Classical Literature



Ancient Greek Literature

               The Early Period

                              Epic Poetry

                                             Homer -

                                                            Odyssey (Ithaca: King Odysseus kept 7 years on Ogygia by Calypso;

                                                                           son Telemachus consults Nestor in Pylos and Menelaus in Sparta; wife

                                                                           Penelope makes shroud for father-in-law Laius; released by Zeus's orders,

                                                                           Odysseus tells Nausicaa, King Alcinous, and Queen Arete of Phaeacia

                                                                           Schereie about wanderings: raided Ciconians, visited Lotus-Eaters, blinded

                                                                           Polyphemus Cyclops, helped by King Aeolus of winds, destroyed by

                                                                           Laestrygonian cannibals, turned to swine on Circe's Aeaea, saved by Hermes's

                                                                           moly herb, visited Tiresias in Hades, tried to avoid Scylla and Charybdis, passed

                                                                           Sirens, stole Helios's cattle on Thrinacia; Athene disguises Odysseus as beggar

                                                                           but recognized by swineherd Eumaeus, dog Argus, and nurse Eurycleia; kills wife

                                                                           Penelope's suitors including Irus),

                                                            Iliad (Troy: Agamemnon returns Chryseis and takes Achilles' Briseis; Paris fights Menelaus

                                                                           but rescued by Aphrodite; Diomedes kills Pandarus; Hector bids farewell to
                                                                           Andromache; Ajax fights Hector; Agamemnon returns Briseus; Patroclus killed by

                                                                           Hector; Achilles avenges friend despite warnin g of mom Thetis; river Xanthus

                                                                           fights Achilles; kills Hector; Priam gets Hector's body; Ionic dialect, dactylic

                                                                           hexameter, c. 9th century BC)

                                             Cyclic poets - (poems about Trojan War and the Seven Against Thebes)

                                             Peisander of Rhodes - Heracleia (about Hercules)

                                             Panyasis of Halicarnassus - another Heracleia

                                             Antimachus of Colophonor Claros - Thebais (founder of learned school of epic poetry)

                                             Unknown - Homeric Hymns, Battle of the Frogs and Mice

                                             Hesiod - Works and Days (about everyday life), Theogony

                                             Callinus of Ephesus - (first to use elegaic couplet)

                                             Solon - (first Athens poet)

                                             Archilochus of Paros - (first to use iambic verse)

                              Lyric Poetry

                                             Terpander of Lesvos - (first to use lyric poetry)

                                             Sappho of Lesvos - (woman, invented Sapphic strophe)

                                             Thaletas - (first choral lyric poet)

               The Attic Period (6th - 4th Cent. BC, drama invented by Thespis 6th Cent. BC, honor Dionysus)

                              Aesop (6th century BC Greek folk hero) - animal fables (popular English translation by

                                             Samuel Croxall 1722)

                              Pindar ("Dircaean Swan") - Epinicia (celebrating victories or games)


                                             Aeschylus (of Athens) - (added 2nd actor),

                                                            Prometheus Bound (Prometheus is chained to Scythian mountain by

                                                                           Hephaestus under Zeus's orders for giving man fire; Oceanus tells

                                                                           Prometheus to stop defying Zeus; Iheifer Io tells of her sorrow;

                                                                           Hermes tries to learn from Prometheus who will be mom of son that will

                                                                           kill Zeus; Zeus sends him to Tartarus),

                                                            Oresteia (Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, Iphigenia [sacrificed

                                                                           daughter], Aegisthus [lover], Orestes [son, kills mom and her lover],

                                                                           Electra [sister]),

                                                            Seven Against Thebes (Oedipus's son Polynices with help of Eriphyle

                                                                           and King Adrastus and Amphiaraus, who foresaw only Adrastus

                                                                           would survive, attack brother Eteocles for Theban throne; infant

                                                                           Opheltes died; Argives almost destroyed; horse Arion saved Adrastus;

                                                                           brothers killed each other),

                                                            The Suppliant Women (King Pelasgus of Argos protects Danaus and

                                                                           his 50 daughters from brother Aegyptus, usurper of Egyptian throne,

                                                                           from herald of Aegyptus who wants them to marry his 50 sons),


                                                            The Persians (Xerxes returns to mom Atossa in Susa after defeat)

                                             Sophocles -

                                                            Oedipus Rex (Thebes King Oedipus raised by King Polybus of Corith;

                                                                           warned by Delphi he would kill dad and marry mom; killed real dad

                                                                           Laius on road; saved Thebes by answering Sphinx's riddle; given

                                                                           Laius's widow Jocasta and throne by Creon; Delphi told Creon to cast

                                                                           Laius's murderer out, whom Tiresias says is Oedipus; Jocasta commits

                                                                           suicide; Oedipus blinds self)

