Some scholars contend that many of his ideas, or at least a vague approximation of them, are expressed in Plato's early socratic dialogues. Plato expressed his ideas through dialogues, that is, written works purporting to describe conversations between different individuals. Some of the best-known of these include: The Apology of Socrates , a purported record of the speech Socrates gave at his trial;  Phaedo , a description of the last conversation between Socrates and his disciples before his execution;  The Symposium , a dialogue over the nature of love ;  and The Republic , widely regarded as Plato's most important work,   a long dialogue describing the ideal government.
Aristotle of Stagira is widely considered to be one of the most important and influential philosophical thinkers of all time. Aristotle was a student at Plato's Academy , and like his teacher, he wrote dialogues, or conversations. However, none of these exist today. The body of writings that has come down to the present probably represents lectures that he delivered at his own school in Athens, the Lyceum. Athens lost its preeminent status as the leader of Greek culture, and it was replaced temporarily by Alexandria , Egypt.
The city of Alexandria in northern Egypt became, from the 3rd century BC, the outstanding center of Greek culture. It also soon attracted a large Jewish population, making it the largest center for Jewish scholarship in the ancient world. In addition, it later became a major focal point for the development of Christian thought. The Musaeum , or Shrine to the Muses, which included the library and school, was founded by Ptolemy I.
The institution was from the beginning intended as a great international school and library. It was intended to serve as a repository for every work of classical Greek literature that could be found. The genre of bucolic poetry was first developed by the poet Theocritus. The Alexandrian poet Apollonius of Rhodes is best known for his epic poem the Argonautica , which narrates the adventures of Jason and his shipmates the Argonauts on their quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece from the land of Colchis.
The most notable writer of New Comedy was the Athenian playwright Menander. None of Menander's plays have survived to the present day in their complete form, but one play, The Bad-Tempered Man , has survived to the present day in a near-complete form. Large portions of another play entitled The Girl from Samos have also survived. The historian Timaeus was born in Sicily but spent most of his life in Athens. In 38 books it covered the history of Sicily and Italy to the year BC, which is where Polybius begins his work.
Timaeus also wrote the Olympionikai , a valuable chronological study of the Olympic Games. Ancient biography , or bios , as distinct from modern biography, was a genre of Greek and Roman literature interested in describing the goals, achievements, failures, and character of ancient historical persons and whether or not they should be imitated. Authors of ancient bios , such as the works of Nepos and Plutarch 's Parallel Lives imitated many of the same sources and techniques of the contemporary historiographies of ancient Greece, notably including the works of Herodotus and Thucydides.
Eratosthenes of Alexandria c. He is credited with being the first person to measure the Earth's circumference. Much that was written by the mathematicians Euclid and Archimedes has been preserved.
Euclid is known for his Elements , much of which was drawn from his predecessor Eudoxus of Cnidus. The Elements is a treatise on geometry, and it has exerted a continuing influence on mathematics. From Archimedes several treatises have come down to the present. A manuscript of his works is currently being studied. Very little has survived of prose fiction from the Hellenistic Era. The Milesiaka itself has not survived to the present day in its complete form, but various references to it have survived.
The book established a whole new genre of so-called " Milesian tales ," of which The Golden Ass by the later Roman writer Apuleius is a prime example. The ancient Greek novels Chaereas and Callirhoe  by Chariton and Metiochus and Parthenope   were probably both written during the late first century BC or early first century AD, during the latter part of the Hellenistic Era.
The discovery of several fragments of Lollianos's Phoenician Tale reveal the existence of a genre of ancient Greek picaresque novel. While the transition from city-state to empire affected philosophy a great deal, shifting the emphasis from political theory to personal ethics, Greek letters continued to flourish both under the Successors especially the Ptolemies and under Roman rule. Romans of literary or rhetorical inclination looked to Greek models, and Greek literature of all types continued to be read and produced both by native speakers of Greek and later by Roman authors as well.
