In the west, literature began at the southern Mesopotamia area of Sumer (c. 3200) in the city of Uruk and thrived in Egypt, subsequently in Greece (where the written word was introduced from the Phoenicians), and finally in Rome. Literature as we know it today emerged in the ancient world primarily through the efforts of Greeks and Romans.
Classical literature is defined as that which was produced between the years approximately 752 BC and AD 1492. It consisted of poetry (including oratory, epistle, hymn, and drama) and prose (including annals, biographies, histories, journals, letters, manuals, novels, plays, poems, and stories). The earliest known writings are Sumerian cuneiform tablets dating back to about 3500 BC, but even these early works were not strictly speaking literature; they were accounts of real events or descriptions of tools. Only when these early documents begin to address spiritual issues does their status as literature become clear.
In the western world, literature is often considered to be an art for art's sake - something done simply because you can. But the ancients saw things differently, believing that true art was meant to improve people's lives by encouraging them with the power of storytelling. This idea comes directly from Prometheus, who taught humans how to write down their thoughts and dreams so they could be remembered forever.
If only written works are considered, literature was created by some of the world's earliest civilizations—Ancient Egypt and Sumeria—as early as the 4th millennium BC; if spoken or sung texts are considered, it originated even earlier, and some of the first written works may have been based on a pre-existing...
Literature is defined as "the writing done for entertainment or education," but that definition implies that there must be something written for these purposes. Ancient Egyptian writings include diaries, records of victories, and instructions for government officials; Sumerian stories include accounts of myths and legends. However, neither group of writers would have called their work by this term.
Written works began to appear in greater numbers after about 1000 BC, when people started to write down what they knew instead of trying to remember it. Before then, all knowledge was passed on orally from writer to reader, so everything we know now about ancient cultures comes from archaeology and comparative mythology. The invention of writing allowed for more complex ideas and discussions than ever before, which is why many believe it is one of the most important inventions in the history of civilization.
In today's world, countries with free universities or museums are likely to have produced many famous writers, because everyone can take part in the process of creating knowledge. This isn't always the case, however: many dictatorships suppress freedom of speech and prevent critics and activists from publishing articles or singing songs.
The first forms of written literature, like the wheel, towns, and legal codes, appear to have arisen in ancient Mesopotamia. Around 3400 B.C., the Sumerian civilisation began writing by making marks on clay tablets in a system known as cuneiform. These markings could be words or phrases, but sometimes also included drawings or pictures. It is from this origin that literature as we know it today has grown.
In ancient Greece, poets and writers were called "grammarians" because they studied the rules of language construction. The first known writer in Europe was Homer, who lived around 750 B.C. He was followed by many more poets and authors who wrote about their experiences and observations. A few of these men and women (such as Herodotus, Plato, and Aristotle) are now considered some of the most important thinkers of all time.
For much of history, literacy was limited to an elite class of people that included monks, priests, lawyers, politicians, and teachers. It was not until the 17th century that books became available to the public at large. Printing press technology had been invented several times before it was finally brought together into one device by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450. His invention allowed for mass-produced books to be sold for the first time.
During the primordial eras, two forms of literature were established and produced: Greek literature and Latin literature. The Greeks invented many techniques for writing that were later used by other cultures as well.
Greek literature consists of poems, plays, novels, and essays. It began with the storytelling abilities of ancient people who sang and danced to entertain themselves and their friends. This form of entertainment is called "epic poetry." Epic poems are long (usually over 10,000 words) narratives about famous or mythical people and events before they existed or after they died. For example, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are epic poems about the wars between the Greeks and the Trojans. They date from around 800 B.C. in Greece.
Another type of Greek literature that developed early on was comedy. Comedy is a genre of theatre that uses humor rather than violence to get laughs from an audience. It usually involves characters talking about their problems in front of a crowd at a festival or theater show. Aristophanes is one famous comic poet from Athens who wrote dramas that often include scenes where characters talk about their problems.
Another important aspect of Greek literature is its use of poetry.