                                                            Antigone (Antigone buries brother Polyneices aginst order of Creon

                                                                           who executes her; sister Ismene spared; Antigone, Haemon, and

                                                                           Creon's wife Eurydice commit suicide),

                                                            Electra (Electra recognizes brother Orestes, who murders mom

                                                                           Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus)

                                             Euripides -

                                                            The Cyclops,

                                                            Electra (Aegisthus makes Electra marry an old farmer; Orestes and

                                                                           Pylades murder Aegisthus and then Clytemnestra, who is portrayed as a

                                                                           victim unlike in Sophocles' Electra),


                                                            Orestes (Tyndareus, dad of Clytemnestra and Helen, convinces

                                                                           Menelaus to execute Electra and Orestes; Electra, Orestes, and friend

                                                                           Pylades go to Argive Assembly and plan to kill Helen and take her

                                                                           daughter Hermione; Apollo [deus ex machina] dictates that Orestes

                                                                           marry Hermione, Electra marry Pylades, and takes Helen to sky as

                                                                           beacon for sailors),

                                                            The Bacchants (King Pentheus of Thebes torn to pieces by mom Agave),

                                                            Medea (Jason, Medea),

                                                            The Phoenician Women (story of Seven Against Thebes; Creon's son

                                                                           Menoceus kills self to save city; Jocasta kills self; Antigone exiles self

                                                                           with dad Oedipus rather than marry Creon's son Haemon),

                                                            Iphigenia in Aulis (Agamemnon sacrifices daughter Iphigenia to get

                                                                           good winds in Aulis harbor),

                                                            Iphigenia in Tauris (Orestes and Pylades go to Tauris to rescue statue

                                                                           of Artemis, which Apollo said would cure Orestes' madness; high

                                                                           priestess Iphigenia recognizes brother and they escape with Athena's help),

                                                            Hecuba (Polyxena and Polydorus, the last 2 of Hecuba's 50 kids, are

                                                                           killed, and she takes revenge on Polymestor; Agamemnon decides

                                                                           against Polymestor),

                                                            The Suppliant Women (mothers of Seven Against Thebes ask Theseus

                                                                           to bury their sons),

                                                            Helen (Helen brought to Egypt and Paris abducts phantom like Helen;

                                                                           Menelaus realizes Trojan War was pointless),

                                                            The Children of Heracles (Eurystheus makes Heracles do 12 labors;

                                                                           Iolaus kills Eurystheus to free Heracles's children)

                                                            The Trojan Women (Priam's widow Hecuba and their son Hector's

                                                                           widow Andromache and mad Cassandra made slaves; Greeks sacrifice

                                                                           Hector's sister Polyxena to Achilles' ghost and throw his son Astyanax

                                                                           from walls; Helen persuades husband Menelaus not to kill her; play

                                                                           indicts Greeks for slaughter of Melos natives),

                                                            Alcestis (Alcestis dies in place of husband Admetus but rescued by Hercules)

                                             Aristophanes -


                                                            The Frogs (Dionysus, disguised as Heracles, goes to Hades with slave

                                                                           Xanthias to retrieve Euripides for drama festival but brings back

                                                                           Aeschylus instead),

                                                            The Clouds (farmer Strepsiades encourages son Pheidippides to enroll

                                                                           in Socrates' school the Thinkery, where he learns to evade creditors

                                                                           by shrewd arguments; mocks Sophists),

                                                            The Wasps (Bdelocleon persuades dad Philocleon, who loves to serve

                                                                           on juries, to hold trials at home; dog is tried for stealing cheese),

                                                            The Peace (farmer Trygaeus flies to Zeus on dung beetle and learns that

                                                                           goddess Peace has been hidden in a pit under stones by War; she is

                                                                           rescued by Greeks and they feast),



                                                            The Knights (political topics; attacks demagogue Cleon),

                                                            The Birds (Euelpides and Pithetaerus flee Athenian taxes and persuade

                                                                           birds to found Cloudcuckooland, keeping sacrifice smoke from

                                                                           reaching gods),

                                                            Lysistrata (Lysistrata persuades wives in Athens and Sparta to be

                                                                           celibate until end of Peloponnesian War)

                                             Menander - The Curmudgeon


                                             Herodotus - History (of the Persian Wars)

                                             Thucydides - History of the Peloponnesian War

                                             Xenophon - Anabasis, Memorabilia

                                             Timaeus - (history of Sicily, measured time by Olympiads)


                                             Antiphon - (earliest)

                                             Lysias - (wrote speech for Socrates's trial)




                                             Socrates - (Socratic paradox - knowledge is virtue, refined propositions,

                                                            syllogisms, viewed soul as combination of intelligence and character,

                                                            put to death)

                                             Plato - The Republic (defines justice; guardians, soldiers, and workers classes),

                                                            Phaedo (disciple of Socrates describes his death), Crito, Apology,

                                                            Phaedrus (Socrates and friend Phaedrus discuss conventional and true rhetoric

                                                            [based on dialectic]; simile of charioteer with black and white steeds), Theaetetus

