Minneus Felix Capella; it provided a way for European Christian culture to organize the secular knowledge it considered worthwhile. 2. De Consolatione Philosophiae (The Consolation of Philosophy), by the consul Boethius, calmly and masterfully depicts the way in which the life of the mind can be a source of inner peace in harrowing times.


Medieval Latin literature continues the tradition of early Christian literature.

SAINT ISIDORE of SEVILLE - produced a compendium of the culture of his time in his 20 books of Etymologies (623), which served the later Middle Ages as a standard reference work. Historiography, some of it interesting from a literary point of view, was also important literature of this period. SAINT BEDE the VENERABLE - In 731 Englishman Saint Bede the Venerable, who also wrote Latin verse, completed an invaluable ecclesiastical history of his homeland. EINHARD - The most admired prose work of its time was the authoritative life of Charlemagne by Frankish scholar Einhard. A noteworthy group of poets gathered at the court of Charlemagne: 1. ALCUIN- Chief among them was English scholar Alcuin 2. MAINZ RABANUS MAURUS - the learned archbishop of Mainz Rabanus Maurus, who may have written the magnificent hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (Come, Creator Spirit). Longer poems of several kinds were also a feature of the early Middle Ages. The story of Reynard the Fox, a beast fable, was one popular work. More serious epics were written, as well.

EKKHARD I the ELDER - Especially impressive is the heroic poem Waltharius, attributed to Swiss monk Ekkehard I the Elder, based on the life of King Walter of Aquitaine. Much of the best Latin poetry of the Middle Ages was anonymous, especially the secular lyric verse ascribed to wandering scholars (goliards) celebrating the joys of drinking and of fleshly love, and satirizing the clergy and traditional devotional poetry. This anonymous work, loosely called goliardic verse, exists in a number of manuscripts. The best-known collection is the Carmina Burana, assembled in Bavaria in the 13th century. Religious poetry also continued to be written; outstanding examples are the moving sequence, also used as a hymn, the Stabat Mater Dolorosa (Sorrowfully His Mother Stood) of Jacopone da Todi and the powerful Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) of Italian friar Thomas of Celano. A considerable number of medieval Latin religious plays are extant. These are the direct ancestors of modern drama. Developed in the context of liturgical services, they include the forms known as miracle, mystery, and morality plays. HROSVITHA- a German nun adapted the dramatic techniques of Terence to Christian themes with curious results. Other than her work, however, most of this drama is anonymous.

GESTA PROMANORUM - Prose fiction was a popular type of Latin literature, mostly in the form of short tales, such as the widely read 13th-century collections known as the Gesta Romanorum (Deeds of the Romans). THE LEGENDA AUREA- The Legenda Aurea (Golden Legend), a collection of lives of the saints by the archbishop of Genoa Jacobus de Voragine, was also popular. Latin served as the intellectual language of Europe throughout this period, and a vast body of specialized prose survives, the concern of which is not primarily literary. Among the most voluminous are the theological treatises of Scholasticism. PETER ABELARD - a philosopher, French scholar, produced work of literary merit. His love poems are lost, but his hymns and his intense and affecting correspondence with his beloved Hlose remain. Two important works of the learned 12th-century poet Alain de Lille, the Anticlaudianus and the De Planctu Naturae (The Complaint of Nature), are allegorical and philosophical attempts to work out the place of human beings in terms of Gods plan for the natural universe; they are also of intrinsic literary interest. Even as writers began to use vernacular languages for literary purposes, technical treatises continued to be written in Latin. The great Italian poet Dante Alighieri used the Latin language eloquently in treatises on the role of the monarchy (De Monarchia) and on the uses of the Italian language (De Vulgari Eloquentia).


PETRARCH - The last great age of creativity in Latin, the Renaissance, was ushered in by the work of Italian humanist Petrarch in the 14th century. Humanism was a movement that aimed to re-create classical experience by reviving the language, style, and genres of Roman literature. Petrarchs most accomplished work in Latin includes his self-interrogating Secretum (1343), as well as an extensive correspondence in fluent prose and verse. POGGIO - The tradition of humanistic prose in Italy was carried on by such writers as Poggio, who is noteworthy for a lively history of Renaissance Florence and for his Facetiae (1438-1452), a collection of amusing tales. LORENZO VALLA Italian Humanist whose linguistic studies paved the way for future philological scholarship and greatly influenced Renaissance thought and literary style. MARSILIO FICINO- Important for literature were the philosophical writings of Marsilio Ficino, who tried to reconcile Platonism and Christianity GIOVANNI PICO DELLA MIRANDOLA - known for his De Hominis Dignitate Oratio (Oration on the Dignity of Man, 1486). GIOVANNI PONTANO - The best of the poets, whose elegant, moving work combines erotic feeling and a strong sense of family life. MICHAEL MARULLUS - A Greek exile, wrote forceful Latin hymns to the pagan gods POLITIAN- Florentine humanist wrote poetry in Latin as gracefully as in Italian.


MARCO GIROLAMO VIDA his work includes an influential verse treatise on the art of poetry, Ars Poetica, and his

Christiad (1535) comes perhaps the closest to a successful Renaissance epic in Latin.
DESIDERIUS ERASMUS - Northern Europe was also the scene of excellent work in Latin, carrying on the tradition begun in Italy. Enormously important was the Dutch humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus, whose vast production includes his entertaining Encomium Moriae (The Praise of Folly, 1509). SIR THOMAS MORE - Erasmuss friend the English statesman Sir Thomas More wrote a Latin visionary work,

Utopia (1516), that is still central to Western political thought.

JOHN BARCLAY- The best-known Renaissance Latin novel is the Argenis (1621) of Scottish poet and satirist John Barclay. A satire on European politics, Barclays novel was translated in 1623 by English poet Ben Jonson.

GEORGE BUCHANAN- the foremost Scottish humanist, was resonant and eloquent in a broad range of Latin verse and drama. JOHANNES SECUNDUS - Among the most widely read European love poems in Latin were the passionate Basia (Kisses) of Dutch writer Johannes Secundus. JOHN OWEN- Welsh writer John Owen was famous for his pithy Latin epigrams. The tradition of Latin poetry in northern Europe lasted into the 17th century. Two Jesuit poets, Casimir Sarbiewski of Poland and Jacob Balde of Alsace, wrote impressive Horatian poetry on Christian subjects. The last major European writer to use Latin as a primary means of poetic expression was the young John Milton. The great English poet wrote much Latin prose as well, in his capacity as Latin secretary of the Commonwealth in 1649.

Contributed By: Fred J. Nichols

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