We explain what Greek literature is, the topics it covers and what Greek mythology is. Also, what are its characteristics and authors.

What is Greek Literature?

Greek literature is that literature written in Greece and using its language , traditions and ways of thinking .

However, this term is often used as a synonym for the forms of poetic representation of Hellenic antiquity , that is, of Ancient Greece or Classical Greece (before 300 BC), since these were very influential in the formation of western artistic thought. Many of its great names endure and are read today.

This ancient literature would become the foundation of the current concept of literature and fine arts , since its works and achievements were transmitted to Latin and Roman culture, and then remained for centuries as an important reference in Western art, despite the fact that their motives were those of their specific religion and traditions.

Characteristics of Greek literature :

  1. origins

The origins of Greek literature date back to at least 300 years before Christ , at the dawn of one of the most complete and admired civilizations in human history: Ancient Greece. It is unknown when this specific culture would have started to occur , and many of his first works would have been orally transmitted, as they were prior to writing as a support.

  1. Poetry


The poetic genres of antiquity foreshadowed those that we know today and were, initially, two:

  • Epic poetry. Those literary representations of a narrative nature, written in verse and often accompanied by music , which were called epics . They used to contain tales of war or adventure, evoking the myths and heroic tales of the culture.
  • Lyric poetry. Those literary representations destined to be sung and even danced ("lyrical" comes from its accompaniment with the lyre, a musical instrument) and that could be popular or cultured, according to the social class to which they were directed.

Note that by " poetry " the ancient Greeks did not refer to modern poetry, but to the literary task of everything.

  1. Dramatic


In later stages, dramatic genres, that is, theatrical, were added to the poetic work, which were used in the civic formation of the polis, that is, of the Greek citizenship. There values were transmitted and the masses were politically educated. The dramatic genres are:

  • Tragedy. According to Aristotle , it consisted of the representation of men much greater and more valuable than they were, to later move the public with their fall. They used to take advantage of heroic myths and legends known to all.
  • Comedy. According to Aristotle, on the other hand, it consisted of representing men much lower than they are, in order to see their rise. Unfortunately Aristotelian considerations regarding this genre have been lost over the centuries.
  • Satire. It would come to be the humorous or burlesque representation, whose intention is the mockery and attack against the constituted powers.

  1. Prose


Greek literature also featured prose works, derived from political oratory and the desire to make history , that is, to record the events that occur. In fact, thinkers like Plato and Aristotle, or historians like Herodotus, left behind an extensive non-fictional work (so to speak) that influenced future civilizations.

  1. Oral transmission

Lyrical and epic poetry, in contrast to dramatic poetry, show their oral origin, which is why they are often found in verse (as a form of memorization) . They were sung by reciters who composed their own songs (aedas) or who memorized epic fragments and recited them with the zither (rhapsodies).

  1. Religiosity


The content of Greek literature used to be religious or mystical, to the extent that they took advantage of the stories and legends of their culture , which worshiped its various gods and deities daily, to recreate their works. Thus, the iconic characters of Greek literature, such as Oedipus, Achilles or Perseus, belong both to the popular imagination of the time and to the different religious stories with which the tradition worshiped the gods.

  1. Catharsis

A central concept in Greek literature and especially in drama, was catharsis : the purging of human passions through suffering , the suffering of emotions in a fictional environment. Thus, the Greek citizens who attended the representation of a tragedy, were returned to their homes much more at peace with their emotions and, thus, being able to respond better to them when the opportunity in real life presented itself.

  1. Mythology


The Greek mythology , very present in his literary works, is one of the most vast and rich humanity . Their gods, demigods, deities and monsters have accompanied the West throughout the centuries and have motivated paintings, sculptures, stories and numerous artistic works in which they fulfill an archetypal function : very central symbols in our culture.

  1. Most popular works

Some of the best known works of Greek literature of the time are:

  • The Iliad.
  • The odyssey.
  • The theban cycle: Oedipus the King, Oedipus in Colonus, Seven against Thebes, Antigone, The supplicants, The Phoenicians.
  • The oresteia: Agamemnon, The coeforas, The eumenides.
  • The Works and days.
  • The Theogony.
  • The Homeric Hymns.

  1. Great authors

Great authors

The great representatives of the Greek tradition are:

    • Homer. A supposedly blind rhapsodist, who is credited with the epic poems of the Iliad , the Odyssey, and an extensive set of Hymns (Homeric).
    • Hesiod. Poet and first Greek philosopher, author of numerous essays and works of mythological inspiration.
    • Herodotus. Historian and author of the Greek cosmogony, he was one of the leading non-fiction authors of his time.
    • Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. Most important dramatic authors of all Greek tragedy.
    • Plato and Aristotle. The great Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, creators of a work that will sustain future Western thought on their backs for centuries. Socrates would have to be next to them , but his thought was not recorded in writing.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


She has pursued her studies in The United States, where she has graduated in Business and Economics and is currently finishing her Master studies in International Economics and Finance. Miss. Amputee is fluent in three languages: English, Spanish and Russian and has elementary knowledge of French and Italian. She love exploring how Collaborative Research Group can become the best tool to achieve the (necessary) educational change. .

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