A Short History of Greek Literature

A Short History of Greek Literature

A Short History of Greek Literature

A Short History of Greek Literature

Synopsis

A Short History of Greek Literature provides a concise yet comprehensive survey of Greek literature - from Christian authors - over twelve centuries, from Homer's epics to the rich range of authors surviving from the imperial period up to Justinian. The book is divided into three parts. The first part is devoted to the extraordinary creativity of the archaic and classical age, when the major literary genres - epic, lyric, tragedy, comedy, history, oratory and philosophy - were invented and flourished. The second part covers the Hellenistic period, and the third covers the High Empire and Late Antiquity. At that tine the masters of the previous age were elevated to the rank of 'classics'. The works of the imperial period are replete with literary allusions, yet full of references to contemporary reality.

Excerpt

The Greeks attributed the origins of poetry to two mythical poets endowed with magical powers, Musaeus and Orpheus; for us however, Greek literature, and with it Western literature as a whole, begins with the Iliad and the Odyssey. the name of Homer, under which these poems have come down to us, has symbolised poetry for more than twenty-five centuries. All of Antiquity, from Xenophanes (sixth century BC) to Lucian (second century AD) believed that Homer was a real person who recounted real events: the great deeds of the Trojan War, traditionally dated at around 1200 bc.

Yet we know nothing of Homer himself. in the second century ad Lucian of Samosata included an interview with the poet in his True Stories. He asks Homer the questions which modern scholars are still asking today. Where was he born: in Chios, Smyrna, Cyme or Colophon? What does the name 'Homer' mean? Is it an allusion to the poet's blindness (as has been suggested by those who see in it the etymology ho mè horon: 'who does not see')? the many works entitled Life of Homer written in Antiquity leave these questions unanswered. Thus both the Iliad and the Odyssey share with a number of other major works of world literature the privilege of having an author about whom almost nothing is known.

Indeed, doubt has even been cast on his existence. in the eighteenth century the so-called 'Homeric question' was posed by Abbé Aubignac in his Academic Conjectuers of 1715, by Robert Wood in England, by Vico in Italy and, even more clearly at the end of the century, by F.A. Wolf in Germany in his Prolegomena ad Homerum

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