The Info List - Ancient Literature

This article presents a list of the historical events and publications of literature during ancient times. The history of literature begins with the invention of writing, in Bronze Age
Bronze Age
and Ancient Egypt. Writing
developed out of proto-literate sign systems in the 30th century BC, although the oldest known literary texts date from the 27th or 26th century BC. Literature from the Iron Age
Iron Age
includes the earliest texts that have been preserved in a manuscript tradition (as opposed to texts that have been recovered by archaeologists), including the Indian Vedas (see Vedic
period), the earliest literature from Ancient India, parts of the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
(the Old Testament; cf. dating the Bible), and the Avestan Gathas (see date of Zoroaster). Classical Antiquity
Classical Antiquity
in the Mediterranean is generally considered to begin with Homer
in the 8th century BC, and it continues until the decline of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. Although the earliest Classics
were in ancient Greek, from the 3rd century BC, Greek literature
Greek literature
was joined by Latin literature. Equally ancient is Classical Indian literature. This is generally divided into two canons: Sanskrit
literature, which began with the grammarian Pāṇini
and reached its golden age under the rule of the Gupta empire, and Classical Tamil literature
Tamil literature
which began with the works of Agastya. Chinese classics in China refers to any pre-Qin Dynasty literature. In Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
the beginnings of classical Syriac and Middle Persian literature emerge. The following is a chronological list of literary works up until the 5th century AD. Literature of the 6th to 9th centuries is covered in Early medieval literature. For a list of the earliest testimony in each language, see list of languages by first written accounts.


1 List of ancient texts

1.1 Bronze Age 1.2 Iron Age 1.3 Classical Antiquity 1.4 Late Antiquity

2 See also 3 References

List of ancient texts[edit] Bronze Age[edit]

See also: Sumerian literature, Akkadian literature, Ancient Egyptian literature, Hittite texts, Vedic

Early Bronze Age: 3rd millennium BC (approximate dates shown). The earliest written literature dates from about 2600 BC (classical Sumerian).[1] The earliest literary author known by name is Enheduanna, dating to ca. the 24th century BC. Certain literary texts are difficult to date, such as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which was recorded in the Papyrus of Ani
Papyrus of Ani
around 1240 BC, but other versions of the book probably date from about the 18th century BC.

2600 Sumerian texts from Abu Salabikh, including the Instructions of Shuruppak and the Kesh temple hymn 2400 Egyptian Pyramid Texts, including the Cannibal Hymn 2400 Sumerian Code of Urukagina[2] 2400 Egyptian Palermo stone 2350 Egyptian The Maxims of Ptahhotep 2270 Sumerian Enheduanna's Hymns 2250-2000 Sumerian Earliest stories in the Epic of Gilgamesh[3][4] 2100 Sumerian Curse of Agade 2100 Sumerian Debate between Bird and Fish 2050 Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu 2000 Egyptian Coffin Texts 2000 Sumerian Lament for Ur 2000 Sumerian Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta

Middle Bronze Age: ca. 2000 to 1600 BC (approximate dates shown)

2000-1900 Egyptian Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor[5] 1950 Akkadian Laws of Eshnunna 1900 Akkadian Legend of Etana[6] 1900 Sumerian Code of Lipit-Ishtar 1900 Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh 1859-1840 Egyptian The Eloquent Peasant[5] 1859-1840 Egyptian Story of Sinuhe
Story of Sinuhe
(in Hieratic)[5] 1859-1840 Egyptian Dispute between a man and his Ba[5] 1859-1813 Egyptian Loyalist Teaching[5] 1850 Akkadian Kultepe texts 1800 Sumerian Eridu Genesis 1800 Akkadian Enûma Eliš 1800 Akkadian Atra-Hasis
epic 1780 Akkadian Code of Hammurabi
Code of Hammurabi
stele 1780 Akkadian Mari letters, including the Epic of Zimri-Lim 1750 Hittite Anitta
text 1700 Egyptian Westcar Papyrus 1650 Egyptian Ipuwer Papyrus

