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


                                                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


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


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


                                                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


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 Cul.tura, (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)