Summer 1986 • Vol. VIII No. 3 Book ReviewsJuly 1, 1986 |

The Literature That Was Greece

A Short History of Greek Literature by Jacqueline de Romilly. Translated by Lillian Doherty. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1985. xii + 293 pages. $27.00, cloth; $9.95, paper. "To read and re-read the scanty remains now left to us of the Literature of Ancient Greece is a pleasant and not a laborious task," said Gilbert Murray in 1897. Of the one hundred twenty plays of Sophocles, seven survive (the Athenian judges gave him first prize in the annual competitions at least twenty times); of the hundreds of poems of Sappho (Plato called her the tenth Muse) we have one complete poem, substantial remains of twelve others, and then scraps. Thanks solely to a few papyri found in this century, Menander (paired with Homer by the ancients, and the chief source of Western drama) is barely alive again after a thousand years of hearsay. Nothing worthwhile necessarily survives. This witless winnowing of one and one-half millennia of ancient Greek literature continues: e

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