This article examines the way the ancient Greeks conceived of the emotions. Special attention is paid to the differences between classical Greek and modern English conceptions, in line with the view that culture plays a significant role in shaping the way emotions are experienced. The analysis draws on ancient Greek literature, from Homer’sIliadto tragedy, comedy, and lyric poetry, as well as on historical and philosophical works by Aristotle and Xenophon. Also considered are changes in the way the emotions are understood in early Christian and later texts, with occasional reference to Latin adaptations. In particular, the emotions of pity, anger, fear, love, and jealousy are examined in detail.
This chapter explores biographical receptions of Greek and Roman poets in the twentieth century. Classical scholarship has now begun to recognize ancient biography as a creative mode of reception in Antiquity. In the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, reading the texts of Greek and Roman poetry for the lives of their authors has been an especially rich and multifaceted mode of reception, providing for many readers a means of grappling with the ancient texts within the changing cultural landscape of modernity. Yet, unlike the medieval and early modern traditions of literary biography, in the twentieth century, academic and creative Lives have tended to part company. When it comes to Greek and Roman poets, though a few full-length literary biographies that still attempt to claim factual status have been produced, conventional narrative biographies that aim to set out the ‘facts’ are generally only found in isagogic contexts such as introductions to texts and translations, or textbooks of literary history. Moreover, partly because modern authors are acutely aware that there are few ‘facts’ beyond the poets’ works themselves on which to base their material, and partly as a broader consequence of modern preoccupations with fragmentation and the limits of knowledge, creative life-writing about the ancient poets in this period is found more frequently in ludic snapshots rather than full-blown narrative biographies.
The present paper focusses on the oldest version of the Alexander Romance (the so-called alpha recension). It is a composite work, made of heterogeneous elements whose combination generates tensions in the portrayal of the protagonist, Alexander. His presentation is multifocal: making use of letters, speeches, and dialogues, and multiplying the points of view, the narrator constructs a kaleidoscopic image of Alexander which is that of an actant rather than a character. Nevertheless, the emphasis put on Alexander’s singularity and exceptional destiny gives the Romance its consistency. The prevalence of an entertaining prospect implies a redirection of biographical tools for the benefit of fictitiousness.
This chapter discusses ancient biographies of statesmen. What is the nature of ancient political biography? It is the description of the life and deeds of a significant political player of the recent or far past, individually told or in a series, with the intent of edifying the readers. This means that such a work often has an encomiastic, or at any rate evaluative cast, and may even employ certain acknowledged untruths in order to bring out the characteristic significance of a given politician. This too is the aim with which intimate details or gossip are told: so as to convey a clear image of what kind of man Solon, Demosthenes, Augustus, or Nero was, and how this influenced his career and his deeds.
This chapter discusses ancient biography in the Italian Renaissance. One way to reveal some of the major trends and developments of ancient biography in the Renaissance is to examine the models chosen by Renaissance biographers. This approach not only illuminates the legacy of ancient biography, but also sheds some light on modern suppositions about ancient biography. Some of the models chosen will hardly be a surprise. Suetonius’s Lives of the Caesars and the Augustan History provided a model for biography as a history of civic and military leaders. Jerome’s Illustrious Men remained a blueprint for biography as bibliography and as literary history. Yet humanists also found models in Cicero, Varro, and Pliny, all of whom are today rarely thought of as biographers. Moreover, Renaissance authors did not always take up what one might think of as their model’s characteristic features. The chapter considers how some of the major authors of Renaissance biography worked and reworked their models to suit new needs. It also addresses five sub-types of biography: collective biographies of historical figures; collective biographies of literary figures; individual and comparative biographies; collective biographies in dialogue form; and collective biographies with portraits.
This chapter examines presences of ancient biography in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The popularity of biography in seventeenth-century Europe was mainly due to the numerous translations of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. Conversely, Suetonius, whose Lives of the Caesars were extremely influential in the early modern period, was less read in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Meanwhile, Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of Eminent Philosophers contributed to the rise of literary and philosophical biography. However, the more life-writing is considered as a literary practice, the less its historical reliability is valued. If, in the seventeenth century, Lives were generally regarded as a historical genre, eighteenth-century philosophers criticized the historical interest of biography, at a time in which history began to be studied as a science more than as a pedagogical device.
Paul W. Kroll
The importance and influence of anthologies during the Tang dynasty is evident in their increasing numbers and broad variety. The names of over a hundred Tang anthologies are known, and over a score have been preserved in whole or part. These include general anthologies of verse and prose, some conceived of as sequels to pre-Tang anthologies, as well as anthologies devoted only to verse, to choice extracts, or to particular periods or occasions, particular groups of writers, particular topics, or even particular areas from which writers hailed. They range in size from those with barely two dozen compositions to those containing a thousand or more.
