Top 10 Features of Greek Literature

The Classical Greek literature Is considered one of the oldest and most important in the Western world.

This is so because his writers created masterpieces such as epic poems, lyrics, comic dramas, tragedies, philosophies and historical writings.

Features Greek literature.  Classic greek monuments

In addition, in terms of themes, genres often dealt with political issues, historical legends of wars and warriors, gods.

From the beginning, the authors not only lived in Greece, but also in Asia Minor, Magna Grecia (Sicily and southern Italy), and the Aegean Islands.

After the conquests of Alexander the Great and the Byzantine Empire, Greek became the common language of the Eastern Mediterranean lands.

Likewise, all the Greek works helped to create an important literary tradition that reaches to our days. For this reason I leave ten characteristics that define this literature:

Characteristics of classical Greek literature

1- Use of rhetoric and oratory

In few societies the power of fluid and persuasive language has been more valued than in Greece. In the use of language, people did not raise or lower their voices.

In this sense, the Greeks spoke with a very loud voice and used real words that expressed sarcasm, interest, love, skepticism and hostility.

Emotion markers have been preserved, especially in the emotional attitude of the speaker / writer. Traits that have been inherited in current discourses.

Later this type of oratory provided a great incentive to study and instruct in the arts of government persuasion, especially in political debates in the assembly, and for attack and defense in the courts. In fact, The most important speakers in history Took their techniques from the ancient Greek.

2- Importance of emotion and affection

Ancient Greek literature exhibited a great deal of emotion, whether in the behavior of the characters in the narrative or in the response provoked in the audience or the readers. Moreover, there was an extensive vocabulary of emotions in ancient Greece.

These emotions are: pity (compassion), anger, fear, love and jealousy. In addition, it was based on a set of affective capacities, such as empathy , Aggression, cowardice, and attachment; Emotions common to all human beings.

3- Use the epic narrative

The Iliad and the Odyssey are prime examples of the epic narrative, which in antiquity was a long narrative poem, in an elevated style that celebrated achievements. Both poems were based on plots that trap the reader, and the story is told in a language that is simple and direct, but eloquent.

They were oral poems were transmitted, developed and added in a vast period of time, on which freely improvised poets without names.

4- Includes lyric poetry

Lyrical poetry, characteristic of Greek literature, was mainly related to the worship of the gods or to the celebration of the victors in the great Hellenic games.

The lyrical coral, which had accompaniments of lira and aulos, was very complicated in its structure since it did not use traditional lines or stanzas.

Thus, it was never reused in exactly the same way, although the metric units from which the stanzas were constructed were drawn from a common collection. The shape of the stanza was usually related to the dance that accompanied it.

5. Use philosophical prose

Philosophical prose is considered the greatest literary achievement of the fourth century. He was influenced by Socrates and his characteristic method of teaching led to dialogue. His greatest exponent was Plato.

In fact, the style of this author is considered a beauty without equal, although the old critics saw it too poetic. Their works Have also influenced posterity.

6- Presence of a human divinity

The ancient Greeks developed a religious understanding of the world based on divine presences and traditional histories.

The first important and most frequently observed feature of the Greek gods was their human form. Unlike other religions, the Greeks did not give prominence in their religious hierarchy to strange monsters, animals or imaginary creatures (although there are some in Greek mythology, but they are clearly smaller).

Thus, the Greek gods were included within a vast family of deities just as it happened in the family of the Greeks. Hence, in the Greek religious imagination, the highest and most perfect manifestations of existence had forms and attributes exactly like those of their human worshipers.

In fact, except for their power, beauty, and immortality, the Greek gods were exactly like human beings in their way of looking, feeling or loving.

7- Inclusion of drama and tragedy

Tragedy is a form of drama in which a strong central character or hero finally fails and is punished by the gods.

Generally, in Greek tragedy the hero has a fatal flaw that causes his doom. Often the tragic facts were committed involuntarily, as the episode in which Oedipus kills his father without knowing it. Although others were made aware, as when Oreste revenges his father to kill him.

For many years, Aeschylus was the most successful playwright in Athens winning several competitions. One of his rivals, the Athenian writer Sophocles wrote the famous work Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the King).

A third important writer named Euripides focused more on people than the gods on his writing. Among Euripides' most famous works are Electra Y The Trojan Woman .

8- Emergence of comedy

The word comedy seems to be connected by the derivation of the Greek verb that means"to delight", which arose from the delights associated with the rites of Dionysius, a god of the vegetation.

Aristotle, in his poetics, affirmed that comedy originated in phallic songs and that, like tragedy, began in improvisation, although the progress of this went unnoticed.

When tragedy and comedy arose, the poets wrote one or the other, according to their natural inclination.

The distinction between tragedy and comedy is basic: tragedy imitates men who are better than average men and comedy to those who are worse.

The purpose of the comic artist was to serve as a mirror to society to show him his follies and vices, in the hope that they would wake up.

The most important writer of comedies in ancient Greece was Aristophanes, whose works included The Frogs Y Clouds . His works were witty and sarcastic. He often mocked the leading political figures of the day, although the government tolerated it.

9- Use of Greek Mythology

The Greek myth attempts to explain the origins of the world, also detail the lives and adventures of a wide variety of gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines and mythological creatures.

These mythological accounts were initially disseminated in an oral-poetic tradition. The oldest Greek literary sources are the epic poems of Homer, Iliad Y Odyssey , Which focus on the Trojan War and its aftermath.

The poems Theogony and the Works and Days , Contain accounts of the genesis of the world, the succession of divine rulers, the succession of human ages or the origin of human evils.

10- Originality

This literature was developed with little outside influence, and among all the literary expressions the Greek is characterized and stands out for the great originality of the texts and genres.

The originality of Greek literature is due to the great leap that his writings gave in creating a rupture with the past.

The proof of this singularity is that Greek literature has managed to last until the days and is usually taken as referent to understand even the current literature.


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  5. Cyrus Henry (2012). Comedy. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from:

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