Monday, February 28, 2011

The War Between Titans and Olympians

Module:5 The War Between Titans and Olympians
Posted by: Jinky Catherine M.Miake

After the death of Uranus, the world was at peace again. Cronus, the king of the Titans, and Rhea, his most noble sister and wife, had matters well in hand. Unfortunately, the curse of his father, Uranus, haunted Cronus day and night. Was it possible that one day he, too, would have a child who would overthrow him?
One day, Rhea announced that she was going to have a baby, but her husband was not happy. Cronus was so afraid that history would repeat itself that he did, in fact, manage to repeat history. Like his father before him, Cronus reasoned that if he could keep his children from growing up, none could ever become strong enough to overpower him. 
 So, when Rhea gave birth to her first child, Cronus quickly grabbed it and swallowed it whole. Rhea was both horrified and saddened at the loss of her firstborn child. In a similar manner, Cronus swallowed all of the next four children that she gave birth to, and Rhea vowed to get them back, any way she could. By the time Rhea discovered that she was pregnant for the sixth time, she had figured out a plan to trick her husband and save the newborn child from being swallowed whole. So, when it was nearly time for her to give birth, Rhea pretended to have her baby. She took a large stone and wrapped it in a baby’s blanket.

When Cronus came to gobble down the newborn child, Rhea gave him the wrapped-up stone. Quickly, Cronus swallowed the stone, just as he had swallowed the other children. In fact, Cronus’s focus on swallowing the newborn god was so great that he did not even realize that he had been tricked.

Later, when the time came for Rhea actually to have her child, she fled to the island of Crete. There, away from the glaring eyes of her husband, Rhea secretly gave birth to a son, whom she named Zeus. He was a beautiful and strong baby, and Rhea knew that when he grew up, he would be a truly powerful god.

Rhea realized that she could not return home to her husband with the child. Cronus would only try to destroy the newborn god, as he had done with the others. Therefore, for his protection, Rhea left Zeus to grow up secretly on Crete where he was suckled by a goat and raised by minor native deities called nymphs. While Zeus was a child, Cronus never suspected that he had been tricked and that he actually had a stone resting solidly in his stomach.

When he had grown into a young man, Zeus left Crete to join his mother. Rhea arranged for Zeus to become a servant to his father. Cronus did not know that his new servant was actually his son. One day, Zeus brought his father a cup of wine, which Cronus drank quickly.

This cup of wine contained a special potion, which made Cronus throw up. Cronus was so violently ill that he even threw up the stone wrapped in a blanket. Then he threw up all of the children he had swallowed before. The children emerged from their father's stomach as fully grown adults.

Their names were Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter, and Hestia. These were Zeus's brothers and sisters, and they were all glad to see each other in the light of day. Although they were happy to be free, the six siblings knew they must do something immediately, or their father would swallow them all over again. Quickly, they ran away while their father continued to moan and clutch his stomach.

This young generation of gods fled to Mount Olympus to escape their irate father, and because they claimed Mount Olympus as their home, the young gods were called the Olympians. After they had fled to safety, the Olympians quickly formed a plan. At once, they declared war on Cronus and many of the other Titans.
The young gods wanted to rule the world in their father's place. Yet their struggle had a dual purpose: while they were fighting for control over the earth, they were also fighting for their lives, since they knew that Cronus would swallow them again if he ever got the chance.

And so a great war began. At first, it seemed likely that the Titans would be victorious and remain in control of the earth. The young Olympian gods felt outnumbered and overpowered. The tide began to turn, however, when a few Titans changed sides and fought with Zeus and his siblings.
Prometheus, the son of the Titans Themis and Iapetus, was one who switched his allegiance. Prometheus's name means "one who thinks ahead," and with his ability to see the future he could foresee that the Titans would lose the battle against the Olympian gods. Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus refused to fight against the Olympians because of this foresight.

The Cyclopes and the Hundred-handed Ones also joined the Olympians in their fight against the Titans. They did not feel bound to the Titans, and they believed that the Olympian gods would rule with steadier hands. Zeus asked the one-eyed Cyclopes to make weapons for his army, and these skilled craftsmen made a special weapon for each of the gods.

For Zeus, the leader, the Cyclopes fashioned a special thunderbolt, which could be thrown long distances with great force. For Poseidon, they created a magnificent trident, or three-pronged spear, which could defeat any enemy. Finally, knowing that resistance came in many forms, the Cyclopes made Hades a magic helmet that could make him invisible, even to the immortal eyes of Cronus and the other Titans.

The war between the Titans and the Olympians was terrible. With the help of the Hundred-handed Ones, who fought bravely without ever tiring, the Olympians soon forced the Titans to surrender.

After the Titans had given up, Zeus challenged Cronus to a wrestling match. The winner would control Mount Olympus, to which the Titans were still laying claim. After beating Cronus three times, Zeus declared the Olympian gods to be the winners.

After the war, the Olympians sent most of the Titans to Tartarus to be locked up for eternity. The victors built a bronze gate over the mouth of the cavern, and the Hundred-handed Ones were placed outside as guards.

Atlas, another child of Iapetus and Themis, who had led the Titans into battle, received a special punishment. He was forced to hold the world on his back for all eternity. This turned out to be a far more challenging task than imprisonment in Tartarus.

Cronus, the former ruler of the universe, was not sent to Tartarus with his siblings. Though Cronus had swallowed his children whole, Zeus and the other Olympians did not want to destroy him in revenge.

Instead, Cronus was sent away to live on the Island of the Dead, where he stayed forever. Although originally he had wanted to destroy the Olympian gods, Cronus, once defeated and exiled, sent dreams to his son Zeus to guide him from afar.

After all the punishments were handed out, Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon made a bet to determine who would rule each part of the world. Hades became the lord of the dead and the Underworld, which was sometimes called Hades in his honor. Poseidon gained control of the seas and all the waters on earth. Zeus became the lord of the sky; and since the sky covers everything on earth, he became the king, or father, of the gods.

After these important decisions were made, the other Olympian gods were also given jobs. Demeter became the goddess of agriculture and of all growing things. Hestia became the goddess of the hearth, or fireplace, and the home. Hera, too, protected the home and became the goddess of marriage and childbirth after she married her brother, Zeus.

Once the Olympians had defeated the Titans and taken on their new roles, they, too, had children. Some of these gods were born under rather extraordinary circumstances. Athena, for example, was born out of the side of Zeus’s head. She became the goddess of wisdom and the protector of Athens. Hera became pregnant on her own and gave birth to Hephaestus. Hephaestus was the god of fire and became the blacksmith of the gods. Ares was the child of Hera and Zeus, and he became the god of war.

Apollo, the god of light and music, and his twin sister, Artemis, the maiden goddess of the hunt, were the children of Leto, who was the daughter of the Titans Phoebe and Coeus. The goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, had an unusual birth: she was born out of the waves of the sea.

Hermes was another son of Zeus. His mother was Maia, one of the daughters of Atlas. Hermes grew very quickly, and he was swift-footed, even as a baby. Later, he became the official messenger of the gods because he was so fast. He was often depicted with wings on his hat and sandals, and because he was always moving about, he was a particular protector of travelers.

These gods and others lived on Mount Olympus after their victory over the Titans. From the height of this great mountain, the new rulers could look down on all of Greece and keep watch over the world, for the control of which they had fought so hard.



