Classical Writers Directory

Ancient Greek and Roman Writers Developed the Genres We Know as Literature

So-called Sappho Fresco From Pompeii, c. 50 A.D.
So-called Sappho Fresco From Pompeii, c. 50 A.D. The woman wears a gold hairnet and holds a stylus and wax tablet. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Classical Literature in English Translation | Index of Classical Authors

Genres and Literary Terminology: Philosophy | Epic | Epigrams | Old Comedy | Roman Drama | Satire | Epistle | Terminology for Tragedy | Tragedy | Meter in Greek and Latin Poetry

At some point in our prehistory people started telling stories to one another. Later, stories were composed in forms that others could repeat. Story-telling is easy to envision as the origin of some forms of literature, especially bardic ballads, novels, and plays. Even philosophy is an attempt to explain a story or truth about the world. Here is a quick look at how the genres of Greek and Latin literature evolved and many of the major contributors to the genres -- at least those whose works survive.

After a quick review of the genres you'll find an alphabetical list of the Greek and then the Roman writers.

Philosophy

Ancient thinkers wrote verse about what they observed in nature. Did that make them scientists? poets? Yes, but they are generally referred to as Presocratic Philosophers.

Many aspects of culture were still without distinct form at this time, which was during the Archaic Age of Ancient Greece.

Drama / Plays

The origin of drama is mired in legend, but to the best of our information, drama seems to have arisen as part of religious worship. Today we divide plays into the categories of comedy and tragedy.

  • Tragedy
    The word tragedy appears to come from the words for 'goat' and 'song' or 'ode'.
  • Chorus
    The first element in Greek tragedy was the chorus, which danced and sang poetry created by the dramatist at the religious festivals.
  • Actors
    Actors came later, with the great tragedians.
  • Comedy
    Comedy seems to have come from phallic processions followed by sacrifices, but we don't know. Its etymology appears to come from komos (connected with revels), plus the word for 'song'.

    Poetry

    • Epic Poetry
      The man​ who is credited with creating the epics we know of as the Iliad and Odyssey, (whom we refer to as Homer) was a rhapsode, a person who accompanied his improvised performances with a musical instrument. Epic poetry came to be distinguished by its distinct (epic) meter.
    • Lyric Poetry
      Lyric poetry, developed according to legend, by Terpander, was poetry accompanied by a lyre.
    • Epigrams
      Epigrams were composed for funerals. It was an epigrammatist, Mimnermus of Smyrna, who is credited with developing the elegiac meter that was used for love poetry (elegies).

    Prose

    • History
      History, as developed by Herodotus, was a (prose) story about whatever Herodotus set his inquiring mind to.
      Ancient Historians Timeline
    • Satire
      In ancient Rome, satire was a recognized and somewhat defined literary verse genre. It was the only genre the Romans claimed as their own invention. Some early novels fell within the genre of (Menippean) satire.
    • Epistle (main Roman writers)
      Epistles are linked with Satire, as in the work of Horace, but some epistle writers used the letter for for actual correspondence, so the style is quite varied.

    Here you will find some resources on this site related to Classical writers and the genres of Classical literature, specifically, timelines of the major Greek and Roman authors, articles about the writers and their genres that are on this site, and links to some of their writing, mostly in English.

    Timelines

    Women Writers

    Enheduanna (An Akkadian) | Korinna | Moero | Nossis | Sappho | Sulpicia

    Greek and Roman Writers of Drama - Comedy and Tragedy

    Aristophanes | Aeschylus | Euripides | Plautus | Seneca | Sophocles | Terence

    Roman Satire

    Verse Satire: Ennius | Horace | Juvenal | Persius | Petronius
    Satire Timeline | Atellan Farce | Fescennine Verse | Menippean Satire

    Classical Greek and Roman Writers ...
    and some of their works mostly translated into English

    Greek Classical Writers

    A

    Aeschylus | Aeschylus Plays in English | Aeschylus Resources
    Aesop Biography | Fables of Aesop
    Alcaeus
    Anacreon
    Anyte
    Archilochus
    Aristophanes | About the Individual Plays of Aristophanes | Aristophanes Plays in English
    Aristotle | Aristotle Texts in English

    B

    Bacchylides

    D

    Demosthenes | Demosthenes in English
    Dio (Cassius Dio)

    E

    Euripides | Euripides in English

    H

    Hecataeus
    Herodotus | Herodotus in English
    Hesiod | Hesiod in English
    Hippocrates | Hippocrates in English
    Homer | Homer in English

    I

    Isocrates in English

    K

    Korinna

    L

    Lysias | Lysias in English

    M

    Moero

    N

    Nossis

    P

    Pindar
    Plato | Plato in English
    Presocratic Philosophers
    Plutarch | Plutarch in English

    S

    Sappho
    Semonides of Amorgas
    Sophocles | Tragedies of Sophocles in English
    Strabo in English

    T

    Terpander
    Thales
    Theognis
    Theophrastus
    Thucydides | Thucydides in English translation

    Xenophon | Xenophon in English

    Z

    Roman Classical Writers (Latin)

    Also see: A History of Roman Literature: From the Earliest Period to the Death of Marcus Aurelius, by Charles Thomas Cruttwell (1877)

    A

    Abelard - Text in Latin
    Alcuin Texts in Latin
    Ammianus Marcellinus Texts in Latin
    Apuleius | Apuleius in English
    Aurelius, Marcus | Texts in English
    Aurelius Victor Texts in Latin

    B

    Bede English translation of Latin
    Boethius - Text in Latin and Translation into English

    C

    Caesar Civil and Gallic Wars in English
    Cassiodorus - Text in English
    Cato | Cato in English
    Catullus​
    Cicero | Cicero texts in Latin
    Claudian in Latin

    D

    Donatus

    E

    Ennius | Ennius in Latin
    Epictetus | Epictetus in English

    H

    Horace | Horace in English

    J

    Julian | Julian in English
    Juvenal

    L

    Livius Andronicus | Livy
    Lucan | Lucan in English

    M

    Martial

    N

    Naevius

    O

    Ovid

    P

    Pacuvius | Persius
    Petronius | Petronius in English
    Plautus
    Pliny the Elder | Pliny in English
    Pliny the Younger | Pliny in English
    Propertius

    Q

    Quintilian

    S

    Sallust
    Seneca
    Statius
    Sulpicia

    T

    Tacitus | Tacitus in English
    Tertullian
    Tibullus

    V

    Varro
    Velleius Paterculus
    Vergil (Virgil) | Vergil in English

    See: Online Texts in English Translation
    (Index of Authors and Translated E-texts)

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    Your Citation
    Gill, N.S. "Classical Writers Directory." ThoughtCo, Jul. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/classical-writers-directory-119648. Gill, N.S. (2017, July 4). Classical Writers Directory. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/classical-writers-directory-119648 Gill, N.S. "Classical Writers Directory." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/classical-writers-directory-119648 (accessed April 24, 2018).