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'#: TILLYARD, M. A. 











THE Greeks were the most intellectual people of the 
old world. They were explorers in every field of 
knowledge and art, where they showed in the highest 
degree the desire for truth and the love of the beauti- 
ful. Freedom of thought and deed seemed to them 
essential to happiness and self -development ; while 
a sense of fitness and dislike of excess saved them, as 
a rule, from wildness of imagination or impropriety 
of action. Ancient Greece was never a great nation, 
as Assyria and Persia were great. In a small country 
divided into countless valleys and tracts, little city- 
states arose and worked out on a small scale and in 
a short time the whole process of growth, maturity, 
and decay. The genial climate of Greece helped the 
quick advance of man, and the narrow seas facilitated 
commerce and lured the adventurer abroad. Thus 
the Greeks were by nature and circumstances chosen 
to be the educators of Europe. They founded philo- 
sophy, natural science, mathematics, medicine, 
music, and political economy. Almost every literary 
form used at the present day can be traced back to a 
Greek original. In architecture and sculpture the 
Greeks have given models to every school. Greece 
by her instruction equipped Rome for her great 
civilising work : and it was in the Greek tongue, in a 


language enriched by Greek thinkers, that the world 
received the Christian religion. 

The study of Greek literature is therefore a proper 
element in a liberal education. The Greek language, 
naturally flexible and rich in poetical words, becomes 
in the hands of the great writers a medium of un- 
equalled force, clearness, and adaptability, able to 
express as well the highest aspirations of the poet 
as the subtlest shades of philosophical argument or 
the most abstruse technicalities. The books of 
Greece have passed the critical selection of the ages, 
and the student, unencumbered by masses of 
inferior material, can approach the works of acknow- 
ledged masters, the true fountain-head of European 

Note. The dates of many Greek authors being 
uncertain, the approximate time of their activity, 
indicated by floruit circa (fl. c.), is all that can be given. 
The bibliography is only a limited selection, and is 
confined to books needing no knowledge of Greek. 


ABBOT, E. V. Hellenica : Essays on Greek Poetry and 


BUTCHEB, S. R. Some Aspects of Greek Genius. 
JEBB, R. C. Primer of Greek Literature, and Growth and 

Influence of Classical Greek Poetry. 
JEVONS, F. B. History of Greek Literature. 
MAHAFFY, J. P. Classical Greek Literature. 
MURRAY, G. History of Ancient Greek Literature. 
SYMONDS, A. Studies of the Greek Poets. 
WRIGHT, W. C. Short History of Greek Literature. 


















EXTANT Greek literature seldom gives a glimpse of 
any immature effort or feeble striving after artistic 
form. Each type of composition seems to dawn in 
its full splendour. The earliest Greek epics have not 
only been the models for all European epic poets, but 
are in themselves the final standard of unsurpassable 

The two chief poemis ascribed to Homer are the 
Iliad and the Odyssey. In the Iliad we have in 
twenty-four books a series of episodes from the Trojan 
war. Paris, son of Priam, King of Troy, has carried 
off from Sparta Helen, wife of Menelaus. To avenge 
this wrong the latter calls in his brother Agamemnon, 
King of Argos, who leads against Troy a host of 
Achaeans from the chief cities in Greece. For 
nearly ten years the war drags on. The Trojans are 
blockaded and most of their land and small cities 
plundered. Then a quarrel arises between Agamem- 
non and the mightiest of the Achaean champions, 
Achilles. The latter refuses to fight, and his Wrath 
is announced as the subject of the Iliad. The re- 


maining Achaean heroes are no match for Hector, 
the mighty man of Troy, but by the fickle inter- 
ference of the gods in the struggle, the fortunes of 
battle are various. At last the Achaeans are driven 
back to their ships, when Achilles, hitherto deaf to 
all pleading, now gives his harness to Patroclus, his 
squire, and sends him to fight in his stead. Hector, 
though forewarned of his own fate, slays and despoils 
Patroclus. Thereupon Achilles, infuriated at his 
friend's death and rearmed with the divine armour 
made by Hephaestus, rushes into the fray, pursues 
and overcomes Hector, and drags his body round the 
walls of Troy. The aged Priam comes as a suppliant 
to beg for his son's body. Achilles grants it, and 
the Iliad ends with the burial of Hector. 

Most of these central incidents in the story are con- 
tained in a few books, especially i., ix., xv., and xvi. 
The others are mainly episodic, giving great battle- 
pieces with the exploits of various heroes, councils 
of the gods and their influence on the war, scenes in 
the besieged city such as the conversations of Paris 
and Helen, or the parting of Hector from his wife 
Andromache, the funeral games for Patroclus, and 
lastly the catalogue in Book ii. of the captains on 
both sides and their forces. 

Few critics would now assert the Iliad to be the 
work of one man. Apart from the disconnectedness 
of the story there are differences in dialect, in his- 
torical and archaeological conditions between one 
passage and another, which suggest composite 
authorship. The Homeric question was debated in 
antiquity, and since the publication of Wolf's Prolego- 


mena in 1795 every conceivable theory as to the 
origin of the poems has been held. The age of ex- 
cavation beginning with Schliemann (publications 
1881 onwards) has only added fresh material to the 
controversy. The following account may be put 
forward as fairly representative of modern views. ^ 
In the Iliad the Achaeans inhabit Greece, but Asia 
Minor is still barbarian. Agamemnon, the greatest 
Achaean chief, rules over the plain of Argos, which 
was the centre of the bronze age culture in southern 
Greece. Achilles, on the other hand, is a Thessalian 
hero, so that there may be a confusion with the Thes- 
salian Argos. The Dorians, who predominated hi 
southern Greece in historical times, have not yet 
made their great invasion. But even the Achaeans 
seem to have been newcomers. We hear of them as 
a tall, fair-haired race, using iron weapons and burn- 
ing their dead, while the bronze-age or Mycenean 
people buried theirs. On the other hand, all the 
Homeric sites so far explored have yielded Mycenean 
remains, and there is enough cultural likeness to 
suggest that at any rate the origin of epic tradition 
lies in the Mycenean age. Possibly Agamemnon 
and his house represent a northern dynasty ruling a 
less warlike but more civilised Aegaean people. The 
central event of the Homeric poems, namely the siege 
of Troy, had some foundation in fact. The Achaean 
race is spreading eastwards, perhaps under pressure 
of the Dorian invasion, or even earlier, and the 
walled city commanding the Hellespont must have 
been a great barrier to their progress. No less than 
six cities have stood and fallen on the site of Troy ; 


the siege of such a stronghold may well have become 
famous in song. It is well known that traditions 
and legends tend to group themselves round famous 
sites or incidents, and in this way we may explain 
the transference to Asia of the Thessalian myth of 

The honour of composing out of current lays an 
epic of outstanding merit on the Wrath of Achilles is 
claimed for a nameless poet of Asia Minor singing in 
the Aeolian dialect and living perhaps at Smyrna 
some time between 1000 and 800 B.C. The Aeolians 
were the first Greek settlers in Asia, and the dialect 
of Homer has traces of Aeolic. Then about two cen- 
turies later the real " Homer," an Ionian minstrel, 
possibly a native of Chios, worked up the " Wrath " 
into a great poem which was substantially our Iliad. 
The dialect he changed as far as possible into Ionic, 
and modified a few of the descriptions to suit the 
taste of his own age. In weaving together tradi- 
tional sagas he gave his work enough cohesion to 
hold the attention of his hearers, while he enriched 
the older epic with episodes of incomparable dignity, 
fire, and pgihgs. This " Homer " was the chief of a 
school or clan of minstrels called Homeridae, to whom 
we owe the latest portions of the Iliad, and the other 
L e BJ P ems to be mentioned below. 

The companion poem to the Iliad is the Odyssey, 
also in twenty-four books. Odysseus, King of Ithaca, 
an island of Western Greece, had fought at Troy, and 
is setting out for home. On the way he incurs the 
wrath of the Sun-god and of Poseidon, whereby his 
return is delayed for ten years by adventures in the 


fabulous regions on the borderland of ancient geo- 
graphy. Odysseus is a typical Ionian hero, the 
patient man of endless resource, a good warrior, but 
preferring persuasion to force. This steadfast wis- 
dom and the favour of Athena finally bring him 
safely out of his troubles. The poet also shows us 
the state of Ithaca in its ruler's absence : the young 
Telemachus, unable to control his subjects : the 
faithful Queen Penelope, beset by insolent suitors, 
and finally rewarded by the return and triumph of 
Odysseus. The personality of the hero gives the 
Odyssey more apparent unity than the Iliad. The 
ancients believed it to have been a work of Homer's 
old age, but in comparing it with the Iliad we find 
more signs of altered conditions than could be covered 
by the lifetime of a single poet. 

The gods in the Iliad are glorified human beings 
and take part in the Trojan war. Zeus holds a 
doubtful sway, his consort Hera being often in re- 
bellion. In the Odyssey Zeus is supreme, and the 
gods dwell on Mount Olympus, remote from the 
strife of men. Land in the Iliad is held by the 
community and farmed in common, while in the 
Odyssey private ownership is established. These are 
only a few differences among many which have led 
scholars to assume a separate authorship for the 
Odyssey. Indeed it is now generally held (since the 
theory of Eorchhoff, 1859) that our Odyssey is itself 
an expansion of a lay on the Return of Odysseus, 
into which a short saga about Telemachus has been 
woven. This hypothetical " kernel " is found chiefly 
in Books v.-xui. We may say then that most of the 


Odyssey is contemporary with the latest books of 
the Iliad. 

Inferior to the Iliad in pathos and sublimity, the 
Odyssey has a unique charm as an adventure-story 
and fairy tale. It is less savage than the warlike 
Iliad. We leave din of battle for the toil of the oars 
and touch the dreamy land of the lotus-eaters, or 
linger in Calypso's enchanted grotto, or roam in 
wonder through the gardens and palace of Alcinous. 
'The metre of the Greek epic is the dactylic hexa- 
meter. It had perhaps been first used in primitive 
ritual, and was adopted by the Delphic Oracle for its 
responses. Homer's versification is perfect. His 
hexameters are rippling, swift, and sonorous. The 
Greek tongue with its long and short vowels, its 
musical pitch-accent, and its richness in light ter- 
minations, flows easily and strongly in this metre. 
Virgil's hexameters are mellow and stately, perfect 
in their own way, but not Homeric. No modern 
language has been able to approach the effect of the 
Greek epic verse. 

The Homeric poems were worked up from tradi- 
tional lays, and a striking token of their origin is 
seen in the recurrence of whole lines and stock epi- 
thets applied especially to gods and heroes. Thus 
daybreak is regularly announced by the line, " Now 
when early Dawn shone forth, the rosy-fingered." 
Hera is "Ox-eyed," Athena "Grey-eyed," Zeus 
"Cloud-gatherer," AchiUes "Swift of foot," Aga- 
memnon " Shepherd of the host." In this we see 
the simplicity of the early poets, who do not yet crave 
for constant variety in expression, and are content 


to let their characters go about under their crudely 
explicit labels. Homer is famed for the beauty of 
his imagery. He usually keeps his similes to adorn 
the great events in the narrative. The similes them- 
selves are taken from all kinds of familiar scenes, the 
sea, nature, handicraft, and daily life. The Achaean 
array is compared to tribes of birds that " fly hither 
and thither joying in their plumage and with loud 
cries settle ever onward," and again to flies " that 
hover about a herdsman's steading in the spring 
time, when milk drencheth the pails." But the 
supreme merit of the poems lies in their simple 
directness, their power of swift narration, and the 
whole-hearted absorption of the poet in the story 
that he tells. 

Homer had a profound and lasting influence over 
Greek literature. His poems were recited in all 
Greek cities and learned in every school. But al- 
though writing was known at the time when most of 
the epics were composed, we cannot tell how far an 
art still unfamiliar and chiefly applied to short in- 
scriptions was used by poets. At any rate the rhap- 
sodists or professional reciters were the chief agents 
in spreading the knowledge of Homer. Great as 
their services in this way must have been, they were 
liable to mistakes or tempted to interpolate lines to 
gratify the local patriotism of their hearers. Solon 
(600 B.C.) is said to have passed a law to regulate 
public recitations at Athens, and the Athenian 
tyrant Pisistratus (550-527 B.C.) is credited with 
having ordered an official recension of the poems. 
Although this recension is now held to be a fiction, 


the fact remains that Athens took the epics under 
a kind of protection, which has left traces of Attic 
dialect in Homer. By the end of the sixth century 
the poems were current in practically the same form 
as they have reached us, though the work of the 
Alexandrian critics, of whom Aristarchus (160 B.C.) 
was the greatest, helped to purify and explain the 

The Minor Epics. The Iliad and Odyssey only 
represent a small part of the poetry dealing with 
the Trojan war and the Trojan cycle of legends. 
The remaining parts of the story were worked up 
into epics by the so-called " Cyclic " poets ranging 
in date from the eighth to the sixth century. These 
poems, which finally covered the whole ground of the 
Trojan expedition, the fall of Troy, and the home- 
coming of the heroes, were admittedly far inferior to 
the true Homeric poems, and only fragments now 

Another group of lost poems clustered round 
Thebes, the most famous being the Thebais. Both 
cycles supplied endless plots to the Greek tragedians, 
from whose works and from the Latin Thebais of 
Statius we can infer at any rate the subjects pre- 

The so-called Homeric Hymns or preludes were 
composed by the rhapsodists to introduce recitations 
from the longer epics. They are in honour of various 
gods, and may have been intended for the festivals 
where Homer was recited. Thirty-four of these survive, 
and date from the seventh century B.C. downwards. 
The most famous are the hymn to the Delian Apollo, 


which gives an agreeable picture of the festival at 
Delos ; and that to Demeter, describing her wander- 
ings in search of Persephone. The diction of the 
hymns is closely copied from Homer, under whose 
name they passed in antiquity. 

Hesiod. From the courts of Aeolian and Ionian 
princes, the patrons of epic poets and rhapsodes, 
we pass to a barren countryside in Boeotia, where 
Hesiod's father, an Aeolian of Cyme in Asia, had 
reclaimed a strip of waste land near Mount Helicon. 
On its owner's death the little farm was divided 
between Hesiod and his brother Perses ; but the 
latter, by bribing the lords of the district, gained the 
larger share for himself. Perses was a shiftless, 
unsuccessful farmer, and for him and his like Hesiod 
composed the Works and Days. In the eighth cen- 
tury the peasant's lot was hard. The nobles held the 
best land and oppressed the poor. Trade is growing, 
but the Greeks are still terribly afraid of the sea. 
The Works and Days is the first didactic poem. It 
begins with exhortations to Perses and to the unjust 
judges, the text of the sermon being the need for 
work. This is emphasized by the legend of Prome- 
theus who stole fire from heaven, and of Zeus' con- 
sequent wrath and his punishment of man by the 
sending of Pandora, the type of feminine deception, 
with her jar in which all the ills of the world were 
stored. The Five Ages of man, embodying the Greek 
belief in the fallen state of humanity, are also de- 
scribed. Then follow the precepts of agriculture, 
as it was practised by small peasant farmers : next 
a series of maxims and proverbs, such as all primi- 



tive folk have evolved ; and finally the calendar 
(by the moon) of lucky and unlucky days. Hesiod 
is a true tiller of the soil, shrewd, selfish, discontented, 
superstitious. The Greeks respected his ethical teach- 
ing, such as it was : the Romans, greater lovers of 
the country, valued his agricultural advice, which 
inspired Virgil in his Georgics ; but the modern reader 
is chiefly concerned with the picture of Hesiod's 
times and surroundings, and to hear from him a 
voice not of kings or heroes but from the heart of 
the people. 

