CHAPTER III. THE GREEKS
Homer. Hesiod. Elegiac and Lyric Poets. Prose Writers. Philosophers and Historians. Lyric Poets. Dramatic Poets. Comic Poets. Orators. Romancers.
HOMER.—The most ancient Greek writer known is Homer, and it cannot be absolutely stated in what epoch he lived.
Since the seventeenth century it has even been asked if he ever existed and if his poems are not collections of epic songs which had circulated in ancient Greece and which at a very recent epoch, that of Pisistratus, had been gathered into two grand consecutive poems, thanks to some rearrangement and editing. At the commencement of the nineteenth century the erudite were generally agreed that Homer had never existed. Now they are reverting to the belief that there were only two Homers, one the author of the Iliad and the other of the Odyssey.
THE ILIAD.—The Iliad is the story of the wrath of Achilles, of his retreat far from his friends who were endeavouring to capture Troy and of his return to them.
It is the poem of patriotism. It is filled with the spirit that when a people is divided against itself, all misfortunes fall on and overwhelm it. Achilles, unjustly offended, deprived his fellow-countrymen of his support; they are all on the point of perishing; he returns to them in order to avenge the death of his dearest friend and they are saved.
The Iliad is almost entirely filled with battles, which are very skillfully diversified. Some episodes, such as the farewell of Hector to his wife Andromache when he quits her for the fight, or King Priam coming, in tears, to ask Achilles for the corpse of his son Hector that he may piously inter it, are among the most beautiful passages that ever came from a human inspiration.
THE ODYSSEY.—The Odyssey is also the poem of patriotism, of the little homeland, of the native land. It is the story of Ulysses, after the siege of Troy, reconquering Ithaca, the small island of which he is king, and taking ten years to acquire it. What makes the unity of the poem, what forms the backbone of the poem, is the smoke which rises above the house of Ulysses, which he always perceives in the dream of his hopes and desires, which invincibly attracts him, which he desires to see again before he dies, and the thought of which sustains him in his trials and causes him to scorn all joys on his road thither. The thousand adventures of Ulysses, his sojourn with the nymph Calypso, his terrible perils in the cave of the giant Polyphemus and near the isle of the Sirens, the tempests which he survives, the hospitality he receives from King Alcinoues, the visit he pays to the dead—among whom is Achilles regretting the earth and preferring to be a ploughman among the living rather than king among the dead; these are vigorous, curious, interesting, touching, picturesque scenes from which all subsequent literatures have drawn inspiration and which still delight all races.
HESIOD.—Posterior, very probably, to Homer, Hesiod has left two great poems, one on the families of the gods (Theogenia) and the other on the works of man (Works and Days). The Theogenia is very valuable to us because we learn from it and it makes us understand how the Greeks understood the divinity, its different manifestations, and, so to say, its evolution through the world. Works and Days is a poem filled with both sadness and courage, the author finding the world wicked and men unjust; but always concluding that with energy, perseverance, and obstinacy it is possible to save oneself from anything, and that there is only one real misfortune, which is to know despair.
ELEGIACAL AND LYRICAL POETS.—Almost from the most remote antiquity, from the seventh century, perhaps the eighth century before the Christian era, the Greeks possessed elegiacal and lyrical poets—that is to say, poets who put into verse their personal sentiments, the joys and sorrows which they felt as men. Such were Callinos, the satiric Archilochus, the satiric Simonides of Amorgos, the martial Tyrtaeus. Then there were the poets who made verses to be set to music: Alcaeus, Sappho, Anacreon, Alcman. Alcaeus appears to have been the greatest lyrical Greek poet judging by the fragments we possess by him and by the lyrical poems of Horace, which there are reasons for believing were imitated from Alcaeus.
Of the poetess Sappho we have too little to enable us to judge her very exactly; but throughout antiquity she enjoyed a glory equal to that of the greatest. She specially sang of love and in such a manner as to lead to the belief that she herself had not escaped the passion.