A notable characteristic of this period was the expansion of literary criticism as a genre, particularly as exemplified by Demetrius, Pseudo-Longinus and Dionysius of Halicarnassus. The New Testament , written by various authors in varying qualities of Koine Greek also hails from this period,   : the most important works being the Gospels and the Epistles of Saint Paul.
The poet Quintus of Smyrna , who probably lived during the late fourth century AD,   wrote Posthomerica , an epic poem narrating the story of the fall of Troy, beginning where The Iliad left off. The poet Nonnus of Panopolis wrote The Dionysiaca , the longest surviving epic poem from antiquity.
He also wrote a poetic paraphrase of The Gospel of John. The historian Polybius was born about BC. He was brought to Rome as a hostage in In Rome he became a friend of the general Scipio Aemilianus. He probably accompanied the general to Spain and North Africa in the wars against Carthage. He was with Scipio at the destruction of Carthage in He wrote a universal history , Bibliotheca Historica , in 40 books. Of these, the first five and the 11th through the 20th remain.
The first two parts covered history through the early Hellenistic era. The third part takes the story to the beginning of Caesar's wars in Gaul, now France. His history of Rome from its origins to the First Punic War to BC is written from a Roman point of view, but it is carefully researched. Arrian served in the Roman army. His book therefore concentrates heavily on the military aspects of Alexander's life. Arrian also wrote a philosophical treatise, the Diatribai , based on the teachings of his mentor Epictetus.
Best known of the late Greek historians to modern readers is Plutarch of Chaeronea , who died about AD His Parallel Lives of great Greek and Roman leaders has been read by every generation since the work was first published. His other surviving work is the Moralia , a collection of essays on ethical, religious, political, physical, and literary topics. During later times, so-called " commonplace books ," usually describing historical anecdotes, became quite popular. The physician Galen lived during the 2nd century AD.
He was a careful student of anatomy, and his works exerted a powerful influence on medicine for the next 1, years. Strabo , who died about AD 23, was a geographer and historian. His Historical Sketches in 47 volumes has nearly all been lost. His Geographical Sketches remain as the only existing ancient book covering the whole range of people and countries known to the Greeks and Romans through the time of Augustus. The book takes the form of a tour of Greece, starting in Athens and ending in Naupactus. The scientist of the Roman period who had the greatest influence on later generations was undoubtedly the astronomer Ptolemy.
He lived during the 2nd century AD,  though little is known of his life. His masterpiece, originally entitled The Mathematical Collection , has come to the present under the title Almagest , as it was translated by Arab astronomers with that title. Epictetus c. His teachings were collected by his pupil Arrian in the Discourses and the Encheiridion Manual of Study.
His biography of Epicurus , for instance, is of particularly high quality and contains three lengthy letters attributed to Epicurus himself, at least two of which are generally agreed to be authentic. Another major philosopher of his period was Plotinus. He transformed Plato's philosophy into a school called Neoplatonism. After the rise of Christianity, many of the most important philosophers were Christians.
The second-century Christian apologist Justin Martyr , who wrote exclusively in Greek, made extensive use of ideas from Greek philosophy, especially Platonism. The Roman Period was the time when the majority of extant works of Greek prose fiction were composed. Daphnis and Chloe , by far the most famous of the five surviving ancient Greek romance novels, is a nostalgic tale of two young lovers growing up in an idealized pastoral environment on the Greek island of Lesbos. The Wonders Beyond Thule has not survived in its complete form, but a very lengthy summary of it written by Photios I of Constantinople has survived.
The satirist Lucian of Samosata lived during the late second century AD. Lucian's works were incredibly popular during antiquity. Over eighty different writings attributed to Lucian have survived to the present day. His book The Syrian Goddess , however, was written in a faux- Ionic dialect , deliberately imitating the dialect and style of Herodotus. Eighty versions of it have survived in twenty-four different languages, attesting that, during the Middle Ages, the novel was nearly as popular as the Bible. Ancient Greek literature has had an enormous impact on western literature as a whole.
