Greece Literature – Roman (30 BC-527 AD) Part 2

Thus, first of all, Sacred Scripture was translated and disseminated in the version of the Seventy; thus other works arose, of an apologetic, historical, propaganda character, such as the Letter of Aristea, the Sibylline Books (which later underwent Christian additions and adaptations), etc. The largest flower of the Judeo-Hellenistic culture belongs to the century. I of the Empire, headed not only by Alexandria, but by Rome; and has its most famous samples in Philo Alexandrino (20 BC-50 AD approximately) and in Flavius ​​Josephus of Jerusalem (37-97 AD approximately). Philo was a profound thinker who in a number of monographs dealt with various problems of biblical exegesis, theology, philosophy, trying to harmonize the Jewish religious tradition with the conquests of Greek thought and animating everything through a kind of mystical Platonism full of warmth and faithful. Flavius ​​Josephus narrated, in a rather crude form, but with an apologetic spirit, the history of his people (Jewish Antiquities) from the creation of the world to the reign of Nero; to which he then added the story of the war with the Romans and the fall of Jerusalem (Jewish War).

Together with these elements, of Jewish origin, the first germs of Christianity also spread throughout the Roman world; germs that, developing little by little, will be destined to modify and undermine the culture of Greece and Rome from its foundations. In fact it belongs to the century. I of the Empire the New Testament.

Meanwhile, there were those who were trying to give new life to Hellenic culture by rekindling the moral and religious ideas of the past. One of the first representatives of this rebirth was Plutarch of Cheronea (46-120 AD), a noble figure of man and writer.

Educated in Athens, in Alexandria, in Rome, he lived in friendly relations with the most famous personalities of the time, enjoyed the favor of the emperor Hadrian, had honors, public offices, the dignity of a priest. Without being an original thinker or scientist, he assimilated the products of universal culture in an admirable way, impressing on them a note of true and sympathetic humanity. Above all, he turned to reconcile Hellenism and Romanism, noting and exalting all that was beautiful and good in the civilization of both peoples. Hence his main work, the Parallel Lives, whose value consists neither in the richness of the historical content, nor in the method of research, but in the feelings that inspire the author. The same sentiments, of love for all that is beautiful and good, of reverence for the glories of the past, of the exaltation of virtue are the foundation of the other minor works of Plutarch, which, while dealing with very varied topics, rightly bear the title of Moral Works. Plutarch’s philosophy is essentially aimed at the practical side of life, it is wisdom; it draws its main elements from Plato and the Academy, but not without mixing them with influences from other schools and also with the most recent mystical currents.

According to PICKTRUE, fervor of faith and moral understanding can be seen during this period above all in the Stoic philosophers, who rise to the fore, representing a kind of reaction against the spread of evil customs in the time of Nero and other Roman emperors. They turn most (like the cynics, with whom they have many affinities) to the practical side of life; take on the task of teaching and improving humanity, spreading principles that were of considerable significance in relation to the religious needs of that era that saw the rise of Christianity: in fact, they mostly preach resignation to destiny, the renunciation of worldly goods (ἀνέχου καὶ ἀπέχου “restraining and stubborn”), compassion and forgiveness for the mistakes and defects of others, etc.

In Latin, and with a fairly Roman or Romanized spirit, he wrote Seneca; but in Greek, and with a rather cosmopolitan character, most of the others wrote: Anneo Cornuto, from Leptis in Africa, who was the teacher of Persio and Lucan and left us a Compendium of Greek theology; and Musonio Rufo, of which we have only fragments. Epictetus was a disciple of Musonio, a slave of Hierapolis in Phrygia (about 50-130), who exercised a wide and lasting influence, giving his teaching di lui the character of an apostolate and pouring great nobility of ideas and passion into it. His precepts and his conversations were collected in 8 books (of which only 4 have survived), entitled precisely Conversazioni, and in a small anthology entitled Manual (‘Εγχειρίδιον), edited by one of his students, Arrian of Nicomedia, more illustrious as a man of letters and as a historiographer as well as a philosopher. On Epictetus depends, among others, the emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180), a profoundly Hellenized Roman, in whom the faith and the Stoic doctrine penetrated to the last roots of the soul. His austere, melancholic personality, tormented by the vicissitudes of life and the worm of reflection found a suitable form of high artistic value in the rigid and short sentences that make up the collection of Memories or Meditations with himself Εἰς ἑαυτόν).

These names and these personalities seem to indicate, from the end of the century. I to all II d. C., a kind of rebirth of Hellenism. In fact, the literary production becomes very copious; the various forms of culture appear in great honor; studies of all kinds flourished and met the protection of princes, in particular of the Antonine dynasty. Interest in the past is shown, first of all, by the abundance of historical and scholarly works. Some of these are dominated, like those of the previous century, by the concept of the mission and empire of Rome and tend to embrace in grandiose organisms the narration of political events from the origins of the city to the present times.

Greece Literature - Roman (30 BC-527 AD) 2