The Ancient Library

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On this page: Literature, Greek (continued)



greater force than at Athens, which, under the guidance of Pericles in particular, became the centre of all intellectual effort. In poetic literature the first place was now taken by the Attic drama, which reached its highest level and maintained it until the close of the 5th century. Tragedy was represented by jEsCHYLUS (died 456), SOPHOCLES (died 405), and euripides (died 405); what is known as old or political comedy by cratinus, EupOLis, and aris­tophanes (died about 388 b.c.). While in the 4th century tragedy followed prac­tically the traditional path, the poets of the Middle Comedy, at the head of which stand antiphanes and alexis, found themselves compelled to turn their attention more and more away from public life, which had formed the subject of the older comic writers. Finally the New Comedy (probably from 330 on) under DlPHlLUS, philemon, and menander (died 290) took completely the form of a comedy of manners. The other branches of poetry were almost entirely thrown into the shade.

Didactic poetry received important con­tributions about the beginning of this period from the Eleatic philosophers xenophanes (died about 470) and parmen!des (died about 450); also from empedocles (died about 430 b.c.). The attempts of panyasis (died about 450) and of antimachus (about 400) to revive the heroic Epos, and that of ch<er!lus to found the historic, were fruit­less. The elegy attained still less of inde­pendent importance than epic poetry.

Lyric poetry had, besides Simonides and Pindar, whose career extends into this period, an eminent exponent in bacchyl!des (about 450 b.c.) ; in later times, the only class of melic composition which showed any vitality was the dithyramb, under the new form of melodrama, in which ph!loxenus (died 380) and timotheus (died 357 b.c.) especially distinguished themselves.

In the domain of prose the Ionic dialect held undisputed mastery at the beginning of this period: in it were composed the works of the philosophers heraclitus (died about 475), anaxagoras (died about 428), and democritus (died about 370), besides those of herodotus (died about 424) the " Father of History," the first to give an artistic form to prose-narrative, and hippocrates (died about 377 b.c.) the founder of medical science. In Attic, the dialect of Athens, which was to become the general language of prose, the greatest influence on the artistic development of prose style was

exerted by the Sophista, especially pro­tagoras and GoRGlAs. The stimulus which they gave was turned to the account of practical oratory first by ant!phon (died 411), the pioneer of the " Ten Attic Orators.' He was followed by ANDOclDEs (died 344); LvslAs (died 360), the first really classical orator; IsOCRATES (died 338), the father of rhetoric as an art; is^eus (died 350) ; demosthenes (died 332 b.c.), who repre­sents the most perfect form of Attic oratory, with jEscnlNES, hyperides, lycuhgus, and dinarchus, his contemporaries. While, on the one hand, it was only in the time of the decline of Greek freedom that Attic oratory reached its highest point (from which, after Demosthenes, it soon declined), in Attic his. torical composition, on the contrary, there stands at the very beginning an achieve­ment never paralleled by Greek literature in this line—the History of thucyd!des (died not later than 396). After him the most noteworthy representatives of this department are, for this period, his fellow countryman XENOPHON (died about 350), and his vounger contemporaries theopompus and ephorus, neither of whom was of Attic origin, though both of them were pupils of Isocrates.

In philosophy Athens won a leading position through socrates (died 399). Of his numerous pupils (Euclides, Aristippus, Antisthenes, Xenophon), plato (died 348 b.c.) was the founder of the Academic school, and both as philosopher and as prose-writer did ever-memorable service. The same is true of Plato's pupil aristotle (died 322), the founder of the Peripatetic school, whose literary activity extended over the most widely different branches of knowledge. Outside the domain of philo­sophy he made a marked advance in his con­tributions to the natural sciences. He was followed by a succession of pupils, who made further progress in the separate departments of science. theophrastus (died 287), foi example, did much for the natural sciences, especially botany, aristoxenus (about 330) for music, dic^earchus (about 320 b.c.) for geography. To the close of this period belong the philosophers pyrrho (died about 275), zeno (about 300), and epicurus (died 268 b.c.), the founders of the Sceptic, Stoic, and Epicurean schools respectively.

Period III. The Alexandrian Era. (300-30 B.C.)

After the downfall of Greek liberty, Athens remained the city of philosopher^

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