Ancient literature is mainly comprised of oral traditions. Oral traditions are terms that are in some manner distinct from regular everyday speech. Before stories and poetry were recorded in writing, literature served primarily a mythic and religious purpose in the early oral traditions. The discovery and expression of emotion and the human condition became increasingly private when literary works begin to be preserved in writing and then, eventually, printed.
Despite being contested on ideological grounds by some contemporary cultural critics, aesthetic qualities have risen to the fore in literature’s growth. Prose, according to the English poet and critic Coleridge, is just the finest order of words, while poetry is the “best” order of the best words. It is not always easy to tell poetry from prose, although in general poetry has a more formal metre (which makes it simpler to memorise) and prose more closely resembles the rhythms of everyday speech. Given this, poetry enjoyed a head start over prose in the pre-print era that it did not give up until quite recently.
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Over the years, poetry has taken many different shapes and forms, from the lengthy story of an epic to the lyric, which expresses human feeling in a songlike format; from the ballad and the 14-line sonnet to the extreme brevity of the 17-syllable Japanese haiku.
The novel’s ascendance in the 18th century gave prose its due as a medium for speculative literature in the West; since then, fiction has been subdivided into numerous subgenres, such as the historical novel, the detective story, the fantastic, and the fantastical.
In this article we will discuss some of the most important literary figures of the ancient era.
Aeschylus (523 – 456 BC)
Aeschylus was a Tragedian of ancient Greece. He is the first playwright whose works have been preserved; the others include Sophocles and Euripides. He is frequently referred to as “The Father of Tragedy.”
Aristotle claimed that the playwright increased the cast size to allow for character conflict, as opposed to the earlier arrangement in which characters interacted only with the chorus. Only seven of his reputed 70–90 plays have been preserved, and there has long been controversy about “Prometheus Bound,” one of his plays that some claim was written by his son Euphorion.
He was perhaps the first playwright to produce three plays in succession. The only surviving example of this form from antiquity is His Oresteia.
The Persians is the sole surviving example of a classical Greek tragedy that addresses current affairs and serves as a good resource for historical details. Literary experts of today praise Oresteia.
The graveyard’s inscription emphasises the significance of “Belonging to the City” in the first place.
His important works that have survived are: The Persians (472 BC), Seven against Thebes (407 BC), The Suppliants (463 BC), the Oresteia trilogy, and Prometheus Bound.
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Three tragedies make up the Oresteia trilogy: “Agamemnon,” “The Libation Bearers,” and “The Eumenides.” This trilogy relates the horrific tale of Agamemnon, King of Argos, and his family.
Sophocles (497 – 406 BC)
One of the ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived is Sophocles, who authored 123 plays in his lifetime, just seven of which have been preserved in their entirety.
His important works are Ajax, Antigone, The Women of Trachis, Oedipus the King, Electr, Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus.
The stories of Oedipus and “Antigone” by Sophocles are among the most well-known tragedies ever written. The “Theban Plays” are a common name for these works. Each play stands alone, yet they all belonged to a larger, now-lost tetralogy.
His character development was much superior to that of earlier authors like Aeschylus.
Only “Philoctetes” (409 BC) and “Oedipus at Colonus” (401 BC) may be securely dated out of the seven plays that have survived to the present day.
Three plays are included in the Theban canon: “Oedipus the King” (also known as “Oedipus Tyrannus” or “Oedipus Rex” in Latin), “Oedipus at Colonus,” and “Antigone.” The three plays are all about what happened to Thebes during and after King Oedipus’ rule. Aristotle claims that Sophocles is to blame for “bringing the Third Actor to Greek Stage” (Tritagonist).
Ovid (43 BC – AD 17)
He composed erudite and witty love poems. He went by the moniker Ovid, although his full name was Publius Ovidius Naso. He was an Augustan poet who lived in ancient Rome. He lived at the same time as Horace and Virgil.
He is most known for Metamorphoses (AD 8), a 15-book epic tale of mythology, and for collections of love poetry in elegiac couplets, particularly the Amores and Ars Amatoria.
One of the most significant sources of classical mythology is still The Metamorphoses.
He was the first significant Roman poet to start writing during Augustus’ rule.
The Fasti (Books of Days), a six-book Latin poetry with a calendar format, is still unfinished.
Two collections of his elegies in the form of resentful letters, “Tristia” and “Epistulae Ci Ponto,” were written when he was in exile.
His shorter works include the advise poetry On Women’s Cosmetics, the curse poem Ibis, and Remedia Amoris (Cure for Love).
There are 21 elegiac couplet verses in The Heroides (Heroine), also known as Epistulae Heroidum.
Ovid was exiled by Augustus Caesar to a remote island, where he eventually perished.
Metamorphoses is a narrative poem that starts with the creation of the world and concludes in Ovid’s time, and more than 200 stories from Greek and Roman mythology are used in it. These stories were the main sources of mythology for Renaissance writers.
Virgil (70 – 19 BC)
The ancient Roman poet Publius Vergilius Maro, also known as Virgil or Vergil in English, lived during the Augustan era.
Three important Latin literary works by him are The Eclogues, The Georges, and the epic Aeneid.
A small number of poems, which are gathered in the Appendix Virgiliana, are occasionally claimed to be his.
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From the time of its creation till the present, his “Aeneid” has been regarded as the historical epic of Ancient Rome. Iliad and Odyssey by Homer served as inspiration for it.
The “Divine Comedy” of Dante, in which Virgil serves as Dante’s tour guide through hell and purgatory, is one of the most notable examples of how deeply and widely Virgil’s work has influenced western literature.
The youthful Virgil briefly considered a profession in rhetoric and law before deciding to pursue poetry. He was known by the monikers “Parlhenias” or “Maiden” due to his social recluseness.
The great epic The Bellum Olive written by Lucan, is considered to be an anti-Virgilian epic.
The epic poem “The Aeneid,” which was written between 29 and 19 BC, recounts the legend of Aeneas, a Trojan who made his way to Italy and eventually became the progenitor of the Romans. It has 9,896 dactylic hexameter lines.
Homer (Probably between 12th and 8th centuries BC)
The Iliad and Odyssey are two of Homer’s best-known works. Ancient Greeks considered him to be the earliest and best epic poet of them all. He is a key figure in the Western Canon as the author of the earliest literature of known Europe.
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In Plato’s Republic, who describes Homer as the “first teacher” of tragedies and the “Leader of Greek culture,” the significance of Homer to the ancient Greeks is discussed.
He is described as a Babylonian named Tigranos who adopted the name Homer when taken hostage by the satirist Lucian in his “True History.”
His notable works are as follow:
The poem primarily centres on the Greek hero Odysseus, king of Ithaca (also known as Ulysses in Roman tales), and his return home following the fall of Troy. After the 10-year Trojan War, Odysseus needs ten years to get to Ithaca. Odysseus goes missing, and it is presumed that he has passed away. As a result, his wife Penelope and son Telemachus must contend with the Mnesteres, a gang of restless suitors who are vying for Penelope’s hand in marriage.
It was translated into English by George Chapman in 1616.
Dactylic hexameter is used in the writing. It is the Iliad’s sequel.
It is called the Song of Ilium or the Song of Ilion. It is a dactylic hexameter ancient Greek epic poem that is set during the Trojan War between King Agamemnon and the Warrior Achilles (15,693 lines).