Greco Roman Period in Ancient English Literature

Old English Period (450–1066) (Anglo-Saxon)

image 10 1
Greco Roman Period in Ancient English Literature 23

Greco Roman Period

The Ancient Greek civilization is often divided into three distinct periods : the Archaic period, the Classical period, and the Hellenistic period. Each period had its unique characteristics and significant contributions to the development of Greek culture, politics, and philosophy.

Old English Period (450–1066)
Greco Roman Period in Ancient English Literature 24

Archaic Period:

The Archaic period lasted from the 9th century BC to the 5th century BC. It followed the Greek Dark Ages, a period marked by limited historical records and a decline in cultural and economic activity. The Archaic period witnessed a resurgence in Greek society and the emergence of city-states as the dominant political units. These city-states, such as Athens, Sparta, and Corinth, were independent and constantly engaged in conflicts with one another. This period was marked by a transition from rule by aristocrats to the rise of tyrants, who were often supported by the common people. Tyrants seized power through force or popular support and ruled with varying degrees of benevolence or despotism.

During the Archaic period, the Persians became a common enemy for the Greek city-states. The Greeks fought a series of wars against the Persian Empire, collectively known as the Greco-Persian Wars, which lasted from the early 5th century BC until the early 4th century BC. These conflicts shaped Greek identity and fostered a sense of unity among the city-states.

In terms of literature, the Archaic period saw the works of notable poets such as Homer, Hesiod, and Sappho. Homer, believed to have lived in the 8th century BC, composed two epic poems that became foundational texts in Western literature. “The Iliad” focuses on the events of the Trojan War, particularly the conflict between the Greek king Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles. “The Odyssey” serves as a sequel to “The Iliad” and tells the story of Odysseus (or Ulysses) and his arduous journey back home to Ithaca after the fall of Troy.

image 19
Greco Roman Period in Ancient English Literature 25

Classical Period:

The Classical period is considered the zenith of Ancient Greek civilization and is generally regarded as spanning from the 5th century BC to the 4th century BC. This period is characterized by advancements in various fields, including art, literature, philosophy, politics, and democracy. The city-state of Athens, in particular, became a center of intellectual and cultural achievements.

The Classical period saw the establishment of democratic governments in some city-states, most notably Athens. Athens developed a direct democracy, where eligible citizens had the right to participate in decision-making through popular assemblies and voting. Prominent thinkers and philosophers emerged during this time, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, who made significant contributions to philosophy, ethics, and political theory.

In terms of art and architecture, the Classical period introduced the concept of idealized human forms and proportions. This period witnessed the construction of magnificent buildings like the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis, which became an enduring symbol of ancient Greek architecture.

image 2


“Achilles tending
the Wounded
attributed to
Sosias, c. 500 BC

Hellenistic Period

The Hellenistic period followed the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and lasted until the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 BC. This era marked the spread of Greek influence and culture beyond the borders of Greece itself. Alexander’s conquests led to the creation of a vast empire that encompassed territories from Greece to Egypt and as far east as India.

During the Hellenistic period, Greek culture blended with the native cultures of the conquered lands, resulting in a vibrant and diverse cultural exchange. Greek language, philosophy, and art were disseminated throughout the empire, leaving a lasting impact on subsequent civilizations.

In conclusion, the Ancient Greek civilization can be understood through three distinct periods: the Archaic period, marked by the rise of city-states and conflicts with Persia; the Classical period, known for its advancements in various fields and the development of democracy; and the Hellenistic period, characterized by the spread of Greek culture under the empire of Alexander the Great. Each period contributed to the rich legacy of Ancient Greece and its enduring influence on Western civilization.

image 3


Bust of Socrates
Roman copy from a Greek original
of the late Hellenistic era, 1st c BC


Plato was a renowned philosopher in ancient Greece. He was a student of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle. Plato is best known for his philosophical ideas and for founding the Academy in Athens, one of the first institutions of higher learning in the Western world. His writings cover a wide range of topics including metaphysics, ethics, politics, and epistemology.

One of Plato’s most famous works is “The Republic,” where he presents his vision of an ideal society governed by philosopher-kings. He also introduced the concept of the Forms or Ideas, suggesting that there exist abstract, perfect versions of objects and concepts which our world merely mimics.