Late Bronze Age: ca. 1600 to 1200 BC (approximate dates shown)

1700-1100 Vedic
Sanskrit: approximate date of the composition of the Rigveda. Many of these were not set to writing until later.[7] 1600 Hittite Code of the Nesilim 1500 Akkadian Poor Man of Nippur[8] 1500 Hittite military oath 1550 Egyptian Book of the Dead 1500 Akkadian Dynasty of Dunnum[9] 1400 Akkadian Marriage of Nergal
and Ereshkigal 1400 Akkadian Autobiography of Kurigalzu 1400 Akkadian Amarna letters 1330 Egyptian Great Hymn to the Aten 1240 Egyptian Papyrus of Ani, Book of the Dead 1200-900 Akkadian version and younger stories in the Epic of Gilgamesh[3] 1200 Akkadian Tukulti-Ninurta Epic 1200 Egyptian Tale of Two Brothers[10]

Iron Age[edit]

See also Sanskrit
literature, Chinese literature

Iron Age
Iron Age
texts predating Classical Antiquity: 12th to 8th centuries BC

1200-1100 BC approximate date of books RV 1 and RV 10 in the Rigveda 1200-800 BC approximate date of the Vedic Sanskrit Yajurveda, Atharvaveda, Samaveda 1100-800 BC date of the redaction of the extant text of the Rigveda 1050 BC Egyptian Story of Wenamun 1050 BC Akkadian Sakikkū (SA.GIG) “Diagnostic Omens” by Esagil-kin-apli.[11] 1050 BC The Babylonian Theodicy of Šaggil-kīnam-ubbib.[11] 1000-600 BC Chinese Classic of Poetry (Shījīng), Classic of Documents (Shūjīng) (authentic portions), Classic of Changes (I Ching) 950 BC date of the Jahwist portions of the Torah
according to the documentary hypothesis 900 BC Akkadian Epic of Erra 850 BC date of the Elohist portions of the Torah
according to the documentary hypothesis

Classical Antiquity[edit]

See also Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
literature, Syriac literature, Latin literature, Indian literature, Ancient Hebrew writings, Avesta See also: centuries in poetry: 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

8th century BC

Greek Trojan War cycle, including the Iliad
and the Odyssey 800-500 BC: Vedic Sanskrit Brahmanas Oldest non-Pentateuchal books of the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
(the Book of Nahum, Book of Hosea, Book of Amos, Book of Isaiah) see Carbon dating the Dead Sea Scrolls

7th century BC




Hesiod: The Theogony
and Works and Days Archilochus Alcman Semonides of Amorgos Solon Mimnermus Stesichorus

6th century BC

Hebrew Bible: Psalms[citation needed] (according to late dating) Book of Ezekiel, Book of Daniel
Book of Daniel
(according to conservative or early dating) Chinese: Sun Tzu: The Art of War
The Art of War
(Sūnzǐ Bīngfǎ) Vedic

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Chandogya Upanishad


Sappho Ibycus Alcaeus of Mytilene Aesop's Fables

5th century BC


Aitareya Upanishad Taittiriya Upanishad Kenopanishad

Avestan: Yasht Chinese:

Spring and Autumn Annals
Spring and Autumn Annals
(Chūnqiū) (722–481 BC, chronicles of the state of Lu) Confucius: Analects
(Lúnyǔ) Classic of Rites (Lǐjì) Commentaries of Zuo (Zuǒzhuàn)


Pindar: Odes Herodotus: The Histories of Herodotus Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian War Aeschylus: The Suppliants, The Persians, Seven Against Thebes, Oresteia Sophocles: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Electra and other plays Euripides: Alcestis, Medea, Heracleidae, Hippolytus, Andromache, Hecuba, The Suppliants, Electra, Heracles, Trojan Women, Iphigeneia in Tauris, Ion, Helen, Phoenician Women, Orestes, Bacchae, Iphigeneia at Aulis, Cyclops, Rhesus Aristophanes: The Acharnians, The Knights, The Clouds, The Wasps, Peace, The Birds, Lysistrata, Thesmophoriazusae, The Frogs, Ecclesiazousae, Plutus