Anacreon sang after the same fashion and with a charm, a grace, a witty ingenuity which are fascinating. He was the epicurean of poetry (before the birth of Epicurus) and from him was born a type of literature known as anacreonotic, which extended right through ancient times and has been prolonged to modern times.
PROSE WRITERS.—Finally prose was born, in the sixth century before Christ, with the philosophers Thales, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, and with the historians, of whom only one of that epoch has remained famous, namely Herodotus.
HERODOTUS.—Herodotus, in a general history of his own time and of that immediately preceding it, is often not far from epic poetry. His style is at once limpid and warm, he possesses a pleasing power of distinction, the taste for and curiosity about the manners of foreign peoples, a laughing and easy imagination without any pretence at the philosophy of history or of moralising through history. He was, above all, a delightful writer.
AESOP.—To this period (albeit somewhat at hazard) it is possible to ascribe Aesop, about whom nothing is known except that he wrote the fables which have been imitated from generation to generation. The collection that we possess under his name is one of these imitations, perpetrated long after his death, but as to which it is impossible to assign a date.
PINDAR.—Pindar, the Theban, broadened and extended the lyrical type. Under him it preserved its power, its high spirits, its verse and, so to say, its fine fury; but he introduced into the epic the narration of ancient legends, the acts and gestures of the ancient heroes, and effected this so admirably that the most lyrical of Grecian lyricists is an historian. Capable of sustained elevation, of sublime thoughts and expressions, of a fine disorder which has been overpraised, and which on close expression is found to be very careful, he has been regarded as the very type of dignified and poetic style, and more or less to be imitated by all ambitious poets commencing with Ronsard. The wise, like Horace, have contented themselves with praising him. From fragments left to us he is infinitely impassioned to read.
GREEK TRAGEDY.—Greek tragedy, which is one of the miracles of the human brain, began in the sixth century B.C. It was born of the dithyramb. The dithyramb is a chant in chorus in honour of a god or a hero. From this chorus emerged a single actor who sang the praises of the god, and to which the choir replied. When, instead of one actor, there were two who addressed one another in dialogue and were answered by the choir, the dramatic poem was founded. When there were three—and there were hardly ever any more—tragedy, as the Greeks understood it, existed.
THESPIS; AESCHYLUS; SOPHOCLES.—Thespis was the earliest known to us who took rudimentary tragedies from town to town in Attica. Then came Aeschylus, whose tragedy, already rigid and hieratical, was very powerful, imbued with terrible majesty; then came Sophocles, a religious philosopher, having a feeling for the old religion and the art of giving it a moral character, great lyrical poet, master of dialogue, eloquent, moving, knowing how to construct and carry on a dramatic poem with infinite skill, to whom, in fact, can be denied no quality of dramatic poetry and who attains a conception of perfection.
EURIPIDES.—Euripides, less religious as a philosopher, sometimes suggesting the sophist and a little the rhetorician, but full of ideas, eloquent, affecting, “the most tragic” (that is, the most pathetic) of all the acting dramatists, as Aristotle observed, the most modern, too, and the one we best understand, has been the true source whence have been freely drawn the tragedies of modern times, more particularly of our own.
The greatest works of Aeschylus are Seven Against Thebes and Prometheus Bound; the greatest of Sophocles: Antigone, Oedipus the Tyrant and Oedipus at Colonos; the greatest of Euripides:Hippolytus and Iphigenia.
After Euripides tragedy was exhausted and only produced very second-rate works.
COMEDY.—Comedy enjoyed a longer existence. Very obscure in origin, no doubt proceeding from the opprobrious jests exchanged by the lower classes in mirthful hours, it was at first freely fantastical, composed in dialogue, oratorical, lyrical, satirical, even epical at times. Like tragedy, it possessed a chorus for which the lyrical part was specially reserved. It was personal—that is, it directly attacked known contemporaries, often by name and often by bringing them on the stage. The celebrated authors of this “ancient comedy” were Eupolis, Cratinos, of whom we have only fragments, and Aristophanes, whose work has come down to us.
