English 230: Classical Literature and Cultural Traditions


Chronology of Writers and Works Studied in English 230

?1200-700--Bronze-Age or Mycenean Greek epic, pre-classical lyric poets 

--household-centered agricultural economy ("oikos") ruled by warlords from great hall ("megaron") situated on difficult to approach highlands, usually heavily fortified by thick walls.  Economy dependent on trading with and raiding neighbors.  Host-guest relations crucial first step toward developing a socio-political ethic not dependent on the whim of current rulers or "dike" as "customary right."  Revenge and gift-giving part of reciprocal relations.  "Linear B" script proves existence of proto-Greek writing, used mainly for record-keeping of taxes and stores.


c. 1100-1000--all Mycenean era megarons destroyed by fire.  Onset of "Dark" or "Archaic" period from which few records remain.  Seacoast towns and small farms hold smaller populations than under Mycenean rule.  Shipwreck analysis suggests trade drops sharply.


?700--"Homer," Odyssey, c. 650, current text and 24-book division [Iliad, ?700]

--Seacoast towns in Ionian Islands invent politics and the "polis" (city-state) composed of "demos" (a group of people committed to government by consensus vote in citizen assemblies), and defended by "hoplite phalanx strategies depending on uniformity and coherence among troops who fight in serried ranks using standardized weaponry.  Polies develop "akropolis" or "high town" strategies which situtate towns close to defensible strongholds atop high hills or mountains.  Some also adopt exterior walls, combining the city-state internal coherence with Mycenean-era resistence to seiges.


early 7th-century--lyric poets, Archilochos of Paros; Sappho of Lesbos; Alcman of Sparta

--Polies aristocrats acquire leisure time, isolating males from females and developing traditions of honorable recreation outside warfare, including athletic and poetic song competition.  Evolution of the "erastes-eromenos" or "teacher-pupil" hierarchical model of homoerotic love (female-female in Sappho, male-male in Spartan and Athenian aristo tradition).

700-300 B.C.E.--"Homerids" & Homeric Hymns; later Greek lyric singers


--------------------------------start of  "Classical" Greek literature --------------------------------

--polies evolve cyclical traditions of games and theatrical performances to ritualise competition within and between cities, and to insure piety.  Polies evolve into imperial states as they band together beneath the hegemonic control of Athens, the greatest seapower, and Sparta, the greatest land power

525-456 B.C.E.-- Aeschylus (Orestia: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides, 458)

496-406 B.C.E.--Sophocles (Oedipus the King , ?429 [Antigone, 441])

485 or 480-406 B.C.E.--Euripides (Medea, 431, .Electra, 413,  Orestes, 408)

?445-385 B.C.E.-- Aristophanes (Lysistrata, 411)

404-146 B.C.E. fall of Classical Greek civilization, first to Alexander the Great's Macedonian empire, and then to the Roman empire.   Greek culture was absorbed and spread East in Asia by Alexander, and to the West by the Romans.


 --------------------------------start of Roman literature----------------------------------------------


 Republic--(509-31 BCE)  disputes between plebians and aristocrats (the equestrian orders) are largely resolved in the Senate, but gradually, after 133 BCE, assassinations and military dictatorships begin to disrupt the republic's traditions.  Rome's organization is basically similar to the Greek polis but without the tradition of democratic rule; representatives of the people speak for their interests in the Senate against the interests of powerful individual families ("gens") who tend to have individual Senators.  Gradual imperial expansion by conquest and diplomacy until Julius Caesar, returning from the provinces, becomes dictator (46 BCE).  His assassination triggers a civil war which ends in the imperial principate of Caesar Augustus.


84-54 B.C.E.--Catullus (Lyrics and Hymns)


Principate--(31 BCE-8 CE) Rule of Caesar Augustus, beginnings of the Imperial System

--one-man rule tempered by advice and consent of the Senate; strong influence upon provinces.


70-19 B.C.E.--Virgil (Aeneid, 19 B.C.E.)


65-8 B.C.E.--Horace (Satires, 35 and 30 B.C.E., Epistles II ?20 B.C.E.)


43 B.C.E.-?17 C.E.--Ovid (Metamorphoses , 8 C.E.)


Empire--98-476 CE (Western Empire--Byzantine or Eastern Empire (Greek-speaking) survives until 1453 CE)

--imperial rule sometimes subject to coups from the military and from within the imperial family, itself.  Territorial expansion reaches its furthest point, and gradually, by loss of provinces and shrinkage of borders due to barbarian pressure, the Western, Latin-speaking empire grows smaller while Roman influence in its former colonies persists to this day (especially Germany, Spain, France, and England).


50?-127? C.E.--Juvenal (Satires I, VII, X, and XI, ?120 C.E.)


3rd century C.E.--Longus (Daphnis and Chloe)