Greek literature, ancient

Later Greek Literature

The next period of Greek literature reached its zenith in Hellenistic Alexandria, where a number of major philosophers, dramatists, poets, historians, critics, and librarians wrote and taught. New genres such as bucolic poetry emerged during the Hellenistic period, a time also characterized by scholarly editions of classics from earlier periods. The poems of Callimachus, the bucolics of Theocritus, and the epic of Apollonius Rhodius are recognized as major works of world literature.

The production of literary works at the time of the establishment of Roman control of the Mediterranean was enormous, a vast heterogeneous mixture ranging from the sublime to the pedantic and turgid. A great portion of the works produced have been lost. With the Roman political subjugation of Greece, Greek thought and culture, introduced largely by slave-tutors to the Roman aristocracy, came to exert enormous influence in the Roman world. Among the greatest writers of this period were the historians Polybius, Josephus, and Dio Cassius; the biographer Plutarch; the philosophers Philo and Dio Chrysostom; and the novelist Lucian. One great Roman work produced under Greek influence was the philosophical meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

With the spread of Christianity, Greek writing took a new turn, and much of the writing of the Greek Fathers of the Church is eloquent. Religion dominated the literature of the Byzantine Empire, and a vast treasury of writing was produced that is not generally well known to the West The most notable exception is the work of some historians (e.g., Procopius, Anna Comnena, George Acropolita, and Emperor John VI) and some anthologists (e.g., Photius).

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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