Greece Literature – Penthouse (500-320 A. C.)

Between the two groups of colonies, Eastern and Western, which developed their culture the earliest, there was still the Hellenic continent, destined to collect and continue the legacy of both. A process of slow evolution brought continental Hellas to the fore, especially Attica, and from this gave rise to a singular force of attraction, for which, even when literary productions did not cease in the ancient sites of Ionia and Aeolian, of Sicily and Magna Graecia, however, diminished in importance or received the imprint of that new animating center.

The task of unifying in this way the culture and therefore also the Greek literature (to unify, of course, in a relative sense) to a degree that had not been reached before, fell above all to Athens: which, being of Ionian lineage, it was also the most suitable to continue the characters and dominating attitude that the Ionian colonies of Asia Minor had already shown in the previous period. Furthermore, the eminent literary position of Athens is in correspondence with the political primacy that this city conquered, at the beginning of the century. It goes. C., during the wars against Persia, fighting for the freedom of the Ionians of Asia and then of all Greece. At the beginning of the century. V the Hellenic world was in danger of being suffocated by the Persian empire towards the East and the Carthaginian empire towards the West. The battles of Marathon, of Salamis, of Plataea on the one hand, and of Imera on the other, thwarted this risk and allowed Hellenism to carry out its historical function. In fact, following the battle of Imera, Hellenized Sicily and Magna Graecia also had a new period of prosperity and power, headed by the Doric city of Syracuse. And Syracuse seemed for a time to be able to build an empire and create a Doric literature and common language (κοινή Doric), to be opposed to that which was being created by the Attics. The main manifestations of this Western Greek civilization enlivened by the Syracusan power are found above all in the continuers of the comedy of Epicarmo, especially in the mimic productions (Mimi) introduced by Sofrone and Senarco, which – as far as we can see from the few fragments – were no longer in verse but in rhythmic prose, and also in terms of content and dramatic setting meant a further progress on the line of realism and scientific observation: not dramas, but dialogues. Similar inclinations are found in the beginnings of rhetoric, that is, of technically elaborated eloquence, of which Gorgia di Leontini was a champion, and in the philosophical works of the Eleatics and Pythagoreans, in Parmenides and in Zeno of Elea, in Filolao di Taranto, and also in Empedocle Agrigento: although this singular figure of poet-philosopher, due to his enthusiastic hieratic attitude, appears to us a little out of his own environment and rather turned towards the past. Overall, the splendor of Sicily and Magna Graecia served to attract poets, thinkers and artists from all over; and it extended for some time, since it came to exert its fascination also on Plato.

However, Athens had risen to much greater importance following the Persian wars; which, due to the position taken in front of the East, found itself truly at the forefront of civilization. The victory of Athens over Persia was, after all, the victory of civilization over barbarism; because, against the blind forces of despotism and intellectual inertia, he saved the principles of political freedom and therefore also of freedom of thought: he allowed the free development of the human personality and of the individual conscience, of that individual conscience from which, as we already have indicated in the previous period, the essential characters and the future of Hellenism depended. Thus led to represent, in the most characteristic and most vital elements, the program of Hellenism, the capital of Attica became, in a certain sense, capital of Greece: it drew around itself, politically and spiritually, a large part of the Greek world, although it did not manage to establish a unitary state and then also broke down in the face of the municipal particularism of the nation; he produced works that exerted a very wide influence and which gradually were considered as classical, acquiring universal value. From the political point of view, the greatness of Athens meant an advancement of democratic principles; and under the spiritual aspect it was an expansion of culture over wider layers of society, an emergence of more advanced and more modern ideas.

Before Athens occupied this managerial post, at the close of the previous period, a form of Doric culture dominated in continental Hellas: an essentially aristocratic culture, which had its religious and moral seat in the sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi and its political center in Sparta, since Sparta was at the head of a confederation of states, and was, and continued to be, the repository of all conservative tendencies.

Greece Literature - Penthouse (500-320 A. C.)

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