Meaning of Greek Literature

What is Greek Literature:

We call Greek literature all that written by authors originating in Greece or in the Greek language.

In general, when we speak of Greek literature we are referring to ancient or classical Greek literature.

However, it is important to note that when we say Greek literature we can also be referring to modern Greek literature.

Ancient greek literature

Ancient Greek literature, also known as classical Greek literature, is that prior to 300 BC. of. In this sense, it includes the oldest texts in the ancient Greek language until the fourth century and the rise of the Byzantine Empire.

There are three fundamental genres in ancient Greek literature: epic poetry, lyrical poetry, and theater.

Greek epic poetry

The epic was a versified genre in Ancient Greece. They were epic poems divided into songs both the Iliad as the Odyssey, both of authorship attributed to Homer.

The Iliad narrates the siege of the walled city of Troy by the Greeks, while the Odyssey tells the adventures of Ulysses, hero of the Trojan War, during his journey back to his homeland, Ithaca.

Another example of epic poetry is the work Theogony, composed by Hesiod, where he relates the origin of the cosmos and the lineage of the gods.

Authors and works

  • Homer: The Iliad, The odyssey.
  • Hesiod: Theogony.

See also Cosmogony.

Greek lyric poetry

The Greek lyric poetry of which we have news begins to be cultivated between the 8th and 7th centuries BC. of C. It was composed to be recited with the accompaniment of a lyre, hence its name.

Lyrical poetry is characterized by adjusting to meter, rhythm and rhyme. It brings a subjective point of view to ancient literary genres. It is from her that what we know as modern poetry arises.


The Hellenistic experts of Alexandria created a canon of nine Greek lyric poets that are named below: Sappho, Alceus of Mytilene, Anacreon, Alcmán of Sparta, Íbico, Stesícoro, Simónides de Ceos, Pindar, Baquílides, to which we could add Archilochus , Xenophanes and Solon.

See more about Lyric Poetry.

Greek theater

Greek dramatic literature is made up of tragedies and comedies. It arises in the V century a. of C. from the Dionysian cults.

Many of the works were inspired by legends of gods and heroes of mythology, and sought to produce a cathartic reaction in the viewer.

There are two distinguishable cycles: the Trojan, which addresses characters from the Trojan War, and the Theban, in which Electra, Oedipus or Antigone parade.

Authors and works

  • Aeschylus: The seven against Thebes, The supplicants, The oresteia Y Prometheus in chains.
  • Sophocles: King Oedipus, Antigone, Ajax, Electra, Philoctetes.
  • Euripides: The bacchantes, Medea, Alcestis, The Trojans, Hippolytus, Helena, Orestes.
  • Aristophanes: Clouds, The bees, Lysistrata, The Frogs.

See also:

  • Greek tragedy.
  • Catharsis.

Characteristics of Greek literature


The themes were mostly inspired by legends and historical events

Heroes and gods

The presence of the legendary heroes and gods of Greek mythology was a constant in the works.

Importance of rhetoric

Great importance was attached to the use of lofty and persuasive rhetoric.

Balance and proportion

The ideas of clarity, measure, simplicity and proportion were fundamental in literary creation.


The fundamental genres were epic and lyrical poetry and drama (comedies and tragedies).

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