These ideas were later, in turn, adopted by other western European writers and literary critics. For instance, the Greek novels influenced the later work Hero and Leander , written by Musaeus Grammaticus. The medieval writer Roger Bacon wrote that "there are not four men in Latin Christendom who are acquainted with the Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic grammars. The influence of classical Greek literature on modern literature is also evident. Numerous figures from classical literature and mythology appear throughout The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. John Milton 's epic poem Paradise Lost is written using a similar style to the two Homeric epics.
Richard as "one of the most popular books ever published in the United States". George Bernard Shaw 's play Pygmalion is a modern, rationalized retelling of the ancient Greek legend of Pygmalion. Even in works that do not consciously draw on Graeco-Roman literature, authors often employ concepts and themes originating in ancient Greece. The ideas expressed in Aristotle's Poetics , in particular, have influenced generations of Western writers and literary critics.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Literature written in Ancient Greek language. Linear B tablet from the Archaeological Museum of Mycenae. Main article: Greek lyric. Further information: Hellenistic period , Hellenistic art , and Hellenistic Greece. Further information: Roman Greece. Further information: Greek mathematics , Greek astronomy , and Medicine in ancient Greece. The prominence of the Theban plague at the play's opening suggests to many scholars a reference to the plague that devastated Athens in BC, and hence a production date shortly thereafter.
See, for example, Knox, Bernard American Journal of Philology. Consequently, deciding where they start and where they end is often difficult. However, it is generally accepted that this quote is not Simplicius' own interpretation, but Anaximander's writing, in "somewhat poetic terms" as it is mentioned by Simplicius. The Decipherment of Linear B Second ed. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Documents in Mycenaean Greek. Aristotle's Poetics. Penguin Books. The Universities of the Italian Renaissance.
Johns Hopkins University Press. Genre Reprint ed. The Iliad of Homer. The University of Chicago Press, Ltd. Book 1, Line number p. Macmillan Education Ltd. Middlebury College. Retrieved 12 March Hadas A History of Greek Literature p. Retrieved Barron and P. Easterling and B.
Boardman, J. The early versions of Digenes Akrites Beaton, Roderick. Antique nation? Romanticism in Greece Beaton, Roderick. The world of fiction and the world 'out there': the case of the Byzantine novel Beaton, Roderick. Cappadocians at court: Digenes and Timarion Beaton, Roderick. Courtly romances in Byzantium: a case study in reception Beaton, Roderick.
About the same time the broadly trained and energetic Photius , patriarch of the city and the greatest statesman of the Greek Church , enthusiastically collected forgotten manuscripts, revived forgotten works of antiquity, and re-discovered lost works; his attention was chiefly directed to prose works, indicative of his pragmatism. Photius made selections or excerpts from all the works he discovered, forming the beginning of his celebrated Bibliotheca "Library" , which while dry and schematic remains the most valuable literary compendium of the Middle Ages, containing trustworthy summaries of many ancient works now lost, together with good characterizations and analyses such as those of Lucian and Heliodorus.
This encyclopedic activity was more assiduously pursued in the 10th century, particularly in the systematic collecting of materials associated with Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. Scholars also formed great compilations, arranged by subject, on the basis of older sources.
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Among these was a now-fragmentary encyclopedia of political science containing extracts from the classical, Alexandrian, and Roman Byzantine periods. These, with the collection of ancient epigrams known as the Anthologia Palatina and the scientific dictionary known as the Suda , make the 10th century that of the encyclopedias. A typical representative of the period appears in the following century in the person of the greatest encyclopedist of Byzantine literature, Michael Psellus. Standing between the Middle Ages and modern times, he is a jurist and a man of the world with a mind both receptive and productive.
Unlike Photius, who was more concerned with individual philosophic arguments, Psellus does not undervalue the old philosophers, and is himself of a philosophic temperament. He was the first of his intellectual circle to raise the philosophy of Plato above that of Aristotle and to teach philosophy as a professor. Surpassing Photius in intellect and wit, he lacks that scholar's dignity and solidity of character.
