Loss and Rediscovery of Greek Literature

After losing to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War, Greece was weakened. Philip II of Macedon took this chance to invade. He encouraged the spread of Greek culture to Macedon. His son Alexander the Great then undertook an epic military campaign that spread Greek culture and literature even further. Eventually, Greece was weakened by the great warfare it was enduring, which led to the annexation by the great city of Rome. This too led to the spread of Greek literature.

Eventually, Rome was also conquered. The “loss” of Greek literature was brought about by the Gothic invasion of Rome, it was eventually “rediscovered” during the Renaissance that succeeded the Middle Ages. The Gothic invasion marked the beginning of the Middle Ages. The invaders brought their own story telling traditions and cultural practices. These cultures were mostly preliterate. Because of this, the audience for written works, especially Roman and Greek works declined.

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Basically the cultural influence of Greece faded during this period. While Greek culture didn’t completely disappear, it certainly did go out of style. Eventually, the Renaissance came about. The era was partly inspired by the rediscovery of classical texts. The Greek humanism that Renaissance scholars found in these texts differed greatly from the biblical values they inherited. During the Renaissance, Greek influence in literature was reestablished.

Once the literature of Greece had reestablished itself in European culture, it became a touchstone for writers and artists. Writers adapted many traits from these ancient texts, most importantly the genres. One of the more famous examples would be the tragedies written by Shakespeare and how they follow the pattern set by great Greek writers of the genre. From this point on, Greek and Roman literature would be the most important influence on the development of Western literature.

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