ARISTOPHANES.—Aristophanes was a great poet, with incisive humour and also incomparable lyrical power, with voluntary vulgarity which is often shocking and an elevation of ideas and language which frequently raise him to the heights of Aeschylus and Sophocles. Here was one of the grandest poetic minds that the world has produced. His most considerable achievements are The Frogs, the earliest known work of literary criticism, in dramatic form too, wherein he sets up a parallel between Aeschylus and Euripides and cruelly jeers at the latter; The Clouds, in which he mocks the sophists; The Wasps, wherein he ridicules the Athenian mania for judging, and magnificently praises the old Athenians of the time of Marathon.
MENANDER.—To this “ancient comedy,” immediately succeeded the “middle comedy,” in which it was forbidden to introduce personalities and of which Aristophanes gave an example and a model in hisPlutus. Later, in the fourth century before Christ, with the refined, witty, and discreet Menander, the “new comedy” was analogous to that of Plautus, of Terence, and that of our own of the seventeenth century.
THUCYDIDES.—To return to the time of Pericles; Attic prose developed in the hands of historians, sages, and philosophers. Thucydides founded true history, scientific, drawn from the sources, supported and strengthened by all the information and corroboration that the skilled historian can gather, examine, and control. As a writer, Thucydides was terse, bare, limpid, and possessed an agreeable sober elegance. He introduced into his history imaginary discourses between great historical personages which allowed him to show the general state of Greece or of particular portions of Greece at certain important times. It is not known why these discourses were written in a style differing from that of the rest of the work, wise, even beautiful, but so extremely concise and elliptic as, in consequence, to be extremely difficult to understand.
HIPPOCRATES.—Hippocrates created scientific medicine, the medicine of observation, denying prodigies, seeking natural causes for diseases, and already setting up rational therapeutics. There are seventy-two works called “Hippocratical,” which belong to his school; some may be by himself.
SOPHISTS AND ORATORS.—The language grew flexible in the hands of the learned, subtle, and ingenious sophists (Gorgias, Protagoras) who attacked Socrates by borrowing his weapons, as it were, and making them perfect.
A new type of literature was created: the oratorical. Antiphon was the earliest in date alike of the Athenian orators and of the professors of eloquence. In a crowd after him came Isocrates, Andocides, Lysias, Aeschines, Hyperides, and the master of them all, that astonishing logician, that impassioned and terrible orator, Demosthenes.
THE PHILOSOPHERS: PLATO.—Contemporaneously the philosophers, quite as much as the sophists, even confining the matter to the literary aspect, cast immortal glory on Attica. Imbued with the spirit of Socrates, even when more or less unfaithful to him, Plato, psychologist, moralist, metaphysician, sociologist, marvellous poet in prose, seductive and fascinating mythologist, really created philosophy in such fashion that even the most modern systems, if not judged by how much they agree or differ from him, at least invariably recall him, whether they seem a distant echo of him or whether they challenge and combat him.
ARISTOTLE; XENOPHON; THEOPHRASTUS.—Aristotle, pre-eminently learned, admirably cultivated naturalist, acquainted also with everything known in his day, more prudent metaphysician than Plato but without his depth, a precise and sure logician and the founder of scientific logic, a clear and dexterous moralist, an ingenious and pure literary theorist; Xenophon, who commanded the retreat of the ten thousand, moralist and Intelligent pedagogue displaying much attractiveness in his Cyropoedia, the sensible, refined, and delightful master of familiar and practical life in his Economics ; Theophrastus, botanist, very witty satirical moralist, highly caustic and realistic—these three established Greek wisdom for centuries, and probably for ever, erecting a solid and elegant temple wherein humanity has almost continuously sought salutary truths, and where some at least of our descendants, and those not the least illustrious, will always perform their devotions.
