Johann Joachim Eschenburg.

Manual of classical literature : from the German of J.J. Eschenburg, with additions online

. (page 94 of 153)
Online LibraryJohann Joachim EschenburgManual of classical literature : from the German of J.J. Eschenburg, with additions → online text (page 94 of 153)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

years. In this long .space of time many changes must have occurred in the circum-
stances of the people which affected the character of their literature. The more ob-
vious and remarkable of these changes may be selected to aid us in dividing the history
into several periods. Some divisioii of this kind is necessary to avoid contusion. Six
periods may thus be readily distinguished.

The Jirgt is the period preceding and terminating with the capture of Troy, B. C.
1184. The proper history of Greece does not extend further back than to this event,
so much is every thing previous darkened by the fictions of mythology.

The seco?id period extends from the capture of Troy to the establishment of the
Athenian Constitution by Solon, B. C. about 600. In this, Greek literature may be
said to have had Us rise, commencing in poetry ; although there are a few names of
poets assigned to the previous ages. Prose composition does not belong to the period.

The third period is from the time of Solon to that of Alexander, B. C. 336. During
this period Grecian literature reached its highest perfection. But the hberty of Greece
expired at the battle of Chaeronea, and from that time her literature dechned.

The fourth period, beginning wuh the subjection of Greece to the Macedonians, ends
with her subjection to the Romans, by the capture of Corinth, B. C. 146. In this
period genius and fancy ceased to be the peculiarity of the hterature, and gave place
to erudition and science.

The ffth period reaches from the fall of Corinth to the estabhshment of Constan-
tinople as the seat of the Roman government, A. D. 325. During this period, Greece
was but a comparatively unimportant province of a vast empire. Her literature also
was thrown wholly into the shade by the luster of the Roman, which enjoyed now its
greatest brilliancy.

The sixth period terminates with the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, A. D.
1453. The Greek language was still in quite extensive and honorable use, but neither
the people nor their Hterature ever rose from their depression. After a succession of
adv'erse events. Greek letters were at length driven from their last refuge in the east to
a few seats of learning in Italy.

These periods may be designated by characteristic names: the Fabulous, the Poetic,
the Athetiian, the Alexa?idrian, the Roman, and the Byzantine.

§ 10. In noticing the most important authors and prominent circumstances in the
literary history presented in this vast field, the following order will be adopted. The
Poets will take the first place ; next we put the Orators; then successively, the Sophists
and Rhetoricians, the Grammarians, the Writers of Epistles and Romances, the Philo-
sophers, the Mathematicians and Geographers, the writers styled Mythographers, the
Historians, and finally the Authors oh Medicine and Natural History. A glance at
the writings of the early Christians in the Greek language will be subjoined.


I. — Poetry and Potts.

7t 11 u. Among the Greeks poetry appeared much earher than prose; indeed, the
literature of all ancient nations commenced with poetical composition. Moral and reli-
gious maxims, principles of social and political action, physical phenomena, wonderful
events, and the praise of eminent men, formed the chief subjects of the earlier Greek
poetry. Probably addresses to the Deity, practical rules of conduct, proverbial senti-
ments and oracles, were first clothed in verse. This was not originally committed to
writing, but sung by the poets themselves, who often wandered as minstrels from place
to place, and by living rehearsals extended the knowledge and influence of their own
verse and that of others. It was not until eminent poets had sung, that the rules of
poetry, in its several branches, could be formed; as they are necessarily drawn from
observation and experience.

"S 12. The Greeks received much of their civilization from Egypt and Phoenicia (of.
P. IV. § 33, 40) ; something perhaps was derived from India ; but it was in Thrace
that the Greek muses first appeared. Here, in Thrace, the tradhions of the most
remote antiquity center and lose themselves, ascribing to this country the origin of reli-
gion, of the mysteries, and of sacred poetry. The mountains of Thessaly and the vici-
nity. Olympus, Helicon, Parnassus and Pindus, became the sanctuaries of this poetry.
HeiH the lyre and harp were invented. In Thessaly and Bceotia, provinces in later
times desthute of men of genius and letters, there was scarcely a fountain, river, or
forest, not invested with some interesting association. In a word, the poetry with
which the civilization and literature of Greece commenced, came from the northern
portions of the land. Tradition has preserved the names of several poets, who lived,
or originated, in those regions as early as about 1250 or 1300 years before Christ.
Among these were Linus, Eumolpus, Melampus, and Thamyris.