Hebrew: date of the extant text of the Torah

4th century BC


Ishopanishad Katha Upanishad Prashnopanishad Mundaka Upanishad Māṇḍūkya

Hebrew: Book of Job, beginning of Hebrew wisdom literature Hebrew Torah, also called the Pentateuch
or Five Books of Moses[12][13][14][15][16] with a final redaction between 900-450 BC.[17][18] Some give an alternate date of 1320-1280.[19] Chinese:

(or Lao Tzu): Tao Te Ching Zhuangzi: Zhuangzi (book) Mencius: Mencius


Xenophon: Anabasis, Cyropaedia Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics, Metaphysics Plato: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Theaetetus, Parmenides, Symposium, Phaedrus, Protagoras, Gorgias, Meno, Menexenus, Republic, Timaeus Euclid: Elements Menander: Dyskolos Theophrastus: Enquiry into Plants

3rd century BC

Avestan: Avesta Etruscan: Liber Linteus Zagrabiensis
Liber Linteus Zagrabiensis
(Linen Book of Zagreb) Sanskrit:

Epics: Mahabharata
and Ramayana
(3rd century BC to 4th century AD) Khaḍgaviṣāna Sūkta (Buddhist) Aṣṭaka Varga (Buddhist) Pārāyana Varga (Buddhist)


3rd century BC to 3rd century AD: Sangam poems Tolkāppiyam (grammar book)

Hebrew: Ecclesiastes Greek:

Apollonius of Rhodes: Argonautica Callimachus
(310/305-240 B.C.), lyric poet Manetho: Aegyptiaca Theocritus, lyric poet


Lucius Livius Andronicus
Livius Andronicus
(c. 280/260 BC — c. 200 BC), translator, founder of Roman drama Gnaeus Naevius
Gnaeus Naevius
(ca. 264 — 201 BC), dramatist, epic poet Titus Maccius Plautus
(c. 254 — 184 BC), dramatist, composer of comedies: Poenulus, Miles Gloriosus, and other plays Quintus Fabius Pictor (3rd century BC), historian Lucius Cincius Alimentus (3rd century BC), military historian and antiquarian

2nd century BC

Avestan: Vendidad Chinese: Sima Qian: Records of the Grand Historian
Records of the Grand Historian
(Shǐjì) Aramaic: Book of Daniel Hebrew: Sirach Greek

Polybius: The Histories Book of Wisdom Septuagint


(195/185 BC — 159 BC), comic dramatist: The Brothers, The Girl from Andros, Eunuchus, The Self-Tormentor Quintus Ennius
(239 BC — c. 169 BC), poet Marcus Pacuvius (ca. 220 BC — 130 BC), tragic dramatist, poet Statius Caecilius (220 BC — 168/166 BC), comic dramatist Marcius Porcius Cato (234 BC — 149 BC), generalist, topical writer Gaius Acilius (2nd century BC), historian Lucius Accius (170 BC — c. 86 BC), tragic dramatist, philologist Gaius Lucilius (c. 160's BC — 103/2 BC), satirist Quintus Lutatius Catulus (2nd century BC), public officer, epigrammatist Aulus Furius Antias (2nd century BC), poet Gaius Julius Caesar Strabo Vopiscus (130 BC — 87 BC), public officer, tragic dramatist Lucius Pomponius Bononiensis (2nd century BC), comic dramatist, satirist Lucius Cassius Hemina (2nd century BC), historian Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi (2nd century BC), historian Manius Manilius (2nd century BC), public officer, jurist Lucius Coelius Antipater (2nd century BC), jurist, historian Publius Sempronius Asellio (158 BC — after 91 BC), military officer, historian Gaius Sempronius Tuditanus (2nd century BC), jurist Lucius Afranius (2nd & 1st centuries BC), comic dramatist Titus Albucius (2nd & 1st centuries BC), orator Publius Rutilius Rufus (158 BC — after 78 BC), jurist Quintus Lutatius Catulus (2nd & 1st centuries BC), public officer, poet Lucius Aelius Stilo Praeconinus (154 BC — 74 BC), philologist Quintus Claudius Quadrigarius (2nd & 1st centuries BC), historian Valerius Antias
Valerius Antias
(2nd & 1st centuries BC), historian Lucius Cornelius Sisenna (121 BC — 67 BC), soldier, historian Quintus Cornificius (2nd & 1st centuries BC), rhetorician

