THE epic was for long the only poetry, artistic in form, which the Greeks possessed. If a lower limit for the period be sought, it may be placed approximately at the close of the eighth century B. C. Till then epos held a solitary supremacy; and the secret of the spell which it exerted was in the charm of the past. The listeners surrendered themselves to the magic of a flowing narrative which carried them into an ideal region of heroic life, -- not the life of the present, and yet linked with it by the simple faith of the men for whom the minstrel recited. Their own interests and thoughts seldom ranged beyond the sphere of action in which the heroes moved, and the sphere of debate or social intercourse in which the minds of the heroes found utterance. But gradually a change came. Monarchies gave place to oligarchies, and these to tyrannies, or lastly to democracies. Hellenic life became fuller of experiences and efforts which stimulated the thoughts of the individual, -- giving him new tasks, new objects of ambition, new possibilities of enjoyment. This was more especially the case in the Ionian colonies of Asia
Conditions which required new forms of poetry.