Classical Literature

Classic literature

Classic literature is timeless and well-written. Great masterpieces of Greek, Roman, and other ancient civilizations, like the works of Homer, Ovid, and Sophocles are all examples of classical literature. The term isn’t just limited to novels. It can also include epic, lyric, tragedy, comedy, pastoral, and other forms of writing.

Read about the history of literature here!

What is the characteristic of the classical literature?

Classic novels tend to deal with universal themes. Whether it’s the eternal struggle of good vs. evil, the inevitability of death, or the corruptible nature of power, a classic novel should attempt to examine some enduring, immutable truth about the way humans behave.

What is the difference between classic and classical literature?

A work of classical literature refers only to ancient Greek and Roman works, while classics are great works of literature throughout the ages.

classic books to read

1. Oedipus Rex by Sophocles*

This most famous Greek tragedy is based on a Greek myth about Oedipus, the king who killed his father and married his mother. It is a dark story but rich with its themes of fate, blindness, and family. The play is the second in the account of the Oedipus’s life.

2. Antigone by Sophocles

A Greek tragedy written around 441 BC, this play is the last in the series about Oedipus and covers the story of Antigone, a young woman who puts her fealty to her brother over everything else.

Oedipus as an old man.

3. The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides

The ancient world was fraught with wars and battles and one of the most significant was the Peloponnesian War. It defined the Greek Age and her famous city-states, changing the future of this magnificent culture.

4. Histories by Herodotus

Almost every culture and country has its records of its past. Herodotus’ account of ancient Greece, Western Asia, and North Africa is one of the most important in literature and history.

Check out Idioms from Greek Mythology here!

5. Plutarch’s Lives by Plutarch

Like Herodotus, Plutarch is considered incredibly important to historians and writers. His account of famous Greek and Roman men have influenced authors and historians for thousands of years. Some of these men include Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Demosthenes, Cicero, and Theseus.

6. The Poetics by Aristotle

Aristotle was Plato’s student and one of the most important philosophers in the world. This work describes Greek dramatic theory and and a philosophical treatise on literary theory. It is also the oldest surviving piece of work in this genre.

7. The Republic by Plato

Plato is the second of the three most famous Greek philosophers and studied under Socrates. His work, The Republic, is a Socratic dialogue explaining philosophic works, political theory, and the concept of justice.

8. The Iliad by Homer*

The story of the final year of the Trojan War, the Iliad is one of the greatest of the epic poems. Its cast is filled with giants of literature and mythology such as Agamemnon, Odysseus, Athena, Achilles, and Zeus. This is a poem everyone should read at some point in their lives.

There is some intense violence throughout the story that may be overwhelming for younger teenagers.

9. The Aeneid by Virgil

Often read alongside the Iliad and the Odyssey, Virgil’s epic poem describes the mythological beginning of the Roman culture and the adventures of Aeneas, founder of Rome.

10. The Epic of Gilgamesh**

The author unknown, this is the earliest piece of literature known to mankind. It is the Babylonian account of how their gods and goddesses created the world the Babylonian culture.

There is one scene in particular that is pretty sexually explicit and you may want to censor for your students.

11. Metamorphoses by Ovid**

An epic Latin poem, Ovid describes the history of the world from its creation all the way to Julius Caesar. He weaves mythology and and history together into a beautiful piece of literature that has influenced authors like Dante, Chaucer, and Shakespeare.

Like The Epic of Gilgamesh, this poem contains sexual scenes that may be disturbing to younger teenagers.

12. Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis takes the famous Greek myth, Cupid and Psyche, and rewrites it into the story of two sisters living in ancient Greece. Lewis considered it his most mature piece of fiction.

13. The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser

This is an epic English poem about six key virtues embodied in different characters such as the Redcrosse Knight, Sir Guyon, and a female knight named Britomart. Arthurian legend is woven throughout this fantastic poem.

14. Paradise Lost by John Milton

John Milton wrote this English epic poem in 1667 about the serpent’s conversation with Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan almost seems to be the protagonist in the story, something that has sparked controversy for hundreds of years.

Read about English Literature here!

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