What Are Characteristics of Greek Literature?

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Greek literature is characterized by its groundbreaking genres, ranging from poetry to drama, and its strict forms of meter. Greek literature includes the development of epic poems, lyrical poems, comedic dramas, tragedies, philosophies and historical writings. The genres often dealt with political issues, gods and historical legends of wars and warriors.

The Western literary tradition began with Greek literature. Epic poetry and many of the plays written by Greeks captured their oral history and legendary characters. Epic poetry, known for its long narratives, was rooted in war ballads. Homer popularized epic poetry with his poems “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” Hesiod was another popular composer of epic poetry. Sappho and Pindar are poets who perfected lyric poetry.

Ancient Greek dramas looked very different than the Greek dramas of today, as giant masks were used to project the actors’ voices and display the character’s emotions. Three famous playwrights in Ancient Greece were Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. Sophocles is known for “Oedipus Rex” and “Antigone” as well as for introducing irony as a literary technique in drama. Aeschylus is credited with developing the art of characters and dialogue. Euripides is known for challenging social norms through his dramas and really utilizing female characters. The philosophical writing of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates have remained influential throughout history.