1st century BC

Pali: Tipitaka Latin:

Cicero: Catiline Orations, Pro Caelio, Dream of Scipio Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars Virgil: Eclogues, Georgics
and Aeneid Lucretius: On the Nature of Things Livy: Ab Urbe Condita (History of Rome)

See also: Pahlavi literature, centuries in poetry: 1st, 2nd and 3rd 1st century AD

Chinese: Ban Gu: Book of Han
Book of Han
(Hànshū) Greek:

Plutarch: Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans Josephus: The Jewish War, Antiquities of the Jews, Against Apion The books of the New Testament

Latin: see Classical Latin

Tacitus: Germania Ovid: Metamorphoses Pliny the Elder: Natural History Petronius: Satyricon Seneca the Younger: Phaedra, Dialogues

2nd century

Sanskrit: Aśvaghoṣa: Buddhacharita
(Acts of the Buddha) Pahlavi:

Yadegar-e Zariran (Memorial of Zarēr) Visperad Drakht-i Asurig (The Babylonian Tree)


Arrian: Anabasis Alexandri Marcus Aurelius: Meditations Epictetus
and Arrian: Enchiridion Ptolemy: Almagest Athenaeus: The Banquet of the Learned Pausanias: Description of Greece Longus: Daphnis and Chloe Lucian: True History

Latin: see Classical Latin

Apuleius: The Golden Ass Lucius Ampelius: Liber Memorialis Suetonius: Lives of the Twelve Caesars

3rd century

Avestan: Khordeh Avesta
(Zoroastrian prayer book) Pahlavi: Mani: Shabuhragan
(Manichaean holy book) Chinese: Chen Shou: Records of Three Kingdoms
Records of Three Kingdoms
(Sānguó Zhì) Greek: Plotinus: Enneads Latin: see Late Latin

Distichs of Cato

Hebrew: Mishnah

Late Antiquity[edit]

See also: 4th century in poetry, 5th century in poetry 4th century

Latin: see Late Latin

Augustine of Hippo: Confessions, On Christian Doctrine Faltonia Betitia Proba: Cento Vergilianus de laudibus Christi
Cento Vergilianus de laudibus Christi
("A Virgilian Cento Concerning the Glory of Christ") Apicius
(De re coquinaria, "On the Subject of Cooking") Pervigilium Veneris
Pervigilium Veneris
("Vigil of Venus")

Syriac: Aphrahat, Ephrem the Syrian Hebrew: Gemara

5th century


Bao Zhao: Fu on the Ruined City (蕪城賦, Wú chéng fù) Fan Ye: Book of the Later Han
Book of the Later Han
(後漢書, Hòuhànshū)

Sanskrit: Kālidāsa
(speculated): Abhijñānaśākuntalam (अभिज्ञान शाकुन्तलम्, "The Recognition of Shakuntala"), Meghadūta
(मेघदूत, "Cloud Messenger"), Vikramōrvaśīyam (विक्रमोर्वशीयम्, "Urvashi Won by Valour", play) Tamil:[20]

(Sacred verses) Silappatikaram
(The Tale of the Anklet)


Matigan-i Hazar Datistan (The Thousand Laws of the Magistan) Frahang-i Oim-evak (Pahlavi-Avestan dictionary)

