Study Guide


Classicism Themes


M. I. Finley, in The Ancient Greeks, speaks of the Greeks’ concern with the individual and with isolated incidents of the past as expressed in their historical works. According to Finley, the Greeks were interested in history but did not take the pains that a historiographer would to report the past. He also asserts that the function of Greek history, as it expresses itself in the literature of the time, was often to provide an explanation for a current cult practice or ritual (also evidenced by the infusion of gods into these texts). Also, the events of such historical accounts do not offer a context of time or place. Greek “historians” were preoccupied with resurrecting a more glorious, heroic past and tended, in general, to view the past as being somehow “better” than the present. Most of these characteristics also permeate ancient Roman writings, like Vergil’s Aeneid. Goethe, who wrote much later, shared this interest in history, drawing on the traditional German story of Faustus for the creation of his Faust. However, Faust does not glorify the past but rather serves as a social and political commentary on contemporary German life.

Classic Greek and Roman writers also influenced the works of the later Classicists in their preference for order over chaos. Symmetry, continuity, smoothness, harmony, and logic were all characteristics classical writers would strive for in their works. The unities...

(The entire section is 476 words.)