Confirmation of Learning:
A. Answer the following.
1.What is the cause of the battle between the Olympians and the Titans?
2.Why is it that every time Rhea born a child Cronus would always swallow it as a whole?
3.Where did Rhea give birth to Zeus?
4.What does the name Prometheus mean?
5.What mythological creatures helped the Olympians in fighting with the Titans?
6. Who made Hades' helmet that could make him invisible?
7. Where was Cronus sent away to live?
8. Characterize Zeus in the story.
9. Who was the Goddess of Agriculture?
10. She was the Goddess of hearth. Who is she?
11.Who was the Goddess of marriage?
12. She was the Goddess of wisdom and the protector of Athens.
Who is she?
13. Who was Hephaestus mother?
14. He was the god of fire and became the blacksmith of the gods.
Who is he?
15. He was the god of light and music. Who is he?
16. She was the maiden goddess of the hunt, and Apollo's twin sister.
Who is she?
17. She was the daughter of the Titans Phoebe and Coeus. Who is she?
18. Who was the Goddess who was  born out of the waves of the sea?
19. He was the son of Zeus and Maia. Who is he?
20. Hermes was known of his ______________.
21. What is the main conflict of the story?
22. How are the events in the story arranged?
23. Comment on the structure of the story.
24. What values can be learned from the story?
25. Describe the time, place and cultural element of the story.
B. Make a summary of the story.
C. Draw Mt. Olympus and the Gods and Goddesses.
D. Enumerate the major Greek Gods and Goddesses and write their equivalent in Roman Mythology.

The Creation Story

Module:4 The Creation Story
Posted by: Jinky Catherine M. Miake

The creation of greek mythology all started with nothingness. In this module you will be able to find who are the first settlers in the world.

In the beginning, Chaos, an amorphous, gaping void encompassing the entire universe, and surrounded by an unending stream of water ruled by the god Oceanus, was the domain of a goddess named Eurynome, which means "far-ruling" or "wide-wandering".
She was the Goddess of All Things, and desired to make order out of the Chaos. By coupling with a huge and powerful snake, Ophion, or as some legends say, coupling with the North Wind, she gave birth to Eros, god of Love, also known as Protagonus, the "firstborn".
Eurynome separated the sky from the sea by dancing on the waves of Oceanus. In this manner, she created great lands upon which she might wander, a veritable universe, populating it with exotic creatures such as Nymphs, Furies, and Charites as well as with countless beasts and monsters.
Also born out of Chaos were Gaia, called Earth, or Mother Earth, and Uranus, the embodiment of the Sky and the Heavens, as well as Tartarus, god of the sunless and terrible region beneath Gaia, the Earth.
Gaia and Uranus married and gave birth to the Titans, a race of formidable giants, which included a particularly wily giant named Cronus.
In what has become one of the recurrent themes of Greek Mythology, Gaia and Uranus warned Cronus that a son of his would one day overpower him. Cronus therefore swallowed his numerous children by his wife Rhea, to keep that forecast from taking place.
This angered Gaia greatly, so when the youngest son, Zeus, was born, Gaia took a stone, wrapped it in swaddling clothes and offered it to Cronus to swallow. This satisfied Cronus, and Gaia was able to spirit the baby Zeus away to be raised in Crete, far from his grasping father.
In due course, Zeus grew up, came homeward, and got into immediate conflict with the tyrant Cronus, who did not know that this newcomer was his own son. Zeus needed his brothers and sisters help in slaying the tyrant, and Metis, Zeus's first wife, found a way of administering an emetic to Cronus, who then threw up his five previous children, who were Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon. Together they went to battle against their father. The results were that all of his children, led by Zeus, vanquished Cronus forever into Tartarus' domain, the Dark World under the Earth.
Thus, Zeus triumphed over not only his father, and his father's family of Giants, he triumphed over his brothers and sisters as well, dividing up the universe as he fancied, in short, bringing order out of Chaos.
He made himself Supreme God over all, creating a great and beautiful place for his favored gods to live, on Mount Olympus, in Thessaly. All the others were left to fend for themselves in lands below Mount Olympus.
Zeus made himself God of the Sky and all its phenomena, including the clouds as well as the thunderbolts. Hestia became goddess of the Hearth. To his brother Poseidon, he gave the rule of the Sea. Demeter became a goddess of Fertility, Hera (before she married Zeus and became a jealous wife), was goddess of Marriage and Childbirth, while Hades, one of his other brothers, was made god of the Underworld.
Zeus did indeed bring order out of Chaos, but one of his failings was that he did not look kindly upon the people, those creatures that populated the lands over which he reigned. Many were not beautiful, and Zeus had contempt for anyone who was not beautiful. And of course they were not immortal, as the Olympian gods were, and they complained about the lack of good food and the everlasting cold nights. Zeus ignored their complaints, while he and the other gods feasted endlessly on steaming hot game from the surrounding forests, and had great crackling fires in every room of their palaces where they lived in the cold winter.
Enter Prometheus, one of the Titans not vanquished in the war between Zeus and the giants. It is said in many myths that Prometheus had created d a race of people from clay, or that he had combined specks of every living creature, molded them together, and produced a new race, The Common Man. At the very least he was their champion before Zeus.
Fire for cooking and heating was reserved only for the gods to enjoy. Prometheus stole some of the sparks of a glowing fire from the Olympians, so that the people below Olympus could have fire for cooking and warmth in the winter, thus greatly improving their lot in life.
Zeus was furious at this insult to his absolute power, and had Prometheus bound and chained to a mountain, sending an eagle to attack him daily.
Adding insult to injury, Zeus had his fellow Olympian, Hephaestus, fashion a wicked but beautiful creature to torment Prometheus. It was a woman, whom they named Pandora, which means "all gifts". She was given a precious and beautiful box, which she was told not to open, but curiosity got the better of her, and out flew "all the evils that plague men." The only "gift" that stayed in the box was "Hope".
So, from "far-ruling" Eurynome to the creation of the Common Man, Greek creation myths are inextricably filled with difficulties, though often ameliorated by the gift of Hope. A myriad of other myths tell of the joys and adventures of great heroes and heroines, other gods and goddesses, as well as fantastic creatures from all parts of ancient Greece.
Every myth, Greek or otherwise, that has ever been told or written, varies in the telling. The basic themes are repeated in many of them, but details, even story lines will differ considerably, from village to village, eon to eon. When one understands that the myths have been told for many centuries before being written down, which first occurred about 800 BCE, one can relish the differences in the tellings and enjoy the Greek's brilliant and artful imagination throughout the ages.

Confirmation of Learning:

Comprehension Questions:
1. Who was the Goddess Of All Things?
2. Mt. Olympus located in where?
3. Who were the parents of the Titans?
4._________stole some of the sparks of a glowing fire from the Olympians, so that the people below Olympus could have fire for cooking and warmth in the winter, thus greatly improving their lot in life.
5. What came out when Pandora opened the box?
6. In Greek mythology, how was the universe created?
7. In Greek mythology, the name Eurynome means?
8. Who gave birth to the God Eros?
9. What did the Goddess Rhea do tho her son to save him from Cronus plan?
10. Who was the God who made himself as the God of the Sky and all its phenomena?
Discussion Question: 
1. What is the setting of the story?
2. Characterize the major character in the story.
3. How are the events in the story arranged?
4. Comment on the structure of the story.
5. Is the theme of the story universal? Why?

Modern Greek

Module: 3 Modern Greek
Posted by: Jinky Catherine M. Miake

Modern Greek literature refers to literature written in the Greek language from the 11th century, with texts written in a language that is more familiar to the ears of Greeks today than is the language of the early Byzantine literature, the compilers of the New Testament, or, of course, the classical authors of the fifth and fourth centuries BC.