Plato’s philosophical ideas continue to influence thinkers and scholars to this day. His emphasis on rational inquiry, soul, justice, and the pursuit of knowledge has had a profound impact on Western philosophy. Despite living over two thousand years ago, Plato’s insights into human nature and his exploration of philosophical concepts remain highly relevant and thought-provoking.

Plato: Republic and Theory of Imitation

image 4


Bust of Plato
mid-1st century AD copy from a 4th
century BC original statue by
Silanion (Vatican Museums, Rome)


Aristotle was a renowned ancient Greek philosopher and polymath. He was born in 384 BCE in Stagira, a city in northern Greece. Aristotle’s contributions to various fields, including philosophy, science, logic, and ethics, have greatly influenced Western thought and continue to be relevant today.

Known as the founder of formal logic, Aristotle developed a system of reasoning and analysis that laid the groundwork for scientific inquiry. His works in natural science covered a wide range of subjects, from biology to astronomy, and his theories on motion and causality laid the foundation for the scientific method.

In addition to his scientific pursuits, Aristotle delved into metaphysics, exploring the nature of existence, being, and reality. His ideas on ethics and moral philosophy centered around his concept of “virtue ethics,” which emphasized the cultivation of virtuous character traits to lead a fulfilling life.

Aristotle’s influence extended beyond academics and reached into politics, where he contemplated the various forms of governance and wrote extensively on the subject. His work “Politics” remains a significant text in the field.

While Aristotle’s works were diverse and extensive, perhaps his most well-known contribution is his role as a teacher. He tutored the young Alexander the Great and founded the Lyceum, an institution where he and his students engaged in philosophical discussions and research.

Although many of Aristotle’s works are lost, his surviving writings, such as “Nicomachean Ethics” and “Physics,” continue to shape our understanding of the world and our place in it. Aristotle’s legacy as one of the greatest thinkers in history is undeniable, and his ideas continue to be studied and debated by scholars and philosophers around the world.

Also read: Aristotle: Biography and Analysis of Poetry

image 5


Bust of Aristotle
Roman copy after a Greek
bronze original by Lysippos from
330 BC

The School of Athens is a famous fresco painted by Raphael between 1510 and 1511. It is part of the series of frescoes in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. This masterpiece is considered one of the most important works of the High Renaissance.

In the painting, Raphael depicted a gathering of great philosophers, mathematicians, and thinkers from classical antiquity. The composition centers around Plato and Aristotle, who are shown in the center of the painting engaging in a deep conversation. Plato is portrayed pointing upwards, symbolizing his belief in the transcendent world of ideas, while Aristotle holds his hand palm-down, indicating his focus on the physical world.

The fresco is filled with various other figures, each representing different schools of thought and disciplines. The figures include Pythagoras, Euclid, Socrates, Heraclitus, Diogenes, and many others. The scene is set in an architectural space that resembles a grand hall with marble columns and arches.

Raphael’s use of perspective, anatomy, and composition in The School of Athens showcases his mastery as an artist. The painting captures the spirit of the Renaissance, with its emphasis on knowledge, exploration, and the rediscovery of ancient wisdom.

The School of Athens continues to be admired and studied by art enthusiasts, scholars, and historians. It is a timeless piece that celebrates the pursuit of knowledge and the power of intellectual discourse.”

image 6


“The School of Athens: by Raphael, 1510-11

Classical Drama

Classical drama in Ancient Greece consisted of two main forms: tragedy and comedy. These theatrical genres emerged and flourished in Athens during the late 6th century BC and were an integral part of the religious festival known as Dionysia, dedicated to the god Dionysus (or Bacchus in Roman mythology), who was associated with wine, ecstasy, and revelry.


Tragedy was the older of the two dramatic forms and dealt with serious and often somber themes. The plays explored the human condition, the struggles of individuals, and the relationship between mortals and the gods. Tragedies were performed by a chorus and actors, and they typically portrayed the downfall or suffering of a noble protagonist. Famous tragedians of the Classical period include Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Their works, such as Aeschylus’ “Oresteia,” Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex,” and Euripides’ “Medea,” are still studied and performed today.