The Theogony is a didactic poem on the birth of the 
gods and their warfare with the Titans which ended 
in the dominion of Zeus. It became the great text- 
book of Greek religion. A poem called Eoiae on 
heroines who had wedded gods is almost wholly lost. 
The epic fragment called the Shield of Heracles was 
ascribed to Hesiod, but is by a later imitator of 
Homer. Hesiod used the epic hexameter, but, 
except for rare flights, his style is prosaic. The 
poems have come down to us in a mixture of Aeolic 
and Ionic dialect, the latter element being perhaps 
due to Ionian recitation and adaptation. 

HOMER Translations : Iliad, Lang, Leaf, and Myers. 
Odyssey, Butcher and Lang (prose) ; Cotterill, Mackail. 
Both these are recent verse. Older versions : Chapman, 
Pope, Cowper. General ; Browne, Homeric Study ; 
Jebb, Introduction to Homer ; Murray, Rise of the 
Greek Epic ; Ridgeway, Early Age of Greece. HESIOD 
Trans. , &c. , Mair. HYMNS Trans. , Lang, 



WE have now passed from the Heroic age into his- 
torical times. By the eighth century the Greeks 
are settled in their lasting abode on the coast of Asia 
Minor, the Aegean islands, and the mainland of Greece. 
Colonies are being planted in Italy and Sicily, in the 
northern Aegean regions, and on the Black Sea. 
The Greeks were a disunited people. Every city 
was a political unit, whose independence could only 
be given up under the strongest inducement or neces- 
sity. Racial divisions also existed. The Aeolian, 
Ionian, and Dorian folk had their own dialects and 
tribal cults, and developed their own literature. The 
Ionian cities of the middle coast of Asia Minor, 
Smyrna, Ephesus, and Miletus, with the island of 
Chios, rose in the seventh and sixth centuries to great 
splendour. Monarchy, the Homeric form of govern- 
ment, gives place to oligarchy, and this in its turn to 
tyranny, an unconstitutional kingship resting on 
force, followed in most cities by complete democracy. 
The genius of the lonians is scientific and methodical. 
Their poetry is reflective, sententious, and satirical. 
In pure emotion they were far surpassed by the 
Aeolian Greeks of northern Asia Minor and Lesbos. 

The Greeks, in spite of their separation, were 
always aware of their underlying unity ; and in the 
sixth century the growth of trade and intercourse, 
together with the common dangers that began to 
press upon the race, brought its scattered elements 


closer together, until the patriotism of united Greece 
repulsed the Persian enslaver at Salamis and Plataea. 

Most of the Greek lyric poets are only known to us 
in short fragments quoted by later writers ; but 
enough remains to show the exquisite skill of the 
greater lyrists. Lyric poetry had various forms, 
such as religious and processional hymns, choral or 
solo ; odes of victory, dirges, wedding-songs, drink- 
ing-catches ; poems of the emotions, love-songs, 
political lampoons. The chief poets wrote in several 
of these classes. Music was essential to a lyric poem, 
and the poet was generally also the composer. The 
accompaniment was played on the lyre or seven- 
stringed lute. 

Aeolian poetry reached its height at Lesbos, where 
in a society rich, brilliant, passionate, but torn with 
the bitterest party strife, Alcaeus and Sappho com- 
posed their immortal works. Sappho (fl. c. 580) is 
the world's greatest poetess. " Of all the poets of the 
world," says Mr. Addington Symonds, " and of all 
the illustrious artists of all literatures, Sappho is the 
one whose every word has a peculiar and unmis- 
takable perfume, a seal of absolute perfection and 
inimitable grace." Her odes were inspired by 
sentimental attachments to young girls, among 
whom she formed a school of poetry. The longest 
fragment is addressed to Aphrodite, whom she im- 
plores to aid her, as aforetime, in winning the heart 
of her beloved. Elsewhere we see a wonderful 
feeling for nature and a beauty of imagery which may 
be imperfectly mirrored in the Latin lyrists. Alcaeus 
(ft. c. 600), a friend of Sappho, is a Lesbian cavalier, 


a man of war and faction, hating tyrants and de- 
spising the people, a man of love, wine, and song. To 
him is ascribed the invention both of the Alcaic and 
of the Sapphic metres, which were used freely by 
Horace and later writers. 

Although poetry like that of Alcaeus and Sappho 
is almost untranslatable, some notion of their spirit 
can be gathered from the following versions, one of a 
fragment of Alcaeus by Col. Mure, the other by 
Symonds of the Aphrodite ode already mentioned 
(four stanzas quoted). 

" From floor to roof the spacious palace halls 

Glitter with war's array. 
With burnished metal clad, the lofty walls 

Beam like the bright noon-day. 
There white-plumed helmets hang from many a nail 

Above in threatening row. 
Steel-garnished tunics and broad coats of mail 

Spread o'er the space below. 
Chalcidian blades enow, and belts are here, 

Greaves and emblazoned shields, 
Well-tried protectors from the hostile spear 

On other battle-fields. 
With these good helps our work of war's begun : 

With these our victory must be won." 

" Glittering-throned, undying, Aphrodite, 
Wile- weaving daughter of high Zeus, I pray thee, 
Tame not my soul with heavy woe, dread mistress, 
Nay, nor with anguish. 

" But hither come if ever erst of old time 
Thou didst incline and listen to my crying, 
And from thy father's palace thou descending 
Camest with golden 


" Chariot yoked, Thee fair swift-flying sparrows 
Over dark earth with multitudinous flapping, 
Pinion on pinion thorough the middle ether 
Down from heaven hurried. 

" Quickly they came like light ; and thou, blest lady, 
Smiling with clear undying eyes, didst ask me, 
What was the woe that troubled me, and wherefore 
I had cried to thee." 

The lonians invented the elegiac couplet, a modi- 
fied form of the Homeric hexameter. This metre 
is said to have been first used for dirges sung to the 
flute. It can indeed bear an almost lyrical character, 
but sinks readily into a prosaic form suitable to 
sententious utterance, political or gnomic. Prose 
did not become a literary medium until the fifth 
century, and the sayings of the early philosophers 
and moralists were usually in elegiac verse. 

The iambic metre, which is the nearest approach 
that poetry could make to common speech, is said 
to have been invented by Archilochus of Paros 
(about 700 B.C.). This metre was especially used 
for satire, of which Archilochus seems to have been a 
master. He led a wandering, dissatisfied life, de- 
spising wealth and ease, a slighted lover, an un- 
successful colonist, a soldier who scorned defeat but 
never profited by victory. Once he dropped his 
shield in flight. " What matter ? " he cries ; " I'll 
get another just as good." The fame of Archilochus 
in antiquity makes the loss of his main work a matter 
of deep regret. 

Of the gnomic writers only a few can be mentioned. 
Xenophanes of Colophon (fl. c. 540 B.C.) criticised 


Homeric religion as giving an unworthy estimate of the 
gods. Theognis of Megara (c. 520), though an Aeolian, 
wrote in Ionic elegiacs a poem addressed to a young 
Megarian noble giving all kinds of precepts in the 
oligarchic interest, and deploring the growing strength 
of the popular party. Solon of Athens (639-559) vindi- 
cated in verse his own political reforms, by which he 
had hoped to relieve the distress of the poor and to 
avert a tyranny. From Semonides of Amorgos (fl. c. 
625 B.C.) we have a satire in iambics on woman. The 
various types of women are drawn from animals : 
the vain woman from the horse, the inquisitive from 
the weasel, and finally the virtuous from the bee. 
Homeric chivalry has given way to an Oriental sus- 
picion of woman and dislike of her influence. The 
tone of Hipponax of Ephesus (fl. c. 540) is equally 
peevish and misogynistic. He is the reputed in- 
ventor of the choliambic or lame iambii^-nretee, an 
ugly form of verse used later in 
One quotation will show his characj 

"When is a wife her husband's joy ? 
The day she weds him and the day 

Of Ionian love-poets Mimnermus oT~~Smyrna 
(fl. c. 630), and Anacreon of Teos (fl. c. 540) were 
the most notable. Mimnermus used the elegiac 
metre and became the model for the amatory elegies 
of Alexandria and Rome. Anacreon was a lyrist. 
Both are unromantic, selfish voluptuaries. Mim- 
nermus soon wearies of life. He pities the sun for 
being obliged " all day long his course to run," and 
prays for a painless death at sixty. Anacreon lived 


at the court of Polycrates, prince of Samos, and with 
other tyrants, and enjoyed favour and ease till his 
death at the age of eighty-five. In him the degene- 
racy of the Ionian race, now unwarlike and fond 
only of wine and pleasure, found poetical expression. 
His verses, of which few survive, were much read and 
imitated in later antiquity. 

Among the Dorians poetry had a definite place in 
public as well as in religious life. Choral singing was 
an important subject in the education of both sexes ; 
the strains of the flute led the Spartan armies into 
battle, and their marching-songs were famous. It 
is not surprising that the Spartans, a nation of soldiers, 
should have borrowed most of their poets from other 
states. We first hear of Terpander of Lesbos (fl. c. 
676 B.C.) who made some great improvement in 
stringed instruments, as well as in lyric metre. His 
compositions, which only free Spartans might sing, 
were typical of the stately, unadorned, archaic style. 
Tyrtaeus (fl. c. 640 B.C.) is said to have been a lame 
Athenian schoolmaster, sent to Sparta in obedience 
to an oracle. Sparta was at war with Messenia, and 
the royal house dreaded a revolution. Tyrtaeus 
wrote to defend the divine right of the Spartan 
kings and to exhort the citizens to repel the foe. His 
poetic eloquence won the day. These elegiac poems 
were written in a kind of Ionic dialect, but in his 
marching-songs he used the pure anapaestic metre 
and the Doric tongue. 

Alcman (fl. c. 650), the chief lyrist of Sparta, 
shows us a more genial aspect of Dorian life. He 
was born at Sardis, and seems to have come to Sparta 


as a slave some time in the seventh century. His 
chief works were the Parthenia or choral songs for 
the choirs of maidens who sang in honour of Artemis 
Orthia. These odes were mainly religious and 
mythological, but the poet turns aside now and 
then to describe the beauties of nature or to aim a 
little playful banter at members of the chorus. 

Arion, a Lesbian poet of the late seventh century, 
lived mainly at the court of Periander, tyrant of 
Corinth. He wandered in the west, and, says the 
legend, was saved by a dolphin, when thrown over- 
board by sailors covetous of his wealth. Arion's 
achievement was the invention of the dithyramb, a 
wild choral song with dancing in honour of Dionysus. 
From this form tragedy ultimately sprang. Stesichorus 
of Him era in Sicily (fi. c. 600 B.C.) made further 
progress in the adaptation of epic themes to choral 
lyric. His fame was such that the coins of Minerva 
were afterwards stamped with his likeness. In the 
use of myth he made bold to change the traditional 
version : thus Helen, he declared, never went to 
Troy, but the gods sent a phantom instead. 

With Simonides of Ceos (556-467 B.C.) Greek 
poetry ceases to be local and dialectic and assumes 
a national character. The Persian wars had roused 
the Greeks to common action in defence of their 
country ; and the patriotic verse of Simonides was 
a lasting memorial of their victory and of their 
mighty dead. Most famous is his epitaph on the 
heroes of Thermopylae : 

" Go tell the Spartans, thou that passest by, 
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie." 


Simonides seems to have been the first to give 
literary form to the epigram, which meant originally 
an inscription on a grave, statue, or votive offering. 
He, like others, used the elegiac metre for this pur- 
pose. But his many-sided genius showed itself 
further in all kinds of lyrical forms, among which 
his dithyrambs, dirges, and odes of victory were 
pre-eminent. In dirges, which were sung at funerals 
to the music of the flute, he showed rare pathos. 
This is exemplified in the fragment giving the lament 
of Danae in the carven ark beside her sleeping babe 
Perseus. The odes of victory or Epinicia were per- 
formed in honour of victories at athletic contests, 
the poet being specially employed to glorify the 
victor and his city. Athletics had been the accom- 
paniment of funeral feasts since Homeric times, 
and were, it appears, regularly held at the graves of 
certain heroes. Four of these local meetings, the 
Olympian, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian games, 
rose to national importance, and drew competitors 
from the whole Greek world. To win a victory at 
such games was the highest ambition of young Greek 
aristocrats. The tyrants increased their fame and 
popularity by entering for the more expensive events, 
notably the chariot race ; and they were the poets' 
best patrons in ordering Epinician odes and pro- 
viding the chorus for their production. The greatest 
master of this style was Pindar (522-442 B.C.). He 
was born near Thebes, and is said to have studied 
poetry under the local poetess Corinna as well as at 
Athens. He travelled widely, and was a friend and 
guest of the great Sicilian and Cyrenian princes. 


He wrote odes to order for religious purposes and 
in honour of athletic victories. Of the former we 
have only some long fragments of his Paeans (in- 
augural hymns to Apollo), but the latter, the Epini- 
cian odes, have survived. Pindar's great skill lies 
in the lyrical treatment of legend. He never wearies 
us with the details of the victories, but loves to 
relate the victor to the mythical glories of his house 
or city. Avoiding the straightforward detail of epic 
narration, he can express by a few touches the essen- 
tials of a situation and the ethos of the characters 
involved in it. Pindar writes as an aristocrat for 
aristocrats. He is orthodox in belief, refusing to ad- 
mit any story discreditable to the gods. Politically 
a Conservative, he has certain definite ideals of good 
government and moderation, which he loses no 
opportunity of impressing upon his regal patrons. 
Though keenly alive to the beauty and radiance of 
life, he never forgets the vanity of human ambition 
and the imminence of doom. But more than other 
Greek poets he had visions of a future life and of 
the Islands of the Blest, the home of righteous souls. 
Pindar's diction is lofty, intricate, and richly 
coloured. Metaphors or catchwords echo through 
his poems, suggesting vistas of allusions and hidden 
meanings. He has a rare sense of landscape beauty 
and a passion for light and brilliance, typifying suc- 
cess, joy, and immortal fame. The aesthetic effect 
of his odes, with their carefully balanced stanzas, 
and still more carefully planned irregular corre- 
spondence of metre and sense, can never, in the ab- 
sence of the music, be fully appreciated. But those 


who have patience to read and know him can travel 
back in imagination to the green banks of the Alpheus 
with their shining temples and white tiers of marble 
seats, where the victor, in the flower of youth and 
beauty, is received with a nation's applause and 
immortalised by the poet's song, the " warbled notes 
of boys," in an age when the world was young, and 
the Olympian olive-wreath the highest prize that 
life could offer. 

Bacehylides was a nephew of Simonides, and 
flourished about 468 B.C. Like Pindar, he wrote 
odes of victory, and was patronised by tyrants. Until 
1897 he was a mere name to us ; but then a number 
of his odes came to light from an Egyptian papyrus. 
Bacehylides and Pindar were jealous rivals, and 
although the inferiority of the former is unquestioned, 
he may have been more popular owing to his greater 
simplicity and easy grace of style. Like Pindar he 
uses mythology freely in his Epinicia. We have also 
some of his dithyrambs, now no longer confined to 
Dionysus-worship, but resembling a religious operetta 
with musical dialogue between the choruses. 