The emergence of modern Greek literature (11th - 15th century)
The main forms and themes of this period include scholarly and popular epic songs celebrating the new champions of Hellenism; long compositions; verse romance, which bore the stamp of influence from western courtly tradition, but a genre nevertheless rooted in the Hellenistic and Roman imperial ages; ancient stories reviving mythical and historical figures such as Achilles and Theseus and Alexander the Great; and didactic, sardonic texts, concerned with philosophy and the allegory of daily life, with birds and animals taking the leading roles. But these will prove to be also the mainstay of modern Greek literature, modified, of course, by the various aesthetic and other values specific to each era.
Acritic songs
The cultural context within which the first known works of vernacular literature were created was undoubtedly Byzantine. The earliest group of such works dates mainly to the twelfth century: known as the Ptochoprodromika, the moralizing poem Spaneas, the autobiographical and didactic verses written in prison by Michael Glykas, the verse Eisiterion (a poem welcoming Princess Agnes of France), and a few examples of heroic poetry such as the Song of Armouris and the epic Digenis Acritas. The overwhelming majority of literary works in the vernacular has survived anonymously. Furthermore, it has proved difficult to assign a precise date to many of them, a problem exacerbated by the fact that the form in which the works have survived is often somewhat protean. Many have survived in a number of manuscripts, each of which preserves substantial variants or a different version. This phenomenon also occurs in the medieval literature of western Europe. It can be attributed to the methods by which texts were copied and disseminated in the age of the manuscript; in some cases, differing manuscript traditions may provide evidence of oral as well as written transmission of texts.

Verse romances are among the finest achievements of Byzantine literature, continuing as they do the long tradition of the love story whose roots go back to the Hellenistic and Late Antiquity periods. The Byzantine romance began its revival in the 12th century with Ysmine and Ysminias by Eustathios Makrembolites, Rodanthe and Dosikles by Theodoros Prodromos, Drosilla and Charikles by Niketas Eugenianos and Aristandros and Kallithea by Konstantinos Manasses. The differences (and similarities) in the case of the romances of the 13th and 14th centuries are clear. The plot has been reduced considerably; only Livistros and Rodamne maintains a sub-plot. The element of adventure becomes less prominent as the description of the action is reduced. The number of characters taking part in the action also becomes smaller. The social origins of the protagonists changes: no longer simply well-to-do, they derive for the most part from royalty. Furthermore, fairy tale elements like dragons, winged horses and magical objects are incorporated into the story while the erotic aspect of the romance is given particular emphasis, like the sensuality of the bathing scene in Kallimachos and Chrysorrhoe, the passionately entwined Velthandros and Chrysantza whose cries of pleasure echo around the garden, and the obvious erotic symbolism of Achilles’ entry with his lance into the maiden’s garden in the Achilleid. The heroes are either of Byzantine or Roman lineage, though the co-stars are sometimes of eastern origin. The action no longer evolves within a Mediterranean, classical setting; the scenery is contemporary, but with obvious utopian elements and a liking for the scenery of the folktale.

A number of scholars have termed the Greek romances as chivalric, yet they appear neither to imitate nor to have assimilated anything of the western chivalric ideal. The similarities of the central hero to the knight of the western courtly romance are limited to the external characteristics of the noble knight, in his capacity both as a warrior and as a hunter, and to his exceptional valour and beauty. The codification of the system of values of feudal society as expressed in the ideal of western chivalry is absent from Byzantine and post-Byzantine works. The social and ideological base of the Greek romances is quite different. Furthermore, the ideal of love that is portrayed is substantially different to the standards of courtly love in the western tradition, while there is considerable difference with regard to the subject of adultery, which appears only very rarely and was quite foreign to the Byzantine notion of love. Apart from the story of Helen and Paris, which in any case was handed down from antiquity, as related in the Tale of Troy, the notion of love is encountered only in Livistros and Rodamne, where the sub-plot concerns an adulterous relationship.

Translations and adaptations of western European romances into the vernacular Greek of the day date to the 14th and 15th century: the Theseid is a translation of Boccaccio’s "Teseida", while Imberios, Margarona, Florios and Platziaflora were both based on the Italian versions of the Old French romances "Pierre de Provence et la Belle Maguelonne" and "Floire et Blanchefleur". To this group of works can also be added The War of Troy, a translation of Benoît de Sainte-Maure's "The Romance of Troy".

Tales set in the classical world
An outstanding example of the adaptation of the figure of Alexander the Great to the literary needs of the age is provided by the 14th century Alexander Romance, consisting of 6120 lines of political verse. The vernacular literary production of the fourteenth century also includes three long verse accounts of the Trojan War, each presenting a different treatment of the subject. The most popular of these, judging by the seven manuscripts preserving the text, was the War of Troy, an anonymous work that in essence comprises a loose translation, or paraphrase, in 14,400 lines of fifteen-syllable political verse, of the "Roman de Troie" by Benoît de St. Maure. The second of these works, the Tale of Troy (the so-called "Byzantine Iliad") by an anonymous author, also observes the conventions of the romance. The third work, a vernacular paraphrase of the Iliad made by Constantine Hermoniakos at the court of the despotate of Epirus in about 1330, seems to follow the Homeric text fairly closely. However, in the twenty-four books of 8800 non-rhyming eight-syllable lines of Hermoniakos’ paraphrase, the narrative also relates the events that preceded the action described by Homer as well as the sequel to the sack of Ilium, all in an affected idiom composed of both vernacular and learned linguistic features.

Cretan literature (15th - 17th centuries)
Erotokritos is undoubtedly the masterpiece of this period, and perhaps the supreme achievement of modern Greek literature. It is a verse romance written around 1600 by Vitsentzos Kornaros (1553-1613). In over 10,000 lines of rhyming fifteen-syllable couplets, the poet relates the trials and tribulations suffered by two young lovers, Erotokritos and Aretousa, daughter of Heracles, King of Athens. It was a tale that enjoyed enormous popularity among its Greek readership and succeeded in making itself something of a folk hero, whose pedigree was as brother to Digenis Acritas and Alexander the Great. The poets of this period use the spoken Cretan dialect, freed of the medieval vernacular. The tendency to purge the language of foreign elements was above all represented by Georgios Chortatsis, Vitsentzos Kornaros and the anonymous poets of Voskopoula and The Sacrifice of Abraham, whose works highlight the expressive power of the dialect. As dictated by the pseudo-Aristotelian theory of decorum, the heroes of the works use a vocabulary analogous to their social and educational background. It was thanks to this convention that the Cretan comedies were written in a language that was an amalgam of Italicisms, Latinisms and the local dialect, thereby approximating to the actual language of the middle class of the Cretan towns. The time span separating Antonios Achelis, author of the Siege of Malta (1570), and Chortatsis and Kornaros is too short to allow for the formation, from scratch, of the Cretan dialect we see in the texts of the latter two. The only explanation, therefore, is that the poets at the end of the sixteenth century were consciously employing a particular linguistic preference – they were aiming at a pure style of language for their literature and, via that language, a separate identity for the Greek literary production of their homeland.

The flourishing Cretan school was all but terminated by the Turkish capture of the island in the 17th century. The ballads of the klephts, however, survive from the 18th century; these are the songs of the Greek mountain fighters who carried on guerrilla warfare against the Turks.

Enlightenment era (17th century - 1821)
After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 the only Greek regions which had not fallen to the Turks were Crete, Cyprus, Rhodes and the Ionian Islands, which were already under Venetian control. In these islands, and especially in Crete, literary production continued uninterrupted to a very high standard, in contrast with the Turkish occupied territories. This period of approximately 150 years from the fall of Crete (in 1669) to the beginning of the Greek War of Independence (in 1821) produced some of the greatest texts of the Greek Enlightenment, texts produced by Greek humanists, lay and clerical, which were not only portents of the national revival but also sought for the education and training of the subjugated nation which would guide them through a process that was to achieve a national consciousness and full independence.

