Greece Literature – Roman (30 BC-527 AD) Part 3

Such are the Roman stories written respectively by Appiano of Alexandria (about 160) and by Cassius Dione Cocceiano (about 155-235). But most of the production is aimed at satisfying scholarly curiosity, in any field; collects news, which are precious to us, on every side of ancient life; it passes on to us the memory of facts, traditions, customs, etc. Such is the Description of Greece of Pausanias; The wise men at the Athenaeus banquet from Naucrati; the Various History and Nature of Animals by Claudio Eliano da Preneste; the Lives of the philosophers of Diogenes Laertius; and innumerable other similar works, all of which demonstrate a wealth of information, but at the same time poverty of thought.

In most of the intellects the presumed rebirth of Hellenism has a rather external and superficial character: it is compilation; or, when it is not a compilation, it results in the imitation of ancient models, particularly of the genres of eloquence; who, however much they satisfied vanity and gave the illusion of grandeur, were those who had the least correspondence in the actual conditions of society and life. Since freedom of speech has long since ceased and great political and civil interests have ceased to exist, eloquence necessarily results in a play or an exercise in declamation. Lacking the grandstand of the ancient Attic oratories, an artificial one is created; not finding current topics that are worthy of discussion, one transports oneself to the past and adopts fictitious cases and events. In this way the so-called “new sophistry” was born, which is meant to be a repetition or renewal of the rhetorical-sophistic movement of the century. It goes. C. It has its roots in a question of language, grammar, style, we could say of literary purism: since it aims to restore the Hellenic language by freeing it from the heterogeneous elements, which were introduced or were introduced in the κοινὴ διάλεκτος, for effect of the diffusion through all the peoples of the empire, and tracing it back to the examples of the classical age. Therefore the new sophistry is connected and combined with the Atticistic reaction, which originated in the Alexandrian age and also set itself the aim of purifying the common language. But more complex and more conspicuous elements also enter the new sophistry (hence its representatives coveted precisely the name of sophists). The dominant feature is the intention to satisfy the demands of a universal culture and to form complete personalities, from an aesthetic, intellectual and practical point of view. Like the ancients, the new sophists presented themselves as educators of the youth, and intended to carry out functions of public interest; they passed from city to city to give their dazzling speeches of the apparatus on solemn occasions; they served as political envoys and held high offices in the employ of emperors and cities.

According to PLUS-SIZE-TIPS, the new sophistry celebrated its greatest triumphs in the Greek East, in the populous cities of Asia, as well as, to a certain extent, in Athens. But it also spread throughout the Empire, and exerted its influence in every manifestation of life and art. Even men like Marcus Aurelius were not strangers to this movement: in fact he held in great friendship and consideration several of the most famous Sophists, such as Herod Atticus and the Roman Pediment, who represented a similar direction in Latin literature. And there was no clear separation between the sophistry and the philosophy of the time. Dio of Prusa (about 40-120) was a disciple of the stoic Musonius Rufus, called Chrysostom for his eloquence. Celebrated speaker, capable of carrying out every futile subject with virtuosity of speech, he first composed polemical speeches against philosophers and against Musonius himself; but then he let himself be conquered; and although he never reached great depth of thought, nevertheless he directed his eloquence to higher aims, of education, of civil and social interests, staying halfway between philosophy and rhetoric. His example was followed by Favorinus of Arles (about 85-160), who, in addition to speeches and declamations, also composed works of historical and scholarly content (such as the Παντοδαπὴ ἱστορία, now lost), collections of anecdotes, with particular regard to philosophy. The great apostle and animator of intellects, Epictetus, was a pupil of Arrian of Nicomedia (95-175), who falls into the field of sophistry because he set himself a task of essentially literary imitation: he wanted to be the new Xenophon, Alexander’s expedition), biography, travel, etc. But the most distinguished champions of sophistry were Herodes Atticus and Elio Aristide, both loved and admired by the emperor Marcus Aurelius. Of Herodes Atticus (101-177), who was called “prince of eloquence” and considered as one of the greatest glories of Athens, we have only a speech referring to a political situation of the century. It goes. C. Di Elio Aristide (129-189) instead we have received more than fifty speeches of various kinds: in which the classical rigor of the style is remarkable, the splendor of the images, etc.; however, at the same time, the internal poverty of thought, which was a common defect of the time, also transpires. This defect is then especially visible in Maximus of Tire (who lived under the emperor Commodus),(Διαλέξεις) on philosophical topics. Philosophy is like a pretext that gives the author’s essentially feeble spirit an opportunity to flaunt elegance and frivolous virtuosity.

More lively and deeper expressions could not arise if not in contrast with the general trend. In fact, from the contrast with the new sophistication he took the opportunity to assert himself the only personality of a writer who (apart from Marcus Aurelius, of whom he represents in a certain way the antithesis) can be said to be truly effective and original: Luciano di Samosata (120-185 circa).

Greece Literature - Roman (30 BC-527 AD) 3