By the middle of the fifth century the glories of 
Greek lyric poetry are at an end. Tragedy becomes 
the prevailing form, and absorbs for its choral odes 
most of the lyric genius of the age. 

One later poet, Timotheus of Miletus (447-357), 
gave further scope to the dithyramb, to which he 
assimilated the nome, the ancient lyric song of Ter- 
pander. An example of a nome found in an Egyp- 
tian papyrus is the Persae, a cantata on the battle of 
Salamis. Timotheus was a favourite at Athens, and 


writes in a modified Attic dialect. The Spartans, 
however, expelled him because they disapproved of 
his innovations in music. What these were is un- 
certain. He is said to have added an eleventh string 
to the cithara, and possibly his rich orchestration 
spoilt the understanding of the words. Timotheus 
writes in a bombastic style, full of novel compound 
words ; his high-flown rhetoric alternates with tragi- 
comic bathos. 

SAPPHO Wharton, Sappho (trans., &c.) PINDAR 
trans., Myers. BACCHYLIDES Trans., Poste. (See also 
Histories of Greek Literature given on p. vi.) 



TRAGEDY seems to owe its origin to choral lays, sung 
at festivals of Dionysus. The name is uncertain 
in its meaning. It was applied to the dithyrambs 
of Arion and Bacchylides, where choral songs were 
sometimes interspersed with a kind of dialogue 
between the leader and the chorus on the mythical 
subject of the hymn. To Athens belongs the honour 
of giving a dramatic form to this lyrical ode. 

Thespis (sixth century B.C.) introduced an actor 
who answered the leader of the chorus. Their dia- 
logue was partly in iambic metre, which represented 
ordinary speech. The actor could change his dress 
in a booth called o-Krjvrj (hence our scene). 

In 535 B.C. public tragic competitions were estab- 
lished at Athens under Pisistratus. Any poet could 


submit a tragedy to the Archon. The three best 
plays or sets of plays competed at the festival. The 
chorus were paid and equipped by some wealthy 
citizen nominated by the Archon. The poet was 
responsible for the music as well as the text, and had 
to train the chorus and actors, usually taking a part 
himself. The accompaniment was played on the 
cithara and double flute. The chorus wore costumes 
appropriate to the play, and went through the motions 
of a stately dance. The winning chorus sometimes 
put up a monument to its victory. 

Of Thespis and his successors little remains. They 
are known to have taken plots from all kinds of 

Phrynichus (fl. 511-476 B.C.) attempted to use 
historical subjects, perhaps under the patriotic 
influence of Themistocles. His play, the Capture 
of Miletus is said to have moved the Athenians to 
tears ; but they afterwards fined the poet for re- 
minding them of their misfortunes. 

Aeschylus (fl. 499-456 B.C.) fought in the Persian 
wars and wrote, it is said, ninety plays. He usually 
exhibited a set of three tragedies, called a trilogy, 
followed by a satyr-drama. His great improvement 
was the addition of a second actor, so that the essen- 
tial incidents in a drama could be represented on the 
stage. His tragedies tend to become less choral and 
more dramatic. Thus in the Supplices more than half 
the play consists of choral odes, and the second actor 
is hardly needed ; while in the fourth extant play, the 
Prometheus, the crisis is enacted before our eyes, 
and the later plays need a third actor. Aeschylus 


is said to have invented a regular tragic costume, 
including thick-soled buskins and appropriate masks. 
The stage arrangements were very simple. Prob- 
ably the actors used the back of the semicircular 
orchestra. Behind them was a stage-building with 
three entrances. It was hung with some kind of 
painted scenery, usually the front of a temple or 
palace. A complete change of scene was very rare. 
There was a device called Eccyclema, a kind of turn- 
table by which any actor or object could be brought 
forward from behind the scenes. An actor could 
appear at an upper window, or a god could be swung 
forward by a crane and take his stand on a high 
ledge. Probably most of these devices were later than 
Aeschylus. The imagination of the audience could 
remedy the deficiencies of the staging. It is re- 
markable that the use of a raised stage above the 
orchestra was probably unknown until the third or 
fourth century B.C. 

/'Aeschylus was a deep religious thinker, and his 
tragedies are full of great problems that were begin- 
ning to force themselves on men's minds : the power 
of Destiny, the seeming injustice of the gods, both 
in legend and in providence, the inheritance of doom, 
and the suffering of the innocent. /In the Persae the 
great patriotic drama of Greece, the defeat of Xerxes 
is indeed easily explained as the punishment of 
impiety and presumption. But what of Prometheus, 
the benefactor of mankind, tormented by Zeus for his 
generous acts ? What of Orestes, who in obedience 
to Apollo's bidding to avenge his father's death, has 
slain his mother, and the Furies are out for his blood ? 


Aeschylus answers thus. Necessity rules ; Zeus is 
supreme because he wills what Necessity directs. 
He is also just. Pride and sin never go unpunished ; 
if the sinner escapes, the curse hangs over his house. 
But the guiltless do not suffer ; the curse slumbers 
until a fresh misdeed calls down the wrath of heaven. 
Prometheus is punished for a time, but is at last 
liberated and glorified. In Aeschylus' fourth play, 
the Seven against Thebes, Eteocles is king and is 
threatened by an invasion under Polynices, his exiled 
brother. Both are under their father's curse. Yet 
Aeschylus makes us feel that Eteocles by prudence 
can save his city and himself. It is because, in 
impious rage against his brother, he rushes to fight 
him hand to hand, that he falls and brings final ruin 
on his house. The crowning work of Aeschylus is 
the trilogy, Agamemnon, Choephori (Libation-bearers), 
and Eumenides. Agamemnon, returning victorious 
from Troy, is murdered by his queen Clytaemnestra. 
For a time she reigned with her paramour Aegisthus. 
Then Orestes comes home and avenges his father. 
Pursued by the Furies for matricide, he flies to Delphi, 
where Apollo bids him stand his trial at Athens. 
Athena herself calls the Council of Mars' Hill, the 
Areopagus. Orestes is finally acquitted, and the 
Furies are appeased by the founding of their worship 
at Athens. Here we see an important aspect of 
Greek tragedy in showing the people the origin of 
their own cults. Aeschylus believed in the old 
religion and had studied it deeply. His aim is to 
show its noblest side, to overawe the worldly minded, 
and to satisfy the doubter. 


Of all dramatists Aeschylus is the greatest master 
of the grand style. His characters are like archaic 
statues, rugged and superhuman. His verse is 
massive, full of big, sonorous words. None can 
depict like him the splendour of war, the din of 
battle, the lone majesty of mountains, and, above 
all, the might of elemental forces, the rock-hurling 
Titans, and the thunders of Zeus. 

Sophocles (497-405 B.C.) was born at Colonus 
near Athens. As a boy he was chosen to lead the 
choir that sang the triumphal song after the battle of 
Salamis. At the age of twenty-eight he defeated 
Aeschylus in the tragic contest, and during the next 
sixty years he wrote more than a hundred tragedies 
and won more first prizes than any other tragedian. 
He was popular at Athens, held several public offices, 
and never settled away from home. Seven tragedies 
are extant, of which the Ajax is probably the earliest. 
Ajax has competed with Odysseus for the arms of 
Achilles, towards the end of the Trojan war, and 
having lost the award resolved to slay the Greek 
generals. But maddened by Athena he falls upon 
their cattle instead. Now he is himself again, and 
overcome by shame determines to die. After a 
pathetic farewell to his infant son he escapes to the 
shore and falls upon his sword. The rest of the play 
is concerned with the question of Ajax' burial, which 
was necessary to secure his immortality as a hero. 
Finally Agamemnon, as general, allows it. In the 
Antigone (c. 440 B.C.) we have the sequel to Aeschylus' 
Seven against Thebes. Creon, the new king, has 
buried with honour Eteocles, the defender of his 


country, but ordered Polynices to be left to the birds 
and dogs. Antigone chooses to obey God rather than 
man, and in defiance of the edict performs the rite 
of burial for her brother. She is arrested, brought 
before Creon, and sentenced to death. Creon's son 
Haemon, her betrothed, pleads in vain for her life. 
Then Teiresias, the blind seer, declares to Creon that 
heaven is about to punish his impiety. Creon, now 
thoroughly alarmed, sets out to release Antigone ; 
but he comes too late. Antigone has hanged herself 
in her living tomb and Haemon, at the sight of his 
father, stabs himself in despair. When Creon re- 
turns to the palace he finds that Eurydice, the queen, 
hearing of Haemon's death, has taken her own life. 
In this play Sophocles raises the vexed question of 
the conflict of duties, the claims of conscience and 
claims of the state. Creon is evidently in the wrong : 
he breaks a universal law of Greece in refusing burial 
to a foe. But it is excess of patriotism that mis- 
leads him, and his fate is a climax of tragic horror. 
Antigone is a pattern heroine. Dauntless, pious, 
faithful to the last, she seems to modern readers to 
lack womanliness. In all her laments over the fall of 
her house, she can only spare one line for her lover. 
We admire her virtue but she does not win our hearts. 
The Eledra dramatises an episode already used by 
Aeschylus. Sophocles reverts to the Homeric view 
of the vengeance of Orestes. Aegisthus, his father's 
murderer, is a proper victim of retribution, and the 
punishment of the faithless wife and unnatural 
mother appears as a secondary act of justice. The 
interest centres in Electra herself, who through 


years of ill-usage had refused to truckle to the usurper, 
and is now a relentless abettor of her mother's doom. 
The recognition-scene between Electra and her 
brother, whom she has not seen since babyhood, is 
particularly telling. The Oedipus Rex was Aristotle's 
ideal tragedy. It contains an earlier phase of the 
myth used in the Seven against Thebes and Antigone. 
Oedipus has solved the riddle of the Sphinx and 
saved Thebes from her attacks. For this service he is 
chosen king in the room of Laius, who has been mur- 
dered on the road to Delphi. Jocasta, the widowed 
queen, marries Oedipus. They live in peace for 
some years. Then a plague smites the land, and 
Apollo bids the slayer of Laius to be tracked down 
and punished. Oedipus takes up the case with all 
his energy, and step by step discovers the truth, 
that he has fallen into the very doom of which Apollo 
warned him, that he is himself the son and the mur- 
derer of Laius and the paramour of his own mother. 
This revelation, in which proof after proof is hurled 
at the luckless king, is the most effective in all litera- 
ture. Jocasta hangs herself, and Oedipus, who can 
no longer bear the light of day, puts out his eyes, 
and is finally allowed to go into exile. 

In old age Sophocles completed the story in his 
Oedipus at Colonus. The hero with his two daughters 
has taken refuge in Attica, the mythical protectress 
of the outcast. Good king Theseus grants him 
shelter, and in the peaceful grove, near the poet's 
own home, he finds his last resting-place. Creon 
comes with threats to demand his surrender, and 
Polynices, his thankless son, now in exile, is con- 


demned by his father's curse. But the serenity of 
the age-worn sufferer is untouched, and his end is a 
beatific translation to a better world. Cicero says 
that Sophocles was brought into court by one of his 
sons, who sought an interdict against him as incom- 
petent to manage his estate ; and that the poet 
read aloud from his unpublished play the beautiful 
chorus describing Colonus ; whereupon the jury, 
their patriotism and admiration touched, at once 
dismissed the case. 

The Trachiniae deals with the death of Heracles, 
caused by the robe poisoned in the blood of the 
centaur Nessus. Deianira, to regain the love of Her- 
acles, uses this as a charm. Heracles is tortured by 
the poison and dies on a pyre. The character of 
Deianira is full of pathos. Her joyful expectation 
of her lord's homecoming, her dismay at his infidelity, 
her forbearance towards a young rival whom she 
pities, and finally her silent resolution to die on the 
receipt of the fatal news, are presented with true 
humanity. In the Philoctetes Sophocles used a 
theme from the Trojan war that had already been 
used by Aeschylus and by Euripides. Philoctetes 
had been bitten by a snake and was marooned on 
the island Lemnos when the great expedition sailed 
on to Troy. Nevertheless this lonely wretch with 
a festering wound in his foot has the only weapon 
that can take the city, the bow and arrows of Her- 
acles. In Sophocles' play Odysseus and Neoptole- 
mus arrive from Troy to fetch the hero. Philoctetes 
receives the younger man rapturously, and pours 
out an unspeakably touching account of his woes. 


Neoptolemus has been primed by Odysseus to outwit 
Philoctetes and steal the bow. He does this, but his 
nobler nature quickly asserts itself and he gives 
back the weapon. Philoctetes now flatly refuses to 
help the Greeks, and the matter is only settled by the 
miraculous appearance of Heracles, who bids Philoc- 
tetes be of good cheer and set sail for Troy. This 
device of the de,us ex machina was abused by 
Euripides, but is magnificently effective in the 
present instance. 

Sophocles improved the drama by the addition of a 
third actor. This made possible more complicated 
action and a finer play of character. The chorus, 
whose number he raised to fifteen, becomes less 
important than with Aeschylus. 

In the technique of tragedy Sophocles holds the 
highest place. His plots unfold with sheer inevita- 
bility. His character-drawing is vivid and con- 
sistent ; he is a master of eloquence, alike in pleading, 
in narration, and in wrath. His dialogue is full of 
subtle balance and retort ; his lyrics have not the 
grandeur of Aeschylus but they glow with a mellow 
radiance of poetic fire. Tragic irony, in which the 
speaker uses words of whose hidden meaning he is 
unaware while the audience marks it, is an effective 
device in the hands of Sophocles. He is the most 
Attic of the tragedians if not the greatest, yet cer- 
tainly the most perfect. 

Euripides (485-407/6 B.C.), the third of the great 
Attic tragedians, was born at Salamis, became a 
disciple of the philosopher Anaxagoras, and a friend 
of Socrates and the Sicilian rhetorician Protagoras. 


He is said to have written ninety-two plays, but only 
gained the first prize five times. Of a retiring nature, 
he lived much alone at Salamis, where Aristophanes 
jestingly shows him surrounded with his books and 
tragic properties. Euripides' last years were spent 
at the court of Archelaus in Macedonia. 

Euripides, though less admired in his own day, 
has been the most popular Attic dramatist in later 
antiquity and modern times. This is due, firstly, 
to the pathos of some of his scenes, next to the simple 
beauty of his lyrics, and thirdly to his critical attitude 
towards the facts of life. A reader would not be 
struck by the weakness of plot, the frigidity in the 
speeches, and frequent lack of tragic dignity which 
must have displeased the Athenian theatrical public. 

