When the whole Hellenic or Hellenized world fell under Roman rule, Greek literature was definitively deprived of its individuality; and although it still extends for several and several centuries with an abundance and variety of productions, nevertheless it has largely lost all internal reason for life. In some respects it becomes literature of the Roman Empire, parallel to and more widespread than the Latin one: in order to fulfill a kind of universal function. But on the other hand it is generally prevented from making active contact with the new political reality; it hardly ever nourishes itself on profound interests drawn from the historical development of the times: it is often closed in narrow and provincial horizons; turns to repeat the past, in unfortunate attempts at rebirth, and lives mostly on
According to NEXTICLE, the first century of the empire, from Augustus almost to the advent of the Antonines, is the most sterile: evidently because, following the destruction of the eastern monarchies, Hellenic life, expelled from its seats and largely transplanted to Rome, suffers the effects of disorientation and crisis. There is no fervor of feelings, no patrimony of ideas to lean on: therefore the original works are almost entirely lacking; the poem is dead, or is marked only by frivolous epigrams, by didactic tracts in verse, by flattering compositions. The dominance of philological and antiquarian scholarship, which was typical of the Alexandrian age, continues and worsens; erudition itself grows weaker by renouncing the spirit of research, development, progress, and is mostly transformed into compilation. Greek masters bring their teachings of rhetoric and literary criticism to Rome. Great vogue takes the tendency of aticism and purism, above all thanks to the work of Dionisio d’Alicarnasso and Cecilio da Calatte, whose treatises, while revealing a certain subtlety in the stylistic observations, are tinged with pedantry, because they aim to re-educate style and taste not through a renewal of consciences, but with imitation of ancient classical literature. Only towards the middle of the century, in contrast to Cecilio, did a much more lively and powerful voice rise: that of an anonymous author of the treatise Del Sublime, who approaches ancient literature with an intimacy of spirit; it contradicts and excludes the common concept of imitation; enhances the values of originality, the forces of imagination and thought; he has a clear vision of contemporary decay, and demonstrates how this cannot be remedied except by remaking the conditions of greatness, freedom, moral dignity which the authors of classical literature had nourished.
Alongside rhetoric and literary criticism, historical and antiquarian scholarship has developed considerably, since, in relation to the political events of the times (the fall of Greece and the triumph of Rome), minds are induced to question the history of the past with special interest.. However, even here the strength of thought is usually lacking and no one among the historians of the imperial age is able any longer to manifest those critical and political skills that were typical of Polybius. In general, there is a tendency towards pure and simple compilation; therefore we love the great narrative drawings in which the memories of all peoples from the mythical ages up to the present are included.
Thus a kind of universal history, from the origins to 4 a. C., was written by the peripatetic scholar Nicola Damasceno; and similar compilations were composed by Juba II, king of Mauritania. In this address, Strabo of Amasea (63 BC-19 AD), Diodorus Siculus (70-20 BC approximately) and Dionysius of Halicarnassus (60-7 BC approximately) made themselves particularly famous.. Strabo wrote a historical work, a continuation of Polybius, lost; inveee his Geography is preserved, in which not only physical but also philosophical understandings emerge (derived from Stoicism), political and cultural intentions (admiration for Rome, devotion to the monarchy, etc.). The historical Bibliotem of Diodorus Siculus was a universal history from mythical times to 59 BC. C. in 40 books: what remains of it shows that the author, despite having a certain philosophical veneer, lacked the necessary qualities of critical independence and synthesis. Dionysus of Halicarnassus in his Roman Archeology in 20 books (of which the first 11 survive) it was proposed to complete the work of Polybius for the initial part, going back from the first Punic war to the foundation of the city; but while Polybius had essentially taken care to establish the truth of the facts and to penetrate into the real depth of things, Dionisio remains on the surface, he possesses neither method of investigation nor vigor of meditation: he is a man of letters, and he uses history as a suitable material on which to apply his rhetorical and stylistic procedures, those procedures that made him one of the most reputed masters in the art of writing, author of treatises on literary composition, in the style of Thucydides, Demosthenes, eec.
More lively and more concrete interests can be found outside the real field of Hellenism, in the so-called Judeo-Hellenistic culture, which was formed during the Alexandrian period, when the Jewish people felt for the first time the need to expand their beliefs around the world; hence he adopted the Greek language and variously mixed his own civilization with that of the Greeks. Hebrew scholars began to frequent the headquarters of the Hellenized world, especially Alexandria in Egypt; and they played their part in that multiform literature which radiated from Alexandria.