Ancient Greek Literature

Ancient Greek Literature

Ancient Greek Literature

Ancient Greek Literature


This historical survey of Greek literature from 700 BC to 550 AD concentrates on the principal authors and quotes many passages from their work in translation, to allow the reader to form his own impression of its quality, including Homer, Plato, Aristophanes, and Euripides. Attention is drawn both to the elements in Greek literature and attitudes to life which are unfamiliar to us, and to the elements which appeal most powerfully to succeeding generations. Although it is recognized that this appeal lies above all in the most creative and inventive period (700-300 BC), an account is given of the eight hundred years which followed, which saw the impact of earlier inspirations. Poetry, tragedy, comedy, history, science, philosophy, and oratory are all examined through the available literature. This new edition has been revised to take account of recent scholarship, such as the influence of oriental traditions of Greek literature, and includes several new translations and a thoroughly updated bibliography.


Since the publication of Sir Maurice Bowra Ancient Greek Literature in 1933, the quantity of Greek literature available to us has been significantly increased by new finds, particular in respect of lyric poetry and comedy. The activity of scholars in posing new questions and adducing new considerations in order to answer them has brought about some substantial changes in the generally accepted view even of Greek authors who have been studied for a long time. These facts would have justified a revised edition of Bowra's book, but it was decided to replace it by a book of a different kind, in which illustrative quotation from Greek literature would play a much larger part and more account would be taken of the literature of later periods.

Each of us has read and criticized the chapters drafted by the others and has revised his own chapters in the light of criticisms received from them. We do not agree about everything all the time, and none of us should be held responsible for any statement or judgement in a chapter which does not bear his name. Except where otherwise indicated, the writer of each chapter has himself translated the passages which he quotes.

E.L.B. K.J.D. J.G. M.L.W.

Preface to Second Edition (1997)

A number of passages (pp. 14, 25, 26-8, 34, 36, 40, 43-4, 106, 120, 138, 145, 148) have been rewritten in the light of new discoveries and fresh considerations, and some minor corrections made elsewhere. The list of works for Further Reading has been brought up to date.

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