Comedy developed later than tragedy and was associated with the “satyr play,” a bawdy and satirical form of drama. Comedy often focused on mythological subjects and social commentary. Aristophanes, one of the most notable comic playwrights of the time, authored plays like “Lysistrata,” which used humor to address political and social issues. Comedy provided a light-hearted and entertaining contrast to the serious and solemn tone of tragedy.

image 18



Greek Theatre:

Greek theaters were specifically designed to accommodate the performance of these plays. The architecture of the theater included the following elements:


    1. Koilon or Theatron: This was the seating area for the audience and was arranged in a horseshoe shape, with rising tiers of seats to provide a clear view of the stage.

    1. Orchestra: The orchestra was a circular area at ground level, located in front of the stage. It was where the chorus performed and where religious rituals were conducted.

    1. Thymele: Positioned in the center of the orchestra, the thymele was an altar dedicated to Dionysus. It served as a focal point for sacrifices and religious ceremonies.

    1. Scene or Skene: The scene building was located on one side of the orchestra and had a backdrop with doors for entrances and exits. It provided a space for actors to change costumes and interact with the play’s setting.

    1. Proscenion or Proscenium: The proscenion was a level area in front of the skene. It was used for the actors’ performances and served as the main stage for the play.

    1. Diazoma: The diazoma were passages that divided the seating tiers. They provided access for the audience to move between different sections of the theater.

These architectural features of Greek theaters allowed for effective acoustics, visibility, and dramatic presentation, ensuring that the performances could be enjoyed by a large audience.

Overall, classical drama in Ancient Greece, encompassing tragedy and comedy, not only entertained the audience but also explored complex themes and provided commentary on society and the human experience. The influence of Greek theater and its dramatic forms continues to be felt in modern theatrical traditions.

image 7
Greco Roman Period in Ancient English Literature 26

Greek tragedies followed a specific structure, and the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the three great tragedians, contributed to the development and refinement of this structure. Here is a breakdown of the structure and the contributions of each tragedian:

Structure of Greek Tragedy:


    1. Prologue: This section serves as an expository introduction and provides background information about the play’s story and characters.

    1. Parados: The chorus enters and chants an ode known as the parados. This ode expands on the background of the story and sets the tone for the play.

    1. Episodes and Stasimon: The main action of the play unfolds through a series of episodes, where characters engage in dialogue and dramatic interactions. After each episode, the chorus performs a choral ode called a stasimon, reflecting on the events and offering commentary.

    1. Exodus: The concluding scene of the play, which often includes the deus ex machina, a device where a god is introduced to resolve the conflicts or challenges faced by the characters.

Contributions of the Tragedians:


    1. Aeschylus: Known as the father of tragedy, Aeschylus made significant contributions to the art form. He introduced the use of a second actor, which added variety and allowed for more complex interactions between characters. He also reduced the role and significance of the chorus compared to earlier forms of drama. Aeschylus is believed to have written between 70 to 90 plays, but only a few have survived. His works often had a strong moral and religious foundation. His most famous work is the trilogy “The Oresteia,” which explores themes of justice, revenge, and the transformation of society. Another notable play by Aeschylus is “The Persians,” which deals with the defeat of the Persian Empire by the Greeks.

    1. Sophocles: Sophocles, a contemporary of Aeschylus, introduced the use of a third actor, further expanding the dramatic possibilities. This allowed for more intricate plot developments and increased the complexity of character interactions. Sophocles wrote over 120 plays, but only seven have survived, including his most famous works, “Oedipus Rex,” “Antigone,” and “Electra.” Sophocles’ plays often explored the concepts of fate, free will, and the complexities of human nature.

    1. Euripides: Euripides, who came after Aeschylus and Sophocles, continued to innovate within the genre. His plays often focused on the inner lives and psychological motivations of his characters. He challenged traditional notions of heroism and explored the roles of women and marginalized individuals in society. Euripides wrote about 92 plays, of which 18 have survived. Some of his notable works include “Medea,” “The Bacchae,” and “Electra.”

image 8


“Orestes at Delphi” circa 345 BC, British Museum, London

Collectively, these three tragedians shaped the structure and themes of Greek tragedy, exploring human emotions, societal issues, and the relationship between mortals and gods. Their plays continue to be studied and performed today for their timeless themes and enduring dramatic power.