The Korakistika (1819), a lampoon written by Jakovakis Rizos Neroulos and directed against the Greek intellectual Adamantios Korais, is a good example of its kind. Until recently, the first satire in the modern Greek tradition was thought to be the Anonymous of 1789. Today, however, an earlier work, dated 1785, and bearing the title Alexandrovodas the Callous, can claim to be the first of this genre in Greek. Written by Georgakis Soutsos-Dragoumanakis, the target of its invective is Alexander Mavrokordatos, ruler of Moldavia, referred to in the work as the Fugitive. Two works from the mid 18th century, the Stoicheiomachia (1746) and the Bosporomachia (1766), printed by Evgenios Voulgaris and attached to a verse translation of Voltaire’s Memnon were the products of Phanariot circles. Both texts display a growing awareness of the natural landscape and foreshadow the age of lyricism that was to follow, while also legitimizing to an extent the mixed linguistic register of the Greek then spoken in Constantinople, with its mingling of a great number of Turkish words, a feature that was to appear in Phanariot poetry a few years later.

The turn of the century saw the rise of two major authors. Rigas Feraios and Adamantios Korais. Rigas was born in Velestino, Thessaly, in 1757, where he received his basic education. With the capture of Bucharest by the Austro-Russian alliance he moved on to Vienna for a period of six months (1790), and it was there that he printed his first book: The School for Delicate Lovers. It brought the climate of pre-Romanticism and the ‘new sensibility’ to modern Greek prose writing, while at the same time it constituted a fiery declaration of the radical ideas that were shaking Europe. Marriage that broke the barriers of social class, demands for social equality, a new role for women – indeed, the entire programme of the Enlightenment – filled the sensuous tales of The School for Delicate Lovers, which, ‘giving pleasure and instruction’, can be seen to belong to the wider programme of social change and reform of the day. The literature of enlightenment which Rigas undertook to bring to the knowledge of his fellow Greeks constantly sought to find a balance between the didactic, the new ideology, and the social, thematic and technical innovations of a new literariness. The popular, Constantinopolitan language, as well as the interposed verses, many of which are to be found in the manuscript anthologies of the Phanariots, served to familiarize the readership with the new literary genre of the novella or short story.

Adamantios Korais spent most of his long life outside the bounds of the Ottoman state. Born in Smyrna in 1748, he learnt foreign languages at an early age and grew up in an environment that fostered respect for learning and literature. His translations and publishing activity were governed by a desire to give his countrymen access to the learning of the West and also to arouse their interest in the literature of their ancient forebears. In 1804, he gave material evidence of his interest in the ancient writers by publishing an edition of Heliodorus’ Aithiopika, the first in a series of ancient writers that was given the title Elliniki Vivliothiki (Greek Library). The books in this series, which included authors such as Aristotle, Plutarch, Isocrates, Xenophon and Plato, were prefaced with scholarly introductions and supplemented with detailed commentaries. Following the Franco-Turkish rapprochement, Korais came to believe that his people required systematic long-term preparation, above all in the field of learning, in order through their own efforts to gain independence.

19th century literature (1821 - 1880)
This period, which begins with the struggle for independence in 1821 and ends sixty years later when the fledgling Greek State was confronting new situations and challenges, is marked by many important literary works.
Ionian or Heptanese School of Literature
Dionysios Solomos, born in Zakynthos in 1798, is generally recognised as the leading spokesman for the great values which inspired the struggling nation. His first considerable achievements, the lyrical poetic composition Lambros (1824 and after) and the satirical prose poem Woman of Zakynthos (1826 and after) brought him to the forefront of modern Greek and European literature. A striking example of the thematic and ideological evolution evident in Solomos’ works of his mature Corfu period are the successive revisions (1833 and later) of a previous attempt (1826) to compose a poem on one of the most important events of the revolution, the siege and fall of Mesolongi, the town where Lord Byron died. The main theme of the poem continues to be the heroic exodus of the inhabitants under siege, yet that which is stressed in the latter versions is human spiritual suffering, strength and moral freedom, as eloquently expressed by the poem’s new title: The Free Besieged.
The poetic work of the Ionian islander Andreas Kalvos, also born in Zakynthos in 1792, consists of twenty Odes written in the Greek language. He penned a total of twenty Odes about the Greek revolution. The language he used is highly poetic, his versification classical, and the ideology expressed within these lines worthy of great poetry. They are contained in two collections he published at a young age, The Lyre (Odes 1-10 headed by a short invocation to the Muses in verse) and Lyric Poems (Odes 11-20). These twenty poems together bear the title of Odes. His other, less important, works were written in Italian in the previous decade (1811-1821) and comprise three tragedies and a few odes, marked by the literary influence of Ugo Foscolo and Neo-classicism. During the rest of his life Kalvos published no other poems. His overriding aim was to achieve a combination of Romanticism and Neo-classicism and to lend kydos to the revolution. Initially his work was unknown, but today the quality of his writing and his importance in the shaping of the modern nation is undisputed.

Makriyannis (1797 - 1864) was a distinguished memoir writer. Ioannis Triantaphyllodimitris, or Triantaphyllou, his real name, was born in the village of Avoriti in Doris. His turbulent life, driven by a fighter’s spirit and passion and endowed with the genuine sensibility of simple folk, has been rightly seen as a symbol of modern Hellenism. Makriyannis’ Memoirs were initially published as an important historical document. It was for this reason that his rambling Visions and Marvels were ignored at the time, being considered not worth publishing. Makriyannis had been illiterate. His need to record the events he had lived through persuaded him to acquire just enough knowledge of reading and writing to enable him to set down his memoirs; he was untouched by scholarly tradition. However, that they have been acknowledged and survived is not only because of their importance as an historical source of information or because of their ideology. It is also because of the language in which they were written. The immediacy and passion of his writing as well as his total absorption in popular tradition and popular mores distinguish his Memoirs from those of other patriots, making him one of the most authentic writers of modern Greek prose. This is proved by the wide appreciation of his work in later years.

If any one individual were to be considered responsible for the image the Greeks have about themselves and their history, that person would be Constantine Paparrigopoulos (1815 - 1891). He wrote his five-volume History of the Greek Nation between 1860 and 1874 and, since then, his ideas have been promulgated in every conceivable way: incorporated into other texts, repeated by thousands of lecturers, memorised by generations of students and eventually absorbed by the nation, which gradually saw itself in the image conceived by Paparrigopoulos. The success of this work was so great that few remember the image-maker and even fewer are aware of the imagery involved in the formation of the concept of Greekness. Paparrigopoulos succeeded in convincing his public that things had always been so. The picture he presented was seen as a mirror of the collective self. History of the Greek Nation was re-issued several times with additions concerning more recent events by other authors. A century later, in 1971, when a new monumental history began to be published, incorporating all the research and studies carried out in the meantime, Paparrigopoulos’ History retained its title and its original historiographical pattern.

The publication of the first volume of Study of the Life of Modern Greeks and of Modern Greek Mythology by Nikolaos Politis (1852 -1921) in 1871 constitutes the birth certificate of folklore as a science. Its young author had recently been awarded a prize for his essay On the customs and lore of modern Greece in comparison with those of ancient Greece. Thus was born Greek folklore as a field of study; to be more precise, the study of folklore was now being born in Greece, for in that same year The Folk Life of Modern Greeks and Greek Antiquity by Bernhard Schmidt appeared in Leipzig and signalled a transition from archeological folklore. It reached adulthood, however, much later, since twelve years had to pass before it was acknowledged in 1883 and another twenty-five years before its official name laography was validated in 1908.
Late 19th - Early 20th century literature (1880 - 1930)
E. Roidis, G. Vizyinos,
Emmanuel Roidis (1836 - 1904), distinguished cosmopolitan writer and great stylist of katharevousa, became famous at the age of thirty, following the publication of his provocative novel, Pope Joan, in 1866. This sensational book was translated immediately into many European languages and was, until the mid-20th century, the most widely translated Greek novel. Numerous Greek editions have been published up to the present day as well as many new editions of the translations. Lawrence Durrell and Alfred Jarry are two of the many distinguished translators of Pope Joan. An astonishingly original and fascinating work, Pope Joan is the female Greek version of Don Juan. Roidis’ ambitious and cynical heroine wanders around medieval Europe in the ninth century.

