ancient literature

What is ancient literature (and its characteristics)

Ancient literature is understood as the set of literary works that were written approximately between the 5th century B.C. C. and the beginning of the Middle Ages, when literature as it is known began to take shape, that is, the art of rhetorical and poetic expression.

Hence, it has been possible to establish that the texts called ancient literature date from centuries later than the appearance of writing.

However, it must be taken into account that ancient literature did not develop equally and at the same time throughout the world, and this as a consequence of the distances that existed between the various groups and communities and that were growing at times and at rates different.

The Epic of Gilgamesh, from approximately the year 2000 BC, is considered the oldest literary work of humanity, through which the feat of a Sumerian hero is exposed. Various texts from the Mesopotamian empires are also included, including Egypt, which saw the first steps of literature, although the oral tradition still predominated.

In ancient times, literary works dealt with religious themes, which is why it is common for these texts to speak of gods and other beliefs. Among other texts of ancient literature we can mention the Book of the Dead, written on Papyrus of Ani dating from the 13th century BC.

A percentage of the ancient literature produced in Egypt was translated throughout the 19th century, including the Rosseta Stone, which is why it took time to include these texts as part of ancient literature.

Unfortunately, and due to different circumstances, it is believed that many of the first texts that are part of ancient literature were lost over time. One of the events that stands out the most is the burning of the Library of Alexandria, created in the 3rd century. BC

However, it should be mentioned that both China and India wrote literary texts that are considered even older, from the Iron Age, although these claims are controversial.

In India, two important Sanskrit works stand out, the Ramiana and the Majábharata. In China, Sun Tzu’s Art of War stands out, as well as the various teachings of Confucius, Lao Tzi and Tao te Ching.

Next, the Iliad and the Odyssey were two literary epic works attributed to Homer that began Classical Antiquity in Greece. These works are followed by a list of ancient literary works dating from the first millennium BC, including Sophocles, Euripides, Sappho, Aeschylus, as well as Plato and Aristotle.

Later, during the Roman Empire, important literary works considered ancient and written by the following authors, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, among others, were also produced.

See also: Literature and Literary currents.

Features of ancient literature

Among the main characteristics that can be mentioned of ancient literature are:

  • The themes of these literary works, for the most part, dealt with religious, supernatural and god themes.
  • They tried to answer the origin of the human being and the world, a subject of great unknown for the time.
  • There was a vision of the human being that integrated body, soul and mind.
  • The writers influenced the people in various ways.
  • After ancient Greek literature, other literary genres arose, including epic (narration of heroic stories), lyric (elaboration of poems), prose (narration of novels) and theater (dramatic representation of works of comedy or tragedy in amphitheatres).
  • Greek writers wrote works that stand out for their literary beauty and originality.
  • It gave way to transmitting in writing many of the oral cultural traditions of the peoples.
  • After ancient literature originated the creation of novels in the West.

See also Lyrical Poetry, Medieval Literature and Avant-garde Literature.

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