“The Oresteia” trilogy

“The Oresteia” is a trilogy of Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus. The trilogy consists of three interconnected plays: “Agamemnon,” “The Libation Bearers,” and “The Eumenides.” Together, they form a cohesive narrative that explores the themes of justice, revenge, and the transformation of society.

The story of “The Oresteia” centers around the Greek hero Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae and the leader of the Greek forces during the Trojan War. In “Agamemnon,” the first play of the trilogy, Agamemnon returns home victorious from the war, but he is eventually killed by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus as an act of revenge for his sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia before the war.

The Libation Bearers,” the second play, focuses on Agamemnon’s children, Orestes and Electra. Orestes, driven by a sense of duty and a desire for vengeance, returns to Mycenae and kills Clytemnestra to avenge his father’s murder. This act of matricide creates a conflict within Orestes, as he is haunted by the Furies, also known as the Eumenides, who represent the spirits of vengeance and retribution.

In the final play, “The Eumenides,” Orestes seeks sanctuary in the temple of Apollo at Delphi to escape the relentless pursuit of the Furies. Apollo becomes his advocate and brings the case before the goddess Athena and a jury of Athenian citizens. The play explores the concepts of justice, morality, and the transformation of society. Ultimately, Athena persuades the Furies to accept a new role as the benevolent protectors of Athens, transforming them into the Eumenides, or the Kindly Ones.

The Oresteia” delves into the complexities of family relationships, the consequences of violence, and the evolution of justice in a changing society. Aeschylus uses this trilogy to highlight the necessity of breaking the cycle of revenge and replacing it with a system of justice and reconciliation.

The Oresteia” is regarded as a masterpiece of Greek tragedy, showcasing Aeschylus‘ skill in storytelling, dramatic tension, and exploration of profound philosophical themes. It continues to be studied and performed as a significant contribution to the dramatic tradition of Ancient Greece.


Sophocles, another renowned Greek tragedian, made significant contributions to the development of Greek drama. He also won prizes in dramatic competitions and is believed to have written over a hundred plays, although most of them have been lost to history.

Sophocles initially imitated the style of Aeschylus, but he later developed a distinctive style of his own. His characters are known for their depth and individualism, surpassing the archetypal nature of Aeschylean characters.

One of Sophocles’ most famous works is the Theban Trilogy, consisting of “Oedipus Rex” (also known as “Oedipus the King”), “Oedipus at Colonus,” and “Antigone.” The trilogy explores the tragic story of Oedipus, a mythical king of Thebes.

In “Oedipus Rex,” the prophecy of the Delphic Oracle foretells that Oedipus will kill his father and marry his mother. To prevent this, Oedipus’s parents, King Laius and Queen Jocasta, attempt to have him killed. However, Oedipus survives and is raised by a childless couple.

As he grows older, Oedipus becomes aware of the prophecy and seeks to unravel the truth. Unknowingly, he ends up killing his biological father, Laius, during a quarrel. Oedipus then solves the riddle of the sphinx, becoming the new king of Thebes and marrying Jocasta, who is actually his biological mother. They have children together.

When the truth is finally revealed through another prophecy, Jocasta takes her own life in despair, and Oedipus, overcome with guilt and horror, blinds himself. These tragic events depict the consequences of fate, the limits of human knowledge, and the profound moral dilemmas faced by the characters.

Sophocles’ works, including the Theban Trilogy, are known for their exploration of human psychology, moral complexity, and the power of fate. His plays delve into universal themes and have had a lasting influence on literature and drama.

While many of Sophocles’ plays have been lost, his surviving works continue to be performed and studied, captivating audiences with their timeless themes and masterful storytelling.

image 9


Charles François Jalabert, Antigone Leads Oedipus Out of Thebes (1849)

Antigone” tells the tale of Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta. Faced with a difficult choice, she must decide whether to leave her brother’s body unburied outside the city walls, vulnerable to animals, or to bury him and face the risk of death. Ultimately, Antigone chooses to give her brother a proper burial and then tragically takes her own life.