A restless brilliance characterized his life and literary activity. At first a lawyer, then a professor; now a monk, now a court official; he ended his career the prime minister. He was equally adroit and many-sided in his literary work; in harmony with the polished, pliant nature of the courtier is his elegant Platonic style of his letters and speeches. His extensive correspondence furnishes endless material illustrating his personal and literary character. The ennobling influence of his Attic models mark his speeches and especially his funerary orations; that delivered on the death of his mother shows deep sensibility.
Psellus had more of a poetic temperament than Photius, as several of his poems show, though they owe more to satirical fancy and occasion than to deep poetic feeling. Though Psellus exhibits more formal skill than creativity, his endowments shone forth in a time particularly backward in aesthetic culture. The intellectual freedom of the great scholars polyhistores , both ecclesiastical and secular, of the following centuries would be inconceivable without the triumph of Psellus over Byzantine scholasticism.
While among his successors—such as Nicephorus Blemmydes and Hyrtakenos —are natures as corrupt as Psellus' own, the majority are marked by their rectitude of intention, sincerity of feeling, and their beneficently broad culture. Among these great intellects and strong characters of the 12th century several theologians are especially conspicuous, for example Eustathius of Thessalonica , Michael Italicus , and Michael Acominatus ; in the 13th and 14th centuries several secular scholars, like Maximus Planudes , Theodorus Metochites , and above all, Nicephorus Gregoras.
The three theologians may best be judged by their letters and minor occasional writings. Eustathius seems to be the most important, writing learned commentary on Homer and Pindar alongside original works that are candid, courageous, and controversial, intent upon the correction of every evil. In one of his works he attacks the corruption and intellectual stagnation of the monastic life of that day; in another polemic, he assails the hypocrisy and sham holiness of his time; in a third he denounces the conceit and arrogance of the Byzantine priests.
The rhetorician Michael Italicus, later a bishop, attacks the chief weakness of Byzantine literature, external imitation; this he did on receiving a work by a patriarch, which was simply a disorderly collection of fragments from other writers, so poorly put together that the sources were immediately recognizable. The pupil and friend of Eustathius, Michael Acominatus 12th and 13th centuries Archbishop of Athens and brother of the historian Nicetas Acominatus. His inaugural address, delivered on the Acropolis, exhibits both profound classical scholarship and high enthusiasm despite the material and spiritual decay of his times.
These pitiful conditions moved him to compose an elegy, famous because unique, on the decay of Athens, a sort of poetical and antiquarian apostrophe to fallen greatness. Gregorovius compared the inaugural address with Gregory the Great 's to the Romans, and this with the lament of Bishop Hildebert of Tours on the demolition of Rome by the Normans His funeral orations over Eustathius and his brother Nicetas, though wordier and rhetorical, still evinced a noble disposition and deep feeling.
Michael, like his brother, remained a fanatical opponent of the Latins. They had driven him into exile at Ceos , whence he addressed many letters to his friends illustrating his character. Stylistically influenced by Eustathius, his otherwise classical diction sounded an ecclesiastical note. With Theodore Metochites and Maximos Planoudes we come to the universal scholars polyhistores of the time of the Palaeologi. The former displays his humanism in his use of hexameter, the latter in his knowledge of the Latin; both of which are otherwise unknown in Byzantium, and foreboding a broader grasp of antiquity.
Both men show a fine sense of poetry, especially of nature poetry. Metochites composed meditations on the beauty of the sea; Planudes was the author of a long poetic idyll, a genre uncultivated by Byzantine scholars. While Metochites was a thinker and poet, Planudes was chiefly an imitator and compiler.
Metochites was more speculative, as his collection of philosophical and historical miscellanies show; Planudes was more precise, as his preference for mathematics proves. Contemporary progress in philosophy was at a point where Metochites could openly attack Aristotle. He deals more frankly with political questions, such as his comparison of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy.
While his breadth of interest was large, Metochites's culture rests wholly on a Greek basis, though Planudes, by his translations from the Latin Cato , Ovid , Cicero , Caesar , and Boethius , vastly enlarged the Eastern intellectual horizon. This inclination toward the West is most noticeable in Nicephorus Gregoras, the great pupil of Metochites.