The chorus is now felt as a hindrance to the action, 
partly because the myths suited to choric treatment 
had been exhausted. In Euripides it is a spectator 
of the drama uttering platitudes and singing more 
or less irrelevant odes. Sometimes it leaves the stage 
altogether. To obviate misunderstanding of the 
legend, which Euripides often altered to suit his 
purpose, he uses a prologue in the modern sense, 
practically addressed to the spectators. The appear- 
ance of a god on the stage was a frequent device in all 
tragedy. But while in Aeschylus the whole atmos- 
phere is so unearthly that this causes no astonish- 
ment, Euripides resorts to it to clear up an otherwise 
hopeless situation, or at best to give a kind of epilogue 
detailing the destinies of the characters. For ex- 
ample, in the Iphigenia in Tauris Orestes has come, 
in obedience to Apollo, to rescue his sister from the 


clutches of Thoas, in whose land strangers are sacri- 
ficed, and to carry off the image of Artemis. After 
a touching recognition, Iphigenia plans their escape 
by desperate cunning. After a fierce fight with 
some of Thoas' followers they take ship, only to be 
driven back by a contrary wind, and left at the 
mercy of Thoas. Suddenly Athena appears and 
orders Thoas to let the fugitives sail with the image. 
He obeys and all ends happily. It will be seen that 
up to the final stroke the gods have taken no part in 
the action. Apollo, whose oracle suggested the 
venture, gives no help whatever. The human 
characters are left altogether to their own resources, 
and a certain and tragic failure stares them in the 
face. Exactly similar conclusions recur in many 
plays. What did Euripides mean ? Does he be- 
lieve that the gods do intervene, however late, or 
that their help is an incredible addition to the real 
inhumanity of the early legends ? The latter view 
finds favour to-day. Euripides often shows the 
gods, especially Apollo, in an odious light, yet he 
protests that the gods can do no evil. Hence it is 
thought that Euripides had learnt a more philo- 
sophical religion from Anaxagoras and other thinkers, 
and while outwardly following the legends, wishes 
to bring home to the intelligent part of his audience 
the folly and barbarism of primitive beliefs. 

The diction of Euripides is less elevated than that 
of the other dramatists. His dialogue approaches 
the simplicity of every-day life. Often in his set 
speeches he makes free use of rhetoric. In lyrics he 
sometimes gives us a symphony of beautiful sounds, 


with repeated words or groups of synonyms without 
very much regard to the sense. 

Seventeen of his plays are extant. The Cyclops 
is the one surviving satyr-drama. It deals with 
the adventure of Odysseus in the Cyclops' cave in 
a spirit of conventional buffoonery. With some 
exceptions the earlier plays are more cheerful in 
tone than the later; and it has been thought that 
Euripides, inspired by Pericles' ideals, wished to 
glorify Athens, while his disappointment in their 
failure and disgust at the excesses of the democracy 
may have saddened the last part of his life. 

Much attention has lately been paid to Euripides' 
attitude to women. It used to be said that he was 
a misogynist, but the fact seems to be that he tries 
to show women with their real good and bad qualities 
instead of conventional virtues invented for them 
by men. 

In the Medea Jason has won the Golden Fleece 
and brought Medea home as his bride. He then 
tires of her and for political reasons weds Glauce. 
He attempts to justify his conduct on the plea that 
Medea is really better off in Greece than in a bar- 
barian land. Medea in a passion of jealousy resolves 
on the only possible vengeance, the murder of their 
two children. She commits this crime and escapes, 
leaving Jason in despair. Medea's account of the 
grievances of her sex exceeds the demands of the 
situation ; but we must remember that women 
were present at tragic performances. The genius of 
Euripides forces us to sympathise with the wife and 
mother, witch and murderess though she be, rather 


than the respectable Jason, who has done nothing 
against conventional Greek morality, but is none 
the less depicted as a quibbler and a coward. Against 
this must be set the many virtuous heroines in 
Euripides : Alcestis, for example, dies without a 
murmur to save Admetus, her amiable but mean- 
spirited husband. When she is restored by the 
intervention of Heracles, we can only feel that 
Admetus is worthily deprived even of the dignity 
of suffering. 

Even where Euripides shows the commoner failings 
of women, he does so with a certain sympathy. 
Electra has been called a typical old maid. In the 
other dramatists she is a tragic heroine, rebellious 
in bondage and dignified under oppression ; in 
Euripides' Electra she is banished from court, wedded 
to an old peasant, and burdened with tasks that 
make her weary and querulous. The vengeance of 
Orestes on Aegisthus is shown as a sordid crime. Electra 
sends for Clytemnestra, who arrives in state, but sad 
at heart, not knowing of her paramour's death. We 
see the pathos of her sin and splendour. For a 
moment she pities Electra, who answers ironically 
and invites her into the cottage where she lives. 
There Orestes slays his mother. After the deed both 
brother and sister are plunged in remorse. The 
Dioscuri order Orestes to go wandering, and Electra 
to marry his friend Pylades ; and we can hardly 
determine which of the murderers has the heavier 
punishment. It is worth noting that the wickedness 
of the chief characters is contrasted with the almost 
tiresome virtue of Electra's nominal husband, the 


old peasant. Euripides fully believed that moral 
goodness was independent of rank. 

The final achievement of Euripides' life was the 
Bacchae. In earlier plays he had criticised the 
traditional religion, but now he seems to return to 
orthodoxy. The subject of the play is the intro- 
duction of Bacchic worship at Thebes, and the fate 
of Pentheus, who attempted to thwart its spread. 
The whole population, including even Teiresias, and 
the aged king Cadmus, is given up to this orgiastic 
cult. Pentheus imprisons Bacchus, and forbids the 
rites. The god escapes and lures Pentheus to dis- 
guise himself and spy on the Bacchanals, who are 
out on Mount Cithaeron. Pentheus is quickly de- 
tected, and is torn to pieces by his mother Agave 
and the other Maenads, who in their frenzy think he 
is a young lion. In the ravings of Agave, and the 
ecstatic hymns of the chorus, are some of the most 
inspired passages of Euripides. 

AESCHYLUS Trans., verse: Campbell; Morshead. 
SOPHOCLES Trans., verse : Campbell ; some plays by 
Murray; Phillimore. Prose: Jebb. EUBIPIDES 
Verse : Murray (some plays) ; Way. General : Haigh, 
Attic Theatre and Tragic Drama of the Greeks ; Verrall, 
Euripides the Rationalist, Four Plays of Euripides, 
Bacchants of Euripides, and other Essays. 




GREEK comedy seems to have originated in rude 
performances given at rustic festivals. Aristotle 
says that it was taken from the Dorians. There is 
evidence for such acting at Sparta, where grotesque 
clay masks have been discovered, and also at Megara 
and in Sicily. It is supposed that strolling players 
crossed into Attica and introduced comedy. For a 
long time it had no official recognition, but was 
produced by subscription at Dionysian festivals. 

Cratinus (520-422 B.C.) was the founder of political 
comedy, his forerunners having written merely for 
fun. Of him and other early comedians little remains. 
We only know that they were free in attacking 
political opponents and were more or less successful 
rivals of Aristophanes. 

Aristophanes (fl. 427-388 B.C.) was the greatest 
master of the Old Comedy. His earliest plays are 
mainly taken up with politics and support the Con- 
servative party. He attacks Cleon and other 
demagogues, and deplores the Peloponnesian war. 
The Acharnians (425), Knights (424), Peace (421) are 
mainly political. In the Clouds he ridicules the new 
sophistic learning, of which Socrates is unfairly taken 
as a representative. The Wasps (423) satirises the 
litigious character of the Athenians. The Birds (414) 
is a brilliant absurdity describing a city built in 
mid-air by the birds, on the advice of two discon- 
tented Athenians. It is probably a satire on the 


wild ambitions of Athens. In the Lysistrata (411) 
the women of Greece are supposed to plot a universal 
strike, which stops the Peloponnesian war. Two 
plays, ThesmopJioriazusae (410) and Frogs (405), are 
mainly aimed at Euripides, of whom orthodox 
Athenians disapproved. In the Ecclesiazusae (393) 
the poet ridicules current notions of socialism and 
the rights of women. The latter form a parliament 
which founds a communistic state. In the Plutus 
the unjust distribution of wealth is discussed. Plutus, 
god of wealth, regains his sight, whereby the good 
are enriched and injustice ceases. 

The Old Comedy can scarcely be said to have a 
plot. There is a comic situation more or less fan- 
tastic ; and the question at issue is usually debated 
in set speeches. After the decision, various 
irrelevant episodes are introduced. The chorus 
sings odes between the acts, which are either satirical 
or imitations of hymns or festal songs. An impor- 
tant feature was the pardbasis, where the chorus 
faced the audience, and addressed them in the name 
of the poet. Thus Attic comedy was a kind of 
pantomime, not devoid of serious purpose, full of 
reference to current events, but using all means, 
from the finest satire to the most vulgar buffoonery, 
to raise a laugh. 

The style of Aristophanes is remarkably vigorous ; 
in comic ribaldry he is only to be compared with 
Shakespeare. His wit is ever fresh and boisterous, 
but he can write lyrics showing high poetic feeling 
and a true love of nature. 

To the Old Comedy succeeded the Middle Comedy ; 


but there was of course no sharp division. Aris- 
tophanes' last play, the Plutus, already shows most 
of the features of the later species. Political and 
individual satire is seldom found : the playwright is 
more concerned with types of character ; and slaves, 
cooks, and other low-class fellows supply the comic 
element. Women play prominent parts ; two ap- 
pear in the Plutus ; and in a fragment of Epicrates, 
Lais in advancing years is compared to an old eagle, 
no longer able to secure her prey. The chorus only 
sings one short irrelevant ode in Plutus. Otherwise 
the leader only takes part in the dialogue. In Middle 
and New Comedy the chorus had a purely formal 
connection with the play, and gave a performance of 
singing and dancing between the acts. 

The masters of the Middle Comedy are mere names 
to us. Antiphanes (404-328) is said to have written 
230 comedies. Alexis of Thurii (c. 390-288) ridi- 
culed the Platonists. Timocles attacked Demos- 
thenes. It appears that much variety of subject, 
whether mythological, social, political, or philosophi- 
cal, was still allowed. Many of the plays were 
probably meant for reading rather than for the stage. 

New Comedy differs in no essential from Middle 
Comedy, but the process of evolution is now com- 
plete. The genius of Menander gave classical drama 
its final shape, and made it the prototype for the 
Roman, mediaeval and modern theatre. We have 
no means of telling how much credit is due to 
Menander himself for such a momentous innovation, 
and how much was the result of the spirit of his age. 
But the fact remains, that there is no play, either 


tragic or comic (apart from opera and pantomime) 
but owes its form (by direct historical descent) to the 
Attic New Comedy. Menander did for comedy 
what Euripides did for tragedy, and Socrates for 
philosophy. He proved that " the proper study of 
mankind is man." But while Euripides left no worthy 
successor and so far killed ancient tragedy, Menander 
founded a tradition that is still alive and fruitful. 

He lived at Athens 342-291 B.C., was a student 
of Theophrastus, a friend of Epicurus, and a lover 
of the renowned beauty, Glycera. He wrote 108 
plays. Apart from numerous quotations, we have 
now large fragments of six plays, and can fairly judge 
of Menander's style and methods. His plots are 
taken from every-day life, and are concerned with 
love, quarrels, and recognitions. Certain stock 
characters, the heavy father, scapegrace son, de- 
signing mistress, ingenious slave, braggart soldier, 
make their appearance. The diction is simple, and 
usually free from rhetoric. Menander excels as a 
psychologist. His figures are not only of universal 
interest as types, but possess that individuality 
which makes them dramatically alive, and wins the 
sympathy of the reader. 

A few of his pithy sayings deserve quotation. 

" No god goes about with money in his pocket, but 
when propitious he provides means and shows oppor- 
tunities : if you miss these don't beg of the gods, but 
fight your own idle disposition." " We live not as we 
like, but as we can." " Being a man ask not the 
gods for freedom from vexation, but rather for pati- 
ence. If you want to escape care, you must be a god 


or a corpse. But longsuffering is a cure for evil." 
" In all men you'll find much to put up with : but if 
the good outweighs the ill, then give credit accord- 
ingly." " A man in misfortune is naturally confiding : 
for being always disappointed in his own calculations, 
he thinks his neighbour wiser than himself." " The 
only chance for idle words is to make them short and 
suited to the occasion." " Length of days is vexa- 
tion of spirit. grievous age, thou hast nought of 
good, but much trouble and annoyance for men. 
Yet we all desire and pray to attain unto thee." 
" Surely love is the greatest of the gods and far the 
most to be honoured. For there is no man so stingy 
and exact in his ways, but has spent a part of his 
belongings on this god. Those with whom love deals 
lightly he compels to do this in their youth, but those 
that postpone the reckoning till old age are forced to 
pay with interest on arrears." 

ARISTOPHANES Trans., verse: Frere (some plays). 
Text and verse trans. : Rogers. MENANDEB -Greek 
text and prose trans, by " Unus multorum." 



UNTIL the sixth century the use of prose was confined 
to documents, treaties, inventories, official records, 
legal codes, and the ordinary affairs of life. It was 
the rise of Ionian philosophy and history that created 
the need for a literary vehicle of scientific expression. 


The critical spirit of Ionia began at this epoch to 
revolt against the traditional theology and cosmo- 
gony of the poets, and against the Orphic religion, 
which threatened to dominate Greece by a system 
of mystery and initiation. The lonians sought for a 
rational explanation of nature. Thales of Miletus, 
the father of European philosophy and science, 
conceived of water as the principle of being. He 
was so eminent an astronomer that he foretold the 
solar eclipse of 585 B.C. Xenophanes, whose poetry 
has already been mentioned, was a rationalistic 
thinker and an enemy of Orphic mysticism : he 
asserted that God is One and not like mortals. 
Heracleitus of Ephesus (c. 500 B.C.) held the doctrine 
of flux : "all things are in motion." He wrote in 
a prose style peculiar to himself, terse and obscure. 
Parmenides, who went back to verse to express his 
doctrines, asserted the reality of Being, and cast 
doubt upon the sense-data. The teaching of these 
sages helped to win a great victory for freedom of 
thought, and averted the danger of a narrow religious 
domination. Little remains of the writings of the 
early philosophers. Anaxagoras, the friend of Pericles 
and Euripides (c. 440 B.C.), asserted the supremacy 
of Mind. Democritus was the founder of the atomic 
theory. Both these thinkers were famous for their 
literary style, but the details of their systems belong 
to the history of philosophy. 

History begins in the writings of the logographers, 
who wrote down the ancient legends in prose, and to 
some extent co-ordinated them and related them to 
family history or local tradition. The greatest of 


the logographers was Hecataeus of Miletus (c. 500 B.C.). 
He was a traveller and geographer, and became the 
political adviser of the lonians during their revolt 
against Persia. His book of travels was freely used 
by Herodotus. Hellanicus of Lesbos wrote a history 
of Attica from the earliest times to his own day 
(c. 430 B.C.). 