North Amer. Rev. vol. sxi.—Bedi'i Allg. Welt- una Volker- Geschichte, i. 3\9.—Heyne, de Musarnm religione ejusqae orig. et
caus. (in the Comment. Soc Gilt, viii.) — Bemhardy, p. 169, as cited § 7. 9.

^ 13. The first Poets of Greece were at the same time musicians. Music and poetry
were at first always united, or it may perhaps be more correctly said, that music, song,
and dance together constituted poetry, among the Greeks. It is not easy to form an
idea of their various melodies, but they must have been of a simple kind, and each sort
of music seems to have had a particular sort of poetry attached to it. Music purely
instrumental the early Greeks appear to have valued very Ihtle. The constituent
branches of poetry, just mentioned, were important parts of education. The dance
was soon separated, and became a distinct object of attention, which at length resulted
in the practice of the various exercises comprehended under the broad name of the
Gymnastic art. At length song also began to be distinguished from music, and poetry
assumed shapes and forms less adapted for instrumental accompaniment.

On the origin and progress of Greek poetry, see Schcll, vol. i. ch. ii.— Su/rer'j Allg. Theorie der schonen Kanste. art. Dichtktmlt
and the references.— Dr. Brawn, Dissertation on the rise, union, and power, the progressions, separations and corruptions of Poetry
and Music. Loud. 1763. i.—C. E. L. Hxrschfeld, Plan der Gesch. der Poesie, Bcreis., JIus., Mai., he, unter d. Griech. Kiel,
1770. 8.— DfMier'j Histor. Kunst. d. Griechen— f. SchlegeTs Hist, of Lit. Lect. \.—Hecren's Reflections, &c., ch. xv.— G. /. f^os-
liiis, de Vet. Poet. Grsec et Lat. temporibus. Amst. 1654. 4. — Fr. Jacobs (hrief history of Gk. Poetrv), in the Charakt. d. vor-
nehmst. Dichter. vol. i. as cited § 47. — Hartmann, Versuch einer allg. Geschichte d. Dichtkunsf. Lpz. 1797. — Fr. Schlegel, Gesch.
d. Poesie d. Griech. und ROmer. Berl. ilSS.—Bode, as cited § 47. I.

$ 14. Poetry and music were, from the earliest periods, favorite pursuits or amuse-
ments of the Greeks ; and their poetry assumed, in the course of its history, almost
every possible form.

The first poetry was adapted to some instrumental accompaniment, and might be
therefore properly enough included under the term lyrical, used in a general sense. But
as it consisted chiefly of hymns to the gods, or songs referring more or less to religious
subjects, it may more properly be considered as a distinct variety under the name
of sacred.

Three of the most important forms of Grecian poetry were the lyric, the epic, and
the dramatic, in each of which there were authors of the highest celebrity.

Other kinds, which are well worthy of notice, were the elegiac, the bucolic, and the
didactic. The epigram and the scolion were distinct and peculiar forms. There were
other varieties or names, which may be explained in connection with those already
mentioned or separately; as the gnomic, cyclic, erotic, and sillic.

On the division of poetry into different kinds, cf. /. /. Eschenbrtrg, Entwurf einer Theorie und Literatur der schOnen Rede-
kQnste, (4Ih ed.) Berl. 1817. 8. (Poetik S Tl.— fV. SchUgel, DramaL Lit. vol. i. p. 3S. Lond. ]S15.— Blair's Lectures.

(i 15. (a) Sacred Poetry. Under this may be included all that was produced ante-
cedently to Homer, or what is often called ante-Homeric poetry. It is sometimes de-
signated by the name of Orphic poetry, from the circumstance that Orpheus was one
of the most eminent poets of the period and class here referred to. It has also been
called the poetry of the Thracian school, as having its origin and seat chiefly in the
regv>n of Thrace and the vicinity.