Georgios Vizyinos (1849 - 1896), author of poems, short stories, children’s literature and essays of philosophical, psychological and ethnological subject matter, is thought of as the pioneer of modern Greek prose. According to Costis Palamas, he is a "short story writer-poet", who "has a penchant for novel writing" and his texts, "if published in a community better prepared to receive them, would constitute a great and unforgettable event". In a span of merely fifteen months (1883-1884) Vizyinos wrote and published five short novels in the magazine Hestia, thus opening the way for a new literary form and at the same time demonstrating unique thematic, narrative and structural inventiveness. The short stories Who was my Brother’s Murderer?, The only Voyage of his Life, The Consequences of an Old Story and Moskov-Selim deal with the controversial subject of relations and the terms of coexistence among Greeks, Slavs and Turks in the Balkans, as well as the dialogue between the Greeks of Greece and the Greeks of the Ottoman Empire and the Diaspora, and also between Europe and modern and ancient Hellenism. The symbolic function of language and the self-referring function of literature are reflected mainly in the short stories Between Piraeus and Naples and The only Voyage of his Life. These issues are also the subject matter of his poems.
1880s Generation or New Athenian School
The poet and critic Costis Palamas dominated the Greek literary scene for almost fifty years, from about 1880 until 1930. With his eighteen books of poetry published between 1886-1935 and the abundance of essays and articles that he wrote during the same period, he is considered the chief proponent of the fundamental changes brought about in Greek letters by the 1880s generation, the generation of which he was undeniably the greatest poet. Palamas promoted, perhaps more than anyone else, the use of the colloquial language in literature, establishing its eventual dominance, and contributed to the appreciation of Greek popular culture. The poem "Palm Tree" is held to be the epitome of his work. It is a short composite poem of thirty-nine eightline stanzas written in 1900 and published in The Inert Life in 1904. In this poem symbolism, musicality and versification are evolved and combined as never before or since by Palamas, making it perhaps the most perfected and successful of all symbolist poems in the Greek language.
C. Cavafy
In Alexandria, Egypt, on the south-eastern periphery of the Greek diaspora there lived Constantine Cavafy wrote the poetry that was to earn him international recognition as one of the most important poets of the twentieth century. The one hundred and fifty-tfour poems hat comprise Cavafy’s recognized work (some thirty additional examples were left unfinished at his death) fall into three categories, which the poet himself identified as follows: poems which, though not precisely ‘philosophical’, “provoke thought”; ‘historical’ poems; and ‘hedonistic’ (or ‘aesthetic’) poems. Many poems may be considered either historical or hedonistic, as Cavafy was also careful to point out. The poems of the first category (to which belong some of Cavafy’s best-known pieces, such as The City and Ithaca), all published before 1916, often display a certain didacticism. The historical poems (often historical in appearance only), the first of which was published in 1906, are usually set in the Hellenistic age (including Late Antiquity), the period which Cavafy believed was “particularly fitting as a context for his characters”, although Byzantium does not disappear entirely from his poetry.
Neo-romanticism or Neo-symbolism
In Greece, the decade of the 1920s signalled a period of manifold crises: ideological, political and social. The experience of national discord and the Asia Minor catastrophe of 1922 seriously injured the concept of Greek ‘grand idealism’. The dictatorship of Pangalos (1925 - 1926) and a succession of governmental crises (1926-1928) created an atmosphere of widespread instability and insecurity. The refugee problem, unemployment and the wretchedness of state employees sparked a series of protest demonstrations and demands from the unions. Kostas Karyotakis gave existential depth as well as a tragic dimension to the emotional nuances and melancholic tones of the Neo-symbolist and Neo-romantic poetry of the time. Elegies and Satires (1927) is his last and most complete collection of poems published by Karyotakis. A landmark work in the history of Greek poetry of the 20th century, it is remarkable for its simplicity of expression, its condensed meaning, its existential anguish and the social pressure endured by the poet.
N. Kazantzakis
Nikos Kazantzakis is paradoxically the best-known Greek novelist outside Greece: paradoxically, because he himself rated his poetry and dramas far above his novels, to which he devoted himself seriously only during the last decade of his life. Paradoxically, too, because Kazantzakis has tended to be regarded more highly in international circles than at home. His wanderings temporarily halted by the occupation of Greece during the Second World War, Kazantzakis in the winter of 1941-1942, at the age of fifty-eight, began work on the novel that would mark his second début in Greek literature. This was Zorba the Greek. Zorba was the first of seven novels (if we count the autobiographical Report to Greco, on which he was still working at the time of his death) that Kazantzakis wrote in his final years, and on which his international reputation now principally rests.
20th century literature (1930 - 1981)
Mythistorima is the most definitive work of George Seferis and the most truly representative text of Greek Modernism. It is a composite poem comprising 24 sections in free verse –- a poem that contains the basic concepts and recurring themes of the poetry to follow: ‘common’, almost unpoetic speech, a familiar, narrative but also dramatic voice; a continued intermingling of history and mythology as everyday figures parade through the poem in the company of mythical “personae” and symbolic figures. Everything takes place in “typical” Greek landscapes, sometimes recognisable, while the mythical subject matter (drawn chiefly from Homer and the tragic playwrights) appears fragmentarily, “peaks” of myths, as the poet himself would say, nevertheless capable of providing stability and clarity to the emotion possessing the poet.

Odysseus Elytis, winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize for Literature, was born in Heraklion, Crete, in 1911 and died in Athens in 1996. A major poet in the Greek language, Elytis is also one of the most outstanding international figures of 20th-century poetry. In his work, modernist European poetics and Greek literary tradition are fused in a highly original lyrical voice. Elytis’ later work consists of ten collections of poems and a substantial number of essays. Outstanding among them are The Monogram (1972), an achievement in the European love poem tradition, and The Oxopetra Elegies (1991), which include some of the most difficult but profound poems written in our times. It is significant that in these mature works the tone is no longer jubilant. Melancholy, reflection and solemnity gradually prevail, although the poet’s faith in the power of imagination and the truth of poetry (a belief that brings him close to the Romantics) is still unshakeable.
Postwar literature (1944 - 1974)
Manolis Anagnostakis, critic and poet, confronted the chaotic period of the Greek Civil War in his two major poetry series, the Epoches, and the Synecheia. Publishing and writing while imprisoned, Anagnostakis explored the role of the poet under tyranny. His award-winning work was arranged by composer Mikis Theodorakis and thereby continue to influence Greek poets and songwriters in the present.
Contemporary literature (1974 - )
The Annual Poetry Symposium started in 1981 by an ad hoc committee made of poets and Professors of the University of Patras. In its 25 years of activity it has significantly contributed to the promotion of Greek poetry and its study from antiquity to present, having hosted hundreds of poets, professors and delegates from Greece and abroad.