His project for a reform of the calendar ranks him among the modern intellects of his time, as will be proven if ever his numerous works in every domain of intellectual activity are brought to light. His letters, especially, promise a rich harvest.
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His method of exposition is based on that of Plato, whom he also imitated in his ecclesiastico-political discussions, e. This brought him bitter hostility and the loss of his teaching living; he had been occupied chiefly with the exact sciences, whereby he had already earned the hatred of orthodox Byzantines. While the Byzantine essayists and encyclopedists stood wholly under the influence of ancient rhetoric, still they embodied in the traditional forms their own characteristic knowledge, and thereby lent it a new charm.
Poetry likewise had its prototypes, each genre tracing its origins to an ancient progenitor. Unlike the prose, these new genres do not follow from the classical Attic period, for the Byzantines wrote neither Iyrics nor dramas, imitating neither Pindar nor Sophocles. Imitating the literature of the Alexandrian period, they wrote romances, panegyrics , epigrams , satires , and didactic and hortatory poetry, following the models of Heliodorus and Achilles Tatius , Asclepiades and Posidippus , Lucian and Longus.
Didactic poetry looks to an earlier prototype by Isocrates ' Ad Demonicum. The poetic temperament of the Byzantines is thus akin to that of the Alexandrian writers. Only one new type evolved independently by the Byzantines—the begging-poem.
The six genres are not contemporaneous: the epigram and the panegyric developed first 6th and 7th centuries , then, at long intervals, satire, next didactic and begging poetry, finally the romance. Only after the 12th century, the period of decay, do they appear side by side. The epigram was the only form of secular poetry that had an independent revival in Byzantine literature, and this at the very time when ecclesiastical poetry also reached its highest perfection, in the 6th and 7th centuries. This age is therefore the most flourishing period of Byzantine scholarly poetry; its decline in the 12th century is contemporary with the rise of popular poetry.
The chief kinds of poetry during the period of the decline 11th to 13th century were satire and parody, didactic and hortatory poetry, the begging-poem, and the erotic romance. In content, however, all this literature continues to bear the imprint of Byzantine erudition. The epigram suited the Byzantine taste for the ornamental and for intellectual ingenuity. It corresponded exactly to the concept of the minor arts that attained high development in the Byzantine period.
Making no lofty demands on the imagination of the author, its chief difficulty lay rather in technique and the attainment of the utmost possible pregnancy of phrase. Two groups may be distinguished among the Byzantine epigrammatists: one pagan and humanistic, the other Christian. The former is represented chiefly by Agathias 6th century and Christophorus of Mitylene 11th century , the latter by the ecclesiastics Georgius Pisides 7th century and Theodorus Studites 9th century.
Between the two groups, in point of time as well as in character, stands Joannes Geometres 10th century. The chief phases in the development of the Byzantine epigram are most evident in the works of these three. Agathias, who has already been mentioned among the historians, as an epigrammatist, has the peculiarities of the school of the semi-Byzantine Egyptian Nonnus about AD He wrote in an affected and turgid style, in the classical form of the hexameter ; he abounds, however, in brilliant ideas, and in his skillful imitation of the ancients, particularly in his erotic pieces, he surpasses most of the epigrammatists of the imperial period.
Agathias also prepared a collection of epigrams, partly his own and partly by other writers, some of which afterwards passed into the Anthologia Palatina and have thus been preserved.
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The abbot Theodorus Studites is in every respect the opposite of Agathias, a pious man of deep earnestness, with a fine power of observation in nature and life, full of sentiment, warmth, and simplicity of expression, free from servile imitation of the ancients, though influenced by Nonnus. While touching on the most varied things and situations, his epigrams on the life and personnel of his monastery offer special interest for the history of civilization.
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Joannes Geometres combines aspects of the previous two. During the course of his life he filled both secular and ecclesiastical offices and his poetry had a universal character; of a deeply religious temper, still he appreciated the greatness of the ancient Greeks. Alongside epigrams on ancient poets, philosophers, rhetoricians, and historians stand others on famous Church Fathers, poets, and saints.