Herodotus of Halicarnassus, the Father of History, 
was born about 485 B.C. Political troubles and the 
desire to see the world sent him on his travels, and 
he visited Asia Minor, Babylon, and Egypt. He 
lived for some time at Athens, and joined the 
Athenian colony to Thurii in Italy (443 B.C.), which 
country he also came to know well. The subject of 
his work is the Persian wars, regarded as an episode 
in the age-long struggle between East and West. 
Herodotus knew the Attic tragedians well, and has 
an Aeschylean belief in Nemesis. The gods hate 
excessive prosperity. The fate of the great invasion 
appears as a direct retribution for the pride and 
impiety of Xerxes. The hero in the tragedy is the 
Athenian democracy. It is not surprising that the 
people of Athens favoured and rewarded Herodotus. 
But beyond everything Herodotus is a story-teller. 
He does not seek facts for their political significance, 
but for their picturesqueness and dramatic interest. 
In narrative power he is a true heir of epic tradition. 
Speeches, almost Homeric in style, adorn his work. 
His dialect is a literary Ionic, which he writes in an 
easy, flowing manner, not without some new rhetorical 
devices. The Alexandrines divided his history into 
nine books, named after the Muses. He first sets 



before us the rise of the Persian empire and the 
fate of the kingdoms on whose ruin it was built. 
In Book ii. the Persian invasion of Egypt is the 
occasion for a detailed description of the religion, 
customs, and natural features of the country. Hero- 
dotus was an eager but very uncritical inquirer, and 
all kinds of curious tales were foisted on him during 
his wanderings. He certainly did not believe all he 
heard ; but he relates a good story, whenever he 
finds one, without vouching for strict accuracy. 
The third and fourth books deal with the consolida- 
tion of the Persian empire by Darius, and his invasion 
of Scythia ; Books v.-ix. deal with the Ionic revolt 
and the Persian wars, including frequent digressions 
on the early conflicts of the Greek states. The 
capture of Sestos by the Athenians in 478 B.C. is the 
final event in his history. In writing of military and 
political matters Herodotus suffered from lack of 
expert knowledge. He was inexperienced in war, and 
had no informants in touch with the strategic move- 
ments of the time. In respect of numbers he is quite 
untrustworthy, and he lacked the critical power to 
disentangle the truth from the tissue of error and 
prejudice that his sources presented. Nor is he free 
from superstition, and a belief in oracles natural to 
a religious man in that age. On the other hand, he 
is fair-minded, and honestly desires to speak the 
truth. His love of Athens does not blind him to 
the merits of the other Greeks or of the barbarians. 
The Persian wars were an event of world-wide im- 
portance, and we owe our knowledge of them almost 
wholly to Herodotus. Besides that, he has given 


mankind one of the most delightful story-books in 

Although few years separate Herodotus from 
Thucydides, the two authors are totally different 
in style, method, and outlook upon life. Thucydides 
was an Athenian, and his genius was influenced by 
the new sophistic learning which flourished at Athens 
in the later fifth century. Democracy had invaded 
every side of public life. Success in politics de- 
pended largely on the power of swaying the assembly 
by eloquence. In law all important cases came before 
large juries highly susceptible to persuasive speech. 
Any citizen might find himself at the mercy of an 
informer if he could not defend himself in open 
court. Hence the art of rhetoric, first cultivated 
in Sicily, gained an immediate footing at Athens, 
and the cleverest young men of the day thronged to 
hear its professors. But the science of words alone 
could not satisfy the eager learners : geometry, 
astronomy, dialectic, geography, and political science 
were all included in the new Higher Learning. 
Many of the teachers, called Sophists, were foreigners 
settled at Athens, and their curriculum shocked the 
more conservative sort, who believed that the old 
poets, with a smattering of music and plenty of 
athletics, were the safest subjects of education. 

Protagoras of Abdera (c. 450 B.C.), known to us 
from Plato, was a man of versatile ability. He 
founded the science of grammar, and lectured on 
rhetoric and ethics. For his unorthodox views on 
religion he was prosecuted and fled from Athens. 
Among the other sophists Gorgias of Leontini in 


Sicily (born c. 485 B.C.) was the most famous teacher 
of rhetoric. He came on an embassy to Athens in 
427, and attracted such a following that he remained 
there, writing show speeches, e.g. funeral orations, 
and giving lessons. His prose is highly rhythmical, 
with a careful balance of clauses, and much an- 
tithesis. Though carried to excess by Gorgias and 
his followers, these devices become part of the regular 
style of Greek oratory. 

The merits of the sophists were their ingenuity 
and variety of interests. Their chief fault was that 
they aimed at success rather than virtue. Their 
pupils were cultured men and astute politicians ; 
they were not always good citizens. 

Thucydides was born near Athens between 471 
and 461 B.C. He came of a noble and wealthy 
family, and is said to have learned rhetoric from the 
orator Antiphon. During the early years of the 
Peloponnesian war he was at Athens. He took the 
plague in 430, but recovered. In 424 he was in 
command of a small fleet meant to protect the 
Athenian possessions in Thrace. But the active 
Brasides, the Spartan general, forestalled him by the 
occupation of Amphipolis. Thucydides was banished 
after this failure, and spent twenty years in exile. 
His plan of a history of the Peloponnesian war now 
took shape, and he visited the chief sites, watched 
the course of campaigns and political movements, 
and by associating with both sides, learned their 
motives and methods. 

His history is in eight books, of which the first 
seven show signs of revision after the end of the war. 


The eighth, giving events following the Athenian 
disaster in Sicily, never received the finishing touches. 

The arrangement of his history is highly syste- 
matic. Book i. is introductory, dealing chiefly with 
the growth of the Athenian empire and the pre- 
liminaries of the war. Books ii., iii., and iv. 
contain the earlier campaigns, which are arranged 
chronologically by summers and winters. In Book 
v. come the events leading up to the Peace of Nicias 
in 421, and the complications before the Sicilian 
expedition. This latter is the subject of Books vi. 
and vii., and Book viii. contains the events subse- 
quent to it down to 411 B.C. The few digressions 
are intended to give accurate details of some race, 
country, or episode. Outside the speeches the chief 
reflective passage is suggested by the cruelties of 
party strife at Corcyra. 

" Every form of death was to be seen, and every- 
thing, and more than everything that commonly 
happens in revolutions, happened then. The father 
slew the son, and the suppliants were torn from the 
temples and slain near them ; some of them were even 
walled up in the temple of Dionysus and there per- 
ished. To such extremes of cruelty did revolution 
go ; and this seemed to be the worst of revolutions, 
because it was the first. . . . 

" When troubles had once begun in the cities, those 
who followed carried the revolutionary spirit further 
and further, and determined to outdo the report of 
all who had preceded them by the ingenuity of their 
enterprises and the atrocity of their revenges. The 
meaning of the words had no longer the same re- 


lation to things, but was changed by them as they 
thought proper. Reckless daring was held to be 
loyal courage ; prudent delay was the excuse of a 
coward ; moderation was the disguise of unmanly 
weakness ; to know everything was to do nothing. 
Frantic energy was the true quality of a man. A 
conspirator who wanted to be safe was a recreant in 
disguise. The lover of violence was always trusted, 
and his opponent suspected. He who succeeded in 
a plot was deemed knowing, but a still greater master 
in craft was he who detected one. . . . 

" Revenge was dearer than self-preservation. Any 
agreements sworn to by either party, when they 
could do nothing else, were binding as long as both 
were powerless. But he who on a favourable oppor- 
tunity first took courage and struck at his enemy 
when he saw him off his guard, had greater pleasure 
in a perfidious than he would have had in an open 
act of revenge ; he congratulated himself that he had 
taken the safer course, and also that he had over- 
reached his enemy and gained the prize of superior 
ability." (Trans., Jowett.) 

Thucydides is the first scientific historian. His 
object is to show how human beings have acted and 
will act under certain given circumstances. Divine 
intervention plays no part in his scheme. It is with 
the ambitions, plans, fortunes of states and individuals 
that he is concerned. He refuses to embellish his 
work with legends or personalities. This conception 
of the dignity of history may have led him to ignore 
facts that, though trifling in themselves, influenced 
the course of events. As a seeker for truth and an 


impartial narrator he is above reproach. He claims 
to state nothing on mere hearsay, but to have ascer- 
tained from all available sources the exact truth in 
every case. But his scientific spirit has not destroyed 
his humanity. The Peloponnesian war is a tragedy, 
and Thucydides' own country is the victim. Her 
sufferings in the plague and during the fatal Sicilian 
expedition are brought home to us with a pathos 
intensified by reticence. Thucydides may have felt 
that a kind of Nemesis had overtaken Athens for her 
ambition and cruelty. But this is due to no divine 
vengeance, but to the innate blindness and infatuation 
of human nature. Everywhere he sees man growing 
insolent in prosperity, reckless and treacherous in 
party strife, and ruthless in the hour of victory. It 
is the wise man, who knows human frailty and the 
transience of prosperity and is forearmed by pru- 
dence against reverse, that Thucydides most admires. 
For Pericles, the trusted leader of imperial Athens, 
he has a genuine respect. The funeral oration 
assigned to him by Thucydides is a splendid monu- 
ment of the glory of Athens. 

A few phrases may be quoted here : 

" I have dwelt upon the greatness of Athens be- 
cause I want to show you that we are contending for 
a higher prize than those who enjoy none of these 
privileges, and to establish by manifest proof the 
merit of these men whom I am now commemorating. 
Their loftiest praise has been already spoken. For in 
magnifying the city I have magnified them, whose 
virtues made her glorious. . . . 

" Any one can discourse to you for ever about the 


advantages of a brave defence which you know 
already. But instead of listening to him I would 
have you day by day fix your eyes upon the greatness 
of Athens, until you become filled with the love of 
her ; and when you are impressed by the spectacle of 
her glory, reflect that this empire has been acquired 
by men who knew their duty and had the courage to 
do it, who in the hour of conflict had the fear of dis- 
honour always present to them, and who, if ever they 
failed in an enterprise, would not allow their virtues 
to be lost to their country, but freely gave their lives 
to her as the fairest offering which they could present 
at her feast. The sacrifice which they collectively 
made was individually repaid to them ; for they 
received again each one for himself a praise which 
grows not old, and the noblest of all sepulchres I 
speak not of that in which their remains are laid, but 
of that in which her glory survives, and is proclaimed 
always and on all fitting occasions both in word and 
deed. For the whole earth is the sepulchre of famous 
men ; not only are they commemorated by columns 
and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign 
lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of 
them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men." 
(Trans., Jowett.) 

The speeches which fill a large place in Thucydides* 
history do not profess to be reports of what was 
actually delivered, nor are they, on the other hand, 
mere rhetorical exhibitions. The object of the 
speeches is to sum up a situation and to bring out 
the principles involved. Here Thucydides shows his 
rhetorical training ; his speeches are full of anti- 


thesis, complicated in grammatical structure, and 
condensed in reasoning. Most ancient critics con- 
demn their obscurity. 

A favourite device of Thucydides was to give the 
speeches made on both sides of a question, or by 
opposing leaders before a battle. Among these the 
rival arguments of Cleon and Diodotus on the pun- 
ishment of the revolted Mytileneans may be taken as 
typical. Cleon maintained that might is right, that 
subject states can only be held by fear, and he rallies 
the assembly on its fickleness and craving for novelty. 
Thucydides disliked Cleon, but deftly uses him to 
point out the weakness of the Athenian democracy. 
The reply of Diodotus is a careful essay on the theory 
of punishment. Human nature, he says, can never 
be restrained by fear as long as hope suggests the 
possibility of impunity. Therefore to terrify the 
allies would only nerve them to more desperate re- 
sistance. The true course is to remove the tempta- 
tion to revolt, to dissemble even well-grounded 
suspicion, and if an offender has to be punished, to 
do this in such a moderate way as to secure a useful 
subject for the future. It is scarcely credible that 
such cool logic can really have been used before the 
excitable Athenian assembly when it was a question 
of life or death for the whole population of Mytilene. 
In the debate on the fate of the island of Melos 
Thucydides marshals his arguments in dialogue 
form. The Athenians ruthlessly assert the doctrine 
of Cleon, which they speedily put into practice by 
the capture of Melos and the slaughter of its adult 
citizens. This episode stands ominously before the 


Sicilian expedition. Thucydides does not remark on 
the cruelty of Athens ; but we feel his indignation 
to be too deep for words. 

The task of continuing the history of Thucydides 
to the end of the Peloponnesian war and later fell to 
a man of very different temperament from Thucy- 
dides himself. Xenophon was born in Attica about 
430 B.C. ; he became a disciple of Socrates. In 401 
he joined the expedition of Cyrus against his brother, 
King Artaxerxes. Xenophon, who went as a 
volunteer, led the Ten Thousand on their famous 
retreat. In 396 he took service with Agesilaus, 
King of Sparta, and fought in various campaigns on 
the Spartan side. He was rewarded by the gift of 
an estate near Olympia, where he lived for twenty 
years as a country squire. In letters he was an 
amateur ; his records of Socrates, of which the 
Memorabilia is the chief, preserve some valuable 
details, but show little understanding of Socratic 
teaching. In the Economicus, we have a conversa- 
tion on household and farm-management. The 
Anabasis describes the expedition of Cyrus already 
mentioned ; it gives an interesting account of the 
interior of Asia, and reveals the cool bravery and 
resource of the Greek mercenaries who had chosen 
Xenophon to lead them home. The Hellenica, 
intended as a continuation of Thucydides, is bald in 
style, and marred by a prejudice in favour of Sparta 
and of his own general, Agesilaus. In the Cyropaedia 
Xenophon expresses his own educational ideals. The 
book professes to describe the elder Cyrus, but the 
account of his education is chiefly drawn from the 


Spartan discipline, with some Persian features, and 
a few biographical anecdotes. Xenophon was a 
keen huntsman and lover of the country, but the 
book on hunting ascribed to him, the Cynegeticus, 
is considered spurious. Xenophon does not write 
a pure- Attic Greek, but his narrative style and his 
occasional descriptions of scenery are not without 
simple charm. 

Two historians of the second rank flourished in the 
fourth century. Theopompus of Chios wrote a 
sequel to Xenophon's Hellenica, and a history of 
Philip of Macedonia. Ephorus of Cyme wrote a 
universal history from the coming of the Dorians to 
340 B.C. This work was much used by later his- 
torians. Both Ephorus and Theopompus were 
pupils of the great rhetorician Isocrates, whose 
elaborate style, as the few extant fragments show, 
they did not fail to imitate. Part of the writings 
of another historian has recently been found in an 
Egyptian papyrus. The extant portion deals with 
the wars of the fourth century. Cratippus, an obscure 
writer of the period, is supposed to be the author. 

PHILOSOPHY Burnet, Early Greek Philosophers, w. 
trans.; Benn, Greek Philosophers. HEBODOTUS Trans., 
Rawlinson, Macaulay. THTJCYDIDES Trans., Jowett. 
XENOPHON Trans., Dakyns. GENERAL Bury, J. B., 
The Ancient Greek Historians. 




THE Ionian sages had chiefly busied themselves with 
speculations on the nature of the material world. 
It was the glory of Athenian thinkers to lay a 
scientific basis for ethics, and to construct a workable 
system of logic. The man whose eccentric genius 
originated this movement was Socrates (469-399 
B.C.). His father was a sculptor, but Socrates had 
a fair general education, and soon forsook his father's 
craft for his chosen mission of teacher and reformer. 
A divine voice, heard from time to time in his inmost 
soul, strengthened his self-confidence, as did the 
remarkable saying of the Delphic Oracle that no 
man was wiser than Socrates. He wrote nothing, 
but imparted his views in talk and cross-examination. 
He had no respect for venerable fallacies, and had a 
sure eye for an opponent's weak spot. Traditional 
doctrines, social, moral, and political, were subjected 
to a searching criticism, which exasperated the 
wiseacre and shocked the orthodox. Unlike the 
Sophists, Socrates took no fees and did not train 
men for any special career. He was as stimulating 
to the young and open-minded as he was vexatious to 
the old and opinionated. At first an object of good- 
humoured banter, he finally came under the bitter 
hatred of the democracy. He was suspected of 
oligarchic leanings. Some of his pupils, Alcibiades, 
Critias, and Xenophon, had given signal proof of their 
unpatriotism. After the fall of the Thirty Tyrants 


an indictment was brought against Socrates by 
Anytus, an honest but narrow-minded democrat. 
He was charged with irreligion and the corruption of 
youth. Scorning flight or recantation, he was 
sentenced to death, and met his end with a martyr's 

No cosmogony or body of doctrine emanated from 
Socrates. It is in the aim and method of philosophy 
that he was an innovator. The axiom of his teaching 
is that virtue is knowledge. Men sin through 
ignorance. No one willingly chooses the worse rather 
than the better. Therefore men must be taught to 
know the good. The majority of mankind have no 
clear notions of the moral principles which they 
obey. Hence Socrates sought for definitions, and 
arrived at general concepts by inductive reasoning. 