The chief works of Plato are the Socratic Dialogues, the Gorgias, the Timoeus, the Phaedo (immortality of the soul), the Republic, and the Laws. The principal books of Aristotle are his Natural History,Metaphysics, Logic, Rhetoric, Poetica. The most notable volumes of Xenophon are the Cyropoedia, the Economics and the Memorabilia of Plato. The only work of Theophrastus we possess is hisCharacters, which was translated and continued by La Bruyere.
STOICS AND EPICUREANS.—In the fourth and even the third century, philosophy spoke to mankind through two principal schools: those of the Stoics and of the Epicureans. The chief representatives of the Stoics were Zeno and Cleanthes. Chrysippus taught an austere morality which may be summed up in these words: “Abstain and endure.” The Epicureans, whose chief representatives were Epicurus and Aristippus, taught, when all was taken into account, the same morality but starting from a different principle, which was that happiness must be sought, and in pursuance of this principle they advised less austerity, even in their precepts. Although these are schools of philosophy, yet they must be taken into account here because each of them has exercised much influence over writers, the first on Seneca and much later on Corneille; the second on Lucretius and Horace; both sometimes on the same man, one example being Montaigne.
After Alexander, intellectual Greece extended and enlarged itself so that Instead of having one centre, Athens, it possessed five or six: Athens, Alexandria, Antioch, Pergamos, Syracuse. This was an admirable literary efflorescence; the geniuses were less stupendous but the talents were innumerable.
In the cities named, and in others, history, rhetoric, geography, philosophy, history of philosophy, philology, were taught with ardour and learnt with enthusiasm; the literary soil was rich and it was assiduously cultivated.
ALEXANDRINE LITERATURE.—From this soil rose a fresh literature—more erudite, less spontaneous, less rich in popular vigour, yet very interesting. This is the literature known as Alexandrine. With this literature first appeared the romance, unknown to the ancients. The historical romance began with Hecataeus of Abdera, the philosophical romance with Evemerus of Messenia, who pretended to have found an ancient inscription proving that the gods of ancient Greece were old-time kings of the land deified after death, an ingenious invention from which was to come a whole school of criticism of ancient mythology.
THE ELEGY AND IDYLL: THEOCRITUS.—True and, at the same time, great poets belonged to this period. One was Philetas of Cos, founder of the Grecian elegy, celebrated and affectionately saluted centuries later by Andre Chenier. Of his works only a few terse fragments remain. Another was Asclepiades of Samos, both elegiac and lyric, of whose epigrams, (short elegies) those preserved to us are charming. Yet another was the sad and charming Leonidas of Tarentum. The two leaders of this choir were Theocritus and Callimachus. Theocritus, a Sicilian, passes as the founder of the idyll which he did not invent, but to which he gave the importance of a type by marking it with his imprint. The idyll of Theocritus was always a picture of popular customs and even a little drama of popular morals; but at times it had its scene set in the country, at others in a town, or again by the sea, and consequently there are rustic idylls (properly bucolics), maritime idylls, popular urban idylls. An astonishing sense of reality united to a personal poetic gift and a highly alert sensitiveness made his little poems alike beautiful for their truth and also for a certain ideal of ardent and profound passion. It is curious without being astonishing that the idyll of Theocritus often suggests the poetry of the Bible.
PUPILS OF THEOCRITUS.—Moschus and Bion were the immediate pupils of Theocritus. He had more illustrious ones, commencing with Virgil in his Eclogues, continuing with the numerous idylls of the Renaissance in France and Italy, as well as with Segrais in the seventeenth century, and ending, if it be desired, with Andre Chenier, though others more modern can be traced.