Euripides, a prolific Greek playwright, is known for writing over ninety plays. He made a significant contribution to the development of Greek drama by portraying mythical heroes as ordinary individuals with complex inner lives and motives. This departure from the traditional depiction of heroes set Euripides apart.

Euripides‘ intellectual daring often draws comparisons to Socrates. Like Socrates, he challenged accepted conventions and advocated for unconventional and innovative ideas. However, this bold approach also made him a target for criticism. Comic poets like Aristophanes lampooned Euripides, as well as Socrates, in their own plays.


One of Euripides’ most renowned works is “Medea.” This tragedy tells the story of Medea, a woman who seeks revenge on her husband, Jason, for abandoning her in favor of another woman. In her quest for vengeance, Medea kills both her husband’s new bride and her own father. As a further torment to Jason, she also takes the lives of her own sons.

“Medea” explores themes of betrayal, the consequences of passion, and the lengths to which one can go for revenge. The play showcases Euripides’ ability to delve into the complexities of human emotions and motivations, leaving a lasting impact on the theatrical tradition.

While Euripides’ vast body of work has been partially lost to history, his influence on drama and his innovative approach to storytelling continue to be celebrated. His daring portrayal of characters and exploration of unconventional ideas remain influential in the world of theater.

image 10
Greco Roman Period in Ancient English Literature 27


Aristophanes was a prominent playwright in the 5th century BC and is considered a stalwart of comedy, specifically Old Comedy. His works contrast with the New Comedy of Menander, which emerged later. One of Aristophanes’ notable plays is “The Clouds,” which cruelly caricatured Socrates. This portrayal is believed to have contributed to Socrates’ trial and subsequent death as described by Plato. Another well-known play by Aristophanes is “The Frogs,” where the god Dionysus, dressed in an absurd fashion, ventures to Hades to bring back the deceased playwright Euripides. The play features a famous scene where Aeschylus and Euripides engage in a debate about who is the better poet.


Moving to the 4th century BC, Menander became associated with New Comedy. His style featured more generalized situations and stock characters compared to the satirical approach of Aristophanes’ Old Comedy, which often targeted real individuals and local issues. Menander’s New Comedy eventually led to the development of the Comedy of Manners, a genre that focused on social interactions and conventions.


In the realm of poetry, Pindar was a notable poet of the 5th century BC, marking the beginning of the Classical Period. Pindar composed odes, which were encomiastic in nature and accompanied by music and dance. His odes were characterized by bold and formal language. Each ode consisted of three types of stanzas based on choral dance positions: strophe, anti-strophe, and epode. Pindar is particularly famous for his “Victory Odes,” which celebrated the achievements of participants in competitions such as the Olympic Games. His style influenced later poets, and a variation of the Pindaric Ode, known as the Irregular Ode, was developed by Abraham Cowley.

image 11


Bust of Pindar
Roman copy after a Greek
original of the 5th century BC


Plato, born around 428 BC in the island of Aegina near Athens, came from an aristocratic family. His real name was Aristocles, but he was commonly known as Plato, which means “broad-shouldered.” Plato received an excellent education, which instilled in him a respect for tradition and a keen political sensibility.

When Plato was around 20 years old, like many young men in Athens, he came under the influence of Socrates. Socrates, known for his critical views on Athenian politics, refused to involve himself in the corrupt political affairs of the time. Plato, whose political ambitions were thwarted by the influence of Socrates and the bitter experience of the oligarchic rule of the Thirty Tyrants, turned his attention fully to philosophy.

Plato lived during a time of moral and political degeneracy. He observed the misuse of poetry by lesser poets and painters and noted a decline in the national character and standards of public life. Plato spoke out as a social reformer, adopting a highly rational tone.