Confirmation of Learning:
1. The earliest group of such works dates mainly to the twelfth century was  known as __________.
2.___________is undoubtedly the masterpiece of this period, and perhaps the supreme achievement of modern Greek literature.
3. After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 the only Greek regions which had not fallen to the Turks were ______, ________, ________ and the __________, which were already under Venetian control.
4. The Korakistika (1819), a lampoon written by__________
5.__________is generally recognised as the leading spokesman for the great values which inspired the struggling nation.
6._______________distinguished cosmopolitan writer and great stylist of katharevousa, became famous at the age of thirty, following the publication of his provocative novel, Pope Joan, in 1866.
7.He was the author of poems, short stories, children’s literature and essays of philosophical, psychological and ethnological subject matter, is thought of as the pioneer of modern Greek prose.
8.He wrote and published five short novels in the magazine Hestia, thus opening the way for a new literary form and at the same time demonstrating unique thematic, narrative and structural inventiveness.
9.He was the poet who dominated the Greek literary scene for almost fifty years, from about 1880 until 1930.
10. There are _________poems hat comprise Cavafy’s recognized work (some thirty additional examples were left unfinished at his death) fall into three categories, which the poet himself identified as follows: poems which, though not precisely ‘philosophical’, “provoke thought”; ‘historical’ poems; and ‘hedonistic’ (or ‘aesthetic’) poems.


Module 2: Byzantine
Posted by: Jinky Catherine M. Miake

The Byzantine Period of Greek History is one of the least understood and the most important. The Byzantine Empire laid the foundations for Orthodox Christianity in Greece, the Balkans and Russia. The Fall of Constantinople meant the end of Christianity in the Middle East, the rise of Ottoman-Muslim power and the East-West friction that exists today. Byzantine Scholars brought with them from Constantinople the knowledge and art that would play a pivotal role in bringing about the Renaissance in Western Europe.

In 51 AD Christianity had been introduced when Saint Paul preached in Athens on Mars Hill as well as in Thessaloniki and Corinth. On the island of Patmos The Book of Revelation, otherwise known as The Apocalypse was written by St. John the Theologian between 95 and 97 A.D. He had been exiled to the island by the Roman emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus for 18 months.

In the 3rd century Attika is attacked by the Goths followed by the Huruli, Alemanni, the Franks, the Vandals and Sassanians. The Pax Romana is starting to fall apart. In the 4th Century the emperor Constantine converts to Christianity and moves the capital of the Roman Empire to the city of Byzantium on the shores of the Bosphorus, renaming it Constantinople.   (City of Constantine). During this period a group within the church led by Father John Chrysostom,  which believes in a literal interpretation of scripture, (as opposed to the allegorical interpretation of the Gnostics), seizes control of the church and begins to persecute as heretics all those who disagree, forcing many of them into hiding. Some believe the purest teachings of Jesus and his apostles went with them. If this is true it adds fuel to the belief that there is a hidden church that  reappears from time to time in the form of groups like the Bogomils and the Cathars, only to be labeled heretics, and forced into hiding again. (Those who are not exterminated) These groups claim to be the true church. It is during the third and fourth century that Christianity goes from being an agglomeration of persecuted sects with a variety of beliefs and practices based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, to an enormous secular power that imposes its dogma on others, executes heretics, fights wars and basically enriches itself as a self-serving institution.

 In 364 the empire officially splits into the Roman Empire in the west and the Byzantine Empire in the east. As Rome declines, Constantinople becomes more important. In 394 The Emperor Theodocious declares Christianity the official religion of the empire, outlawing the worship of the ancient Greek and Roman Gods. This is the beginning of the Byzantine empire which lasts a thousand years. Greek replaces Latin as the official language, monasteries and churches are built and religious art in the form of frescos, icons and mosaics become the primary form of artistic expression in a society that has no separation of church and state whatsoever. In 529 the emperor Justinian conquers the land to the south as well as North Africa and Italy, then declares the study of the ancient Greek philosophers of the classical period to be illegal. The only philosophy of the empire is to be Christian theology. The church of Agia Sophia is built in the reign of Justinian. The church, named for the Holy Wisdom of God is the second largest temple ever built, after the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. The architects of this massive domed basilica are Anthemius from Tralles and Isidorus from Miletus.

The 7th and 8th centuries see the rise of Islam and there are a number of  attacks by the Arabs with Crete falling in 823. If not  for Greek-fire, the Byzantine's secret weapon, Constantinople would have fallen too. An explosive and incendiary substance made from sulphur, pitch and petroleum Greek fire's effect  was the equivalent of what airplanes and tanks had on 20th century warfare. It enabled a smaller Byzantine force to defeat a much larger enemy. The substance was squirted from bellows mounted in the Byzantine ships and caused great terror and destruction.

In 726 Emperor Leo and his advisors conclude that perhaps the reason for these attacks and the near destruction of the empire is that they have somehow managed to anger God. Leo hits upon the idea of destroying religious images (Icons) to appease God, since their veneration comes close to breaking the commandment about idolatry. This policy of Iconoclasm, (which means image breaking) divides Byzantine society and politics for the next 120 years. The last iconoclast emperor is Theophilos. After he dies in 842, his widow Theodora acting as regent for their young son, Michael III restores the veneration of Icons as an acceptable form of worship. 
It is also during the 8th Century that the Emperor Michael I imposes the death penalty on the Paulicans, a Gnostic Christian group that is critical of the clergy and rejects its cult of saints and icons and the veneration of the cross (among other things). It is estimated that over 100,000 are killed as heretics though a number of them survive in the eastern provinces of the empire until they are deported to the Balkans in the 10th century.

In 1204 the Frankish crusaders, on their way to retake the Holyland during of the 4th Crusade, stop at Constantinople, sack it and install their own government. Constantinople becomes the capital of a Latin empire when these 'crusaders' capture Thessaloniki and most of central Greece and much of the Peloponnese. These areas are broken up into states or fiefs as in a feudal society, ruled by nobles. While the Franks and the Byzantines fight each other and amongst themselves the Venetians are busy taking over the island of Crete and other essential ports for their new role as traders and merchants in the Mediterranean. Following the sack of Constantinople, the town of Nicaea becomes a centre where monks establish a school of philosophy that includes not only Christian philosophy but also classical ancient Hellenic culture. This period also results in some of the most glorious iconography produced.
In 1259 the Byzantine Emperor Michael Paleologos defeats Guillaume de Villehardouin and the Frankish forces in the battle of Pelagonia. Many nobles are captured and held prisoner and for their return Paleologos receives the fortified town of Monemvasia and the town and castle of Mystras which Villehardouin has just finished building. Two years later Paleologos recaptures the city of Constantinople.
During the 4th Crusade Athens becomes the fiefdom of Otho de la Roche from Burgundy. He passes the city on to his son Guy de la Roche who is declared Duke of Athens by King Louis IX of France. Athens is now a Dukedom. In 1308 Walter of Breinne inherits the Dukedom of Athens and invites mercenaries from Catalan to help defend his city. The Catalans are an unruly bunch and after he decides he needs to send them home, or anywhere, they turn on Walter, defeating him. They make one of their own Duke, Manfred of Sicily. In 1387 the Florentine Nerio Acciajuoli invades Athens and becomes a popular leader. The Florentines are the most accepted of the rulers by the Athenian population and many stay in the city even after the conquest by the Ottomans, intermarrying and Hellenizing their names. (The Iatros or Iatropoulos family claim descent from the Midicis.)
By the 14th Century the Ottoman Turks have taken Thessaloniki and Macedonia. On 1453 the siege and fall of Constantinople is one of the major events of world history heralding the end of the Byzantine Empire and the beginning of the Ottoman empire. Mehmed the Conqueror, with an army of 150,000 Turks besieges Constantinople starting on April 5th. On Tuesday May 29th, comes the final assault. The Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX is killed, and the city falls. 
"At this moment of confusion, which happened at sunrise, our omnipotent God came to His most bitter decision and decided to fulfil all the prophecies, as I have said, and at sunrise the Turks entered the city near San Romano, where the walls had been razed to the ground by their cannon ... anyone they found was put to the scimitar, women and men, old and young, of any conditions. This butchery lasted from sunrise, when the Turks entered the city, until midday ... The Turks made eagerly for the piazza five miles from the point where they made their entrance at San Romano, and when they reached it at once some of them climbed up a tower where the flags of Saint Mark and the Most Serene Emperor were flying, and they cut down the flag of Saint Mark and took away the flag of the Most Serene Emperor and then on the same tower they raised the flag of the Sultan ... When their flag was raised and ours cut down, we saw that the whole city was taken, and that there was no further hope of recovering from this." -Nicolo Barbaro: Diary of the Siege of Constantinople 1453
Three years later Athens falls and then in 1460 Mistras surrenders without a fight. Monks, scholars, artists and thinkers flee to the west bringing with them the great works of the ancient Hellenes, sparking the period in Europe known as The Renaissance. Others flee into the Mani and mountain monasteries to keep the spark of Hellenism alive in Greece for the next four centuries of Turkish occupation, at least in the popular romantic mythology. In truth the clergy were to have it pretty good under the Turks and how much they saved Hellenism is a topic that is debatable.
Most of the sources seem to overlook the fact that while the Byzantine Empire was Greek speaking and its idealism was based on a singular interpretation of both Christianity and on Roman Hellenism - that it was not Greek ethnically. Most of the Emperors were Armenians, Syrian - in terms of dynastic origins.  The only Dynasty that was distinctly 'Greek' was that of the Palaeologues and it was through their bungling and family disputes and general lack of imagination that the Empire fell as it did.  It is also important to note that during the entire period of the Palaeologue dynasty and even before, there are hardly any new churches erected as most of their time and money is spent in family disputes and wars with what remained of the Crusaders scattered around the empire. Then suddenly after the beginning of the 16th century churches are built everywhere during the period of Ottoman rule.