CALLIMACHUS.—Callimachus, more erudite, more scholastic, was what is termed a neoclassic, which is that he desired to treat in a new way the same subjects that had been dealt with by the great men of ancient Greece, and so far as possible to conceive them in the same spirit. Therefore he wrote tragedies, comedies, “satiric dramas” (a kind of farce in which secondary deities were characterised), lyric and elegiac poems after the manner of Alcaeus or Sappho, a familiar epopee, a romance in verse, which was perhaps a novel type, but more probably imitated from certain poems of ancient Greece which we no longer possess. To us his poetry seems cold and calculated, although clever and dexterous. It was held in high esteem not only in his own day but to the close of antiquity.
DIDACTIC POETRY: ARATUS; APOLLONIUS.—Didactic poetry, of the cultivation of which there had been no trace since Hesiod, was destined to be revived in this clever period; and, in fact, at this time Aratus wrote his Phoenomena, which is a course of astronomy and meteorology in conformity with the science of his era. More ambitious, and desirous not only of writing an epic fragment like Callimachus, but also of restoring the old-time grand epic poem after the manner of Homer (Callimachus and he had a violent quarrel on the subject), Apollonius of Rhodes in his Argonautics narrated the expedition of Jason. It was a fine epic poem and especially an astonishing psychological poem. The study of passion and of the progress and catastrophe of the infatuation of Medea form a masterpiece. Assuredly Virgil in his Dido, and perhaps Racine in his Phedre remembered Apollonius.
LYCOPHRON.—Lycophron also belongs to this period. He left such an admirable poem (Alexandra, that is Cassandra) that his contemporaries themselves failed to understand it in spite of all their efforts. He is the head and ancestor of that great school of inaccessible or impenetrable poets who are most ardently admired. Maurice Sceve in the sixteenth century is the illustrious example.
THE EPIGRAMMATISTS: MELEAGER.—To these numerous men of great talent must be added the epigrammatists—that is, those who wrote very short, very concise, very limpid poems wherein they sought absolute perfection. They were almost innumerable. The most illustrious was Meleager, in whom we can yet appreciate delicate genius and exquisite sensibility.
POLYBIUS.—Reduced to Roman provinces (successively greater Greece, Greece proper, Egypt, Syria), the Grecian world none the less continued to be an admirable intellectual haven. As early as the Punic wars, the Greek Polybius revealed he was an excellent historian, military, political, and philosophical, inquisitive about facts, inquisitive, too, about probable causes, constitutions, and social institutions, the morals, character, and the underlying temperament of races. His principal work is the Histories—that is, the history of the Graeco-Roman world from the second Punic war until the capture of Corinth by the Romans. He was an intellectual master; unfortunately he wrote very badly.
EPICTETUS; MARCUS AURELIUS.—It must, however, be recognised that in the first century before Christ and in the first after, Greece—even intellectually—was in a state of depression. But dating from the Emperor Nerva—that is, from the commencement of the second century—there was a remarkable Hellenic revival. Primarily, it was the most brilliant moment since Plato in Grecian philosophy. Stoicism exerted complete sway over the cultivated classes; Epictetus gave his Enchiridion and Manual, wherein are condensed the elevated and profound thoughts most deeply realised of the doctrine of Zeno; later, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, in his solitary meditations entitled For Myself, depicts his own soul, admirable, chaste, pure, severe to himself, indulgent to others, pathetically resigned to the universal order of things and adhering to them with a renunciation and a faith that are truly religious. Less severe, even playful and smiling, Dion Chrysostom (that is, mouth of gold, nickname given to him because of his eloquence) is penetrated with the same spirit a little mingled with Platonism, which makes him, therefore, perhaps, penetrate more easily than the over-austere pure Stoics.