Stephen J. Harrison
This chapter considers the biography, literary career, and literary output of the second-century Platonizing Latin writer Apuleius, born in Roman North Africa in the 120s ce and recorded as active in Carthage and Africa Proconsularis in the late 150s and 160s. In particular, it examines the key features of his two most important surviving works, the Apologia or Pro Se De Magia, a forensic oration of self-defense against charges of magic and other offences, delivered in the late 150s in court at Sabathra, and the Metamorphoses or Golden Ass, a spectacular picaresque fiction concerning the adventures of the young Greek Lucius, who is metamorphosed into a donkey but later becomes an official in the cults of Isis and Osiris. It is shown overall that Apuleius’s literary profile matches those of contemporary Greek sophists and can be usefully described as sophistic.
This chapter examines the Arabic biographical tradition. The genre of biographical writing is a celebrated, multifaceted, and widely practised field of Arabic literature. Basic forms of biographical compilation can be shown from the first century of Islam (seventh century), initially orally transmitted and later in writing. The Arabic biographical tradition was mainly developed from within Islam, to which it owes its noticeable character. It probably originated from the earnest aspiration of generations following the initial period to preserve knowledge about the central figures of that era. For that reason, biographical transmission, initially, was a highly religion-orientated discipline. Nevertheless, or perhaps even due to this stimulus, there developed a huge field of different biographical genres and specialized life-writing.
S. Peter Cowe
Recognizing Hellenism and Greek as the hemispherically dominant culture and language of late antiquity, this chapter applies a dynamic model to chart the incremental Armenian reception of such trends over the fifth–eighth centuries. Acknowledging the contemporary affinity between elite literacy and Christianity’s regional integration, it analyses the resulting bifurcation in Armenian society and literature whereby Persianate aristocratic epic persists in an oral verse repertoire, while the novel written medium largely in prose propagated by a new literate class not only appropriates all the ecclesiastical genres but reconceptualizes the Armenian worldview within a Christian dispensation from a Greek cultural ethos. Adopting the trivium and quadrivium from Antioch and Alexandria, scholars replicate lay schools in Armenia and contribute to those disciplines by their commentaries. Elaborating an indigenous theological literature in continuity with Syria and Egypt, Armenians defend it in dialogue with Constantinople as the eastern Mediterranean littoral enters into the Umayyad Caliphate.
S. Peter Cowe
This chapter discusses the diverse Armenian biographical material, which was transmitted directly or indirectly in written form and hence dependent on the existence of a writing system. Particular historical forces converged to realize this project as part of a process to diffuse literacy in Southern Caucasia in the early fifth century. Initiated primarily as a means of advancing the cause of Christian proclamation and solidarity in the region, the movement to inaugurate a literate tradition inspired the participation of pluralist trends in Armenian society to employ the medium to engage in dialogue on issues of collective identity and values. By the end of the Umayyad era, that process of exchange resulted in the construction of a relatively connected master narrative of Armenian origins and the course of secular and sacred history that included a gallery of variegated portraits of the pre-eminent figures who shaped these developments, a selection of which will form the focus of the chapter’s discussion. The criteria for selection include literary significance, the prominence of the individuals portrayed, and the texts’ rhetorical impact on Armenian society, in both the religious and cultural spheres.
Michael Stuart Williams
This chapter explores the Confessions of Augustine of Hippo. Almost every author who writes on Augustine’s Confessions feels an obligation to insist that this difficult and complex work is not an autobiography. If the purpose of the Confessions as a whole is to turn the reader towards God, as it would appear from Augustine’s account, it seems no less clear that the means is through narrating Augustine’s own life in all its aspects, both good and bad. With this in mind, it has always been difficult to deny that the Confessions possesses, at the very least, a profoundly autobiographical character. Augustine offers an extended meditation of his life in more-or-less chronological order. If this is not the whole story of the Confessions, it is enough all the same to suggest that there may be value in approaching it as autobiography. Such an approach must begin by acknowledging that ‘autobiography’ is an elusive category, no less than is its parent ‘biography’.