After the death of Socrates in 399 BC, Plato left Athens and embarked on travels to Italy, Sicily, and Egypt. He later returned to Athens and, in 387 BC, founded the Academy, a philosophical school, along with the mathematician Thaetetus. The Academy became renowned, particularly due to the influence of the Neoplatonists, and it operated until AD 526 when it was closed down by Emperor Justinian due to its pagan affiliations. The Academy offered instruction in subjects such as mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, biology, and political theory. Above the entrance to the Academy, the inscription “Let no one without mathematics (geometry) enter” could be found. Aristotle, who later became a famous philosopher in his own right, was a student at the Academy and later became a teacher there.

Plato’s philosophical works primarily took the form of dialogues, often featuring Socrates as one of the characters engaged in conversation with others. These dialogues, known as Socratic Dialogues, delved into moral and philosophical problems. Plato authored 36 dialogues, including notable works such as “Republic,” “Protagoras,” “Apology,” “Gorgias,” “Ion,” and “Phaedrus.” In “Republic,” Plato defends the idea that a good life is only possible in an ideal state and that the aim of a good life is justice.

While Plato did not write a single work solely dedicated to poetry, his ideas on poetry can be extracted from various dialogues through paraphrase.


Aristotle, born in 384 BC in the town of Stagira, Macedonia, came from a well-to-do family. His father, Nicomachus, was a physician. At the age of seventeen, Aristotle was sent to Athens by his uncle to study at Plato’s Academy. He spent twenty years there, both as a student and a teacher. After Plato’s death, the Academy was led by his nephew Speusippus, who had different views from Plato. At this time, there was resentment from the Athenians towards the Macedonians as foreign invaders. As a result of these circumstances, Aristotle left the Academy and joined the philosophical circle of Hermeias in Assos, Asia Minor. He married Hermeias’s niece, Pythias, and they had a daughter together. When Hermeias was killed, Aristotle moved to the island of Lesbos and continued his studies with another former Academic, Theophrastus. Theophrastus remained his associate until Aristotle’s death. Aristotle was later invited by Philip of Macedon to tutor his son Alexander, who would become Alexander the Great.

Upon returning to Athens, Aristotle founded his own school called the Lyceum. He spent over a decade at the Lyceum, during which he wrote many of his renowned works. Under his guidance, his students and colleagues conducted philosophical and scientific research. After the death of his wife Pythias, Aristotle formed a relationship with Herpyllis, with whom he had a son named Nichomachus. In 323 BC, after Alexander’s death, Aristotle left Athens and sought refuge in Chalcis, his mother’s birthplace. He passed away in 322 BC at the age of sixty-two.

Unfortunately, much of Aristotle’s work was lost in the West after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. The knowledge we have of Aristotle today was preserved and transmitted by Arab philosophers like Averroes in the twelfth century. Some of his surviving works include “Poetics,” “Rhetoric,” and “Nichomachean Ethics.” “Poetics” was originally written as lecture notes for serious students and was first edited by Andronicus in the first century BC.

Aristotle: Aristotle: Biography and Analysis of Poetry,

image 12


“Aristotle”, from a
wall painting in

Hellenistic Period

The Hellenistic Period, which began after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, saw the establishment of Greek cities and kingdoms in Asia and Africa by Alexander’s successors. This period lasted until the Roman annexation of Greece in 146 BC. It was during this time that Alexander’s conquests spanned the Persian Empire and even reached as far as India, spreading Greek culture and thought to other regions of the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, in Rome, the monarchy was overthrown in the 6th century BC and replaced by a republic, where elected representatives ruled. However, in the 1st century BC, the republic was transforming into an empire, with figures like Julius Caesar rising to power. Caesar’s assassination by republicans led to a civil war between his supporters and the republicans. Eventually, the Roman Empire emerged victorious, and Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate. Another civil war followed between Octavian and Mark Antony, with Cleopatra of Egypt supporting Antony. The final battle, known as the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, marked the end of the Roman Republic. Octavius Caesar emerged as the victor, taking the title Augustus Caesar and becoming the first emperor of Rome.

image 13


Augustus Caesar
Marble statue discovered
at Prima Porta, near Rome

Augustus Caesar (63 BC-AD 14)

Augustus Caesar, known as the first Emperor of Rome, played a crucial role in shaping the destiny of the Roman Empire. His reign marked the height of the empire’s wealth and political stability and left a lasting legacy on Roman culture and society.