Of the various schools of philosophy which claimed 
descent from Socratic teaching, three may be men- 
tioned. Antisthenes (c. 422 B.C.) was the founder of 
the Cynics, whose doctrines were self-sufficiency 
and contempt for the world. Later Cynics, like 
Diogenes of Sinope (412-323 B.C.), practised an 
austere asceticism, which the Greeks as a whole greatly 
disliked. Aristippus of Cyrene and Epicurus, the 
Athenian (342-270 B.C.), may be classed together 
as regarding happiness to be the aim of life. 
The former was a hedonist and looked upon pleasure 
as a good, while the more moderate Epicureans 
sought rather for tranquillity and absence of pain. 
The Stoics, of whom Zeno (died c. 260 B.C.) was the 
founder, held that virtue is the highest good, and 
that a truly wise man is independent of his environ- 


ment. This sturdy, uncompromising system ap- 
pealed in later times to many of the noblest Romans, 
such as Cato and Marcus Aurelius, while the doc- 
trines of Epicurus were a ready cloak for the pleasure- 
seeker. The literary remains of these schools are 

Most of our knowledge of Socrates' personality 
and teaching is due to the ablest of his followers, 
Plato, the son of Ariston (427-347 B.C.). He came of 
a noble family and was familiar with all the current 
philosophic thought of his day, as well as with 
literature and the other subjects of Athenian edu- 
cation. For eight years he was an ardent disciple 
of Socrates, and after his death visited Egypt and 
the west. He had a nattering welcome from the 
great Sicilian prince Dionysius I ; but tyranny was 
hateful to the philosopher, and he soon returned to 
Athens, where he set up his school of philosophy at 
the gymnasium of the Academy. When Dionysius II 
succeeded his father, Plato was tempted to revisit 
Syracuse in 367, by the prospect of founding an ideal 
state on Utopian lines. Dionysius was young and 
enthusiastic, but when Plato, true to his own 
doctrines, imposed a course of geometry on the 
whole court, he presently wearied of the experiment ; 
and Plato left Sicily disappointed. 

As Socrates had taught chiefly in conversation, it 
was natural for Plato to perpetuate his teaching in 
dialogues. Forty-two of these have come down 
under Plato's name, besides the Apology, a speech 
put into the mouth of Socrates in his own defence, 
thirteen mostly spurious letters, and a number of 


epigrams. The dialogue has several advantages 
over a formal treatise. It enables real persons 
to speak in character, and it allows the vivid 
presentation of both sides of a question, without 
committing the writer to a doctrine felt to be un- 
certain. On the other hand it was a little too easy 
to make the chief speaker unfailingly elicit answers 
that strengthened his case ; and when exposition 
was needed, the trifling comments or assent of the 
listeners are mere concessions to form. Plato keeps 
himself wholly in the background, and allows Socrates 
to dominate his works. 

The search for exact definition, and the belief that 
Virtue is Knowledge, were common to master and 
disciple, but in other respects it is hard to sift out 
the truly Socratic elements from the great mass of 
Platonic teaching. Plato was more of a visionary, 
and the imaginative passages must be his own 
creation. His style is ornate and poetical. 

In some dialogues little or no positive result is 
reached. The Lysis, for example, is an argument 
on the nature of friendship. It is held among a 
group of men and youths who are all friends ; but 
although many suggestive remarks are made, the 
main question is left unsolved. So in the Euthyphro 
it is asked, " What is piety ? " but no answer is 
arrived at. In the Theaeketus the whole basis of 
knowledge is subjected to a similar negative process. 
The Euthydemus ridicules the pretensions of the 
Sophists, of whose influence Plato disapproved. 

The Protagoras and Gorgias are named after the 
great sophist and the great rhetorician of whom 


Plato gives striking descriptions. In the latter 
dialogue Socrates makes a noble plea for absolute 
morality against utilitarianism. In the former he 
takes the other side, and argues that sin is only an 
error, while virtue is a teachable quality, namely 
the power of choosing what is really worth having. 
The same question about virtue is raised in the 
Meno, where the doctrine of Reminiscence is stated. 
Plato holds that " our birth is but a sleep and a 
forgetting," and that, when the truth is put before 
us, we remember what we knew in a former state. 
In two very remarkable dialogues, the Symposium 
and Phaedrus, the Platonic theory of love is revealed, 
that Eros is one, and that the passion for Truth and 
the love of the Beautiful are only two manifestations 
of the same instinct. The Symposium or Banquet 
was given by Agathon, the tragic poet, after a dramatic 
victory. Aristophanes is among the speakers. The 
climax of the dialogue is the entrance of the young 
Alcibiades with some fellow-revellers, and the eulogy 
of Socrates which he delivers. The Phaedrus also 
contains a more constructive theory of rhetoric and 
refers favourably to Isocrates, the great teacher of it, 
to whom Plato elsewhere alludes with disapproval. 

In the Phaedo is the story of the last hours of 
Socrates and his inspired discourse on Immortality. 
The inveterate arguer is true to his nature almost to 
the last, and plunges into a course of intricate reason- 
ing based largely on Plato's metaphysical system. 
The death-scene, in its simple pathos, is hardly to be 
read without tears. Idealistic thinkers of all ages 
have found inspiration in this dialogue. 


Plato's contribution to metaphysics was the theory 
of Ideas. Ideas are what we call Universals or 
general concepts. Plato assigned to these an ob- 
jective existence, in some higher sphere of being, 
where they are directly apprehended by the souls of 
the righteous. In this ideal world the Idea of Good 
is what the sun is in the visible world. Material 
objects owe their qualities to their likeness to the 
corresponding Idea. The human mind can only 
approach to the Ideas by the path of dialectic. Such 
a system, though not easy to refute, landed its votaries 
in difficulties of which Plato himself was well aware. 
What was the exact relation of the Idea to its material 
copy ? Has every object, however mean, an Ideal 
prototype ? To such questions there is no definite 
answer: but Plato exalts his metaphysics almost 
into a religion, and, when argument fails, he resorts 
to the poetical device of a myth. His views of the 
destiny of the soul hereafter, its reward or punish- 
ment, and reincarnation or final beatification, are 
given in passages of most imaginative eloquence, 
half mystical, half phantastic, a kind of fiction more 
deeply true than truth. 

The most important of Plato's constructive works 
is the Republic. The question is raised : What is 
Justice ? And it is soon discovered that justice can 
only exist in an ideal state. This Plato proceeds to 
describe. The philosophers had little sympathy 
with democracy. Plato's state is governed by a small 
caste of " Guardians," who are at once philosophers, 
soldiers, and statesmen, while the ordinary citizens 
are to be compelled simply to mind their own busi- 



ness. The education and life of the Guardians is the 
main topic of the dialogue. They were to hold 
property in common, to contract temporary mar- 
riages on strictly eugenic lines ; parents to have no 
control over their children's upbringing (indeed they 
are not to know who their children are), which is to 
be state-regulated in every detail. Men and women 
are to be equal and to have the same education. 
Music and philosophy (including of course mathe- 
matics) are its main subjects ; poetry, even Homer's, 
is excluded. A new religion, based on the theory of 
ideas, with new myths is to be taught. The supreme 
power is to be wielded by a small council of elders, 
all true philosophers. 

This picture of an ideal state, obviously drawn 
in part from Sparta, is the prototype of all later 
Utopias. In the Laws, a work of Plato's old age, 
this ideal scheme is somewhat modified, Plato having 
perhaps been convinced of the impracticability of 
his own theories and wishing to adapt them to 
Athenian taste. 

As a writer Plato is remarkably fresh and stimu- 
lating : he is constantly throwing out brilliant sug- 
gestions which have inspired the most various schools 
of thought. It is impossible to read him without 
being thrilled by the enthusiasm of his search for 
truth, and the higher nature of every man re- 
sponds instinctively to the loftiness of his moral 

I may be allowed to quote two characteristic 



"Now, that which imparts truth to the known 
and the power of knowing to the knower is what I 
would have you term the idea of good, and this you 
will deem to be the cause of science, and of truth in 
so far as the latter becomes the subject of knowledge ; 
beautiful too, as are both truth and knowledge, you 
will be right in esteeming this other nature as more 
beautiful than either, and, as in the previous in- 
stance, light and sight may be truly said to be like 
the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this other 
sphere, science and truth may be deemed to be like 
the good, but not the good ; the good has a place of 
honour yet higher. 

" What a wonder of beauty that must be, he said, 
which is the author of science and truth, and yet 
surpasses them in beauty ; for you surely cannot 
mean to say that pleasure is the good ? 

" God forbid, I replied ; but may I ask you to 
consider the image in another point of view ? 

" In what point of view ? 

" You would say, would you not, that the sun is not 
only the author of visibility in all visible things, but 
of generation and nourishment and growth, though 
he himself is not generation ? 

" Certainly. 

" In like manner the good may be said to be not 
only the author of knowledge to all things known, 
but of their being and essence, and yet the good 
is not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity 
and power." (Republic, Bk. vi, trans., Jowett.) 



" He who has been instructed thus far in the things 
of love and who has learned to see the beautiful in 
due order and succession, when he comes toward the 
end will suddenly perceive a nature of wondrous 
beauty (and this, Socrates, is the final cause of alJ 
our former toils) a nature which in the first place is 
everlasting, not growing and decaying or waxing and 
waning ; secondly, not fair in one point of view and 
foul in another, or at one time or in one relation . . . 
but beauty absolute, separate, simple and everlasting, 
which without diminution and without increase, or 
any change is imparted to the ever-growing and 
perishing beauties of all other things. He who from 
these ascending under the influence of true love, 
begins to perceive that beauty, is not far from the 
end. And the true order of going, or being led by 
another, to the things of love, is to begin from the 
beauties of the earth and mount upwards for the sake 
of that other beauty, using these as steps only, and 
from one going on to two, and from two to all fair 
forms, and from fair forms to fair practices, and from 
fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions 
he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at 
last knows what the essence of beauty is." 
(Symposium, 211, trans., Jowett.) 

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) was born at Stagira on 
the north coast of the Aegean. He studied rhetoric 
under Isocrates and philosophy under Plato. Later 
he became the tutor of Alexander the Great, who 
was then fourteen years old. In 335 he opened the 
philosophic school of the Lyceum at Athens. Here 


he taught until 323, when he was endangered by a 
reaction against the Macedonian dominion, of which 
he approved, and was obliged to leave the city. 

Aristotle was both a writer and a lecturer. His 
school was called Peripatetic, because discourses 
were given while teacher and pupil were strolling 
through the groves of the Lyceum. His advanced 
or esoteric lectures were given from notes, which 
were treasured by his followers, and perhaps not 
published in book form until 50 B.C. This accounts 
for the disconnected style of Aristotle's greater 
works, while his popular treatises were carefully 
written and published by the author himself. 

Aristotle was a man of encyclopaedic knowledge, 
and his works are said to have reached four hundred 
in number. In natural science he was a shrewd 
observer, as his books on zoology and astronomy 
prove. Logic and metaphysics (so named from 
coming after his Physics) he regarded as funda- 
mental sciences. In the Metaphysics he enunciates 
the principle of the Four Causes, formal, material, 
efficient, and final. He attacks the Platonic theory 
of the Ideas, allowing them no objective existence. 
In the Ethics he arrives at practical definitions of 
Happiness and Virtue, and develops his view of 
the Golden Mean. Each good quality is the mean 
between two bad ones, e.g. courage between cowardice 
and foolhardiness ; truthfulness between self -de- 
preciation and boastfulness. In this connection 
Aristotle gives a picture of the high-minded man, 
whose conscious merit is the crown of all the other 
virtues : Christian humility was certainly not 
among these. Having found certain principles for 


the conduct of the individual, Aristotle naturally 
passes to consider in what kind of state his principles 
are best exercised. In the Politics, a work owing 
much to Plato, Aristotle gives his ideal constitution, 
which is to be a small city-state under a carefully- 
trained aristocratic government. Plato's wilder 
theories were as unacceptable to Aristotle as the 
imperial ambitions of Alexander. Criticism of actual 
constitutions and a system of education for the 
governing class hold an important place in the 
treatise. Aristotle had a high opinion of music in 
character training. The Constitution of Athens, 
discovered in a papyrus in 1885, is the one survivor 
of 158 popular handbooks on Greek forms of govern- 

The Poetics is an incomplete work on poetry and 
drama, the chief extant portion dealing with tragedy. 
Aristotle's canons were partly versified in Horace's 
Ars Poetica, and have been regarded since the six- 
teenth century as almost oracular. To him we owe 
the notion of the purification of the emotions by 
pity and terror as an essential function of tragedy, 
the first hint of the Unities of the drama, and the 
suggestion that Art is an improved imitation of nature. 
In his criticism of the Attic stage Aristotle is fair 
and acute, and though the attempts made to apply 
his canons directly to modern drama have not 
always succeeded, there is no doubt that the Poetics 
laid the foundation of scientific literary criticism. 

Aristotle regarded rhetoric, the art of persuasion, 
as akin to dialectic. In the work which bears that 
name he first considers the nature of proof and the 


rhetorical syllogism or enthymeme ; next the re- 
lation of the speaker to his audience, and the effect 
of his character upon them ; and finally prose 
rhythm and style. Aristotle strongly objected to 
exaggerated and poetical turns, and condemned 
the irrelevance and appeal to the passions too often 
tolerated in the Athenian law courts. 

To every subject Aristotle brought a methodical 
mind stored with immense learning. He was a 
great systematiser and co-ordinator, classifying facts 
and equipping science with exact terms and de- 
finitions. The mediaeval lore of the Schoolmen was 
based upon his work. But besides the oddities of 
his style there is a certain dry intellectuality in 
Aristotle which makes us feel that Plato with all his 
mistakes and unpractical dreams is a more inspiring 
and greater teacher. Yet in rare moments Aristotle 
too rises to enthusiasm, as when in the Ethics he 
shows the divine dignity of the contemplative life, 
or in his ode in praise of Virtue he likens her to a 
maiden wooed of many in Greece, but to be won 
only by arduous toil. 

Theophrastus (372-287 B.C.), the successor of 
Aristotle at the Lyceum, has left us two treatises on 
botany and a small series of psychological portraits 
called Characters. The bulk of his work is lost. 
Psychology was the main interest in the writings of 
Theophrastus' friend, the great dramatist Menander, 
and here too we have a mild satire, not devoid of 
humour, on various types of vice and folly, such as 
Cowardice, Superstition, or Petty Vanity. Theo- 
phrastus is severe on the ill-treatment of slaves, 


but otherwise deals more with outward faults of 
bearing than with moral depravity. 