To understand modern Greece one has to realize that for centuries it was their dream to restore the Byzantine empire with Constantinople as capital of a Greater Greece. This is known as the 'Megali Idea', the Great Idea and nearly 500 years later it almost happens. But was their Megali Idea really a restoration of a Hellenic-Christian empire or a nationalistic pipe-dream that served the purpose of uniting the Greeks at the expense of peaceful relationships with their neighbors?

Literary Concepts:
Romanticism (or the Romantic Era) was a complex artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe. 
In a basic sense, the term "Romanticism" has been used to refer to certain artists, poets, writers, musicians, as well as political, philosophical and social thinkers of the late 18th and early to mid 19th centuries. It has equally been used to refer to various artistic, intellectual, and social trends of that era. Despite this general usage of the term, a precise characterization and specific definition of Romanticism have been the subject of debate in the fields of intellectual history and literary history throughout the 20th century, without any great measure of consensus emerging.

1. Who founded the Byzantine Empire and when? 
2. How many years - and days - did it last?
3. What happened to the Byzantine Empire in 1203?
4. What was the nickname of Emperor Basil II and why did he get it?
5. Name of the Byzantine Emperor and his Turkish opponent?
6. What religion was introduced by Saint Paul, when he preached in Athens?
7. The Byzantine Empire lasted for how many years?
8. What was the policy of Iconoclasm?
9. Who was the last iconoclast emperor?
10. What century did Emperor Michael I impose the death penalty on the Paulicans?
11. Who defeated Guillaume de Villehardouin and the Frankish forces?
12. Who inherits the Dukedom of Athens on 1308?
13. Who invaded  Athens and became a popular leader?
14. What causes the end of Byzantine Empire?
15. Who was Mehmed?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ancient Greek Literature

Module 01: Ancient Greek Literature
Posted by: Jinky Catherine M. Miake

The Hellenistic period or Hellenistic era describes the time which followed the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was so named by the historian J. G. Droysen. During this time, Greek cultural influence and power was at its zenith in Europe and Asia. It is often considered a period of transition, sometimes even of decline or decadence, between the brilliance of the Greek Classical Era and the emergence of the Roman Empire. Usually taken to begin with the death of Alexander in 323 BC, the Hellenistic period may either be seen to end with the final conquest of the Greek heartlands by Rome in 146 BC; or the final defeat of the last remaining successor-state to Alexander's empire, the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt in 31/30 BC, after the Battle of Actium. The Hellenistic period was characterized by a new wave of colonists which established Greek cities and kingdoms in Asia and Africa.

Map of Hellenistic Age. The Kingdom of Alexander's successors 100 BC.

The Hellenistic Age

I.  Beginning of the Hellenistic Age
The Hellenistic age is the period between the death of Alexander the Great and the rise of the Roman Empire under Augustus---that is, from 323 B.C. to 30 B.C.  During these three hundred years, Greek culture dominated much of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.  The term Hellenistic is also used to distinguish this period from the Classical (or Hellenic) period, which preceded it.

We have already seen that the Peloponnesian War,  which lasted from 431-404 B.C., left Greek city states such as Athens and Sparta vulnerable to attack.  When this attack occurred, it came from an unlikely source---a seemly backwards city state in wilds of Northern Greece called Macedonia.  The king of that city, Philip, introduced many military improvements to his infantry and cavalry that enabled Macedonia to conquer rivals such as Thessaly and Thrace.  Finally, in 338 B.C. Philip conquered an allied Greek army led by Athens at the Battle of Chaeronea, marking the end of the independent Greek city-state.
Having conquered Greece, Philip was preparing for an invasion of Asia Minor as well when he was assassinated.  He was succeeded by his twenty year old son, Alexander [the Great], who took up where his ambitious father had left off.  Alexander may have been Macedonian by birth but he was thoroughly Hellenized by education.  In fact, his teacher was none other than the philosopher Aristotle, another famous Macedonian.

Alexander had such an admiration for things Greek that his ambition was to Hellenize the world.  With an army of about 30,000 soldiers he proceeded to defeat the Persian army led by the Emperor Darius III at the Battle of Issus in 333 B.C. and went on to conquer Syria and Palestine as well.  From Syria Alexander proceeded to Egypt, where he humbly had himself declared the son of the sun god, Ra.  Spending the winter with his army in Egypt, he founded a city which was to become a center for Greek culture and learning in Egypt and gave his name to it---Alexandria.

During the Spring of 331, Alexander retuned to Syria to decisively defeat the Persian army, which had risen up to oppose him.  After this, he proceeded on to India with dreams of ruling that wealthy country.  He only succeeded in conquering the northwestern part of India, however, before his soldiers began to complain about the intolerable climate of that region and he was forced to return to Persia again.
Map of Alexander's Conquests
After conquering most of the civilized world, Alexander suddenly died in 323 B.C. at the age of 33.  Because he had made no preparation for a successor, his empire was split into three different parts by his generals, who each founded dynasties of their own.  Thus Egypt came to be ruled by the Ptolemies, Macedonia and Greece by the Antigonids, and Syria and Persia by the Seleucids. 
Because the kings in each of these regions believed that they alone were the legitimate heirs of Alexander, war between the kingdoms was a perpetual feature of the Hellenistic age.  On the positive side, however, Alexander's vision of a Hellenized world was largely realized by him and his successors.  In cities as far apart as Alexandria in Egypt, Pergamum in Asia Minor and Antioch in Syria, Greek art, literature and philosophy flourished. 

II. The Achievements of the Hellenistic Age

Because they had defeated the wealthy Persian empire, Alexander and his successors had ample amounts of wealth to spend lavishly on building projects and the arts.  The Ptolemies, for example, built a huge library in Alexandria with the modest aim of gathering all the known books in the world.  Attached to the library was a museum (the term which is still used today literally means "place of the muses"), where scholars would produce encyclopedias of knowledge.
Tremendous achievements during this period were also made in the areas of science and art:  Aristarchus of Samos put forth the theory that they earth revolves around the sun and rotates daily on its own axis; in Alexandria, Euclid summed up all the geometric knowledge of his age in the form of a textbook (a work that is still referred to to this day); Archimedes of Syracuse worked out many important theorems in mathematics.
In the arts, sculpture became more realistic.  Whereas sculptors  during the classical period aimed at portraying an idealized version of human beings---typically with features portraying little emotion --- Hellenistic sculptors aimed at more naturalistic depictions.  Female nudes and busts of ordinary, less than perfect, people also become quite common during this period.

