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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


III. From the Union of Italy to the Subjugation of Carthage and the Greek States

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

Chapter XIV - Literature and Art


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Page 65

This was the ground at once of that opposition which the ungodly and un-Attic poet encountered among his contemporaries, and of that marvellous enthusiasm, with which the younger generation and foreigners devoted themselves to the poet of emotion and of love, of apophthegm and of tendency, of philosophy and of humanity. Greek tragedy in the hands of Euripides stepped beyond its proper sphere and consequently broke down; but the success of the cosmopolitan poet was only promoted by this, since at the same time the nation also stepped beyond its sphere and broke down likewise.

The criticism of Aristophanes probably hit the truth exactly both in a moral and in a poetical point of view; but poetry influences the course of history not in proportion to its absolute value, but in proportion as it is able to forecast the spirit of the age, and in this respect Euripides was unsurpassed. And thus it happened, that Alexander read him diligently; that Aristotle developed the idea of the tragic poet with special reference to him; that the latest poetic and plastic art in Attica as it were originated from him (for the new Attic comedy did nothing but transfer Euripides into a comic form, and the school of painters which we meet with in the designs of the later vases derived its subjects no longer from the old epics, but from the Euripidean tragedy); and lastly that, the more the old Greece gave place to the new Hellenism, the more the fame and influence of the poet increased, and Greek life abroad, in Egypt as well as in Rome, was directly or indirectly moulded in the main by Euripides.

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