PLATO Trans., Jowett ; Davies and Vaughan, Repub. 
ARISTOTLE Trans., Welldon, Pol. Rhet. Eth. ; M'Mahon, 
Metaph. ; Peters* Ethics ; Owen, Logic, &c. ; Misc. works 
trans. , edd. Smith and Ross. POETICS Text with trans., 
Butcher, Bywater. THEOPHBASTUS Trans., Jebb. 
GENERAL Gomperz, Greek Thinkers ; Nettleship, 
Lectures on Republic of Plato ; Pater, Plato and 



MENTION has already been made of the teaching of 
the Rhetoricians at Athens. The first native orator 
of distinction whose writings have survived is 
Antiphon (c. 480-411 B.C.). Politically an extreme 
oligarch, he took part in the revolution of the 400, 
and was implicated in intrigues with Sparta. On 
the fall of the 400 he was tried for treason and 
executed. His defence at this trial was his most 
famous speech. A number of model speeches, 
written for the instruction of his pupils, all dealing 
with murder cases, are extant, besides three actual 
court pleadings. Antiphon shows the influence of 
Sicilian rhetoric, and makes free use of moral common- 
places and the argument from probability. His 
style, which is stiff and archaic, resembles that of 

Andocides (c. 440-390 B.C.) was implicated in the 
mutilation of the Hermae just before the Sicilian 


expedition in 415. He was arrested on suspicion, 
but allowed to escape on informing against others. 
About 410 he made the extant speech On the Return, 
claiming pardon for his old offence ; he did not, 
however, succeed until the amnesty of 403. A few 
years later the original charge was again brought 
up, and Andocides defended himself in his best- 
known speech On the Mysteries, which it was alleged 
the old sentence debarred him from attending. 
The speech contains a tortuous account of the con- 
spiracy. Andocides was acquitted and went in 
391 on a mission to Sparta, after which his speech 
On the Peace was delivered. His style is simple 
and sometimes trivial, seldom impressive. 

Lysias (c. 440-380 B.C.) was the son of a Sicilian 
and lived at Athens as an alien. For his services in 
the democratic restoration in 403 it was proposed 
to confer citizenship on Lysias. The motion passed 
the Assembly but was overruled on technical grounds, 
so that he continued to reside as an alien but em- 
ployed himself in speech-writing. 

In the Athenian law courts every litigant was 
obliged to plead his own case, but there was nothing 
to prevent him from procuring a speech written by 
a professional and then reciting it to the jury. Nearly 
all the so-called private orations of the Attic orators 
were intended to be delivered in this way. Lysias 
had a special skill in fitting his style to the character 
of the litigant. His manner was simple and per- 
suasive, with natural eloquence and apparent sin- 
cerity ; he was skilled in inventing attractive intro- 
ductions. His Greek is a pure and graceful Attic. 


In the Phaedrus a show-speech attributed to Lysias 
is quoted and by many critics it is thought to be 
genuine. Plato disapproved of the profession of 
Lysias but admired his style. 

On the restoration of the democracy in 403, Lysias 
prosecuted one of the tyrants who were responsible 
for the death of his brother. The speech Against 
Eratosthenes is Lysias' greatest achievement. It 
contains a vivid and dramatic account of the mis- 
deeds of the Thirty. Over 400 speeches were as- 
signed to Lysias in antiquity, of which about thirty 

Isaeus (c. 389-352 B.C.) was an imitator of Lysias, 
though less skilful in impersonating character. His 
style is more artificial. Eleven speeches are extant, 
all dealing with inheritance cases. 

Isocrates (436-338 B.C.) was the greatest Athenian 
teacher of rhetoric. He opened his school in 393 
and trained the chief orators of his time. His suc- 
cess roused the jealousy of philosophers, as we gather 
from Plato. Isocrates had no power of delivery, and 
his chief works appeared as pamphlets in which he 
dealt with the great political questions of the day. 
Twenty-one speeches and nine letters survive. His 
chief production was the Panegyricus. The leading 
idea is that the Greeks must combine against Persia 
under such a leader as Philip of Macedon. In the 
Panaihenaicus (342) he delivers a panegyric on 
Athens. Isocrates bestowed extraordinary pains on 
the composition of speeches, and perfected the 
periodic style. He made a rule of the absolute 
avoidance of hiatus. Although we feel that form 


is more than substance in such oratorical displays, 
yet Isoorates is an undeniable master of his own art. 
Demosthenes (384-322 B.C.) was the greatest of 
Athenian orators. He was early left an orphan, 
and was defrauded by his guardian, whom he subse- 
quently prosecuted with success. After an arduous 
training he became a brilliant public speaker as well 
as an accomplished speech-writer for the courts. 
His Private Orations show a great power of narrative 
and of refuting an opponent's argument. But it 
was in political cases and in the Assembly that he 
found his true sphere. He excelled all others in 
swaying the passions of the Athenian populace. The 
history of Demosthenes' oratorical career is the 
history of Athens. At first he leads the opposition 
to the cautious policy of Enbulus. But the latter 
was well-suited to the unwarlike temper of the 
Athenians, and Demosthenes was usually unsuccess- 
ful. The advance of the Macedonian power began 
to alarm Athenian patriots, and Demosthenes spares 
no effort to rouse his countrymen to make a stand 
against Philip. In the First Philippic he eloquently 
exhorts the people to arm against the northern in- 
vader and to shrink from no sacrifice to make resist- 
ance effective. The Assembly, however, refused to 
be roused. In 349, when Philip was attacking 
Chalcidice, Demosthenes in his Olynthiac Orations 
urges that a citizen-army should be sent to help 
Olynthus, the chief town of the district, and that 
the festival fund, from which the people were sup- 
plied with free seats in the theatre, should be used 
for the war. But his advice was taken too late. 


After the peace of Philostratus (346) Demosthenes 
turned his energy against the Macedonian party. 
In the speech Against Midias, with whom he had a 
private feud, Demosthenes displays a rare power of 
invective. In a speech On the False Embassy he at- 
tacks unsuccessfully his great rival Aeschines. By 
340 he had persuaded the Athenians to break entirely 
with Philip and to devote the festival fund to the war. 
In 338 Philip invaded Greece, and Demosthenes in- 
duced the Thebans to make an alliance with Athens 
against Macedonia. The Greeks were defeated at 
Chaeronaea, and the policy of Demosthenes was 
discredited. In 330 Aeschines brought an action 
against Ctesiphon, who had proposed that Demos- 
thenes should have a gold crown for his public ser- 
vices. This action gave Demosthenes the chance 
of vindicating his whole career in the grandest of his 
speeches, On the Crown. The result was a complete 
triumph, and Aeschines was obliged to leave 
Athens. Demosthenes was involved in the abortive 
rising after the death of Alexander. The Mace- 
donian general Antipater demanded his surrender, 
to avoid which Demosthenes took poison. 

The style of Demosthenes is highly rhythmical, with 
a careful balance of clauses, but his manner is 
generally simple. He is stronger in invective than 
pathos, and his personality, keen and enthusiastic, 
dominates everything that he wrote. Indeed his 
genius as an orator made him less effective as a 
statesman ; he was led astray by patriotic fervour 
to overrate the possibilities of Athens in his time. 
The great days of Periclean imperialism could not 


be recalled by any art of words, and in his fierce 
opposition to Macedonia Demosthenes has incurred 
the blame of scientific historians. But this was the 
noble error of a true patriot, and there was nothing 
that made his speeches effective so much as the 
heartfelt enthusiasm for the freedom of Greece with 
which he was inspired. 

Aeschines (fl. 357-330 B.C.) was the great rival of 
Demosthenes and supporter of Macedonian interests 
at Athens. Demosthenes tried to prosecute him for 
treason in 345, but Aeschines diverted the attack by 
exposing in his speech Against Timarchus the private 
misconduct of Demosthenes' coadjutor. Again in 
343 Aeschines, in an eloquent speech On the False 
Embassy, successfully defended himself against the 
impeachment laid by Demosthenes. He had another 
triumph at Delphi, where he turned the anger of the 
Amphictyonic Council, who were threatening Athens 
with a Sacred War, against the Amphissans on a 
charge of sacrilege. In 330 he signally failed, as 
has been said, in his prosecution of Ctesiphon. His 
speech is extant, but its effectiveness falls far short 
of Demosthenes' masterpiece. After this reverse he 
withdrew to Rhodes and lived as a teacher. Al- 
though Aeschines was a self-made man, and an un- 
scrupulous politician, he had high oratorical powers ; 
and his readiness in extempore speaking, with no 
small gift of invective and vigorous description, 
atoned for his lack of professional training. His 
style is somewhat theatrical, and admits poetical 
words. As a paid intriguer in the Macedonian cause 
he can lay no claim to the high patriotic fervour of 


Demosthenes. But the latter too, it must be re- 
membered, was not above taking a present, and the 
verdict of history tends to justify the policy of 

Hyperides (389-322 B.C.) was a statesman of the 
Demosthenic party, and an energetic agitator against 
Macedonia, who prosecuted in political trials some 
of the Macedonian agents. He fell into the hands 
of the conquerors after the Lamian war, and was put 
to death. On one occasion he appeared against 
Demosthenes, when the latter had appropriated 
some of the money brought to Athens by Harpalus, 
the absconding treasurer of Alexander. Demosthenes 
was fined. The chief surviving speech of political 
importance is the Funeral Oration for the fallen in 
the Lamian war. It shows the smooth, limpid, and 
pathetic style for which Hyperides was famous. 
This speech and several private pleadings have been 
recovered in Egyptian papyri. The art of Hyperides, 
lacking the dignity of the great political orators, 
was specially effective in cases where the personal 
element was strong, as in his famous defence of 
Phryne, the reigning beauty, and in the extant 
speech Against Athenogenes, exposing the fraud of 
an Egyptian scent-maker. The critic Longinus 
showers praise on Hyperides, but only intends to 
prove that with all his technical perfection he fell 
far short of the genius of Demosthenes. 

Lycurgus (c. 390-324 B.C.) also belonged to the 
patriotic party. He studied under Isocrates, and 
became the chief financial minister of Athens. He 
was energetic in beautifying the city, and the Theatre 


of Dionysus, still remaining on the south side of the 
Acropolis, was built under his administration. He 
also published official acting editions of the great 
Attic playwrights. Love of country made him a 
stern avenger of disloyalty and cowardice. His one 
extant speech, Against Leocrates, is aimed at one who 
had fled from Athens after the disaster at Chaeronaea, 
and whom on his return Lycurgus impeaches on a 
capital charge. The attack was extremely bitter, 
and the accused barely escaped. The speech is full 
of quotations, including thirty-two lines of Tyrtaeus. 

Trans. : Collier, Kennedy, Leland. 



AFTER Alexander's conquests, and the consequent 
expansion of the Greek race over a great part of the 
Levant, Greek was established as the court-language 
of the Hellenistic princes, and became the general 
means of communication among educated people. 
But it was no longer the old tongue. The ancient 
dialects begin to die out, and we find on the one 
hand a new popular speech, and on the other a 
literary idiom, upholding most of the Attic tradition, 
and becoming less and less akin to the spoken 
language. Between these stood the so-called Koine 
or common dialect, as the ordinary written medium 
used throughout the Greek world. This persisted 


with some changes and varying degrees of purity 
during the Roman and Byzantine ages, and finally 
resulted in the literary Greek of the present day. 

The more popular tongue is known to us from 
innumerable papyri discovered in Egypt. Here we 
see Greek used in business documents, letters, con- 
tracts, and all every-day concerns. The language 
of the Septuagint and New Testament is virtually 
the same as this. Its main features are the loss of 
many idioms, greater simplicity of construction with 
fewer subordinate clauses, and probably some Oriental 
or Hebrew influence. As the language of Holy 
Scripture it has coloured all Christian 4iterature, 
and is the ancestress of spoken modern Greek ; but 
the more ambitious Greek writers of all ages, and 
on all subjects, have aimed at a higher classical 


An artificial language has a worse effect on verse 
than on prose : it checks the fancy, and never reaches 
the heart of the people. Most of the later Greek 
poets write for a select cultured audience, and as 
they became the models for much of Latin poetry, 
their faults of stiffness and pedantry were borrowed 
by Rome from the school of Alexandria. 

But two new poetical forms appear, the Idyll and 
the Mime, which were meant for a wider public. 


It was reserved for the Hellenistic age to give 
pastoral poetry an artistic form. The town-life of the 
great cities created a desire for refreshment among 


rural scenes. Theocritus was the first to adapt the 
rude strains of Sicilian shepherds to the taste of 
cultured readers. The subjects of these rustic 
poems were taken from native folklore. Thus the 
works of Theocritus are purely artificial productions ; 
but his inimitable grace, his love of nature, his pathos, 
and his humour make him one of the most delightful 
of Greek poets. His popularity in antiquity was 
boundless ; and he set the model for all later idyllists. 
He lived c. 310-270 B.C. partly at Cos, partly in 
Sicily, as well as at Alexandria. Besides his poems 
of rustic life, he wrote short epics, epigrams, and 
two idylls of town life, one of which, describing 
the visit of two Sicilian ladies to the festival of 
Adonis, is among the most humorous poems of 

I quote the tenth idyll, which shows that blend 
of sentiment with playful irony beloved by Theo- 
critus : 

Two reapers, MILO and BATTUS. 

M. What now, poor o'erworked drudge, is on thy mind ? 
No more in even swathe thou layest the corn : 

Thy fellow-reapers leave thee far behind, 
As flocks a ewe that's footsore from a thoru. 

By noon and midday what will be thy plight 

If now, so soon, thy sickle fails to bite 1 
B. Hewn from hard rocks, untired at set of sun, 

Milo, didst ne'er regret some absent one ? 
M. Not I. What time have workers for regret ? 
B. Hath love ne'er kept thee from thy slumbers yet ? 
M. Nay, heaven forbid ! If once the cat taste cream ! 
B. Milo, these ten days love hath been my dream. 
M. You drain your wine, while vinegar's scarce with me. 
B. Hence since last spring untrimmed my borders be. 



M. What lass flouts thee ? B. She whom we heard play 

Amongst Hippocoon's reapers yesterday. 
M. Your sins have found you out you're e'en served right: 

You'll clasp a corn-crake in your arms all night. 
B. You laugh : but headstrong Love is blind no less 

Than Plutus : talking big is foolishness. 
M. I talk not big. But My the corn-ears low 

And trill the while some love-song easier so 

Will seem your toil : you used to sing, I know. 
B. Maids of Pieria, of my slim lass sing ! 

One touch of yours ennobles everything. 

(Sings) Fairy Bombyca ! thee do men report 

Lean, dusk, a gipsy : I alone nut-brown. 
Violets and pencilled hyacinths are swart, 

Yet first of flowers they're chosen for a crown. 
As goats pursue the clover, wolves the goat, 
And cranes the ploughman, upon thee I dote. 

Had I but Cro3sus' wealth, we twain should stand 
Gold-sculptured in Love's temple ; thou, thy lyre 

(Ay or a rose or apple) in thy hand, 

I in my brave new shoon and dance-attire. 

Fairy Bombyca ! twinkling dice thy feet, 

Poppies thy lips, thy ways none knows how sweet ! 

M. Who dreamed what subtle strains our bumpkin wrought ? 

How shone the artist in each measured verse ! 
Fie on the beard that I have grown for naught ! 
Mark, lad, these lines, by glorious Lytierse. 

(Sings) O rich in fruit and cornblade : be this field 
Tilled well, Demeter, and fair fruitage yield ! 

Avoid a noontide nap, ye threshing men : 

The chaff flies thickest from the corn-ears then. 