The general nature and subject of this poetry, consisting, as has been mentioned, of
hymns and religious songs ({'//''"', sometimes also called vftoi), are such as suggest the
name of sacred here applied to it. The poets probably united in their persons ihe triple
character of bard (aocJoj), priest (ifpeOj), and prophet O^diris). The principal names which
escaped oblivion were Linus, Olen, Melampus, Eumolpus, Thamyris, I'iresias, Or-
pheus, and Musaeus. There are pieces extant ascribed to some of these, particularly
to Orpheus and Musceus ; but nothing probably that is genuine, except a few imperfect

Although, when we speak of the sacred poetry of the Greeks, we usually mean only
the pieces ascribed to ante- Homeric writers, yet it should be remarked that the hymn
{Vfivoi) in praise of the gods was not pecuhar to that age. Hymns were composed by
subsequent poets, hut did not hold a specially prominent place, and are commonly
included in the class of lyric productions. Several hymns are ascribed to Homer.
Callimachus, after the time of Alexander, wrote a number.

On Ihe Tliracian school, Sc, cf. North Amtr. Rev. vol. xxi. p. 393.— On Ihe Hymns of the Greeks, Fr d. Snudcrf, de Hymnii
veterum Grxcorum. Hafn. 17S6. 8. — Souchay, Disserlafions sur les Hymnes des anciens, in ^he Mem. deV.icad. dta Irucr. xii. I.
xvi. Qi.—Sxdzers Allg. Theor. Arl. Hyinne. Cf. LowtVs Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of Ihe Hebrews. Led. ixix.— Sc/ifU
(tol. i. 262. iii. 336) has a division of hymns into four classes : *lyslic, Homeric, Lyric, and Philosophic

§ 16. Among the productions comprehended in the sacred poetry, it is proper to
notice the oracles (p»jc-//oI) which were ascribed to the Sibyls. The name 2(7? -AXa is
commonly derived from Si'o; (for AiX) and BouXi?, and was synonymous with prophetess'.
AVhat the ancients have said of the Sibyls is obscure and perplexing. As many as ten
are enumerated on the authority of Varro. A very high antiquity was assigned to
some of them. A few fragments of the oracles ascribed to these are preserved. The
eight books now extant, called the Sibylline oracles, are spurious, evidently fabricated
since the Christian era.

Dionysins Halicarnasseus (iv. 62) is the chief authority for the story of the Sibyl, who is said
to have offered nine bonks of oracles for snle to Tarqiiin II. He states, that the three books,
which Tarqiiin finally purchased (after she had destroyed six, and for the sum first demanded for
the whole), were carefully kept in a stone chest in the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, and were
destroyed when the capitol was burnt; and that subsequently to this, those extant in his time
were collected. lie speaks of them as acrostics, dKoocrixeT-;. 'I'hey are said to have been partly
in verses and partly in symbolical hieroglyphics (Servius on .ffi.i. iii. 444. and vi. 74), written on
palm-leaves. They appear evidently to have been of Grecian origin and in the Greek language.
The phrase libri futahs was applied to them in common with other supposed prophecies pre-
served with them in the capitol. (Lactant. Div. Inst. i. 6. 12.) — The work now extant is, in the
language of Paley, " nothing else than the Gospel history woven into verse ;" and " perhaps was
at first rather a fiction than a forgery ; an of ingenuity, more than an attempt to de-
ceive.'-' The early fathers frequently cited the Sibylline oracles in favor of Christianity. They
are also cited by Josephiis. Bishop Horsley has ably conletideit^, that the original Sibylline ora-
cles included records of actual predictions somehow communicated to families and nations not
belonging to the Jewish race. — A manuscript, which contained 334 verses, called a 14ih book of
the Sibylline oracles, was discovered by the Mbe Mai in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, and
published by him in 1817.

