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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


V. The Establishment of the Military Monarchy

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 XII - Religion, Culture, Literature, and Art


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader

» Contents of this Chapter

Page 49

The Greek Fashionable Poetry

Lucretius, although his poetical vigour as well as his art was admired by his cultivated contemporaries, yet remained--of late growth as he was--a master without scholars. In the Greek fashionable poetry on the other hand there was no lack at least of scholars, who exerted themselves to emulate the Alexandrian masters. With true tact the more gifted of the Alexandrian poets avoided larger works and the pure forms of poetry--the drama, the epos, the lyric; the most pleasing and successful performances consisted with them, just as with the new Latin poets, in "short- winded" tasks, and especially in such as belonged to the domains bordering on the pure forms of art, more especially to the wide field intervening between narrative and song.

Multifarious didactic poems were written. Small half-heroic, half-erotic epics were great favourites, and especially an erudite sort of love-elegy peculiar to this autumnal summer of Greek poetry and characteristic of the philological source whence it sprang, in which the poet more or less arbitrarily interwove the description of his own feelings, predominantly sensuous, with epic shreds from the cycle of Greek legend. Festal lays were diligently and artfully manufactured; in general, owing to the want of spontaneous poetical invention, the occasional poem preponderated and especially the epigram, of which the Alexandrians produced excellent specimens. The poverty of materials and the want of freshness in language and rhythm, which inevitably cleave to every literature not national, men sought as much as possible to conceal under odd themes, far-fetched phrases, rare words, and artificial versification, and generally under the whole apparatus of philologico-antiquarian erudition and technical dexterity.

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