Latin: see Late Latin

Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus: De Re Militari Augustine of Hippo: The City of God Paulus Orosius: Seven Books of History Against the Pagans Jerome: Vulgate Prudentius: Psychomachia Consentius's grammar Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite: De Coelesti Hierarchia (Περὶ τῆς Οὐρανίας Ἱεραρχίας, "On the Celestial Hierarchy"), Mystical Theology Socrates of Constantinople: Historia Ecclesiastica

6th century

Latin: Boethius, De consolatione philosophiae
De consolatione philosophiae
("The Consolation of Philosophy", 524 AD), widely considered to be the last work of classical philosophy[21][22]

See also[edit]

Literature portal

Early Medieval literature List of languages by first written accounts List of years in literature


^ Grimbly, Shona (2000). Encyclopedia of the Ancient World. Taylor & Francis. p. 216. ISBN 978-1-57958-281-4. The earliest written literature dates from about 2600 BC, when the Sumerians started to write down their long epic poems.  ^ Jones, Mark (2006). Criminals of the Bible: Twenty-Five Case Studies of Biblical Crimes and Outlaws. FaithWalk Publishing. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-932902-64-8. The Sumerian code of Urukagina
was written around 2400 BC.  ^ a b Stephanie Dalley
Stephanie Dalley
(ed.). Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-953836-2.  ^ Eccles, Sir John Carew (1989). Evolution of the Brain: Creation of the Self. Routledge. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-415-03224-7. The Epic of Gilgamesh, written in Sumer
about 2200 BC.  ^ a b c d e James P. Allen. Middle Egyptian Literature: Eight Literary Works of the Middle Kingdom. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-08743-9.  ^ Dalley, Stephanie, ed. (2000). "Etana (pp. 189ff.)". Myths from Mesopotamia. Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199538360; ISBN 9780199538362.  ^ Oberlies (1998:155) gives an estimate of 1100 BC for the youngest hymns in book 10. Estimates for a terminus post quem of the earliest hymns are far more uncertain. Oberlies (p. 158) based on 'cumulative evidence' sets wide range of 1700–1100 ^ Noonan, John T. (1987). Bribes. University of California Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-520-06154-5. The Poor Man of Nippur dates from about 1500 BC.  ^ Thorkild Jacobsen (1978). The treasures of darkness: a history of Mesopotamian religion. Yale University Press. pp. 167–168, 231.  “Perhaps it was brought east with the Amorites of the First Dynasty of Babylon.” ^ Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, vol.2, 1980, p.203 ^ a b Alan Lenzi (2008). "The Uruk List of Kings and Sages and Late Mesopotamian Scholarship". Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions. 8 (2): 137–169. doi:10.1163/156921208786611764.  ^ according to ancient Jewish and Christian tradition, and some modern scholars; see above inline citations. ^ Talmud, Bava Bathra 146 ^ Mishnah, Pirqe Avoth 1:1 ^ Josephus, Flavius (1926). "11:8". The Life. Against Apion. (Loeb Classical Library). Loeb Classical Library. p. 448. ISBN 978-0-674-99205-4. For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another (as the Greeks have) but only 22 books, which are justly believed to be divine; and of them, five belong to Moses, which contain his laws, and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death.  ^ Stuart, Douglas K (2006). New American Commentary Vol. II: Exodus. Holman Reference. p. 826. ISBN 978-0-8054-0102-8.  ^ "Introduction to the Pentateuch. Introduction to Genesis.". ESV Study Bible (1st ed.). Crossway. 2008. p. XLII, 29–30. ISBN 978-1-4335-0241-5.  ^ RA Torrey, ed. (1994). "I-XI". The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth (11th ed.). Baker Academic. ISBN 978-0-8010-1264-8.  ^ Hoffmeier, James K (1999). Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. Oxford University Press. p. 280. ISBN 978-0-19-513088-1.  ^ Zvelebil, Kamil (1973). The Smile of Murugan on Tamil literature
Tamil literature
of South India. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9789004035911.  ^ The Consolation of Philosophy (Oxford World's Classics), Introduction (2000) ^ Dante placed Boethius
the “last of the Romans and first of the Scholastics” among the doctors in his Paradise (see The Div