Greek Literature

Greek Literature Greek literature consists of the writings composed in areas of Greek influence, throughout the period of existence of the Greek civilization.

Before 350 AD, it is called Ancient Greek literature and the writings of this period are authored in Ancient Greek. The first Ancient Greek writings in existence are the Homeric Epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. They were probably written around 800 BC. Other works of pre – Classical Greece (before the 5th century BC) are the “Works and Days” and the “Theogony” by Hesiod. During the Classical Period, literature flourished considerably, especially in Athens where the Golden Age had begun. Various genres were developed, such as lyrical poetry, odes, elegies, comedies, tragedies, histories, etc. The two most important lyric poets of the time were Sappho of Lesvos, and Pindar of Thebes, while this was the period of the three tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. In parallel, the development of comedy also had as a result the appearance of such great playwrights as Aristophanes and Menander. Great historians of the time were Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon, while among the greatest philosophers were Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

The second period of Greek literature is the Byzantine Period, which started around 290 AD and lasted until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Byzantine literature was written in Atticizing, Medieval and Early Modern Greek. A main characteristic of this period is the merging of Greek and Christian civilization through a Roman political system influenced by the Near East, and this is evident in the literary works. Byzantine literature has all four elements: the Greek, the Christian, the Roman and the Oriental, combining them splendidly in one.

The final period of Greek literature, the Modern Period, consists of literary works authored after 1453. The texts are written in Modern Greek; one of the best examples of the literature of this era is the Cretan Renaissance poem Erotokritos by Vitsentzos Kornaros, written around 1600. During the 18th century, Diafotismos, an ideological, philological and linguistic movement, tried to transfer the ideas and thoughts of European Enlightenment to Greece; most notable figures in this effort were Adamantios Korais and Rigas Feraios. Contemporary literature has also shown a large number of masterpieces, written by numerous writers and poets. Some of them are Dionysios Solomos, Angelos Sikelianos, Kostis Palamas, Alexandros Papadiamantis, Nikos Kazantzakis, Kostas Karyotakis, Constantine P. Cavafy, and many others; it should also be mentioned that two Greek poets, George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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