Adam M. Kemezis
This chapter focuses on Philostratus’ Apollonius. It begins by examining Philostratus’ explicit rhetorical claims and his curiously ambiguous narrative stance, before moving on to the anecdotal and doxographical material, and the overall characterization of the hero. The chapter then considers some key thematic strands of the work that seem to stretch normal generic parameters, these being its focus on foreign exoticism, Greek antiquarianism, and Roman political history. In all of these cases, the interplay between Philostratus’ stated aims and his grandiose means reveals much about the kinds of cultural work that biography could do in Antiquity. The Apollonius announces itself as a self-contained sort of work, neatly defined by the scope and extent of a single human life, and that rhetorical position is never fully abandoned. Much of the rest of the text, however, will sorely test the limits of biographical form as its author strives to display his own consummate skill by piling the largest conceivable variety of Hellenic cultural topics into the life story of one man and creating an outrageously over-sized literary hero whose story is capable of bearing such a weight.
This chapter surveys the genre normally referred to by Egyptologists as ‘biography’ or ‘autobiography’, comprising texts, often inscribed on stone monuments, which recount, in various forms, events in a non-royal person’s life and/or aspects of their moral character. Such biographies are attested from the third millennium
This chapter addresses Tacitus’ Agricola and Pliny the Younger’s Panegyricus. At first glance, they have little in common. Both written early in Trajan’s principate, one is a short biography of Tacitus’ father-in-law, the other a long speech of thanks addressed to the emperor. However, they are also a complementary, contemporary, and directly connected pair of literary artworks. Tacitus marshals the resources of a long biographical tradition in his brilliant apology for the career of a quietist. Pliny for his part produces a striking account, at once humanizing and mythologizing, of an emperor whose scripted life finds significant origins in the pages of Tacitus. Between privatus and princeps, across biography and encomium, Agricola and Panegyricus together offer striking illumination of the possibilities for textualizing lives in Trajanic Rome.
Eusebius’ Life of Constantine is one of the oddest works of biography to survive from Antiquity. As such, its authenticity and genre have been much studied. But its literary qualities remain undervalued. This chapter reads it not as a stand-alone work, but as the climax of its author’s long history of biographical experimentation. It focuses in particular on the ‘episcopal equivalencies’—the two passages where Constantine is described as being bishop-like. These passages can only be properly understood when read against the backdrop of Eusebius’ construction of bishops in his earlier biographical writings.
This chapter studies direct and indirect influences of classical and late antique biographical forms and contents on Byzantine biographical writing. Both the main characteristics of Byzantine biographical writing and the richness of forms and contents become clear. The influence of the vita/bios on other (even non-biographical) genres and the concomitant biographization are noted. Biography has to be interesting, edifying, and entertaining. ‘Adventures’ are an important element as is the constant movement of the heroes. Indeed, a recurrent topic is the hero’s flight and other people’s pursuit of him. It is remarkable that there are so many biographies of people from the provinces who came to Constantinople for various reasons. Constantinople itself is an important point of reference in many biographies, as is the emperor or the patriarch. Education and learning, too, play a significant role. The specific characteristics of Byzantine biography, however, still remain vague. A lot of further scholarly work needs to be done before the art of biography can be properly understood.
Joseph F. Eska
Greek and Roman ethnographic writers provide information about the bardic poets of Cisalpine Gaul and Transalpine Gaul, as well as the character of their poetry. Among the fragmentary epigraphic records of the Cisalpine Celtic and Transalpine Celtic languages, furthermore, a number have been claimed to display poetic features such as alliteration, rhyme, and non-standard word order. The poetic features of two inscriptions whose status as poems can hardly be doubted are discussed.
J. R. Morgan
This chapter discusses the novels of Chariton and Xenophon of Ephesus. Both are engaged with central concerns of the Second Sophistic, in particular that of elite Greek identity. Chariton’s novel (composed in the second century and connected with the sophist Dionysius of Miletus) demonstrates the same empathetic recreation of the classical past as sophistic declamation, and defines the Greekness of his protagonists in antithesis to a Persia configured to enable the exploration of the contemporary accommodation of the Greek elite to Rome. In his vision, paideia is a central constituent of Hellenic identity, enacted through an important third character, who represents an older erotic paradigm in contrast to the romantic heroes. Xenophon’s novel (probably an epitome), on the other hand, uses a contemporary setting to explore the nightmare of the loss of social status and control over one’s own person.
The Chinese script is one of the major writing systems of the world and has over three thousand years of recorded history. Native accounts of its origin have been extremely influential and remain part of the general discourse, even though newly discovered archaeological materials in many cases challenge the traditional view. The earliest known examples of Chinese characters survive on oracle bones, and these are essentially ancestral to all modern forms of written Chinese, even though the script went through great changes during the following millennia. One of the most important such changes was the Qin-Han transition from the scripts of the Warring States period to that of the dynastic era. In the medieval period, the Chinese script was adopted for other languages in East and Central Asia, and in some cases was modified to create new Sinoform scripts (e.g., Khitan, Jurchen, and Tangut).