Poetically, the epigrams on contemporary and secular topics are superior to those on religious and classic subjects. His best works depict historical events and situations he himself experienced, and reflect his own spiritual moods Krumbacher. Even the best writers often could not escape composing the official panegyrics on emperors and their achievements. Typical of this kind of literature are the commemorative poem of Paulus Silentiarius on the dedication of the church of St.
Sophia , and that of Georgius Pisides on the glory of the prince. Unfavorable conclusions must not be drawn as to the character of these poets, for such eulogies were composed by not only courtiers like Psellus and Manuel Holobolos 13th century , but also by independent characters like Eustathius and Michael Acominatus.
It had become traditional, and so handed down from imperial Rome to Byzantium as a part of ancient rhetoric with all the extravagance of a thoroughly decadent literature F. It was a sort of necessary concession to despotism; popular taste was not in general offended by it. The father of Byzantine satire is Lucian. His celebrated "Dialogues of the Dead" furnished the model for two works, one of which, the " Timarion " 12th century is marked by more rude humour, the other, " Mazaris " 15th century , by keen satire. Each describes a journey to the underworld and conversations with dead contemporaries; in the former their defects are lashed with good-natured raillery; in the latter, under the masks of dead men, living persons and contemporary conditions, especially at the Byzantine Court, are sharply stigmatized.
The former is more a literary satire, the latter a political pamphlet, with keen personal thrusts and without literary value, but with all the greater interest for the history of civilization; the former is in a genuinely popular tone, the latter in vulgar and crude [Cf. Two popular offshoots of the "Timarion", the "Apokopos" and the "Piccatoros" are discussed below. Another group of satires takes the form of dialogues between animals, manifestly a development from the Christian popular book known as the Physiologus.
Such satires describe assemblages of quadrupeds, birds, and fishes, and recite their lampooning remarks upon the clergy, the bureaucracy, the foreign nations in the Byzantine Empire, etc. See also An Entertaining Tale of Quadrupeds. Here belong also the parodies in the form of church poems, and in which the clergy themselves took part, e. One example of this sacrilegious literature, though not fully understood, is the "Mockery of a Beardless Man," in the form of an obscene liturgy 14th century.
Didactic poetry found its model in the "To Demonikos" ascribed to Isocrates. The greatest example of this type of literature in Byzantium is the "Spaneas" 12th century , a hortatory poem addressed by an emperor to his nephew, a sort of " Mirror for Princes ".
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Some few offshoots from this are found in the popular literature of Crete in the 15th and 16th centuries, handed down under the names of Sahlikis and Depharanus. Here also belong the ranting theological exhortations resembling those of the Capuchin in Schiller 's "Wallenstein". Such, for instance, are that of Geogillas after the great plague of Rhodes and the oracular prophecies on the end of the Byzantine empire current under the name of Emperor Leo Krumbacher, , , , , A late Byzantine variety of the laudatory poem is the begging-poem, the poetical lament of hungry authors and the parasites of the court.
Its chief representatives are Theodorus Prodromus and the grossly flattering Manuel Philes , the former of whom lived under the Comneni 12th century , the latter under the Palaeologi 13th century. For historians such poetical wails of distress as Prodromus addressed to the emperor are of value because they give interesting pictures of street and business life in the capital. Krumbacher, , The ancient Greek novel was imitated by four writers of the 12th century: Eustathios Makrembolites , Theodore Prodromos , Niketas Eugenianos , and Constantine Manasses.
The first flowering of ecclesiastical literature of Byzantium is Hellenistic in form and Oriental in spirit. This period falls in the 4th century and is closely associated with the names of the Greek Fathers of Alexandria, Palestine, Jerusalem, Cyrene, and Cappadocia. Their works, which cover the whole field of ecclesiastical prose literature—dogma, exegesis , and homiletics —became canonical for the whole Byzantine period; the last important work is the ecclesiastical history of Evagrius.
