There are several good histories of Greek literature of various shapes and sizes, but the purpose of this book is not simply to consider the literature of ancient Greece as an isolated subject, treating each of the literary modes--epic, lyric, drama, history, philosophy, and rhetoric--in terms of its own evolution. Instead, Robert Flacelière provides a Greek history that deals with all the important works of Hellenic literature that are still of interest to contemporary readers; and he does this in chronological order with an accurate account of their historical background.
Flacelière follows the history of Greece down through the centuries as the writer records it. He describes the political atmosphere in the nation and the advances in the other arts that influenced literature. The author understands Sappho's rhapsodies; girlish love in the context of the acceptance of homosexuality in that era. He sympathizes with the unrequited passion of the penniless Archilochos. He appreciates Pindar's pacifist tendencies, Herodotus' upright insistence on truth, and Euripides' doubts about the existence of the gods. For the classical centuries, so rich in talent and genius, the author follows the successive generations systematically so as to distinguish the special features of each, what it owes to the preceding generation and how it paves the way for the next.
Since this is a literary history, attention is mainly focused on the writers and their works, but by displaying these in their political, social, artistic and scientific setting, Flacelière gives a better understanding of the production and significance of these wonderful achievements of the human spirit. Due to the wide range of material presented, A Literary History of Greece can be used as a reference book as well as for enjoyment reading.