PLUTARCH.—Plutarch, as historian discreetly romantic, as philosophical moralist decidedly dexterous, gently obstinate in conciliation and concord, in a large portion of his Parallel Lives narrated those of illustrious Romans and Greeks to show how excellent they were and how highly they ought to esteem one another; elsewhere, in his moral works, he sought to conciliate philosophy and paganism, no doubt believing in a single God, as did Plato, but also believing in a crowd of intermediary spirits between God and man, which allowed him to regard the deities of paganism as misunderstood beings and even in a certain sense to admit their authority. Emphatically a man who observed the golden mean, he opposed the Stoics for being too severe on human nature and the Epicureans for being too easy or for too lightly risking the future. He was an elegant writer—gracious, self-restraining; nearer, all said and done, to eclecticism than to simplicity, and he must not be judged by the geniality which was virtually imparted to him by Amyot in translating him. Throughout Europe, since the Renaissance, of all the Grecian authors he has perhaps been the most read, the most quoted, the best loved, and the most carefully edited.
THE GREEK HISTORIANS.—Greek historians multiplied about this period. To mention only the most notable: Arrian, philosopher, disciple of Epictetus, and historian of the expedition of Alexander; Appian, who wrote the history of the Roman people from their origin until the time of Trajan; Dion Cassius, who also compiled Roman history in a sustained manner full of elegance and nobility; Herodian, historian of the successors of Marcus Aurelius, who would only narrate what he had himself witnessed, a showy writer who seems over-polished and a little artificial.
A historian of a highly individualistic character was Diogenes of Laertius, who wrote the Lives of Philosophers, being very little of a philosopher himself and too prone to drop into anecdotage, but interesting and invaluable to us because of the scanty information we possess about ancient philosophy.
LUCIAN.—Immeasurably superior to those just cited since Plutarch, Lucian of Samosata (Syria) may be regarded as the Voltaire of antiquity—witty, sceptical, amusing, even comic. He was primarily a lecturer, wandering like a sophist from town to town, in order to talk in vivacious, animated, nimble, and paradoxical fashion. Then he was a polygraphic writer, producing treatises, satires, and pamphlets on the most diverse subjects. He wrote against the Christians, the pagans, the philosophers, the prejudiced, sometimes against common sense. Amongst his works were The Way to Write History, partly serious, partly sarcastic; The Dialogues of the Dead, moralising and satirical, imitated much later in very superior fashion by Fontenelle; The Dialogues of the Gods, against mythology; True History, a parody of the false or romantic histories then so fashionable, more especially about Alexander. He certainly possessed little depth, but his talent was incredible: alertness, causticity, amusing logic, burlesque dialectics, an astonishing instinct for caricature, the art of natural dialogue, gay insolence, light but vivid psychological penetration, an almost profound sense of the ridiculous, joyous fooling; above all, that first essential of satire, to be himself amused by what he wrote to amuse others; all these he possessed in a high degree. Rabelais has been called the Homeric buffoon, Lucian is certainly the Socratic.
POETRY AND ROMANCE.—Greek poetry no longer existed at this period. Hardly is it permissible to cite the didactic Oppian, with his poem on sin, and the fabulist Babrius, imitator of Aesop in his fables. In reparation, the romance was born and the scientific literature was important. The romance claimed among its representatives Antonius Diogenes, with his Marvels Beyond Thule; Heliodorus, with hisAethiopica or Theagenes and Chariclea, the love-story so much admired by Racine in his youth; Longus, with his Daphnis and Chloe, which still retains general approval and which possesses real, though somewhat studied grace, and of which the ability of the style is quite above the normal.
SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE.—Scientific literature includes the highly illustrious mathematician and astronomer Ptolemy, whose system obtained respect and belief until the advent of Copernicus; the physician Galen; the philosopher-physician Sextus Empiricus, who was a good historian, highly sceptical, but well informed and intelligent about philosophical ideas.
DECADENCE OF THE GREEK SPIRIT.—Vitality was slowly withdrawn from the Grecian world, although not without revivals and highly interesting semi-renaissances. In the fourth century, the sophist—that is, the professor of philosophy and of rhetoric—Libanius left a vast number of official or academic discourses and letters which were dissertations. Like his friend the Emperor Julian, he was a convinced pagan, and with kindly but firm spirit combated the Christian bishops, priests, and particularly the monks, who were objects of veritable repulsion to him. He possessed talent of a secondary but honourable rank.