Beyond controversial writings against sectarians and the Iconoclasts , later works consist merely of compilations and commentaries, in the form of the so-called Catenae ; even the Fountain of Knowledge of John of Damascus 8th century , the fundamental manual of Greek theology, though systematically worked out by a learned and keen intellect, is merely a gigantic collection of materials. Even the homily clings to a pseudo-classical, rhetorical foundation, and tends more to external breadth, not to inwardness and depth.
Only three kinds of ecclesiastical literature, which were as yet undeveloped in the 4th century, exhibit later an independent growth. These were the ecclesiastical poetry of the 6th century, popular lives of the saints of the 7th, and the mystic writings of the 11th and 12th centuries. The Catholic Encyclopedia suggests that classical forms were insufficient to express Christian thought to best effect: in several collections of early Christian correspondence it is not the rhythmic laws of Greek rhetorical style which govern the composition, but those of Semitic and Syriac prose.
Cardinal Pitra hypothesizes that the rhythmic poetry of the Byzantines originates in the Jewish Psalms of the Septuagint. This rhythmic principle accords with the linguistic character of the later Greek, which used a stress accent as it had already been developed in Syriac poetry rather than the classical tonal accent. Romanos the Melodist was the first great ecclesiastical poet of the Greeks to fully embrace the stress accent as a rhythmic principle.
A contemporary and countryman of the chronicler Malalas, also a reformer of the Greek literary language, Romanos was a Syrian of Jewish descent, Christianized at an early age. Though he did not go so far as Malalas, he released poetry from meters based on quantitative and tonal scansion; he brought it into harmony with the latest poetics prevailing in Syria as well as with the evolving character of the Greek language. Romanos soon went to Constantinople, where he became a deacon of the Hagia Sophia , and where he is said to have first developed his gift for hymn-writing. Romanos borrowed the form of his poems, the material, and many of their themes partly from the Bible and partly from the metrical homilies of the Syrian Father Ephrem 4th century.
He wrote hymns on the Passion of the Lord, on the betrayal by Judas, Peter's denial, Mary before the Cross, the Ascension, the Ten Virgins, and the Last Judgment, while his Old Testament themes mention the history of Joseph and the three young men in the fiery furnace. He is said to have composed about a thousand hymns, of which only eighty have survived, evidently because in the 9th century the so-called canones , linguistically and metrically more artistic in form, replaced much of his work in the Greek Liturgy.
Thenceforth his hymns held their own in only a few of the remoter monasteries. They do not resemble contemporary Latin hymns so much as the oratorios of the early 20th century, also using antiphonal rendering by alternative choirs. This also explains the dramatic character of many hymns, with their inserted dialogues and choric songs, as in "Peter's Denial", a little drama of human boastfulness and weakness, and the last part of the "History of Joseph", the "Psalm of the Apostles", and the "Birth of Jesus". Other pieces, like the hymn on the Last Judgment , are purely descriptive in character, though even in them the rhetorical and dogmatic elements seriously impair the artistic effect.
Some, like Bouvy and Krumbacher, place him among the greatest hymn-writers of all times; others, like Cardinal Pitra, are more conservative. For a final judgment a complete edition of the hymns is needed. Compared to Latin church poets such as Ambrose and Prudentius, his surviving works tend towards a more rhetorically flowery, digressive, and dogmatic verse. He is fond of symbolic pictures and figures of speech, antitheses, assonances, especially witty jeux d'esprit , which contrast with his characteristic simplicity of diction and construction.
These embellishments interrupt the smooth flow of his lines, and often the sequence of thought in his hymns is clouded by the dragging in of dogmatic questions—in the celebrated Christmas hymn the question of the miraculous birth of Jesus is discussed four times, with a comfortable amplitude that betrays the theologian thrusting the poet aside. The theologian is also too evident in his allusions to the Old Testament when dealing with New Testament incidents; Mary at the birth of Jesus compares her destiny to that of Sarah, the Magi liken the star that went before the Israelites in the wilderness, and so on.