Ancient literature

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Before the spread of writing, oral literature did not always survive well, though some texts and fragments have persisted. August Nitschke [de] sees some fairy tales as literary survivals dating back to Ice Age and Stone Age narrators.[1]

List of ancient texts[edit]

Bronze Age[edit]

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

Early Bronze Age: 3rd millennium BC (approximate dates shown). The earliest written literature dates from about 2600 BC (classical Sumerian).[2] 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 around 1240 BC, but other versions of the book probably date from about the 18th century BC.

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

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

Iron Age[edit]

See also Sanskrit literature, Chinese literature

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

Classical Antiquity[edit]

See also 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

7th century BC

6th century BC

5th century BC

4th century BC

3rd century BC

2nd century BC

1st century BC

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

Late Antiquity[edit]

See also: 4th century in poetry, 5th century in poetry
4th century
5th century
6th century

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Karimi, Edith (2016). Mimetische Bildung durch Märchen: Phantasie, Narration, Moral [Mimetic education through Märchen: phantasy, narration, morality]. European Studies in Education (in German). 34. Münster: Waxmann Verlag. p. 110. ISBN 9783830984726. Retrieved 2018-10-25. Manche Märchen ordnet [August] Nitschke den Jägern und Hirten der letzten Eiszeit zu, andere den Bauern und Fischern im Mesolithikum, wieder andere den Seefahrern der Meglithgesellschaft oder den Helden der Indogermanen. [August Nitschke assigns many fairy-tales to the hunters and herders of the last Ice Age, other ones to the farmers and fisherfolk of the Mesolithic, and still other ones to the seafarers of the megalith cultures or to the heroes of the Indo-European peoples.]
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ a b Stephanie Dalley (ed.). Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-953836-2.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Dalley, Stephanie, ed. (2000). "Etana (pp. 189ff.)". Myths from Mesopotamia. Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199538360; ISBN 9780199538362.
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.”
  11. ^ Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, vol.2, 1980, p.203
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ according to ancient Jewish and Christian tradition, and some modern scholars; see above inline citations.
  14. ^ Talmud, Bava Bathra 146
  15. ^ Mishnah, Pirqe Avoth 1:1
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Stuart, Douglas K (2006). New American Commentary Vol. II: Exodus. Holman Reference. p. 826. ISBN 978-0-8054-0102-8.
  18. ^ "Introduction to the Pentateuch. Introduction to Genesis.". ESV Study Bible (1st ed.). Crossway. 2008. p. XLII, 29–30. ISBN 978-1-4335-0241-5.
  19. ^ RA Torrey, ed. (1994). "I-XI". The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth (11th ed.). Baker Academic. ISBN 978-0-8010-1264-8.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Zvelebil, Kamil (1973). The Smile of Murugan on Tamil literature of South India. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9789004035911.
  22. ^ The Consolation of Philosophy (Oxford World's Classics), Introduction (2000)
  23. ^ Dante placed Boethius the “last of the Romans and first of the Scholastics” among the doctors in his Paradise (see The Divine Comedy).