ancient

ancient

[eyn-shuhnt]
Greek literature, ancient, the writings of the ancient Greeks. The Greek Isles are recognized as the birthplace of Western intellectual life.

Early Writings

The earliest extant European literary works are the Iliad and the Odyssey, both written in ancient Greek probably before 700 B.C., and attributed to Homer. Among other early epic poems, most of which have perished, those of Hesiod, the first didactic poet, remain. The poems dealing with mythological subjects and known as the Homeric Hymns are dated 800-300 B.C. Only fragments survive of the works of many early Greek poets, including the elegiasts Tyrtaeus, Theognis, Solon, Semonides of Amorgos, Archilochus, and Hipponax. The most personal Greek poems are the lyrics of Alcaeus, Sappho and Anacreon. The Dorian lyric for choral performance, developed with Alcman, Ibycus, and Stesichorus, achieved perfection in Pindar, Simonides of Ceos, and Bacchylides.

The Classical Period

Greek drama evolved from the song and dance in the ceremonies honoring Dionysus at Athens. In the 5th cent. B.C. tragedy was developed by three of the greatest dramatists in the history of the theater, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Equally exalted was the foremost exponent of Attic Old Comedy, Aristophanes. Other writers who developed this genre included Cratinus and Eupolis, of whom little is known. The rowdy humor of these early works gave way to the more sedate Middle Comedy and finally to New Comedy, which set the form for this type of drama. The best-known writer of Greek New Comedy is Menander.

The writing of history came of age in Greece with the rich and diffuse work of Herodotus, the precise and exhaustive accounts of Thucydides, and the rushing narrative of Xenophon. Philosophical writing of unprecedented breadth was produced during this brief period of Athenian literature; the works of Plato and Aristotle have had an incalculable effect in the shaping of Western thought.

Greek oratory, of immense importance in the ancient world, was perfected at this time. Among the most celebrated orators were Antiphon, Andocides, Lysias, Isocrates, Isaeus, Lycurgus, Aeschines, and, considered the greatest of all, Demosthenes. "Classical" Greek literature is said to have ended with the deaths of Aristotle and Demosthenes (c.322 B.C.). The greatest writers of the classical era have certain characteristics in common: economy of words, direct expression, subtlety of thought, and attention to form.

Later Greek Literature

The next period of Greek literature reached its zenith in Hellenistic Alexandria, where a number of major philosophers, dramatists, poets, historians, critics, and librarians wrote and taught. New genres such as bucolic poetry emerged during the Hellenistic period, a time also characterized by scholarly editions of classics from earlier periods. The poems of Callimachus, the bucolics of Theocritus, and the epic of Apollonius Rhodius are recognized as major works of world literature.

The production of literary works at the time of the establishment of Roman control of the Mediterranean was enormous, a vast heterogeneous mixture ranging from the sublime to the pedantic and turgid. A great portion of the works produced have been lost. With the Roman political subjugation of Greece, Greek thought and culture, introduced largely by slave-tutors to the Roman aristocracy, came to exert enormous influence in the Roman world. Among the greatest writers of this period were the historians Polybius, Josephus, and Dio Cassius; the biographer Plutarch; the philosophers Philo and Dio Chrysostom; and the novelist Lucian. One great Roman work produced under Greek influence was the philosophical meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

With the spread of Christianity, Greek writing took a new turn, and much of the writing of the Greek Fathers of the Church is eloquent. Religion dominated the literature of the Byzantine Empire, and a vast treasury of writing was produced that is not generally well known to the West The most notable exception is the work of some historians (e.g., Procopius, Anna Comnena, George Acropolita, and Emperor John VI) and some anthologists (e.g., Photius).

Bibliography

The Loeb Classical Library offers text and translations of most of the extant ancient Greek literature. See T. F. Higham and C. M. Bowra, The Oxford Book of Greek Verse (1938); C. M. Bowra, Ancient Greek Literature (1960); C. M. Bowra, Greek Lyric Poetry from Alcman to Simonides (rev. ed. 1961); H. J. Rose, A Handbook of Greek Literature from Homer to the Age of Lucian (4th ed. 1961); H. D. F. Kitto, Poiesis: Structure and Thought (1966); Cambridge History of Classical Literature; Vol. I (1985); and C. R. Beye, Ancient Greek Literature and Society (1987).

Heliopolis (or On) (Greek: Ἡλίου πόλις or Ἡλιούπολις), meaning sun-city, was one of the most ancient cities of Egypt, and capital of the 13th Lower Egyptian nome. Its name also refers to an unrelated modern suburb of Cairo, also known as مصر الجديدة, Masr al-jidedah (literally "New Egypt"). The ancient city stood five miles (8 km) east of the Nile north of the apex of the Delta. Heliopolis originally refers to an area that covers the areas of Ain Shams, Al-Matariyyah and Tel Al-Hisn. In ancient times it was the principal seat of sun-worship, thus its name, which means city of the sun in Greek.

Now Heliopolis contain the earliest temple obelisk still in its original position. The 20.7 m / 68 ft high red granite Obelisk of Senusret I of the XIIth Dynasty is at Al-Matariyyah part of Heliopolis.

It is now in Al-Masalla area of Al-Matariyyah district near Ain Shams district (Heliopolis). It is tall and weighs 120 tons or 240,000 pounds.

The city's Egyptian name (shown in hieroglyphs, right, transliterated ỉwnw), is often transcribed as Iunu (literally "[place of] pillars"), and was often written in Greek as Ὂν On, and in biblical Hebrew as אן ˀÔn and און ˀĀwen.