One of Augustus’ notable achievements was his victory over Mark Antony, which solidified his power and led him to proclaim that he had transformed Rome from clay to marble. This statement exemplified the grandeur and prosperity experienced during his rule.

However, Augustus’ greatest accomplishment was establishing the Pax Romana, or Roman Peace. This period of relative stability and security allowed for unprecedented cultural and artistic growth. Augustus himself was a patron of the arts, supporting renowned classical poets such as Virgil, Horace, and Ovid, who produced some of their most influential works during his reign.

Roman Classicism, heavily influenced by Greek philosophy, culture, and literature, flourished during the classical period. Stoicism, a philosophy that emphasized duty, discipline, and political involvement, found its way to Rome during the Hellenistic period. Prominent Roman Stoics, including Virgil, Horace, and Seneca, advocated for these principles and shaped the intellectual landscape of the time.


Epicureanism, on the other hand, focused on finding pleasure in everyday life. The famous expression “Carpe Diem,” meaning “seize the day,” encapsulates the essence of Epicurean ideals. Roman Epicureans like Lucretius, Catullus, Virgil, and Horace celebrated the simple joys of life and contributed to the development of Roman literature.

Skepticism, characterized by a loss of belief in higher values and the transient nature of beauty, also found its place in Roman Classicism. This philosophical movement challenged established norms and encouraged critical thinking.

The influence of Roman Classicism endured beyond the Roman era and transcended into the European Renaissance. The revival of classical ideas and artistic styles during this period owed much to the foundations laid by Augustus and his contemporaries.

Overall, Augustus Caesar’s impact on Rome was profound, both politically and culturally. His reign saw the Roman Empire reach its pinnacle and left an indelible mark on Western civilization as a whole.

image 16


Horace, Virgil and Varius at the House of Maecenas.
Oil painting by 19th century French artist Charles François Jalabert

Virgil (70 BC-19 BC)

Virgil (70 BC-19 BC) was a Roman poet known for his works in pastoral poetry, epic, and symbolism. His most famous work, The Aeneid, is an epic poem that follows the journey of the Trojan refugee Aeneas as he fulfills his destiny and founds the city of Rome. The Aeneid is heavily influenced by Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. It also makes strong connections between Augustus and Aeneas as the founder and re-founder of Rome, symbolizing the Augustan regime.

Horace (65-08 BC)

Horace (65-08 BC), another Roman poet, was a classicist who wrote odes, satires, and letters. His odes have a calm, meditative tone and follow a consistent stanza structure. His satires present an urbane and witty speaker who aims to amuse readers rather than criticize. Horace’s work reflects a relaxed and informal language.

Ovid (43 BC-c. AD 17)

image 15


Statue of Roman poet Ovid
in Rome

Ovid (43 BC-c. AD 17) was known for his witty love poems and his epic poem, Metamorphoses. The Art of Love is a didactic work that provides advice on finding and keeping a lover in a humorous and satirical style. Metamorphoses begins with the creation of the world and encompasses over 200 tales from Greek and Roman mythology, making it a significant source of mythology for Renaissance writers. Ovid was banished by Augustus Caesar and died in exile.

image 14


A sculpture of Seneca
the Younger in Spain

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65)

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) was a Roman statesman, dramatist, poet, and philosopher. He was Emperor Nero’s teacher and confidant but was later ordered to commit suicide by Nero. Seneca upheld the principles of Stoicism, Cynicism, and Epicureanism. His tragedies, known as Tragedies of Blood, are intense and violent melodramas written in rhetorical language. One of his famous plays is Thyestes, which tells the story of the rivalry between twin brothers, Atreus and Thyestes.

Plautus (c. 254 BC-184 BC)

Plautus (c. 254 BC-184 BC) was a Roman playwright who wrote comedies inspired by Greek New Comedy. His plays often featured stock characters, mistaken identities, and clever servants. Amphitryon is a mythological comedy that tells the story of Jupiter fathering Hercules. Menaechmi is another famous play by Plautus,

image 17
Greco Roman Period in Ancient English Literature 28


Continue Reading


Old English Literature

Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon, was the language spoken and written in England from the 5th to the 11th centuries.

Leave a Reply