Wake when the lark wakes ; when he slumbers, close 
Your work, ye reapers : and at noontide doze. 


Boys, the frogs' life for me ! They need not him 
Who fills the flagon, for in drink they swim. 

Better boil herbs, tliou toiler after gain, 

Than splitting cummin, split thy hand in twain. 

Strains such as these, I trow, befit them well 
Who toil and moil when noon is at its height : 

Thy meagre love-tale, bumpkin, thou shouldst tell 
Thy grandam as she wakes up ere 'tis light. 

(Trans. C. S. Calverley.) 

Theocritus' imitators, Bion and Mosclms, though 
not lacking in poetical feeling, have no true love of 
the country, nor possess the imagination of their 

THE MIME HERODAS (fl. c. 300-250 B.C.) 

A Mime is a dramatic sketch, usually of humble 
life, performed by one actor. 

Herodas is a sheer realist. His metre (the scazon) 
is harsh and unpoetical. He shrinks from no ex- 
tremity of vice or horror ; but his sketches are won- 
derfully true and lifelike, however sordid or repulsive. 
Of his seven surviving mimes we may mention 
No. 3, in which a woman brings a disobedient son 
to be flogged by a schoolmaster, who positively 
gloats over the task. In No. 4 two women visit 
the temple of Aesclepius at Cos, where they 
admire paintings by Apelles, and make fatuous com- 
ments. No. 5 depicts the fury of a jealous woman 
who orders a slave, whom she has loved, a thousand 
lashes. She then relents and countermands the 



Only one other writer of the more popular order 
needs mentioning. This is Babrius (first or second 
century A.D.), who versified in simple language the 
fables going under the name of Aesop. The latter is 
a somewhat mythical figure, placed in the sixth century 
B.C., and whose fables must have been largely tra- 
ditional. Babrius is not without merit as a writer, 
and his work has been a school-book in all ages. 


An epigram was originally an inscription on some 
object, usually a votive offering, statue, or tomb. 
Later the form embodied moral or lyrical sentiments, 
descriptions, or gibes. 

This branch of poetry was successfully cultivated 
down to the Byzantine age. It needed no sustained 
inspiration, and encouraged the ingenuity of inferior 
minds. Nevertheless the best Greek epigrams are 
unmatched in their own field. Theocritus, Calli- 
maclius, Alexander of Aetolia, and Leonidas of Taren- 
tum (all about the third century B.C.) were the chief 
early epigrammatists. Leonidas is notable for his 
love of the sea. 

Meleager (c. 60 B.C.) made a collection of epigrams 
enriched with many of his own. He is pre-eminently 
a love-poet. His verse is full of poetic fire and an 
Oriental richness, due partly to his Syrian origin. 

In the Roman age Philippus (first century), Strato 
of Sardis (age of Hadrian), the latter mainly a love- 
poet, were notable. The grammarian Palladas 


(fifth century), and Agathias (c. A D. 550), and many 
others wrote epigrams. Agathias also made a col- 
lection, which was partly absorbed in that of Maxi- 
mus Planudes (fourteenth century), known to us as 
the Anthologia Palatina, in which the most famous 
epigrams are preserved. 

Translations from the Anthology have often been 
made. I quote a few : 

" A child of five short years, unknown to woe, 
Callimachus my name, I rest below. 
Mourn not my fate. If few the joys of life, 
Few were its ills, its conflicts ; brief its strife." 

LUCIAN, trans. T. Farley. 

Thais in advancing Years. 
" Venus, take my votive glass, 
Since I am not what I was : 
What from this day I shall be, 
Venus, let me never see." 

[PLATO], trans. Prior. 

" Thou sleep'st, soft silken flower. Would I were Sleep, 
For ever on those lids my watch to keep. 
So should I have thee all my own ; nor he, 
Who seals Love's wakeful eyes, my rival be." 

MELEAGER, trans. J. H. Merivale. 

" The stars, my Star, thou view'st ; heaven might I be, 
That I with many eyes might gaze on thee." 

[PLATO], trans. T. Stanley 


The so-called Anacreontea, poems of various dates, 
mostly written in iambic half -lines, artificial but not 
unhappy imitations of Anacreon, are the nearest 


approach to lyric poetry in this age. Although 
none of these sound the true note of passion, and 
suggest the schoolmaster rather than the lover, they 
are easy, pleasant reading, and have often been ad- 
mired and translated. Only a few pedants experi- 
mented in the older lyric metres, for, as poetry was 
now to read not to sing, there was no advantage in 
elaborate song-forms. 


Aratus of Soli (fl. c. 276 B.C.) lived at the court of 
Antigonus Gonatas, King of Macedonia, and wrote 
a work on astronomy called Phenomena. The metre 
is the Homeric hexameter, and the poem, though of 
small poetical merit, is correct in form, and was much 
admired in antiquity. Cicero translated it. 

Callimachus, after studying at Athens, became 
librarian at Alexandria under Ptolemy Philadelphus 
(285-247 B.C.). He is said to have written 800 books 
on literary, historical, and religious subjects, in- 
cluding many poems in the elegiac metre. Of his 
hymns and epigrams many survive. But his longest 
poem, on the origins of myths (Aitiai), is lost, while 
the best known, the Lock of Berenice, is extant only 
in Catullus' Latin version. 

Apollonius Ehodius became librarian at Alexandria 
under Ptolemy Epiphanes (205-181 B.C.). He wrote 
several learned epics, of which the most important, 
the Argonautica, survives. It deals with Jason's 
cruise for the Golden Fleece, and was imitated by 
Valerius Flaccus. In attempting a long epic in the 


manner of Homer, Apollonius was opposing the 
doctrines of his master, Callimachus. The latter 
advocated the newer forms, such as the short epic 
and elegy. A bitter literary quarrel ensued between 
the two poets and their admirers. Apollonius writes 
Homeric Greek with ease, adding new poetical turns. 
His descriptions of places and treatment of emo- 
tion are good for example, the account of Jason's 
meeting with Medea in a temple. But his narrative 
is lifeless, and he digresses too much on antiquarian 

In the fourth and fifth centuries, a time of great 
literary activity, we see the final effort of pagan 

Nonnus of Panopolis in Egypt (fifth century A.D.) 
wrote a poem in forty-eight books on the Myth of 
Dionysus. He modified the Homeric hexameter to 
suit the current pronunciation of Greek, where 
quantity was no longer heard. His style, like that 
of the earlier Alexandrians, is rich in poetical words 
and phrases ; but he is prone to extravagance and 
bathos. Thus Mount Cithaeron weeps, Dionysus 
dances in his mother's womb, and Atlas spins the 
heavens on his shoulders. Late in life Nonnus be- 
came a Christian and versified the Fourth Gospel. 
His follower Musaeus (date uncertain) wrote an epic 
of 340 lines on the legend of Leander and Hero. This 
has been called " the last rose in the fading garden of 
Greek poetry." Musaeus, like his master, was con- 
verted, and may have found fresh inspiration in the 
new Faith, which now claimed the greatest intellects 
of his time. 



Of the historians of the Hellenistic age only trifling 
fragments remain. The rise of the Roman empire 
was a theme that inspired one of the most notable 
men of the second century B.C., the statesman and 
traveller Polybius. Sent to Rome as a hostage of 
the Achaean League, he became the friend of Scipio 
the Younger. Shortly after his exile the fall of 
Corinth brought Greece finally under the power of 
Rome. Polybius was convinced that the imperial 
career of Rome was the will of Heaven. He accom- 
panied Scipio in the last campaign against Carthage, 
and he brought to the study of history the experience 
of a statesman and a soldier's eye. His history in 
forty books extended from the first Punic war to 
144 B.C. Only five whole books remain ; but these 
are enough to make him the leading authority for the 
Punic wars, the Achaean League, and the earlier 
Roman wars of conquest. In the collection of 
material Polybius was very conscientious ; in im- 
partiality and clearsightedness he is the true suc- 
cessor of Thucydides, but, unlike his model, he despises 
style. This fault was partly due to a reaction 
against his rhetorical predecessors, whom he often 
attacks for their historical incompetence. His dia- 
lect resembles the common speech of the day. 

Diodorus Siculus (c. 40 B.C.) wrote a universal 
history down to Caesar's Gallic war. His arrange- 
ment is annalistic, but is not free from confusion. 
In covering such a vast period he was obliged to 
borrow uncritically from historians of varying merit. 


But for many periods he is our sole authority. Out- 
side a few studied battle-pieces his style is tedious. 

Two geographical writers deserve mention. Strabo 
(c. 54 B.C.-A.D. 24) in his Geography describes most of 
the countries bordering on the Mediterranean. Though 
not always accurate, the work is pleasantly written and 
gives valuable information. Pausanias (second cen- 
tury A.D.) wrote a Description of Greece based on his 
own travels, giving an account of the chief cities and 
their monuments. The past had more charm for this 
author than the present, and we owe to him many 
details of ancient history, archaeology, and religion. 

Most of the historians of the Roman age have little 
literary interest. An exception must be made for 
Arrian (c. A.D. 95-175). A native of Asia, he strove 
to return to a pure Attic style. His chief work is 
the Anabasis of Alexander the Great, a historical 
work of some merit. 

The most popular writer of the age was Plutarch 
of Chaeronaea (born c. A.D. 50). His best-known 
work, the Parallel Lives, has been the delight of 
subsequent ages. The lives, numbering forty-eight, 
are nearly all arranged in pairs, one Greek and one 
Roman, on the basis of some similarity in the circum- 
stances. Plutarch is a biographer, not a historian. 
His chief interest is in character and conduct, which 
he illustrates by anecdote and reminiscence. His 
miscellaneous works deal with a great variety of 
moral, religious, and literary subjects. In religion 
he was an allegorist, and tried to interpret the old 
religion spiritually. He attacks the Epicureans, and 
expounds Egyptian theology. It may be said that 


we have more general information about antiquity 
from Plutarch than from any other single writer. 

Two treatises on literature belong to this age ; 
that of Demetrius on Style, a discussion of the art 
of prose writing, based on Aristotle's Rhetoric ; and 
a work On the Sublime, assigned to Longinus (died 
A.D. 273). This is one of the world's best critical 
essays. The author had a faultless taste and a 
glowing enthusiasm for ancient poetry. 

The most successful of the Atticists was Lucian of 
Samosata (c. A.D. 125-200). He was born in poverty, 
and earned a precarious livelihood as a travelling 
rhetorician and lecturer. His Attic style is singu- 
larly pure ; he also studied philosophy and revived 
the dialogue as a literary form. He uses mythology 
as a subject for jest, and shows a very subtle sense of 
humour. In a superstitious age he attacked credulity 
and helped to undermine the old religion. Against 
the pretensions of philosophers and rhetoricians he 
is mercilessly sarcastic. His own style is remarkably 
easy and smooth, and not overloaded with rhetorical 

THEOCRITUS, &c. Trans., verse, Calverley ; prose, 
Lang. HEEODAS Trans., verse, Sharpley. ANTHO- 
LOGY Select trans., prose, Mackail ; verse, Grundy. 
ANACEEONTEA Trans., verse, Addison, Moore. 
MUSAEUS Trans., verse, Chapman. POLYBIUS 
Trans., Shuckburgh. STEABO Trans., Hamilton and 
Falconer. PAUSANIAS Trans., Frazer. PLUTAECH 
Lives, trans., Langhorne. LONGINUS Trans., Havell, 
Stebbing. LUCIAN Trans., Fowler 




Aeschines, 76-7 

Democritus, 48 

Aeschylus, 30 

Demosthenes, 45, 75-7, 78 

Aesop, 84 

Didactic poetry, 17, 86 

Agathias, 85 

Diodorus Siculus, 88 

Alcaeus, 20 

Diogenes, 61 

Alcman, 24 

Dithyramb, 25, 28-9 

Alexander of Aetolia, 84 

Dorians, 24 

Alexandrian literature, 80 ff. 

Alexis, 45 

ELEGIAC metre, 22, 26 

Anacreon, 23 

Ephorus, 59 

Anacreontea, 85 

Epic, Alexandrian, 86 

Anaxagoras, 37, 48 

ancient, 9 f. 

Andocides, 72 

Epicurus, 46, 61 

Anthologia Palatina, 85 

Epicureans, 61, 89 

Antiphanes, 45 

Epigram, 26, 84-5 

Antiphon, 52, 72 

Epinician odes, 26-8 

Antisthenes, 61 

Ethics of Aristotle, 69 

Apollonius Rhodius, 86 

Euripides, 37-42, 44 

Aratus, 86 

Archilochus, 22 

FABLE, 84 

Arion, 25 

Aristarchus, 16 

GNOMIC writers, 22 

Aristippus, 61 

Gorgias, 51, 63 

Aristophanes, 43 

Aristotle, 43, 68-71, 90 


Arrian, 89 

Hellanicus, 49 

Hellenistic age, 79 ff. 


Heracleitus, 48 

Bacchylides, 28 

Herodas, 83 

Bion, 83 

Herodotus, 49-51 

Hesiod, 17 


Hipponax, 23 

Catullus, 86 

Historians, 48, 88 

Choliambic metre, 23 

Homer, 9 ff. 

Chorus, 30, 44 

Homeric hymns, 16 

Comedy, 43 

Hyperides, 78 

Cratinus, 43 

Cratippus, 59 

IAMBIC metre, 22, 29 

Cyclic poets, 16 

Idyll, 80 

Cynics, 61 

Iliad, 9 ff. 




lonians, 19 
Isaeus, 74 
Isocrates, 68, 74, 78 

KOINE, 79 

LEONIDAS of Tarentum, 84 
Lesbos, 20 
Logographers, 48 
Longinus, 78, 90 
Lucian, 90 
Lyceum, 68, 71 
Lycurgus, 78 
Lysias, 73 

Menander, 45 
Middle Comedy, 45 
Mime, 83 
Mimnennus, 23 
Moschus, 83 
Musaeus, 87 
Music, 20, 28, 70 

NEW Comedy, 45 
New Testament, 80 
Nome, 28 
Nonnus, 87 

Oratory, 52, 71, 72-9 

Paean, 27 

Palladas, 84 

Parabasis, 44 

Parmenides, 48 

Parihenia, 25 

Pastoral poetry, 81 

Pausanias, 89 

Peripatetic School, 69 

Philippics of Demosthenes, 75 

Philippus, 84 

Phrynicus, 30 

Pindar, 26 
Pisistratus, 15, 29 
Planudes, M.aximus, 85 
Plato, 62-8 
Plutarch, 89 
Poetics of Aristotle, 70 
Polybius, 88 
Protagoras, 37, 51, 63 

Republic of Plato, 65 
Ehetoricians, 51, 72 

Satyr-drama, 30 
Semonides, 23 
Septuagint, 80 
Simonides, 25 
Socrates, 37, 43, 68, 60 
Solon, 15, 23 
Sophists, 43, 51, 60, 63 
Sophocles, 33 
Stesichorus, 25 
Stoics, 61 
Strabo, 89 
Strato, 84 

Thales, 48 
Theocritus, 81, 84 
Theognis, 23 
Theophrastus, 46, 71 
Theopompus, 59 
Thespis, 29 
Thucydides, 51-8, 88 
Timocles, 45 
Timotheus, 28 
Tragedy, 29-42 
Tyrtaeus, 24, 79 

Xenophon, 58, 60 

ZENO, 61 

at Paul's Work, Edinburgh 



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