1 In our Plate XXVIII. is a figure from a statue (given by Montfaucon, Antiq. ExpL vol. 2. of Supp. p. 16), commonly said to

represent a Sibyl ; one hand is raised toward heaven, and she has a striking air of enthusiasm. 2 Cf. S. Horsley, Dissertation on

the Prophecies of the Messiah dispersed anjong the Heatlien ; in the vol. of Sermons on the Resurrectir/n. Loud. 1815. S. On

the Sibyl, oracles, see SchCll, Hist. Litt. Grecq. vol. i. p. 51.— ilayo. Mythology, vol. i. p. 235. — fabricius, Bibliothec. Grsec.
vol. i. p. 248. in ed. of Harles. — Onvfhrius de Sibyllis, in Ihe work entitled Sibyll. Orac. a 7. Opsopseo, cum latina iuterpre-
tatione S. Caslalimh, Par. 1607. 8.—/. Fossius, De Sibyllinis aliisque quae Christi natum praecess. Oraculis. Oxf. 16;0.— iui
Prateus, in bis Jiweiial ; not. Sat. 3.—D. Blondell, Des Sibylles celebrees tant par I'anliq. payenne que les SS. peres. Charent,
1652. 4. Engl. Transl. by /. Daviei. Lond. 1660. foX.—Freret, Recueil des predictions de Sibylle, &c., in the Mem. Acad. Inttr.

xxiii. \%1.— Clavier, Memoire sur Us oracles des Anciens. Par. 1818. 8. pp. 176. The most complete edition of the Orachs is

that of S. Gallseus,Gr. & Lat. Amst. 16S9. i.—J. Floyer, The Sibylline oracles, translated from the best Greek copies, &c.
Lond. 1713. 8.— Cf. Jortin, Remarks on Eccles. History, vol. i. p. 1&3 of ed. Lond. 1751.

$ 16 &. The productions belonging to what is here called sacred poetry, constituted the whol«>
literature of the Greeks antecedently to the Trojan war. There are indeed some other works
now extant, which are ascribed to personages said to have lived before that time ; such e. g. as
4he Egyptian Hermes Trismegistus, and Horus Apollo, or Horapollon, and the Persian Zoroaster.
But the time when they lived is matter of dispute ; especially the time of Zoroaster, some plac-
ing him less than 600 years before Christ. And, however early they may have lived, the writ-
ings in Greek, under their names, are either fabrications, or translations made at a much later

Schtll, i. 59, 297. v. 110. vi. 321.— Cf. Harles, Brevior Notitia Literat. Graec. p. 12, as cited § ^.9.—Jinqlutil du Perrcm ant
Fouuier, On Zoroaster, in Mem. de VAcad. des Inscr. vol. xxvii. xxx. xxxi. xxxiv. xxxvii. xxxix. il. — C. P. Meiners, De Zoroas-
tris vita in the Nov. Comment. Soc. Scient. Getting, vol. viii. ix. — J. C. de Pauw, Horapollinis Hieroglyphica Gr. et Lat. Traj.
ad Rhen. 1727. 4. Anquetil du Perron, Zeudavesta (de Zoroaster), trad, en Frauc. &c. Par. 1771. 2 vols. 4.— Cf. below § 183. 3

^ 17. (h) Epic Poetry. As the poet gradually lost the sacred and mystic character
■with which he had been invested, poetry assumed more of the epic form. It aimed
more to interest and amuse the multitude, who gathered around the wandering minstrel,
especially at festivals and shows, to hear his song and tale. The minstrels bore the
name of Rhapsodists (PaiiWoO. Their songs partook more of the nature of narratives
than those of the religious bards. They freely indulged in fiction ; a new term was
soon introduced, expressive of this ; thev were said to mak°. their pieces {ttoicTv, TrotjjnV) ;
57 2p2


while the former were only said to sing {tikiv, doiSo;). They were not restricted in the
choice of subjects. They clothed in new and exaggerated forms the oldest recoilectiona
and traditions; they rehearsed the genealogy of the gods, the origin of the world, the
wars of the Titans and the Giants, the exploits of the demigods and heroes.

The poets were numerous after the time of the Trojan war. They brought to its
perfection hexameter verse, which had been employed by preceding bards; and from
this time it was restricted chiefly to epic poetry.