Ancient Heliopolis

Heliopolis has been occupied since the Predynastic Period, with extensive building campaigns during the Old and Middle Kingdoms. Today, unfortunately, it is mostly destroyed, its temples and other buildings having been used for the construction of mediæval Cairo; most information about it comes from textual sources.

According to Diodorus Siculus Heliopolis was built by Actis, one of the sons of Helios and Rhode, who named the city after his father. While all Greek cities were destroyed during the flood, the Egyptian cities including Heliopolis survived. The chief deity of Heliopolis was the god Atum, who was worshipped in the primary temple, which was known by the names Per-Aat (pr-ˁ3t; "Great House") and Per-Atum (pr-ỉtmw; "Temple [lit. "House"] of Atum"). The city was also the original source of the worship of the Ennead pantheon, although in later times, as Horus gained in prominence, worship focused on the synchrentistic solar deity Ra-harakhty (literally Ra, (who is) Horus of the Two Horizons). During the Amarna Period, king Akhenaten introduced monotheistic or perhaps henotheistic worship of Aten, the deified solar disc, built here a temple named Wetjes Aten (wṯs ỉtn "Elevating the Sun-disc"). Blocks from this temple were later used to build the city walls of mediaeval Cairo and can be seen in some of the city gates. The cult of the Mnevis bull, an embodiment of the god Ra, had its centre here, and possessed a formal burial ground north of the city.

As the capital of Egypt for a period of time, grain was stored in Heliopolis for the winter months, when many people would descend on the town to be fed, leading to it gaining the title place of bread. The Book of the Dead goes further and describes how Heliopolis was the place of multiplying bread, recounting a myth in which Horus feeds the masses there with only 7 loaves.

Greco-Roman Heliopolis

Heliopolis was well known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, being noted by most major geographers of the period, including: Ptolemy, iv. 5. § 54; Herodotus, ii. 3, 7, 59; Strabo, xvii. p. 805; Diodorus, i. 84, v. 57; Arrian, Exp. Alex. iii. 1; Aelian, H. A. vi. 58, xii. 7; Plutarch, Solon. 26, Is. et Osir. 33; Diogenes Laertius, xviii. 8. § 6; Josephus, Ant. Jud. xiii. 3, C. Apion. i. 26; Cicero, Nat. Deor. iii. 21; Pliny the Elder, v. 9. § 11; Tacitus, Ann. vi. 28; Pomponius Mela, iii. 8. The city also merits attention by the Byzantine geographer Stephanus of Byzantium, s. v. Ἡλίουπόλις.

Alexander the Great, on his march from Pelusium to Memphis, halted at this city (Arrian, iii. 1); and, according to Macrobius (Saturn. i. 23), Baalbek, or the Syrian Heliopolis, was a priest-colony from its Egyptian namesake.

The temple of Ra was said to have been, to a special degree, a depository for royal records, and Herodotus states that the priests of Heliopolis were the best informed in matters of history of all the Egyptians. Heliopolis flourished as a seat of learning during the Greek period; the schools of philosophy and astronomy are claimed to have been frequented by Orpheus, Homer, Pythagoras, Plato, Solon, and other Greek philosophers. From Ichonuphys, who was lecturing there in 308 BC, and who numbered Eudoxus among his pupils, the Greek mathematician learned the true length of the year and month, upon which he formed his octaeterid, or period of eight years or ninety-nine months. Ptolemy II had Manethon, the chief priest of Heliopolis, collect his history of the ancient kings of Egypt from its archives. The later Ptolemies probably took little interest in their "father" Ra, and Alexandria had eclipsed the learning of Heliopolis; thus with the withdrawal of royal favour Heliopolis quickly dwindled, and the students of native lore deserted it for other temples supported by a wealthy population of pious citizens. By the 1st century BC, however, Strabo found them deserted, and the town itself almost uninhabited, although priests were still there.

In Roman times Heliopolis belonged to the Augustamnica province. Its population probably contained a considerable Arabic element. (Plin. vi. 34.) In Roman times obelisks were taken from its temples to adorn the northern cities of the Delta, and even across the Mediterranean to Rome, including the famed Cleopatra's Needle that now resides on the Thames embankment, London (this obelisk was part of a pair, the other being located in Central Park, New York) . Finally the growth of Fustat and Cairo, only to the southwest, caused the ruins to be ransacked for building materials. The site was known to the Arabs as ˁAyn Šams ("the well of the sun"), more recently as ˁArab al-Ḥiṣn. It has now been brought for the most part under cultivation, but the ancient city walls of crude brick are to be seen in the fields on all sides, and the position of the great temple is marked by an obelisk still standing (the earliest known, being one of a pair set up by Senusret I, the second king of the Twelfth Dynasty) and a few granite blocks bearing the name of Ramesses II.

Endnotes

References

  • Allen, James Paul. 2001. "Heliopolis". In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, edited by Donald Bruce Redford. Vol. 2 of 3 vols. Oxford, New York, and Cairo: Oxford University Press and The American University in Cairo Press. 88–89
  • Redford, Donald Bruce. 1992. "Heliopolis". In The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman. Vol. 3 of 6 vols. New York: Doubleday. 122–123
  • Bilolo, Mubabinge. 1986. Les cosmo-théologies philosophiques d'Héliopolis et d'Hermopolis. Essai de thématisation et de systématisation, (Academy of African Thought, Sect. I, vol. 2), Kinshasa–Munich 1987; new ed., Munich-Paris, 2004.
  • Collier, Mark and Manley, Bill. How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyps: Revised Edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

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