                                                            (Athenian mathematician Theaetetus mortally wounded in Corinthian War),


                                             Aristotle - (tutored Alexander the Great) Poetics (says art has origins in

                                                            imitation; defines literary terms like tragedy, comedy, catharsis, hamartia,

                                                            deus ex machina), Corpus Aristotelicum, Ethics, Metaphysics, Rhetoric,

                                                            (biological works)

               The Hellenistic Period

                              Callimachus - (librarian at Alexandria and poet)

                              Theocritus (of Sicily) - Idylls

                              Bion of Smyrna - Lament for Adonis

                              Moschus (of Sicily) - Europa

               The Greco-Roman Period, 2nd Century BC - 4th Century AD

                              Polybius - (wrote about history of the Roman conquest, 146 BC)

                              Strabo - Geographica

                              Plutarch - Parallel Lives (translated by Thomas North)

                              Galen - (wrote about medicine)

                              Lucian - Dialogues of the Dead, Dialogues of the Gods, True History

                              Unknown - Ninos Romance (first known novel)

                              Chariton - Chaereas and Collirhoe

                              Heliodorus - Aethiapieca or Theagenes and Charialeia

                              Longus - Daphnis and Chloe (love story of children of a goatherd and a shepherd)

                              Xenophon of Ephesus - Ephesiaca or Anthia and Habrocaomes

                              Achilles Tatius - Leucippe and Clitophon

                              Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius - (Stoic writers)

                              Plotinus - (Neoplatonist writer)

                              Unknown - Greek Anthology (including Palatine and Planudean Anthologies and epigrams)


Latin Literature

               Early Period

                              Livius Andronicus Lucius - (Greek slave, translated Odyssey and Greek plays into Latin)

                              Gnaeus Naevius - (first native Roman writer, wrote comedies) Bellum Poenicum (about

                                             First Punic War)

                              Quintus Ennius - (invented Latin satire) Annales (about Rome's conquests)

                              Plautus - (wrote comedies)

                              Terence - (wrote comedies)

                              Cato the Elder - De Agri Cultura, (delivered oratories denouncing Carthage)

                              Gaius Lucilius - (wrote satire)

               Golden Age (1st Century BC)

                              Lucretius - De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)

                              Catullus - (wrote lyric poetry expressing love for Lesbia and his dead brother)

                              Vergil -

                                             Ecologues or Bucolics (10 pastoral poems including love song of Corydon,

                                                            Messianic Eclogue possibly prophesying Christ, death of shepherd Damon,

                                                            Song of Silenius, and Pharmaceutria),

                                             Georgies (about agriculture; bees of Aristaeus resurrected in corpse of sacrificed

                                                            bulls; tells Orpheus and Eurydice story),

                                             Aeneid (Trojan hero Aeneas founds Rome; loved by Dido of Carthage; visits

                                                            Anchises in underworld; steersman Palinurus first Trojan killed in Italy; marries

                                                            Lavinia; Nisus and Euryalus die trying to penetrate enemy lines; Mezentius and

                                                            Turnus slain by Aeneas)

                              Horace - (wrote odes)

                              Albius Tibullus - (love elegies)

                              Sulpicia - (only known Roman woman poet)

                              Sextus Propertius - (love elegies to Cynthia)

                              Ovid - Ars Amatoria (ironic handbook of love), Metamorphoses (collection of myths,

                                             including Daphne, Echo, Pygmalion and Galatea, Baucis and Philemon)

                              Cicero - (wrote political oratories including several denouncing Catiline and others about

                                             friendship and old age)

                              Gaius Julius Caesar - De Bello Gallica, De Bello Civili (about the Gallic and Civil Wars)

                              Livy - Ab Urbe Condita Libri (From the Founding of the City)

               Silver Age (1st Century AD)

                              Lucan - Pharsalia (about Roman Civil War)

                              Publius Papinius Statius - The Thebais

                              Seneca - (wrote tragedies, promoted Stoic philosophy, tutored Nero)

                              Phaedrus - (slave, translated Aesop)

                              Petronius Arbiter - Satyricon (about human excesses)

                              Juvenal - (great satirist)

                              Martial - (epigrams, some for Juvenal)

                              Petronius Arbiter - Satyricon (rogue Encolpius, friend Giton, and jealous Ascyltus

                                             wander in Rome; "Trimalchio's Feast" satirizes Nero)

               Second Century AD

                              Lucius Apuleius - The Golden Ass or Metamorphoses (narrated by Lucius; accidentally

                                             takes potion to make into an ass rather than an owl; wanders through Greece; restored

                                             as human by Isis)

               Third Century AD

                              Porphyry - Enneads (treatises about neo-Platonist Plotinus, friend of Emperor Gallienus)