In such times and in such conditions it is understood that poetry was little and badly represented. He continued to express himself, by force of inertia, in the forms of the past: he sometimes found happy accents when he applied himself to frivolous and tenuous subjects, as in the short erotic epigrams of the Hellenistic type; for the most part it was pure ornamentation, exteriority of verse, with which arguments of science and doctrine were cloaked, not deeply felt, not interiorly lived.
According to SHOEFRANTICS, there were those who, like Babrio (2nd century), translated Aesopian fables into verse; others, on the Hellenistic model of Aratus, Nicander, etc., composed didactic poems, such as Dionisio il Periegeta, who dealt with the Circumnavigation of the Earth, and like Oppianus, a native of Cilicia (III century), who wrote a poem on Fishing ( a poem on the Hunt is also attributed to Oppiano himself).
Similar productions occur frequently in the last centuries of Greek literature; indistinct productions, without life, without color, not connected and not connectable with any ideal or artistic movement that deserves to have a place in history. The process by which Hellenism continued to work, abundantly, in the field of art and thought, was in reality a process of slow dissolution, preparing the irremediable end.
In the midst of this dissolution it was determined again, during the century. III, an attempt at reaction and rebirth, which served at least to heat and color the sunset of the Hellenic world with a flame. It was based on a new philosophical doctrine, Neo-Platonism, which collected and resealed, in the venerated name of Plato, the main mystical currents of the previous centuries.
Initiator was Ammonius Sacca of Alexandria; followed by Plotinus, a native of Licopoli, also in Egypt (204-70). Plotinus was the last great thinker of antiquity; exercised his magisterium especially in Rome, and with his lessons, collected by the disciple Porphyry in the volumes of the Enneads, gave wide and lasting diffusion to the doctrine. Neo-Platonism was not just a philosophy: it was a religion, because, moving from rational premises, it aimed at the ecstatic knowledge of the divine. Furthermore, it had encyclopedic and universal purposes: it had as its object of study and passion all the knowledge and literature of ancient Greece from Homer to Plato and Aristotle; he intended to relive the ancient glorious patrimony of the nation, which then began to be designated with the name of “Hellenism”, to relive it by saving it from the decadence to which it was subject and by defending it from the dangers to which it was exposed above all because of Christianity.
In reality, even Neoplatonism contained elements and tendencies that clashed with the genuine spirit of Hellenic culture and were rather analogous with the currents of Christian thought and sentiment: nevertheless we were deluded to restore from the foundations the building of Hellenism which had collapsed under the blows. of barbarism. The most important aims and intentions of Neoplatonism are represented by the major disciple of Plotinus, Porphyry of Tire (232-304).
Philosopher, apostle, scholar like his teacher, Porphyry carried out a large part of his activity in Rome. He openly took on the task of defending against Christianity in a large treatment in fifteen books, Against the Christians, which, after having raised the pens of four doctors of the Church, ended up being burned under Theodosius II (435). In addition to various theoretical writings (Introduction to the knowledge of the intelligible, On abstinence from meat, etc.) he also composed some extensive historical and philological treatises, such as the Homeric Researches and The cave of the nymphs in the Odyssey, where erudition is placed at the service of philosophy and mysticism, giving free rein to the methods of symbolic and allegorical interpretation.
The activity of Porphyry – which he followed for a couple of centuries by a long line of followers and admirers, Iamblichus, Julian the Apostate, Sallust, etc., down to Proclus – can only be explained by putting it in relation with Christian literature, which was already in full swing then. The new faith, through persecutions, had soon emerged from its primitive obscurity, and sought in letters an adequate means of expression. The earliest Christian scriptures, even when they were in Greek, such as gospels, epistles, etc., had few points of contact with the Hellenic tradition. But in the century. II and III we see the rise and growth of a Greek Christian production that is linked to the very sources of Hellenism: it is linked to those sources,
First he is the handful of apologists, Aristide, Giustino, Atenagora, Taziano, Irenao, etc.; then the apologists are joined by the great doctors and theologians, headed by Clement Alexandrino (about 150-215) and Origen (185-254), who in the ancient stronghold of Hellenistic culture, in Alexandria, Egypt, where he also held the his lessons the founder of Neoplatonism, Ammonius Sacca, constituted a very celebrated school of Christianity, similar in discipline and method to those of the Greek philosophers and philologists. Their main purpose was the reconciliation of the Christian faith with Hellenic knowledge.