THE EMPEROR JULIAN.—The Emperor Julian, a Christian in childhood, but who on attaining manhood reverted to paganism, which earned him the title of “the Apostate,” was highly intelligent, pure in heart, and filled with a spirit of tolerance; but he was a heathen and he wrote against Christianity. He possessed satiric force and wit, even a measure of eloquence. A pamphlet by him, the Misopogon, directed against the inhabitants of Antioch, who had chaffed him about his beard, makes amusing reading. He died quite young; he would, in all probability, have become a very great man.
PROCOPIUS.—It is necessary to advance to the sixth century to mention the historian Procopius, that double-visaged annalist who, in his official histories, was lost in admiration of Justinian, and who, in hisSecret History, only published long after his death, related to us the turpitude, real or imagined, of Theodora, wife of the Emperor Justinian, and of Antonina, wife of Belisarius.
POETRY.—Greek poetry was not dead. Quintus of Smyrna, who was of the fourth century, perhaps later, wrote a Sequel to Homer, without much imagination, but with skill and dexterity; Nonnus wrote theDionysiaca, a poetic history of the expedition of Bacchus to India, declamatory, copious, and powerful, full alike of faults and talent; Musaeus (date absolutely unknown) has remained justly celebrated for his delicious little poem Hero and Leander, countless times translated both in prose and verse.
GRECIAN CHRISTIAN WRITERS.—It is necessary to revert to the fourth century in order to enumerate Grecian Christian writers. As might be expected these were almost all controversial orators. Saint Athanasius of Alexandria was an admirable man of action, a fiery and impassioned orator, the highly polemical historian of the Church, after the manner of Bossuet in his History of Variations. Saint Basil, termed by his admirers “the Great,” without there being much hyperbole in the qualification, was an incomparable orator. He, as it were, reigned over Eastern Christianity, thanks to his word, his skill, and his courage. Even to us his works possess charm. He intermingled the finest ideas of Plato and of Christianity in the happiest and most orthodox manner. The humanists held him in esteem for having rendered justice to antiquity in his Lecture on Profane Authors and having advised Christians to study it with prudence but with esteem. Saint Gregory of Nazianzen, the intimate friend of Saint Basil, was also a great orator, exalted, ardent, and lyrical, whilst he was also as a poet, refined, gracious, and full of charm. Saint Gregory of Nyssa, brother of Saint Basil, was essentially a theologian and in his day a theological authority.
SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM.—The most splendid figure of the Greek Church was Saint John Chrysostom, celebrated in political history for his struggle with the Emperor Arcadius and the Empress Eudoxia, and for the persecutions he had in consequence to suffer. His heated, fiery, and violent eloquence, which was altogether that of a tribune of the people, can still profoundly affect us because therein can be felt a deeply sincere ardour, a passion for justice, charity, and love. A bellicose moralist, he was, like Bourdaloue, a realist and therefore an exact and cruel delineator of the customs of his time, which were not good; and he teaches us better than anyone else what was the sad state of Eastern morality in his day. His widely varied genius, passing from the most spiritually familiar of tones to the height of moving and imposing eloquence, was one of the grandest of all antiquity.
EUSEBIUS.—Allusion should be made to that good historian Eusebius, who narrated Christian history from its origins until the year 323.
THE BYZANTINE PERIOD.—What is termed the Byzantine period extended from the close of the reign of Justinian to the definite fall of the Eastern Empire (565-1453). This long epoch, practically corresponding to the Middle Ages of the West, is very weak from the literary point of view, but yet possessed a number of interesting and valuable historians (Joseph of Byzantium, Comnenus, etc.) and skilled and learned grammarians, that is professors of language and literature (Eustathius, Cephalon, Planudes, Lascaris). It was the later of these grammarians, among them Lascaris, who after the fall of Constantinople being welcomed in France and Italy, brought the Greek writers to the West, commentated on them, made them known, and thence came the Renaissance of Literature.