§ IS. All the poets of this class were wholly eclipsed by Homer, who is justly styled
the father of epic poetry, and who remains to this day acknowledged prince of epic
poets. It is a remarkable fact, that the Homeric poems were the principal foundation
of the whole literature of the Greeks. Yet it has been supposed by many, that they
were not committed to writing (cf. § 50. 4) until the time of Solon and Pisistratus, at
the close of the second or beginning of the third period before mentioned (§ 9). They
were then collected into a body, and constituted the first production that circulated
among the Greeks in a written form. It was a splendid model, and received whh high
and lasnng admiration by every class of the people. The influence of these poems in
Greece is beyond calculation. "From Homer," says Pope, "the poets drew their
inspiration, the critics their rules, and the philosophers a defence of their opinions;
every author was fond to use his name, and every profession writ books upon him till
they swelled to libraries. The warriors formed themselves upon his heroes, and the

oracles delivered his verses for answers." The history of Grecian epics ends as it

begins, essentially, with Homer. The only poet near his time who has enjoyed much
celebrity is Hesiod, who wrote in hexameter, and is usually ranked among the epic
poets, although his principal work belongs rather to the didactic class. There is a
story of a poetical contest between Hesiod and Homer, in which the former bore away
the prize; but it is a fabrication, and the tradition on which the story was founded,
probably grew out of a conjectural comment on the passage of Hesiod, where he
alludes to a prize gained by him at Chalcis, but says nothing of Homer. Cf. P. IV. "S* 65.

^ 19. During the whole of the third period into which we have divided the history
of Greek literature, from Solon to Alexander, we do not find a single epic poem. Th6
Perseid of Chosrilus of Samos is lost, and if extant would not secure its author a rank
above his contemporaries in the class of later Cyclic poets. The Thebaid of Anti-
machus of Colophon, which is also lost, was much commended by some of the ancient
criiics ; but it seems to have been of a mythological cast rather than properly epic. In
other departments poetry flourished in the highest degree; but in this Homer had
closed the path to glory.

Cf. Sch - U, ii. 122— 127.— jj. F. NUtte, ChcErili Saniii qua; supersunf. Lips. 1817. 3.—C. A. G. SchelUnburg, Antimachi Colo-
phonii fragnienla, nunc priraum conquisita. Hal. 1786. 8.

<5> 20. In the next period, the Alexandrian age, we meet with but one name of any
celebrity, Apollonius Rhodius, author of the Argonautics, who flourished about 200
years B. C. Three other epic poets are mentioned, belonging to the same age ; Eupho-
rion of Chalcis ; Rhianus of Bene in Crete, originally a slave ; and Musaeus of Ephe-
sus, who hved at Pergamos. Each is said to have written several poems ; which are
wholly lost {SchoJl, Hist. bk. iv. ch. 30).

In the fifth period, from the supremacy of the Romans, B. C. 146, to the time of .
Constantine, A. D. 325, there were several didactic poems in hexameter, but not an
epic appeared that has secured remembrance.

In the last period, after the seat of empire was removed to Constantinople, there
was a crowd of inferior poets, or verse makers, hanging about the court. Many per-
formances were composed in hexameter. The principal, that can be called epic, are
the Dionysiacs of Nonnus, and the Paralipomena of Quintus Calaber, which, although
some critics have highly praised them, will be read but very seldom. The Destruction
of Troy by Tryphiodorus may also deserve to be named.

On epic poetry in general ; Eschentnir^'s Entwurf, p. 196.— P. le Sossu, Traite du Poeme Epique, 5th ed. Haye, 1744. 2 vols. 12.
Enjlish Trinsl. Lond. 1719. S.—R. Blachm.'ve, On Epick Poetry, in his Essays, &c. Lend. 1716. 8 — ff. Pemherton, Observa-
tions on Epic Poetry. Lond. 1738. %.— Karnes, Elements of Criticism, ch. xxn.— Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric, lect. xWl—Vatry,
and Dt la Barre, in the Mem. dt VAcad. des Inter, ix. 228, 239.

On the epic poetry of the Greeks; SckCll, i. 97, ii. 122— fr. Schlegel, Geschichle der Poesie der Griechen und Rotner. Bert.
179S. S.— Herder, Von dem Urspriing des Epos ; in his Adrastea.— Spi'Oier, De versu GriEco heroico. Lips. 1S16. 8.— See alao
Sulzei's Allg. Theorie; under BeUmgedicht.—EncycL Amer. under Epic.