Venis De Milo
Dying Gaul

During this period, philosophy became accessible to a much wider audience than it had previously been.  Many affluent members of the population, including women, began to study philosophy and to attend lectures of popular philosophers.
The major preoccupation of philosophy during this period was focused on the problem of human happiness.   This focus makes sense when one considers the turbulent times in which many men and women were living.  Long-autonomous city states had been swallowed by larger kingdoms in which power was held by distant --- and at times perhaps capricious -- monarchs.  No longer were people able to view participation in the life of the polis as a means of ensuring happiness. Instead they were forced to look within themselves for a tranquility (ataraxia) that more often than not was lacking in the larger world, where blind chance seemed to govern human affairs.
Into this unsettling environment, several new schools of philosophy arose:  the Stoics, who believed that a life of virtue offered human beings the best chance for happiness; the Epicureans, who pursued simple pleasures that could not be taken away by chance; the Skeptics, who, by doubting everything, believed that they could attain a state of perfect tranquility; and finally the Cynics, who preached a return to nature and a rejection of conventional mores as the key to man's felicity.
III. The Rise of Rome
While Alexander was carving out his empire in the east, the people of Rome began to carve out their own empire in Italy and North Africa.  The three Punic Wars with Carthage (264-241, 218-202, 149-146 BC) marked the decline of that city as a major power in the Mediterranean and the beginning of Rome's dominance over the region.  Over the next two centuries Rome would go on to gain control over most of Western Europe and to conquer much of Alexander's former empire in the east.  
While Rome was at war with Carthage in the West, Hellenistic civilization was alive and well in the three kingdoms carved out by Alexander's successors.  But the constant rivalry among these kingdoms left them vulnerable to conquest by Rome:  In 197 a Roman army defeated the forces of Philip V of Macedonia, and in 190 they defeated the army of Antiochus, King of Syria at Magnesia, giving Rome dominance over these regions.   The conquest of these Hellenized lands led to the gradual assimilation of Greek culture (philosophy, literature, art, religion) into Roman society.  
In the West, Rome continued to expand rapidly.  The First Punic War had given Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica to Rome,  the Second resulted in the annexation of most of Spain, and the Third to the annexation of Carthage itself.  During the Gallic Wars of 58-51 BC, Julius Caesar conquered much of present day Germany and France.  His success led to the creation of the First Triumvirate in 59 B.C. dividing the rule of Rome and its provinces among three individuals--Caesar, Pompey and Crassus.  With the death of Crassus in Persia, a growing rivalry between Caesar and Pompey became inevitable.   When the Senate, with Pompey's support, ordered Caesar to surrender his provinces in Rome and to disband his army, Caesar realized that he would have to fight against Rome itself to preserve his power.  On January 7th, 49 B.C., he crossed the Rubicon, plunging the Republic into civil war and effectively marking the death of the Republic.
Pompey was eventually murdered in Egypt and Caesar became supreme ruler over Rome from 48-44 B.C.  His assassination on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. again plunged Rome into civil war.  A Second Triumvirate established a three man dictatorship, consisting of Mark Anthony, one of Caesar's generals, Octavian, Caesar's nephew, and Lepidus, a nobody who would quickly disappear from the political scene.  Once again conflict occurred with Anthony establishing himself in Egypt and in the bed of Cleopatra, the Queen of that country.  At the naval battle of Actium in 31 B.C. Anthony's forces were destroyed and both he and Cleopatra were forced to commit suicide.
IV. The Pax Romana
The defeat of Anthony at Actium, left Octavian the undisputed master of one of the largest empires that the world had ever known.  Taking the name Augustus Caesar, he became, in effect,  Emperor over this vast domain.  Unlike his unfortunate uncle Julius, however, Augustus  masked his ambitions by allowing republican institutions to remain in place during his 43 year rule (29 B.C. - 14 A.D.). 
Augustus' greatest achievement was that he managed to finally bring some peace to Rome and its provinces.  After almost twenty years of civil wars, the people of Rome welcomed the prosperity and high culture that this peace fostered.  With Roman rule firmly established, the Mediterranean became virtually a Roman lake, which thousands of trading ships would cross with their merchandise.  Augustus boasted before his death that he found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble, referring to the numerous temples and public buildings that were raised up during his reign.
Temple of Poruunus
Rome, 1st C. BC
Pont-du-Gard Aquaduct
Provence, ca. 19 AD

                                                                                                                          Colosseum Rome, ca. 70 AD
The reign of Augustus was also a golden age for literature.  It was during this period that Virgil wrote his masterpiece the Aeneid, Ovid composed his Odes and Livy, his history of Rome.  In the area of philosophy, the Romans were significantly less innovative, being content to ride on the backs of their illustrious Greek predecessors.  Cicero, for example, was content to do little more than summarize Greek thought in his major philosophical works, The Tusculan Disputations and On the Ends of Good and Evil (De Finibus).  On the other hand, Lucretius' On the Nature of Things and Seneca's Moral Epistle's and Essays represent innovative developments within Epicurean and Stoic thought respectively. 

V. A Hint of Things to Come

It should also not be forgotten that it was during Augustus' reign that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  The peace that was forged by Augustus and his immediate predecessors allowed the religion to spread in a way that it could not have in less unified times.  In fact, within the span of  four centuries, Christianity would become the dominant religion of the Empire---an amazing accomplishment, given the religion's humble origins as a marginalized Judean sect and the persecution that it would be forced to endure while it was spreading. 

But this is another story completely.

VI. Time-Line

323 BC   Death of Alexander the Great
322   Death of Aristotle
307   Epicurus established his school in Athens
300   Stoic school founded by Zeno of Citium
297   Library and Museum at Alexandria Founded
264-241   First Punic War
218-202   Second Punic War
202   Defeat of Hannibal at Zama
149-146   Third Punic War [Carthage Destroyed]
59   First Triumvirate Created
45   Cicero writes De Finibus
44   Assassination of Julius Caesar
43   Second Triumvirate Created
31   Battle of Actium
29 BC-14 AD   Reign of Augustus in Rome
3 BC   Birth of Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem

Confirmation of Learning: 
  • This era describes the time which followed the conquests of Alexander the Great. What period is this? 
  • What war lasted from 431-404 B.C?
  • The city state in wilds of Northern Greece is called____________.
  • What culture dominated much of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East?
  • In 338 B.C. Philip conquered an allied Greek army led by Athens at the Battle of_______________.
  • Who returned to Syria to decisively defeat the Persian army?
  • The__________believed that a life of virtue offered human beings the best chance for happiness
  • While Alexander was carving out his empire in the east, the people of Rome began to carve out their own empire in_________and__________.

True or False: 
  • The Epicureans pursued simple pleasures that could not be taken away by chance.
  • The Skeptics doubt everything and believed that they could attain a state of perfect tranquility.
  • The Cynics preached a return to nature and a rejection of conventional mores as the key to woman's felicity. 
  • The three Peloponnesian Wars with Carthage (264-241, 218-202, 149-146 BC) marked the decline of that city as a major power in the Mediterranean and the beginning of Rome's dominance over the region.   
  • Cleopatra was assassinated on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. 
  • The defeat of Pompey at Actium, left Octavian the undisputed master of one of the largest empires that the world had ever known.  
  • The reign of Augustus was also a golden age for literature.