% 21. (c) The Cyclic •poets and the HomeridcE. Although there was no great epic
poet after Homer, there were many who imitated his manner and sung of the same or
similar subjects. Some of these, perhaps most of them, were Rhapsodists, who publicly
rehearsed portions of Homer and other poets, as well as their own verses. This led to
the composition of the pieces called sometimes hymns {v^voi), being addressed to some
deity; and also proems {Upooijxia), because they were a sort of introduction to the rehear-
sal which followed. The Rhapsodists', who chiefly rehearsed or imitated Homer, have
been called the Homeridce. {Srholl, Hist. bk. ii. ch. iv.) But to all these poets, as a
class, the term Cyclic was applied by the ancient grammarians. The name is derived
froirj KVK\ui, a circle, and was given because their poetry was confined to a certain

p. r. POETRY. LYRIC. 451

round or cycle of subjects and incidents. Their performances were of the epic cha-
racter, but are ahriost totally lost. The cycle of subjects treated by them included the
whole extent of Grecian story, real and fabulous, from the origin of the world down to
the sack of Troy. They are sometimes called the poets of the epic cycle ; and have
been divided into two classes ; such as treated of the mythology and legends anterior
to the Trojan war, termed poets of the Mythic Cycle; and those who treated of the
various incidents connected with that war from the decision of Paris to the death of
Ulysses, termed poets of the Trojan Cycle. It is easy to perceive how the term cycle
should obtain its metaphorical sense oi ^monotonous and spiritless author. — The Cychc
poets^are interesting to us chiefly from the fact, that they furnished the sources whence
subsequent poets drew their materials. Virgil and Ovid are said to have borrowed
largely from those authors.

♦ There were s^everal poets in the period between Solon and Ale.xander, who treated of subjects
belonging to the epic cycle, and are sometimes called the later Cyclic poets. {Scholl. bk. iii. eh.
XV.) In the last period also of Grecian literature the poets, who are called epic, are rather mere
imitators and copiers of the Cyclic tribe, and might be classed with the same ; as e. g. Quintus
Calaber, Tryphiodorus, and Tzetzes.

The names and works of some of the Cyclic poets are given on the Iliac Table. This is a tablet
of marble^, on which the capture of Troy and events connected with it are represented by little
figures in bas-relief, with names added. It was found among the ruins of an ancient teniple on
the Via Appia. and is preserved in the Museum of the capiiol at Rome. Its date is not known ;
probably not before the time of Virgil.

1 On the Rhapsodists, cf. Sulzer's Allg. Theorie, vol. ii. p. 561.— Coleridge, Introduction to Study of Greek Poets, (p. 45, Philad.
1831.)— jr. //, Prolegornena ad Homerum.— CAaraWere der vamehmsttti Dichter, vol. ii. p. 5, Qber die Dichtkunst der Griechen im
heroischen Zeitalter, nach deni Homer.— S. F. Dresig, De Rhapsodis. Lips. 1734. 4.—/. Kreusar, Honierische Rhapsoden. Koln.

1833. 20n the Cyclic poets, see especially Fr. fVullneT, De Cyclo Epico Poetisque Cyclicis. Monisteri (Munsler), IS25. 8. A

work (according to Jahri's JahrbUcher for 182S) of solid learning and sound judgment. IVUUner mentions, by Ihtir Greek titles,
ttcenty-seven poems as belonging to the Epic Cycle.— F. G. Welcher, Der Epische Cyclus, oder die Homerischen Dichter. Bonn.
1835. 8.— See Htyne's Excurs. I ad Mn. u.—FabrKii Bib. Graec. \.—Scholl, bk. ii. ch. \v.— Schwartz, Dissertationes seleclje (ed.
Harless.) Erlang. lllS.—BouxJiaud, Aniiquites Poetiques, ou Dissert, sur 1. Poetes cycliques. Par 1799. S.—Dodwdl, de Cyclis,
cited P. !. § 193.- The chief original source of information is a passage taken from Proclus; see Bibliothek d. alt. Lit. vnd Kunst

Online LibraryJohann Joachim EschenburgManual of classical literature : from the German of J.J. Eschenburg, with additions → online text (page 94 of 153)